2023 Graduates

David Wende

Introducing the energetic David who came to us from Canada and completed his Researcher program in November 2023. With a background as chef and an already qualified divemaster he joined us bringing his professionalism and many, many stories

David joined as a divemaster and focused on learning as much as he could about the ocean and how he could make a difference, not only that but he did not let his professional diver qualification get in the way of improving and asked to join as many DM training sessions as could.

David had a story to tell for every occasion, with the little down side of extending workshops duration of a bit, he always contributed with his personal experiences to deliver as much knowledge as he could to his fellow interns, being a true role model.

His talents extended underwater, with a perfect buoyancy paired together with a keen eye for macro life, he made for the idea spotter for macro diving enthusiasts. His constant good mood and good nature were just a couple of the many reasons that made becoming his friend so incredibly easy.

He loved diving and Raja, and seams that Raja loved him back, gifting him with amazing dives and the best green sea turtle encounter he ever had
Now his time with IOP is over he is moving on to become and instructor, and what a great instructor he’ll be, to share his passion, his stories, and to never stop diving. See you underwater brother, we’ll miss you in the jungle!

Alice Bellec

Introducing the winsome Alice Bellec who came to us from France and completed her Divemaster program in December, 2023. Having done an environmental program before, Alice was quick to pick up the species and get started as a surveyor. A first ID came on her Divemaster intro when she spotted a broad cowtail stingray (Pastinachus ater), as yet unseen in Bira.

Alice had learnt to dive while living in Tahiti so was already very comfortable and confident in the water. She was also a trained lifeguard so her rescue skills were second to none, demonstrating perfect unconscious diver lifts and making it look easy, even when the victim was twice her size. Alice often acted as a mentor to newer divers, giving them tips that she had found useful.

Along with friend and fellow intern Sinea, Alice was lucky enough to spot a whale shark on the house reef – probably the highlight of her stay. She also relished seeing what was in the water that she hadn’t seen, being keen to join a quick viewing of what the BRUV’s she’s dropped had captured. The most exciting was a couple of huge grey reef sharks checking the camera out minutes after we’d dropped it off, and schools of bluefin trevally hunting.

Out of the water, Alice was always exploring, joining fellow interns on trips to cliff jumping, a road waterfalls or exploring the caves near Bira. She was always ready to chat with guests with a smile and questions about how they enjoyed their dives – as interested in encouraging their adventures as going on her own.

After leaving us in Bira, Alice was heading briefly back to France to plan for her next big trip to Costa Rica where she was considering working in diving. Hopefully see you there one day Alice – we miss you!

Manon Gibbs

Introducing the cautious Manon Gibbs who came to us from the UK and finished her divemaster training in November 2023. Coming with a background in architecture, Manon dove into the world of science with lots of enthusiasm as well as occasional frustration when she couldn’t get the fish ID right.

Manon had been diving with her family all over the world since she was 15 and was super comfortable underwater from the beginning. Her only problem was a lack on confidence in her own skills.

When Manon first arrived, she was very quiet and taking her time to observe her surroundings. It would however, quickly become clear that she was just hiding a sassy and very expressive lady that would often bring a spicy comment to the conversation.

Public speaking however, would never be Manon’s favourite thing. When she was doing both boat briefings and dive briefings, she was quiet as a mouse and had to be told multiple times to speak up or no one would know what was going on. She knew her theory and was just struggling with the confidence to speak up. This gentle attitude would become quite a benefit for her underwater. She had a very reassuring attitude that helped calm others down on her dives. She would not let her divers out of her sight to make sure they were completely safe. However, this also meant that she was sometimes struggling to entertain her divers because she really wanted to find what they wanted to see while keeping them safe. But she worked hard on her leading skills and managed to be a great lead in the end.

After leaving Penida, Manon went to travel and dive with her family in Raja Ampat and some other beautiful sites, before continuing on her adventure that even she wasn’t sure where would take her. We love you Manon!

Ahmad Hatta Kamaruzzaman

Introducing the wise Hatta who came to us from Malaysia and completed his Divemaster and Researcher program in December 2023. With a background in geology and oil drilling he took at heart the efforts of the program and gave it his all without sparing any energy

Hatta came to us a rescue diver, with already all his divemaster theory done he was well prepared on the theory part, with some improvements needed in the practical one. It took some training and more practice but he got to finally stop his big brain from overthinking and his air consumption saw a sensible improvement

You know, I will tell you this, Hatta was not shy of asking questions, never obvious ones, and showing a remarkable thirst for knowledge he always had I curiosity to share or to satisfy, with the little downside of making workshops slightly longer then planned

He faced his struggles with fish identification head on, studying even before joining us: after printing the manuals he headed to Kuala Lumpur’s aquarium to train and recognise fishes, just another proof of his tenacity in learning and improving.

His genuine laugh has been present in our day to day life making the jungle a bit brighter, but nothing will beat the happiness displayed from passing his stamina test, and even if he declared he was too old for this, he still did.

We are proud of the diver Hatta has become, Raja has rewarded him with plenty of astonishing sightings, like his first black marlin, mantas and, finally, a wobbegong. The carpet shark is a fairly common sight in Raja, but for some reason it seamed to elude him underwater.

Hatta has now finished his time with us and after heading back to his lovely wife in Kuala Lumpur he’s going to invest some time volunteering as an assistant for disabled divers and helping his friend’s dive shop to improve and have a better understanding of the underwater life.

Hatta has a heart of gold and we have no doubt that he will have a happy wife and therefore a happy life. See you in the water boss, we’ll miss you in the jungle!

Sinea O’Neill

Introducing the joyful Sinea O’Neill who came to us from Australia and completed her Divemaster program in November, 2023. With a background in conservation biology she was eager to get involved in all the science dives.

Sinea arrived as an open water diver so built up a lot of confidence and ability over the time she was with IOP. She was always keen to learn and master new skills including guiding, receiving some of the most consistently high scores for her leads. Any dive guided by Sinea was sure to be fun, engaging and efficient for any science that needed to be included.

Sinea was always ready to laugh, getting everyone else exciting by all the incredible things they might see. Her whoops of delight proceeded her up to the dive shop when she’d been on a particularly wonderful dive, like the time she saw a whale shark lazily cruising the house reef during a search and recovery dive. That was not what she’d expected to find that day!

Sinea was always first to persuade everyone to join her for a beer in the sea to watch Bira’s famous sunsets at the end of a long day – no one could keep her out of the water even after being in it for hours. On surface intervals, she could be found floating on a ring and having a look amongst the lovely shallow corals at the mooring point of Kambing to see what she could see. She was a favourite of all the Blue Planet boat crew and guides, quizzing them on Bahasa and learning many funny phrases.

After leaving us in Bira, Sinea was returning home to decide what to do next. We’re all hoping she considers instructor training as we’d love to dive with her leading again one day. We miss you Sinea!

Vincent Duchemin

Introducing the brilliant Vincent Duchemin who came to us from Switzerland and completed his Divemaster and Researcher program in November 2023, With a background In freediving and conservation he took up the mission to increase his knowledge and become the best diver he could be

Vincent arrived already as a rescue diver and with little effort he improved his skills, from good to excellent, although blowing bubbles during regulator skills seemed to throw his freediver mind out of balance.

Passionate about nature also out of the water, Vincent brought with him a killer camera, and even if the camera was cursed to have no battery or out of reach every time a bird of paradise was close by, he managed in the end to take some amazing pictures.

Striving to improve not only himself but also helping other to do so he carried out a freediving workshop, sharing with his fellow interns his knowledge and getting a taste for instructing.

Thirsty for knowledge he ended up loving the most the mangrove workshop, and even if his previous dives in Sodwana bay spoiled him to awesome encounters, he still was baffled by what Raja offered him, especially when he saw his very first pygmy seahorse (Hyppocampus bargibanti)

Vincent has shown to be not all about nature and science, at night when it was time to dance he could put everyone to shame with some swift dance moves.

After leaving us in Raja he is going to carry out a career in diving and conservation, mixing all his passions in what we can foresee is going to be an incredible life in the ocean. We have no doubts he’ll become an awesome instructor as he is already an awesome divemaster. We’ll miss you in the jungle, all the best Victor…ehm… Vincent!

Sebastian Navarro

Introducing the charismatic Sebastian Navarro who came to us from the United States and finished his divemaster program in November 2023. Coming from the world of business Seb was brand new to marine science but took the challenge on with no issues.

Seb came to us just as an open water diver and would always be the first to admit that he had no idea what he was doing underwater. That would however not be the case for long, since he quickly improved his skills and was determined to put all the feedback he could get into use. With a can-do attitude he quickly adopted the mentor mentality and started helping the other interns with any issues they had. Helping new interns with how to inflate their SMBs and when the currents were a bit too much to handle, he would help them swim and stay in control. Determined to learn as much as possible, Seb has a tendency to get a pouty mouth going when he was concentrated, leading Rinaldi to say that despite his name being Seabass on instagram, he is naturally a sweetlips.

When he started leading, Seb would always be doing his best to try and entertain his divers. Starting with what most would describe as a bit of a (scary) military briefing, he would go out of his way to try and find whatever it was his divers were interested in and impress his instructors finding the most difficult macro.

Sebastian had a bit of a competitive side and pushes himself to do his best at all times, however, after the stamina test he had to admit that his swimming techniques might need a bit of work if he was to pursue the intention of doing triathlon. After leaving us, Seabass went back to Texas for a bit before continuing his travels in Honduras to dive with sharks and hopefully incorporate conservation into his future work. We miss you Seb!

Miriam Villanueva

Introducing the bubbly Miriam Teruel I Villanueva who came to us from Spain (Catalan) via Australia and finished her divemaster and research diver training in November 2023. Miriam has a background in microbiology, and having already worked in a pharmaceutical lab Miriam had no issues digging into the science and had a great enthusiasm for furthering her understanding of marine fieldwork.

Miriam was already a rescue diver when she started the project and was great underwater. Her very first dive in Penida was 16 degrees and in current, but this did not bother Miriam one bit. She was smiling throughout the entire dive and just wanted to keep going for longer.

An ongoing positive attitude was the theme for Miriam’s entire internship as she was always super excited to find anything under water despite being one of those divers that always had a frown in her mask. During her internship she was working towards wearing as little weight as possible which would sometimes get her into buoyancy problems at the end of the dive. There is simply no stopping this lady from trying to improve. She really pushed herself on the stamina test and even after a difficult lead in current she said that she will keep pushing herself and not let a bad experience stop her.

Miriam was excellent at making the best out of a bad situation. Despite bad conditions and having to do the mapping dive twice, Miriam made a beautiful map of our CoralWatch area that can be used by other interns in the future. Due to few language barriers Miriam was sometimes struggling with dive theory in the classroom, however this only made her more motivated. She studied hard and ended up knowing her science by heart, making her instructor truly proud!

After leaving us Miriam was heading home for a bit before pursuing her passion for marine microbiology work on conservation. We hope you are doing wonderful Miriam!

Emily Turner

Introducing the sunny Emily Turner who came to us from the United States and completed her Divemaster programme in October 2023. With a masters degree in marine biology she was quickly a valued member of the survey team and aced her species ID tests.

Having done her open water in a freezing lake in Maine, USA, she relished Bira’s crystal clear and (mostly) warm waters and abundant marine life, especially delighted to see our charismatic clown fish, upon which she had written her thesis (FYI Finding Nemo would look very different if biologically accurate!). As a new diver, it took Emily a little while to master buoyancy, but with hard work and perseverance, she improved considerably – finding floating upside down the best way to discover hidden critters.

During her time in Bira she developed a strong bond with all the interns – planning to meet up with some after leaving us – and on every day off would be off exploring all Bira has to offer: the magnificent Phinisi boat building sites, the delicious food of the local Warungs , discovering little-explored beaches and finding all of the best stalls for sweet treats at the local Pasar (market).

Whilst diving, her ‘lucky mask’ proved so, as she had once-in-a-lifetime experiences with Bira’s pelagic life, such as seeing scalloped hammerhead sharks from only one or two metres away, being circled by devil rays and getting up close to a huge feeding marble ray.

After the project, she travelled to meet the lifelong friends she made in Bira, firstly to Australia to explore Sydney and its surrounds and then South America’s breathtaking landscapes. We hope during globe-hopping she makes another stop off in Bira. We miss you Emily.

Marina Lee

Introducing the sparkling Marina Lee who came to us from the Germany and completed her Divemaster and Researcher program in November 2023. With a background in law she came to us as an already experienced diver with a huge passion for conservation, especially taking care of corals.

Marina came to us a rescue diver, with some skills to improve, she gladly took any challenge and learnt how to well demonstrate skills, without losing her smile through mask and regulator. Marina’s laugh and joyful expression have been with her at all times, she was always ready to jump in the water as soon as we reached a dive site, especially the ones with cool creatures awaiting. We doubt she’ll ever forget her dive at manta sandy with a pregnant black reef manta.

She always asked to join more and more dives to take care of the corals, planting them and brushing them seamed to give her a lot of joy, that you could read on her face. Her talents did not stop at diving though, with her artistic skills she helped with the design of a Painting projects that we’ll be proud about every time we see it.

Now that her time with us has sadly come to an end she is moving forward to become an instructor and to see wonders of the world, but underwater. We have no doubt that with her vibrant energy she will become and amazing instructor and will create new passionate divers ready to love the ocean as much as she does. See you underwater Marina, we’ll definitely miss you in the jungle!

Sabrina Tu

Introducing the energetic Sabrina Tu who came to us from USA and completed her divemaster program in November 2023. With a background in finances and no previous experience in marine ecosystem sciences, she jumped straight in the research programs without any problem. Sabrina came here with just a few dives on her logbook, but from the check-out dive we were not even able to tell the little experience she had, thanks to her amazing buoyancy from day 1 at IOP.

Sabrina worked hard on her underwater communication skills after the first skill circuit, using any time of her days to practice using diving signals to say any sentence to her fellow interns.
She lost her mask at the beginning of the internship she bought a new one, once it arrived we realized that probably was the wrong size, so she started wearing this HUGE mask: her eyes are the only thing you can see!

Super energetic at any time of the day, when a workshop lasted more than a couple of hours she needed to attend standing and walking around, but never losing focus. You will never see Sabrina without a bag with her huge water bottle and of course her precious fan, with her all day and all night! From the beginning, Sabrina loved to spend time with the local staff, learning Bahasa and having fun and laughs with them, or anyone else to be honest.

She passed her Fish ID at the first try, jumping straight to the survey diver team. In addition, her first draft of the Emergency Action Plan was amazingly good! As soon as she started leading everyone was able to tell was her natural environment, we just gave her a few tips but most of the work came natural for this mermaid.

After leaving us in Raja she deserved a little bit of time travelling around Raja islands, thinking about her next steps. Sabrina left us still a little bit confused on what’s next but for sure she know she doesn’t want to sit in an office for ever, so whether you’ll continue in the conservation industry or towards the instructor course, we will be always here to support you knowing that you’re going to be the best in whatever you will choose!
We miss you Sabrina!

Peter Owen

Introducing the goofball Peter Owen who came to us from the UK and finished his divemaster training in October 2023. Pete arrived at the project with a bachelors in biology and was curious about dipping his toes in marine biology so he had no issues picking up the science from the beginning. Pete was already an advanced diver and was a natural underwater.

Having a very calm and collected personality that came across beneath the surface as well, Pete had an exceptional air consumption which he didn’t seem to fully understand himself. “I don’t know what I do, I’m just diving” and continued on with his everlasting smile and carefree mindset.

Pete was immediately very comfortable doing surveys, BRUVs and all other sorts of underwater activities which didn’t go unnoticed. He was headhunted by Pascal to join him in some underwater construction work, hammering the structures for the new coral nursery into the sand, which he was very excited about.

Pete is a highly active person, spending a lot of time working out, which resulted in him doing great on his stamina test. However, being unable to float, the worst part of the stamina test for him was trying to stay still and was virtually drowning in the last two minutes.

In spite of having very classic dry UK humour, you would always find Pete with a smile on his face as well as wearing his beloved yellow crocs which ended up being a bit of a statement for him. The only time he would take them off would be on shore dives because he wanted to prove that he was tough enough to walk on the burning sand and not be fussed.

After leaving us Peter was going to do his IDC before hoping to find work as an instructor in Australia. Good luck Pete, we know you’re going to smash it. We miss you!

Blanca Gimeno

Introducing the outstanding Blanca who came to us from the US/Spain and completed her Divemaster and Researcher program in October 2023. With a background in design she loves her job, but her passion for diving compelled her to join us in protecting our paradise

Blanca came to us as a rescue diver, already very skilled, she needed only a little effort to improve up to divemaster standards. Her only enemies: the 5 point descent and ascent. Blanca’s love for diving might have been surpassed only for her love for Rocky, one of Scuba Republics mascot dogs that she played with and cuddled on every free moment.

She was hard at work from the early morning cracking her manta knowledge review already at breakfast, not wasting any time to be then free to enjoy raja. While diving only a few things made her as excited as a black spotted yellow boxfish, this shy little fish was able to light up her face even through the mask.

Together with Sina and Anine she made the best mapping project so far, using her design skills to create an excellent example for everyone to follow.

After leaving us in Raja she’s going back home to resume her job with a renewed passion for diving and the ocean and a better understanding of what makes this wonderful marine world work. We know she is already planning her next liveaboard in some amazing places, making us all a bit jealous. We wish you all the best and hope to see you soon underwater again!

Natalee Strong

Introducing the goofy Natalee Strong who came to us from Australia and finished her divemaster training in October 2023. With a bachelor’s degree in natural environment and wilderness studies, Natalee was in her element underwater.

Where Natalee was not in her element, was during pool sessions and skill circuits. Even though one can hardly notice her stress level sometimes, she did confess that performing skills makes her uncomfortable.
After a great amount of pauses to catch her breath and calm her nerves and with her determined nature and character, she managed to get some really good scores on her final skill circuit and make us very proud.

Working as a tour guide and deckhand, she loved the knots workshop and took on the role of mentor, teaching her fellow interns how to tie knots even before they had even taken the workshop.
A little more of a clumsy moment with ropes underwater happened when the reel of her smb came off on descent and she managed to get completely entangled in it. She remained calm and patiently waiting for her instructor to free her.

Because of her silly and goofy nature, she confesses that she finds it difficult for other interns to take her seriously. But all that insecurity washes away when she starts diving, as she proves that she can command the team underwater in various conditions.

Natalee always provides a note of entertainment. When she hit a hot motorbike exhaust and to keep her leg dry while diving, she came up with a solution to wrap her bandage with cling wrap. Spoiler alert, it didn’t work. But this girl is determined to not cancel any dives.

Being a woman of strong will she refused to try the smelly local durian fruit despite much pushing from Rinaldi, as well as hyperventilating when she discovered that she could buy eggplant parmesan somewhere on the island! After leaving us, Natalee is returning home to enjoy the food and comforts of home. She wants to leave her goofy alter ego behind and return to work as tour guide in Tasmania and start doing all she can to spend time in the ocean. We miss you, Natalee!

Maleah Stewart

Introducing the happy Maleah Stewart who came to us from the USA and completed her divemaster training in October 2023. With an undergraduate degree in marine biology, it was no surprise Maleah was up for the challenge of species identification, BRUVs and was a sponge for knowledge in each of the ecology workshops.

Maleah came to us as an open water diver with just 5 dives under her belt and she had not been diving in two years. This long pause meant a IittIe arm flapping to begin with, but after we tapped her hands a few times she realised she didn’t need them to achieve perfect buoyancy. Maleah is known for her calming presence and is forever smiling. Because of this, she became the master of mask clearing because her mask constantly floods as her smile is so wide.

With her chilled and humble attitude, she always managed to calm down the group with her presence, however also meant she had to put a IittIe extra work to sound enthusiastic while giving boat briefings. It also took her a while to get into the flow of dive briefings, but with some practice and determination, they ended up perfect, so good that at her snorkel test party she delivered one, backwards.

It became clear that over the months that Maleah was with us, she wanted to learn and improve and is proactive with her learning, asking for extra feedback. Maleah is very safety conscious underwater and she was part of a very well-organised rescue scenario, one of the best we’ve seen recentIy.

As the leader of Penida’s recent education day, she came up with an array of entertainment including different ideas and ocean-related games to play with the school kids that adored her so much.

After leaving us in Penida, she is visiting her parents who are currently in Uganda, to continue her travels to Australia, where she will spend the unforeseeable future, going with the flow and seeing where the winds take her. We miss you Maleah, and wish you all the best with your underwater adventures in Australia!

Virginia Viola Paglia

Introducing the strong Virginia Viola Paglia who came to us from Italy and completed her divemaster in October 2023. With a background in marine biology it was no wonder she was involved in aII aspects of the science from day one and with great enthusiasm.

Arriving with a few dives under her belt already from Italy, the sometimes chilly Penida waters were no problem for this superwoman. Virginia was very comfortable with her dive skills, but she did struggle a IittIe at first with the language barrier, however Virginia doesn’t give up easily. Constantly wanting to improve, wrapping her head around dive theory in English but she was also determined to learn a new Indonesian word or sentence every day.

With previous experience as a lifeguard and as a strong and fit female, she tried to motivate everyone to join her morning workout routine, including the locaI children on our first education day. As a ball of energy, she sometimes took on the role of a human powerbank; if you told Virginia that you were tired, she would do a silly dance to transfer her energy to you.

Another nickname for this lady is the queen of nudibranchs because of her love for macro. When not having her head buried into the reef to find small creatures, she was lucky enough to look up at the right moment and catch a glimpse of Nusa Penida’s most notorious visitor: the bumphead mola! In-keeping with her love for dancing she made everyone do a mola-dance on the boat.

As a proud Italian, she missed the amazing food from home but adapted swiftly to Indonesia as she likes to eat her instant noodles al dente, she became the official pizza checker on the island, telling everyone where is good and where isn’t.

After leaving us in Nusa Penida, she will return home to enjoy her pasta before exploring the world of conservation jobs further. Her energy and determination are dearly missed at the Penida project.
We wish you all the best in your future underwater adventures!

Sina Scheckenbach

Introducing the obviously talented Sina Scheckenbach who came to us from Germany and completed her Divemaster program in October 2023. With a background in software engineering she had enough of looking at a screen and jumped into the ocean with us to experience a new life

Sina came to us as an advanced diver. Eager to learn she did not take long before becoming not just a proficient diver, but an excellent one. Sina always had a professional attitude, calm and collected, she had no issues with helping others and would often be up early to do some yoga.

Some skills challenged more than others but that didn’t stop her from mastering them. Outside of the water she didn’t have the best of luck with technology or her ears but nonetheless she pushed through these problems to achieve her divemaster title. She was part of the team that developed one of the best dive site maps we have seen so far in Raja

But don’t let her calm and kind nature fool you, when it was time to let go and have some fun she was first in line, as well as when it was time to scold someone underwater for misbehaving she made herself very understood.

After leaving us in Raja she’s going back home and then off to the world where she wants to find a path that doesn’t involve spending all day in front of a laptop, and we know she would be an awesome instructor. We will obviously miss you in the jungle but good luck Sina, see you underwater!!

Emily Nicolella

Introducing the energetic Emily Nicolella who came to us from the USA and completed her divemaster in October 2023. Emily is best described as small in size but big in personality. This made it an absolute pleasure to have her around for a few months and her positive energy is dearly missed around Nusa Penida.

Even though Emily has no formal scientific background, she was always super engaged and enthusiastic about any conservation workshops and she wants to constantly keep learning. Being a ball of energy, she did manage to get her zen on underwater with a calm and reassuring presence. She was so relaxed that she forgot how to keep the regulator in her mouth during some refresher skills in the pool on her first day at the project. One month later, during skill practice sessions, she continued this trend by spitting out her regulator during emergency ascent skills. Just keep breathing, Emily.

With a background in law, we were fortunate enough to celebrate her passing the bar exam during her time here, and she can officially practice law now! She later admitted that she was more nervous about failing the species identification exams than failing the bar.

Committed to working hard and ready to take on any advice given, she improved massively in buoyancy and skills. You can find her zooming across the reef in perfect trim. Not only did she improve underwater but was also very safety conscious above water, stating that she was not ready to learn how to drive a scooter yet. After a month she calmed her nerves down and jumped on a scooter, giving herself positive affirmations along the way (Emily you can do it!). And she did! Even though in the beginning she only wanted to make left turns as she was scared to cross the road. This brought her halfway across the island because she refused to turn back.

After her time at Indo Ocean Project, she is swiftly returning home to say hi to friends and family and then she is strapping her backpack on again and is venturing out to Australia. Good luck with your future adventures, Emily, We miss you!

Laura Prospero

Introducing the effervescent Laura Prospero who came to us from Switzerland and completed her divemaster in October 2023. With a background in medical science, she was particularly strong on dive physics and had even completed the SSI Science of Diving specialty before arriving.

She was already a competent diver, having spent each weekend diving with her trusty sidemount setup in the lakes and quarries of Switzerland. She relished skills circuits and was always so expressive and a great communicator underwater. This made her a valued assistant to all staff here in Bira.

She loved macro and would inspect every gorgonian sea fan for pygmy seahorses, comically expressing frustration if they could not be found and delight when she discovered something new and exciting. She had a particular affinity with Bira’s rays, being astounded to get so close to huge feeding marble rays and surrounded by devil rays on some of her final dives, and loved coral maintenance and CoralWatch, invaluable work in helping us preserve Bira’s stunning coral reefs.

She soon became not only a valued member of the Blue Planet & IOP family, but also of the local Bira community, meeting local personalities and attending gigs and events all over Bira, and working hard on her Bahasa to chat with Blue Planet staff, who, like us found her hilarious. She was always a diligent member of the team who would make sure everything remained tidy and everyone performed their duties.

After leaving the project, Laura headed up to Toraja and beyond to experience the unique culture Sulawesi has to offer. She then went on to the Philippines and much more of South East Asia besides to dive and explore, we are sure making friends everywhere she went. We have a lifelong friend here in Bira too and we will miss you, Laura!

Anine Bjerg Jørgensen

Introducing the bright Anine, who came to us from Denmark and completed her divemaster and research internship in October 2023. With an amazing passion for diving and underwater photography and will to improve, Anine fitted perfectly with the Ocean and us.

Anine came to us as a rescue diver and worked hard to improve her already good skills into great skills. Her biggest improvement was on the BCD removal and replacement, funny too see as well, but after practicing a lot she definitely nailed it.

Her first experience with current was not one of the best, but after getting used to it she not only lost her fear of it but started craving them, proof of her growth as a diver. Anine’s favourite dive site is Sardine Reef, where she will never forget being in the middle of some giant trevally hunting action.

Passing her Fish ID and sizing test at the first try, she was straight ready to be an amazing survey diver.
Always very calm collected until you see her in party before a day off! After bring “manta vibes” to the ocean throughout her entire internship, she went for a few days to Arborek, where she managed to dive at Manta Sandy and finally saw 4 reef mantas. She came back to scuba republic with a huge smile sharing her happiness with us.

After leaving us Anine is heading back to Denmark, where she will stay a bit before continuing her adventure to Australia for her studies. We are proud of you, cannot wait to see where your life is going to bring you!

Wilkie Wai Kiu Tong

Introducing the calm and collected Wilkie who came to us from Hong Kong and completed his Divemaster and Researcher program in September 2023, With a background in cellular biology and a massive passion for nature and science Wilkie fitted perfectly into the project.

Wilkie arrived as an advanced diver and worked hard to bring all his dive skills up to standards of excellency. As a passionate enthusiast for nature Wilkie’s interests were not only focused on diving: Reptiles, amphibians, arthropods and especially birds would constantly grasp his attention, and he and his camera would often be ready to capture the moment.

Wilkie proved himself to be a very kind-hearted person that stepped out of his comfort zone to join us and absolutely nailed the outcome. He is generous, always ready to lend his camera when not using it.
He looked shy during karaoke nights but when the mic ended up in his hands he could rap like pro putting everyone else to shame.

After leaving us in Raja he is going back home to change his career, after years in a lab he wants to be out there, using his skills in close contact with what he loves. Wherever he is going to end up he is going to bring smiles to the lucky people he’ll meet. We miss you Wilkie!

Vittika Lalwani

Introducing the chatty Vittika Lalwani who came to us from Indonesia and completed her research internship in October 2023. With Indian roots, Indonesian nationality, and having studied in the USA and Australia, this girl seems to have been everywhere in the world.

She came into our program with 60 dives already under her belt and a divemaster certification having won our Indonesian Scholarship program place. She finished her DM course 3 years ago in Bali, however she did let her gills dry out ever since because she was too busy with lab work. This 3-year pause did mean it took Vittika a while to get back into the flow of being underwater.

Ready to take it all in and her willingness to improve and listening carefully to feedback, she progressed.
Because of her enthusiasm for anything dive-related, during her time at Indo Ocean Project, she was interested in being a part of some divemaster training workshops again, including peak performance buoyancy, lift bag, search and recovery workshops, and leading dives.

With a background in marine biology, fieldwork, and laboratory work (where they studied the reproductive behaviour of nudibranchs!) she was ready to get stuck in the science side of things and this showed by her engagement and contribution of her knowledge in the conservation workshops.

During her time with us she became an ambassador of sharks and rays by taking on the independent project of sharks and rays database upload, which was a great help to our science team.

Whether it is dive-, conservation- or science-related, this girl was ready to learn and expand her knowledge. She was constantly cross-checking sizes and species after surveys, wanting more BRUV workshops, asking for feedback after every dive, wanting to redo species identification exams even though she passed with flying colours already.

After leaving us in Nusa Penida, she is returning to her home in Bali, ready to take on a new challenge! Good luck on all your future endeavours and do not let your gills dry out for too long this time!

James Binns

Introducing the inquisitive James Binns who came to us from the UK and completed his Divemaster in October 2023. With a background in marine biology and training as a commercial diver, James was already highly versed in all things natural, technical and physical about the underwater world.

Having gained a degree in marine biology from the University of Plymouth, during which he completed his HSE commercial diver level 1 qualification James was a highly competent diver who excelled at his skills and aced his fish ID. However, due to an unfortunate injury, James had to leave the programme for convalescence but returned, stronger than ever to finish his divemaster exactly one year after he first set foot in Bira.

During his Bira adventure, James was always keen to broaden his already considerable marine biological knowledge staying up late into the night quizzing Programme Director Serena on sharks, macro and all sorts besides. With an uncanny gift for being on the right dive at the right time, James got the best of Bira’s many large pelagics, including molas, large reef sharks and even a leucistic oceanic manta ray whilst assisting on an open water course.

He was a minimalist dresser with an aversion to shirts, but when he did wear one it would be the brightest on site. He was always incredibly supportive of his fellow interns, offering valuable advice and feedback whenever asked and always being a shoulder to cry on.

After leaving Bira, James headed to Bali for a couple of days’ well-earned recuperation and then on to Thailand to meet an old university friend and travel across the beautiful country. Once back on UK shores James will undertake his commercial diver level 2 qualification, hoping to make some serious money in the commercial sector before retiring to a cushy job diving somewhere sunny and tropical. Hopefully it will be somewhere near us. We will miss you, James.

Tyla Sullivan

Introducing the social butterfly Tyla who came to us from the UK/South Africa and completed her Researcher program in October 2023. With a background in photography she always had her camera ready for a pic.

Tyla came to us already as a divemaster, with skills worthy of a dive professional it took her some time to get used to strong currents and changing conditions. With her gopro and camera glued to her hands, Tyla showed the spirit of photographer, not missing any chance to capture a precious moment, may that be while diving, snorkelling or a day off activity with her fellow interns and friends. She took the time to organise a workshop on picture editing and was more than happy to help others upgrading their shots from nice to beautiful.

Underwater she participated in many science related dives and learnt how to handle challenging currents while carrying out different activities. She still would prefer to avoid Up and Down currents, but that’s relatable.

After leaving us in Raja she is planning on becoming an instructor and participating in other conservation efforts. Undoubtably she will see more of this amazing world through the frame of her camera, sharing with more and more people the wonders she’ll experience teaching the how to preserve our oceans. We’ll miss you in the jungle, all the best Tyla!

Johnathan Zong Da Lim

Introducing the exceptional Johnathan Zong Da Lim who came to us from Sinapore and completed his Research Diver internship in September, 2023. Jonathan arrived already qualified as a Divemaster with excellent skills and little to improve in his dive abilities

Jonathan bonded immediately with everyone, with a cheerful personality always enthusiast to do any science available. He tried to identify as many fishes and nudibranchs as possible from every picture he took, he’s camera never left his side and the identification book always on his table.

The lack of a snorkel test in his previous Divemaster was quickly rectified when he endured with another intern this final challenge, pridefully earning the right to call himself a fully fledged Divemaster
His passion for science and excitement for exploration showed in every moment, from birdwatching to the mapping project and the air would be filled by his laughter during every meal.

After leaving us in Raja he is looking into making conservation the next step in his career, and there’s no doubt he’ll be an amazing instructor. Wherever the world is going to take him he will make new friends and enjoy amazing dives. We expect to hear nothing but great things from you, we’ll miss you!

Mia Talbot

Introducing the energetic Mia who came to us from the UK and completed her divemaster training in September 2023.Falling in love with the ocean, scuba- and freediving just a few weeks prior in the Philippines, she decided to completely shift her travel plans and managed to book a last-minute spot with Indo Ocean Project in Nusa Penida.

She came to us as an open water diver with just a few dives under her belt, but it was clear from the beginning she is as natural in the water as a fish. Mia is hard to miss underwater with her long dreadlocks and freediving fins with fish scales on them. She has evolved into a great dive leader, with her reassuring and relaxed appearance, elegant communication and signals. She also loves to make people feel comfortable underwater and is excited seeing the progress of new divers. This means she was a dedicated assistant on her course assists and she loved every minute of it.

Mia is currently studying forensic anthropology, a heavy field that sometimes takes a toll on you, so Mia loves submersing herself amongst nature to recharge her batteries. She was ready to ditch forensic science and focus on making diving a career until our science team suggested that she could explore the niche of forensic ecology, to combine the best of both worlds.

Constantly thinking about diving, you could find her drawing pictures of fish and corals in her notebook during the conservation workshops to help her remember them. She loves to be in the water so much, that she did have some trouble getting organised with on-land tasks and theory and needed some reminders that her training wasn’t only about being in the water.

After leaving us, she will return to the UK to continue her studies, but she is already planning her next steps to work as a divemaster or follow up with an instructor course. We miss you, Mia. Do not let your gills dry out for too long!

Martina Moschny

Introducing the artistic Martina Moschny, who came to us from Austria and completed her Research Diver programme in October 2023. With a background in environmental management, she excelled in all things scientific and was quick to innovate.

Martina was already a qualified Divemaster, so her skills during her checkout dive were close to flawless and those that weren’t, such as a mere half-meter ascent on a mask removal-replacement, she was quick to insist on repeating. Keen to learn more about maintenance Martina and fellow intern Liesel, spent one long afternoon thoroughly cleaning and maintaining the shop regulators.

Martina would always be seen under the water with some camera or other and above the water editing her footage and photos, producing stunning images of macro and pelagic life alike. She was particularly in awe of the pristine coral and massed shoals on our house reef, relished the adrenaline-fueled dives hooking on at Eagle Rock, and would occasionally be seen clearing her mask of tears when overwhelmed as a huge marble ray or grey reef shark put on a show for her and her camera in Kambing.

To begin with a little shy and retiring, Martina would nonetheless be more than happy to take on photo, video and social media content duties, as well as data input, would spot species on surveys that many would miss and was a keen and diligent mangrove gardener. So very quickly she became a valued and beloved member of the Bira family.

After leaving us in Bira, but not before extending her programme due to her profound enjoyment, Martina headed to Raja Ampat for more diving and then off back to Austria in time for the Viennese Christmas Markets. Martina, we will miss you!

Katie Lizza

Introducing the determined Katie Lizza who came to us from the USA and completed her divemaster training in September 2023. As a well-established marine biologist with an impressive amount of field experience, Katie lights up in all the ecology- and conservation workshops. She is a passionate scientist who knows what she is talking about with a focus on fisheries, coral reef ecology, stakeholder engagement, and environmental policies in her studies and work experience.

When you get this lady talking about science, it is difficult to make her stop. She is a wealth of knowledge and always had good input in all the conservation topics discussed. It came as no surprise to us that she is part of Nusa Penida’s hall of fame by passing her species identification exams in the first go.

Katie did struggle in the beginning with ear-related issues and confidence in her own dive abilities. This lady does not give up easily and she was determined to show us that she has what it takes to become a dive professional. Even though she mentioned to us that multi-tasking is not her best friend, she has shown us that she can lead dives on dive sites unknown to her, while navigating, doing surveys and taking care of her diver’s safety underwater.

Diving or not, Katie kept busy and took on the task of helping us upload pictures to the mantamatcher identification database. This help was welcomed with open arms by our science team. Her excitement about anything marine-related was also clearly visible whenever you could find her around the dive shop analysing the bruv footage with her teammates.

After her time with Indo Ocean Project, she will first explore the Indonesian jungles with her camera in hand to spot orang-utans before returning home and picking up where she left off; protecting South Florida waters! We wish you all the best in your future and can’t wait to hear what you are up to!

Sherly Tham

Introducing the caring Sherly, who came to us from Singapore and completed her divemaster training in September 2023. Currently living in Singapore with Indonesian nationality, she felt straight at home in Nusa Penida and Indo Ocean Project.

Sherly’s real home is underwater, where she thrived, especially toward the end of her internship, where she developed as a role-model for the new arrivals. Putting others’ minds at ease, always paying attention to detail, overviewing equipment set-up to make sure nothing was missed or forgotten, and looking out for the safety of her dive buddies underwater. Another inseparable buddy of Sherly was her phone and her GoPro, which she always had in hand, ready to snap pictures, videos and ready to record everything that was happening around her.

It is hard to miss Sherly underwater, as she accessorises her dive gear in pink and red colours. What was difficult to miss though, was the tiny surface marker buoy brought along with her. It was quickly exchanged for a properly sized smb, pink-coloured, no surprises there. You could call Sherly the mom of the group. She was always eager to lend a helping hand, looking out for others and making sure no one got left out. She was a ball of energy during IOP Penida’s first-ever education day. Staying on the theme of marine conservation, she has a little suckerfish (aka six-year-old child) attached to her for the whole morning.

Sherly struggled with her buoyancy and navigational skills at the beginning of her training, but with her eager-to-learn attitude, she showed us that she has mastered these two skills during the search and recovery dive and lift bag demonstration, where you could also find her helping her buddies with their navigation skills underwater.

After leaving us, she will visit her family in Jakarta for a few weeks where she will be eating all the fabulous food before returning to real life in Singapore. She is determined to push her friends to become divers, so she can share her passion for marine life and pink-coloured divegear with them.
We miss you, Sherly!

Pascal Steiner

Introducing the outstanding Pascal who came to us from Switzerland and completed his Divemaster and Researcher program in September 2023. With a background in software engineering he jumped straight into learning the scientific terminology with a remarkable thirst for knowledge.

From the start he was a good diver that just needed a bit of practice to polish is skills to perfection Always available to help everyone: he volunteered to input the citizen science data, never shy in carrying tanks and never left a problem take him down, he faced any situation with positivity and an outstanding perspective, claiming that he has two working legs, a healthy body and he’s in Raja Ampat diving… life could be much worse.

Pascal spent a fair amount of time on his laptop in the attempt to use his credit card to buy a UV light for night diving, and when he finally managed there was no way to keep him from using it in every possible occasion. He jumped in every night dive in order to appreciate the biofluorescence that intrigued him so much.We have also never seen someone that enjoyed brushing off algae from our restoration site as much as him.

After leaving us in Raja he’s going back to Europe applying for a job in his field of expertise, but we know for sure that he will excel at everything he puts effort in and anyone would be a fool not to want him in their team. For sure he will never stop diving and now that he has the tools to appreciate the oceans even more, we cannot wait to know where his next travel will bring him. See you underwater my friend, we will miss you in the jungle Pascal!

Rachel Gray

Introducing the enthusiastic Rachel Gray who came to us from Australia and completed her Divemaster and Researcher program in September 2023. With a background in sign language interpreting and a passion for freediving she had no issue in getting straight to the science and learning as much as she could

Rachel came to us as a rescue diver with a keen eye for fish ID, it took little to no effort to bring her up to excellent standards. During her time with us Rachel has shown over and over her excellent underwater skills as much as her ability to have every day a new bruise, definitely a water person. Her passion, spearfishing, made her an expert at identifying fishes, although most of the common names she knew were different and had to learn all of them a new.

She was super enthusiastic about any In-water activity, and always excited about every fish she saw but we were never sure if it was because of how beautiful the fish looked or how tasty she knew the fish was. On land she was the last one to leave a party in the evening but always the first one awake in the morning, bright and early, always on time and never tired, often making us wonder if there was any magic trick to it

After leaving us in Raja she is going back to Australia looking for a way to match her expertise in sign language and diving. Already an excellent teacher we have no doubt that she would make a great instructor. We’ll never forget all the important signs you taught us, we’ll miss you Rachel!

Victoria Phung

Introducing the cheerful Victoria who came to us from the US and completed her Divemaster and Researcher program in September 2023. On a path to find herself she came to us inspired to learn how to understand the ocean and make a difference. She came as an Advance diver ready to improve on her buoyancy and her awareness, getting better at each dive.

During her time here she always had a smile on her face, no matter what the conditions, and her power naps on the boat might have been the secret for her never-ending energy. While improving her diving abilities she did not forget her other passion, yoga, which she practiced almost every day, not shy in sharing it with other interns, tutoring them in the most basic positions, with hilarious results.

Once she got her footing she pushed through every workshop and exercise happy to receive any input and asking for more advice on how to constantly be better. Her dream as child was to be a candy maker, and her sweet personality reflected that dream, she made it her personal mission to make anyone’s birthday a little special.

After leaving us in Raja we know she will not stop travelling, experiencing the world and spreading her positiveness all around the globe. We can’t wait to see where your next dive will be and what new adventures you’ll be involved in. All the best Victoria, we’ll miss you in the jungle!

Anne van den Boomen

Introducing the spectacular Anne Van Den Boomen, who came from Netherland and completed her divemaster in August 2023.
Since the beginning she was very eager to get started, she finished her knowledge reviews on the day it was send out!
Anne didn’t have any future plan, but from the very start she was sure she no longer wanted to spend her life working in an office, so here she is!

She has been A+ at EVERYTHING she has done. Had a bad experience in current the first dive in raja which made her a bit wary of heavy-current dive sites but she soon found herself capable of handling it with no problem. Her leads were from the very first one impressive, with a very good eye on picking any kind of problem almost before it happened.

As soon she started the Coral Ecology / ID workshop she got into coral identification, practicing even in the fun dives, going down with her slate asking Mike to challenge her.

During her stress test she was super calm and was probably one of the fastest but better controlled ever, thanks to her good buoyancy and master in every skills she was performing.

The control she shows of herself and the environment around is reflected in her being a yoga teacher, always doing handstands at the end of the jetty, and working out on the deck, always keen to have some training buddies… although whoever joined always ended regretting that choice since it’s not easy to keep up with the intensity of her training, sore muscles for days!

Anne went on to complete her IDC in Penida in October and we jumped at the chance of welcoming her to the team as the new Penida Project Co-ordinator. We always knew she would end up somewhere with ocean and sand around her and we are glad it’s with us!

Liesel Tjin

Introducing the eloquent Liesel Tjin who came to us from Singapore and completed her Divemaster program in September, 2023. Currently studying for her second degree in Biology, Liesel was quick to step straight into the science and start contributing to all the fieldwork.

Already a rescue diver on arrival, Liesel was already a confident diver and usually loved to be at the back of the group, taking time to look for her beloved moray eels. This meant it took a little encouragement to get her upfront for her leads, but it was worth it as she was a calm and collected leader by the time of graduation, sharing her love of the small things inhabiting the stunning reefs of Bira. A particularly great spot was during a lead of the benthic survey when Liesel found a small cave absolutely full of ornate spiny lobsters. Everyone took a moment to stop and say hi to these charismatic little creatures before continuing to survey the colourful corals of the reef.

Liesel was soon revealed to be quite the wordsmith, in beautiful descriptions of the two Blue Planet dogs, Luffy and Puji. Indeed, such a bond was formed with Luffy that she wrote her goodbye ceiling message (a Blue Planet tradition) in the voice of Luffy (rawr rawr!!). She was also quickly banned from Bananagrams for winning far too often. Her usual poker face was broken whenever there was a group photo – this is a woman who does not take herself seriously and so always stole the show.

After leaving us in Bira, Liesel returned to Singapore to continue her studies and hopefully look for a job in conservation. You’ll be an asset wherever you end up Liesel. We miss you!

Michiel Van Nieuwenhove

Introducing the innovative Michiel Van Nieuwenhove who came to us from Belgium and completed his Divemaster program in September, 2023. With a background in engineering he was always very keen to make improvements where he was able, and was always as efficient with the science as possible.
Having been diving in Belgium since he was very young, Misj was already an excellent diver, ready to learn as much as he could from others, as well as sharing his skills and insights. This meant leading dives came naturally to him, and he could easily be spotted with his Indonesian flag tied to his gear, at the front of the group, keeping everyone entertained with exaggerated gestures and expressions.

Misj’s favourite dives were always to the amazing Kambing, where he could enjoy the “sharkiest” part of Bira’s diving, with dozens of white-tips and grey reef sharks surrounded by big schools of snappers, sweetlips and rainbow runners. He also got lucky and was one of a growing number of divers to see molas visiting from out in the blue.

Always charming, Misj made friends with everyone at Blue Planet and in the wider community. On his first trip to Bira Kindergarten, all the children were immediately drawn to his sunny disposition and sense of fun. Quite the dancer, he was first up during snorkel tests, encouraging the shyer members of the group to join in, especially the Blue Planet staff. He also enjoyed a quieter moment, sitting with a book and a perfectly presented coffee and biscuit board (a little bit of Europe while he travelled).

After leaving us in Bira, Misj headed off to Bolivia to continue his travels, with the idea of working for a while as a divemaster if the opportunity arose during his South American journey. You’ll be fantastic Misj, just as you were here. We miss you!

Tanmay Robert Kharmarbha

Introducing the quirky Tanmay Robert Kharmarbha who came to us from India and completed his divemaster internship in September 2023.
With a background in marine biology and fieldwork experience, Tanmay was incredibly knowledgeable and very engaged in all ecology and conservation workshops. It was clear that he had done the background research and he had some novel insights that made everyone stop and think.

Tanmay was with us during the coldest months underwater. As he was not a fan of the chilly waters he bought a hood to keep him warm. The hood was unfortunately a size too small so it squished his face, making him look a little bit like a pufferfish underwater. After a few dives the hood was put away and he decided to brace the Penida waters full force.

During his time in the program, he has grown a moustache and adopted the nickname Pablo (Escobar). Not only did his moustache grow during his internship, Tanmay’s confidence in his own dive abilities has grown immensely and he dealt with some tricky currents that took a minute to process. He quickly realised that he was able to deal with them and that they can be quite fun.

Tanmay’s curiosity shone through on the science side of things, where he was always the first to have good questions about whatever topic was being discussed and would see to get as much out of his time here as possible to help him with his future studies.
You could clearly see his passion for coral reef ecosystems and -biodiversity and willingness to soak up all the information during the Ocean Gardner coral course, where he was completely in his element. As a massive lover of coral reefs, Tanmay was recruited, together with Lachlan and Harry, to take charge of CoralNet, where he analysed the substrate of the reefs around Nusa Penida with the photos taken on benthic surveys.

After leaving us, Tanmay is returning to the UK to continue his marine biology studies at the University of Essex. We wish Tanmay all the best with his university studies and hope that he will come back and see us in the future for more underwater adventures. We miss you Tanmay!

Harry Longin

Introducing cool-as-a-cucumber Harry Longin who came to us from the UK and completed his divemaster training in August 2023. Harry started his divemaster journey with 50 dives under his belt. We assume he was a fish in his previous life as it was clear from the beginning that this man belongs underwater! With his relaxed demeanor, he managed to calm the nerves of stressed divers and he always put in 100 percent in anything asked of him; whether this be leading dives, skill demonstrations, conservation workshops, stamina test, a perfect search and recovery training dive…. This guy did it all!

With a background in Natural history and experience in field conservation work, he was enthusiastic to help out our science team with the analysis of benthic survey photos. Harry previously completed an internship in Timor-Leste where he was writing his undergrad thesis on the effect of marine protected areas on coral reef ecology of Ataúro Island, East Timor, so he was the perfect man for the job. When you can’t find Harry behind his laptop analysing substrate data or underwater looking for macro life, you could find him lifting- and carrying scuba cylinders as part of his exercise routine. This obviously made him very popular amongst fellow interns and staff, who did not share his exercise routine.

Harry breezed through the program and has claimed a spot in the Penida Hall Of Fame for passing the species identification exams on the first go. He also broke the Indo Ocean Projects breath-hold record during the freediving workshop with an amazing 4 minutes and 40 seconds. We said it before and we will say it again: this man is a fish. All his efforts were rewarded when he was lucky enough to spot 3 bumphead molas together whilst assisting an open water course.

We miss you Harry and wish you all the best for your adventure in Australia. Hope to see you again in the waters of Nusa Penida. Don’t let your gills stay dry for too long!

Hilde Ringger

Introducing the irrepressible Hilde Ringger who came to us from the US and completed her Divemaster program in August 2023. With a background in ecology, she arrived with a love of corals and great enthusiasm to learn everything Bira had to offer.

Hilde arrived as an Open Water so took a little time to find her confidence in the water, especially as she was hit with some tricky currents in her first week. Her hard work paid off and by the end of her stay she was one of our most eager dive leaders, adding her signature backflips into her dives and becoming a master bubble-ring maker.

Out of the water, Hilde was the first to suggest adventures such as jungle tramping, cave visits and other explorations. Around Blue Planet, she was happy to teach fellow interns to juggle and try capoeira, some of her many hobbies. She was also a great drummer and could be heard beat-boxing along with any music. She ever rapped her first briefing! We don’t know how she remembered them all, but she had individual secret handshakes with all the staff and interns.

After leaving us in Bira, Hilde was planning to hike the Colorado trail before looking into work in conservation and diving. We know her enthusiasm and zest for life will serve her in whatever adventure she next embarks on. We miss you, Hilde!

Karina Wiening

Introducing the energetic Karina Wiening who came to us from Germany and completed her Divemaster program in August 2023. With a background in geography and working in the green energy sector, Karina was quick to apply herself to all the available learning, with her signature efficiency.

Already a competent diver, Karina started with her Rescue course at Blue Planet. Coming from a high-powered job, Karina took a while to acclimatise to a slower pace, and was always asking for extra work, or joining additional fun dives. She really came into her own for the mapping project, getting the chance to unleash her inner geographer.

Karina, along with David, could often be found doing HIIT or power yoga when not diving. Not all work, she was happy to indulge in an espresso martini or two, sporting her signature ‘space buns’ and encouraging cute matching hairstyles! She was a valued member of snorkel test organisation team, and couldn’t even be deterred from adding some extra activities to her own snorkel test.

After leaving us in Bira, Karina took some time to explore more of Indonesia and Thailand, before returning to work in Germany. We miss you, Karina!

David Braden

Introducing the expeditious David Braden who came to us from Germany and completed his Divemaster program in August 2023. Although not having a background in marine biology, David was quick to learn, and master the species ID.

David arrived to do his Rescue course in Bira, but had already done a lot of diving around the world. David brought a speedy efficiency to all aspects of his course, so had to work at slowing down his skills demonstrations, but soon they were delivered smoothly and calmly.

Out of the water David loved to cook, occasionally smoking everyone out of the kitchen with his roasting spices, and was incredibly generous, along with Karina and Hilde, treating everyone – dive centre staff, guides, instructors and IOP staff and interns – to a wonderful meal, including cheesecake, on the evening of his snorkel test. Dressed in one of his fancy shirts, David was one of the first on the dancefloor at parties, or joining group games of fingie-ball to devastating effect.

After leaving us in Bira, David is returning to work and a pacier existence, but plans to travel more of the world diving as much as he can. We will miss you.

Douglas Fraser

Introducing the conscientious Doug who came to us from UK and completed his Divemaster program in August, 2023. With a background in environmental science, he was quick to embrace the practical science aspects of the project and giving extra help with data wherever he could.

Already a competent Rescue diver when he arrived, Doug just needed a little extra practice in Bira’s currents to refine his skills. He was a popular choice for assisting with certified divers: polite, helpful and charming with customers and staff alike so we weren’t surprised that he was requested several times so help out.

Always a careful and considered team member, it was quite a surprise to all when his 100th dive happened while he was assisting a rescue course, and he managed to lose all his clothes before being ‘saved’. Not shying away from learning new things, Doug mastered scooter driving in Bira, progressing from a slightly wobbly first lesson, to making many trips to explore the surrounding area on days off.

After leaving us in Bira, Doug went on to Raja Ampat for some additional weeks of project and has plans to look for conservation work in Indonesia after spending some time in Singapore, where he grew up. Good luck Doug, we miss you here!

Lalie Bonneton

Introducing the affectionate Lalie, who came to us from France and completed her Divemaster program in August, 2023. Already a very experienced diver, it took no time to settle into the waters of Bira and begin concentrating her efforts on the science.

Lalie had already been diving around the world since the age of 12 so her skills needed only a little refinement. Overcoming some ear problems which had us on the edge of our seat in the hope she finished in time, she also became a popular dive leader as she was quick to find hidden creatures – octopus, sleeping rays, and pipefish.

Having spent a lot of time in Indonesia, Lalie already spoke a little Bahasa, but her skills in this increased enormously through her friendships with the boat crew and Blue Planet staff, becoming one of the family. Her sweet and caring nature embraced the whole intern team and extra animal friends: small cats, some baby birds and of course Blue Planet’s resident dogs, Luffy and Puji.

After leaving us in Bira, Lalie returned to France to re-start her studies in environmental engineering, with a hope to work in conservation in the future. We know for sure she’ll be back underwater in no time and hopefully will return to Indonesia soon. We miss you, Lalie!

Nathalia Guiraud

Introducing the chilled Nathalia Guiraud who came to us from France and completed her divemaster training with us in August 2023. Coming to us with already 200 dives under her belt, she did not need much feedback on her already established dive skills.

That being said, during her time with us, she had some starting problems with delivering dive briefings. During her time in Nusa Penida, she has proven to us she can give a flawless boat- and dive briefing with some encouragement and practice. Nathalia always manages to keep her cool, both on land and underwater. Her straight face does makes it a mystery to know what is going on in her head sometimes.

There was something everybody knew was inside her head; battling with a sinus infection and some ear problems during her time at the project.

She was able to take part in the entertaining coral identification workshop where the team tried to find ways to remember all the coral genera. She ended up with the nickname Sinularia, referring to the characteristics of this coral genus that – with its long and soft branches- looks like a buildup of snot. Since that day, she signs her emails to the science team with the name Sinularia instead of Nathalia.

With French- and Indonesian nationality, she impressed us with the languages spoken; French, Bahasa Indonesia, English, Spanish, Italian and German. She also impressed us by keeping her cool during her first encounter with a bumphead mola while doing gas consumption runs underwater.

We were all very excited to see this amazing fish and she ended up having a better sac-rate than many dive professionals. Because of her relaxed appearance, she had some trouble taking leadership underwater when she started leading dives, but with some practice she got there in the end, remembering that leading dives is not only about safety and navigation, but also entertainment.

Nathalia already has a Bachelors degree in management and is soon moving to London to start a masters degree in marketing. We miss you, Sinularia and we know you will be landlocked for the next year studying but we hope to see you underwater soon again!

Lachlan Nichol

Introducing the forever entertaining Lachlan Nicol who came to us from Canada and completed his divemaster training in August 2023. Lachlan has Swiss Nationality, he previously lived in the US and he also has extended family in Bali. This guy has been everywhere in the world.

The first few weeks, it was hard to miss Lachlan and his toe-shoes. He wore them with pride and was excited to show them off to everyone.
Not only is Lachlan eccentric with toe-shoes, but he also is memorable for mixing Balinese coffee with tea as an experiment. This new drink unfortunately didn’t catch on with the rest of the team.

Lachlan flew through the program, and even though he battled with some ear issues during his internship, he managed some impressive scores on his skill circuits, stamina test, and when leading dives, but he did need gentle reminders to focus on the task at hand on occasion.

You can easily recognise Lachlan by his height, curly and dense hair his new tattoo (I think therefore Ayam), and his ability to be the entertainment officer on call. A beautiful example of his entertainment was during community clean-ups, where he provided us with some soothing background music in the form of practicing Mongolian throat singing. He inspires to be on Spotify one day, under the artist name Little Lachlach.

Lachlan studies applied animal physiology with a minor in oceanography. With this educational background, it came as no surprise that he is part of the IOP Hall of Fame; passing his species identification exams on the first go! He was also a big help to our science team with photo uploads of our benthic surveys and analysing the substrate on these pictures. He was also honoured that he was given the task of onboard coordinator of a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) being tested out by Professor Sai-kit Yeung in Nusa Penida waters for the first time.

We wish you all the best in your future studies, Little Lachlach. We hope to see you soon again underwater and hope to hear from you soon again. This place is just not the same without your Mongolian throat singing.

Sudhira Subramaniam

Introducing the go-with-the-flow Sudhira Subramaniam who came to us from India and completed her divemaster training in August 2023.

Sudhira came to us with 1 dive under her belt, previously only done a discover scuba dive in the Andaman Sea.

From the first breaths she took under water, she was absolutely mesmerised by the world below the surface that she was determined to explore and understand this ecosystem more. Enter: Indo Ocean Project! Sudhira signed up for our ‘zero to hero’ program taking her from open water diver all the way up to divemaster.

Even though she admitted she was nervous with this decision, she never seemed frazzled and she was always paying close attention what her instructors were saying to take up as much knowledge as she possibly could.

Sometimes she needed a gentle reminder of trim and buoyancy, but Sudhira quickly caught up with the other- and more experienced interns by smashing her open water -, advanced-, react right – and rescue course. After a few weeks of intense training with the Reeflex instructors, we thought her head might explode, but she stayed cool as a cucumber. Not even when a surprise visitor, in the form of a scorpion crawling on her bcd, in the pool could bewilder her.

When practicing skills, it took Sudhira some time get comfortable in her own (dive)skin, but by the end of each session, she got more and more confident. Not only did she, after some practice, manage to do the skills with ease, comfort, slow and exaggerated, she has also mastered a jaw-dropping perfect hover.

Without a formal background in marine science, Sudhira liked to stay in the background during ecology classes, soaking up all the knowledge surrounding her. When it came to the coral reef ecology course, she was super excited, enthusiastic and energetic…hmmm, marine biologist in the making? Not only did she smash the theory of coral reef ecology, she was a rockstar during her coral identification, almost correctly identifying all 23 coral genera seen.

We miss you, Sudhira and we wish a future amongst the beautiful coral reefs of the Andaman Sea!

Greta Cwika

Introducing the joyful Greta Cwikla who came to us from Germany and finished her divemaster program in August 2023. Having a background in physics and lab work, the world of science was quite familiar to Greta and she quickly smashed her species training and was ready to start her research.

She was an advanced diver when she first arrived and started her rescue course with great enthusiasm and drive. This was always the case with Greta. She took everything we threw at her with a massive smile and wonderful energy. Even when the weather was not great for diving Greta would instead get excited about the massive waves and spend hours admiring them. The only exception was when she didn’t have time for her daily nap after lunch and would get quite sad.

Greta started her DM training with good skills but for some reason had very little confidence in herself and did her first briefings almost asking if it was okay if she took us diving. However, this was not a problem for long. After pushing her knowledge, attending additional workshops and practicing her skills on dives, Greta became a confident diver and a great lead with close attention to her divers and their enjoyment. She was an equally great assistant on courses and took on the challenge of “horrible” DSDs with a smile.

Though she would never brag about it, Greta had a hidden talent. She was an amazing artist and was often found sketching species with an array of colours and tools. She created a whole book of fish drawings and we learned that she had previously been the creator of an illustration of a coral polyp used in a scientific textbook. She put this gift to good use for her mapping project, creating a beautiful illustration of the health of the house reef, that can be used in the future plans of restoration.

After leaving us Greta (reluctantly) had to go back to Germany for work, but we know it won’t be long before she is back in the water. We miss you Greta!

Giorgio Montoli

Introducing the charismatic Giorgio Montoli who came to us from Italy and completed his divemaster training in August 2023. With a background in environmental sciences he had no issues getting into the program and having previous experience in research diving, he was immediately a natural part of the team.

In the initial part of the training, Giorgio was struggling a bit with his English which resulted in him being rather quiet. However, this was not an issue for long and he improved immensely in spite of (as Caitlin would say it) becoming more Italian by the day. Having a tendency to getting distracted, Giorgio had forgotten to bring flip flops, but luckily found an abandoned pair only six sizes too small that he was wearing for a month.

Giorgio had a passion for water that was unprecedented, he would snorkel for close to two hours every night before sunset. He was truly more comfortable in the water than on land, to the point where the local staff was calling him the seaman..

When it came to leading dives, Giorgio was his own worst enemy because he simple was enjoying the dives so much that he would get distracted and forget about his divers. He did eventually learn the hard was because his divers would start hiding from him to see how long it took him to realise. This was all for the best though as he ended up being extremely attentive to all his divers as well as being a wonderful assistant on all courses. Always eager to help, this young gentleman was always the first to assist with tanks or equipment, take on additional tasks or offer someone a beer. On mutiple occasions he even spend a whole night cooking Italian pasta for everyone just so we could experience “real” pasta.

After leaving us, Giorgio was planning to go to do his self-reliant diver course and hopefully continue his journey in marine conservation. We miss you Giorgio!

arismatic Giorgio Montoli who came to us from Italy and completed his divemaster training in August 2023. With a background in environmental sciences he had no issues getting into the program and having previous experience in research diving, he was immediately a natural part of the team. In the initial part of the training, Giorgio was struggling a bit with his English which resulted in him being rather quiet. However, this was not an issue for long and he improved immensely in spite of (as Caitlin would say it) becoming more Italian by the day. Having a tendency to getting distracted, Giorgio had forgotten to bring flip flops, but luckily found an abandoned pair only six sizes too small that he was wearing for a month. Giorgio had a passion for water that was unprecedented, he would snorkel for close to two hours every night before sunset. He was truly more comfortable in the water than on land, to the point where the local staff was calling him the seaman.. When it came to leading dives, Giorgio was his own worst enemy because he simple was enjoying the dives so much that he would get distracted and forget about his divers. He did eventually learn the hard was because his divers would start hiding from him to see how long it took him to realise. This was all for the best though as he ended up being extremely attentive to all his divers as well as being a wonderful assistant on all courses. Always eager to help, this young gentleman was always the first to assist with tanks or equipment, take on additional tasks or offer someone a beer. On mutiple occasions he even spend a whole night cooking Italian pasta for everyone just so we could experience “real” pasta. After leaving us, Giorgio was planning to go to do his self-reliant diver course and hopefully continue his journey in marine conservation. We miss you Giorgio!

Constanza Maturana

Introducing the bubbly Constanza Maturana who is originally Chilean, but came to us from Australia and completed her divemaster training in August 2023. Arriving with a number of dives under her belt, Constanza was no stranger to the world below the surface and her passion for the ocean kept growing during her stay. So much that she is looking for a career change from chef to professional diver.

What you need to know about Constanza is that she laughs a lot. She giggles when she is happy, she giggles when she is nervous, she giggles when she is stressed, she giggles when she is carefree, she giggles when thinking about food (she thought about food… a lot!).

With her culinary background, she was part of a very interesting species ID workshop where the team constantly made food references; tawny nurse sharks reminded her of meatballs, marbled stingrays were oreo milkshakes and groupers…they are just tasty fish. With food always on her mind, we found it very entertaining when, after a nightdive, she managed to get a small fish stuck in the 2nd stage of her regulator when swimming back to shore.

It took Connie a while to find her feet – or fins – for the neutral buoyancy skill demonstration, but with determination, practice and giggles she breezed through her final skill circuit. She was also a great help to our science team as she took on an independent project of helping us with uploading photos in the turtle identification database. It was a pleasure to have Connie around for two months, who you could always find having general chitchat with staff, guests and fellow interns.

Constanza was lucky enough to see a Mola alexandrini on her final days in Nusa Penida. We are sad to report that she did not find a food reference to compare this fish with. We miss you Connie, and we hope your future is filled with underwater Oreo milkshakes and meatballs!

Brian Smith

Introducing the charismatic Brian Smith who came to us from the US of A and completed his divemaster training in August 2023, along with his deep speciality which allows him to dive to 40m.With a background in earth sciences and as a manager of a fishing company, it came as no surprise to us that he was incredibly good at the species identification workshops and quickly became a big help with survey dives.

Making the switch from imperial to metric, he aced his sizing test needed to become a survey diver on the first go, having no problem converting inches to cm. He also completely switched from psi to bar, feet to metres his first day without any problems.

As Brian’s previous dive experience was in Monterey Bay in California, It was apparent from the beginning that he was very excited to dive in the tropical waters of Nusa Penida. On his first dive at the project he came up with the biggest smile, stating: “That was amaaaaaazing! I have never seen so much exciting marine life, beautiful reefs and crystal clear visibility.”

Being a big dog lover, in his free time you will find him chatting with fellow interns, staff and dive guests, but also giving attention to all the dogs around. His excitement goes far beyond four legged creatures though – when spotting dolphins whilst on the boat, he could hardly contain his enthusiasm on the opportunity of swimming with these beauties that he shattered his mask while entering (aka faceplanting) the water. Nothing really stops this guy from going in full force.

Brian was applauded for his professionalism and politeness, always willing to lend a helping hand. He quickly took on a mentor role for our new arrivals and helped guide them through their training and species identification.

After leaving us, Brian will return home to give his dog the biggest hug possible and hopefully explore the world as a professional divemaster in California. We miss you, Brian and we see a bright future as a divemaster or instructor ahead in your future, filled with Mola alexandrini!

Anindita Chatterjee

Introducing the dedicated Anindita Chatterjee who came to us from India and completed her divemaster training in July 2023. With a background in law, the world of marine research was a very new experience for Ani, But this was not going to stop this stubborn young lady from taking a much knowledge as she could and become a research diver. She was already a rescue diver when she arrived but Ani was determined to learn as much as possible and was keen to take in knowledge like a sponge while she was here.

It was very much all or nothing with Ani. She got so frustrated that she didn’t pass her species ID straight away that she forced herself to intense studying and could eventually id most species simply by shape of the body. Ani was truly passionate about conservation. She had previously done volunteer work battling ocean pollution and was always curious about methods of conservation. She was passionate about teaching he love of the ocean which would clear throughout her internship. She took as much information in as possible and went out of her way to be able to call herself a true ambassador for the ocean.

Ani was the kind of person who was always pushing herself to be better. If there was ever anything she couldn’t do, she would dedicate a lot of work and time to insure that nothing would stand in her way. In spite of feeling very comfortable in the ocean, Ani initially had problems with taking her mask off under water. However, that wasn’t going to stop this hard working lady from doing her skills correctly. She would use most of her dives for practice and eventually developed her own technique for removing her mask and making it look absolutely effortless.

After leaving us, Ani went to Penida for a few weeks to do some diving with IOP there before going back to India. We wish you all the best Ani!

Rebecca Brown

Introducing the wonderful Rebecca Brown who came to us from UK and completed her Divemaster program in August, 2023. With a background in practical conservation, she was quick to be involved in everything from BRUV drops to helping preserve a dolphin skull found on the beach.

Rebecca came to Bira as a ‘zero-to-hero’ so during her time transformed from a brand-new (and occasionally floaty!) diver to a confident and capable divemaster, able to make everyone laugh even underwater, with little more than sideways look and a raised eyebrow. Not prone to exaggeration, she took a little time to bring her skills to demonstration level, but with practice her subtle exuberance shone through for her final skills circuit.

Back on land, Rebecca was always the life and soul of the Bira community, making friends with everyone from the boat crew to the neighbouring resorts. In her downtime she could be found watching horror films over breakfast, being ‘feral’ at parties, or lying on the floor in unexpected places, wearing everyone’s favourite hamster face t-shirt.

After leaving us in Bira, Rebecca headed back to the UK to graduate and start looking for a job in conservation. We know she’ll be successful and whoever she works with next are so lucky to have her. We miss you, Rebecca! (Insert tiny heart finger emoji here!) 

Michelle SeowShee Teng

Introducing the bubbly Michelle who came to us from Australia and finished her research program in August 2023. Michelle was already a divemaster when she arrived so she could focus all of her energy on becoming a scientific diver. This was no problem whatsoever for this enthusiastic lady as she dedicated a lot of time and energy in the research.

She selflessly volunteered to be in charge of uploading pictures of sharks for citizen science. She made herself the EPI queen by managing to get through 34 shark photos, ignoring the fact that one of them was sized to 120 m…

Having a background in marine biology and passionate about contributing to conservation, Michelle was happy to take on some challenges. So, she was given some of the busy BRUVs that Raja has to offer and spent hours watching everything thoroughly. Her and her BRUV partner Michael decided to name all the fish that they noted down based on how persistently they went in and out of the frame.

Michelle was part of the team given the task to make a health analysis of the house reef, looking at the current state of the corals and making a corresponding map. Being her brilliant self, she took on the challenge with a smile and the team created one of the best mapping projects ever and the perfect baseline for the next plan of action for the reef.

In spite of all her dedication and brilliance, it wasn’t all serious work with Michelle. She was, for some reason, struggling with her SMB in the beginning. So whenever she would have a really good one she would be so proud that she challenged everyone else to a fencing dual on the surface. She said she was inspired by nudibranchs and was determined to prove that she had the best SMB.

After leaving us, Michelle went to the Gillis to do her IDC before returning to Australia to work as an instructor. We know she is going to do an amazing job. We love you Michelle!

Prajit Timbadia

Introducing superman Prajit Timbadia who came to us from India and completed his divemaster training in July 2023 along with his deep speciality allowing him to dive to 40m. Known as the human sponge, Prajit always puts 110 percent into anything asked of him and he made sure he took advantage of the knowledge of the mentors surrounding him. This curiosity shone through from day one as he was always ready with questions on how to improve his dive skills and mastery on the topics discussed.

Prajit fell in love with the ocean in Thailand in 2022 during a discover scuba dive and quickly realised he belongs in the water. Even though he has no formal training in marine conservation, he feels it is his responsibility to contribute back to the ocean in whatever way possible, and he did. Being part of many dive against debris, benthic surveys, coral watch dives, BRUV-drops and survey dives where he was an excellent dive leader.

With a background in animation, he fell in love with the colours and vibrant nature of the reefs around Penida. It is this attention to detail which gave him a spot in the Penida hall of fame; passing the species-ID exams on the first go!

Prajit likes to spend his holidays skiing down snowy mountains so it came as no surprise that he was not startled by the cold water upwellings of Indonesia. From his first until his last day he completed all his dives in board shorts and rashguard, which earned him much respect from his fellow shivering interns. This superman knows how to handle himself in cold water and a current, but still says he misses the warm and calm waters of Koh Tao and cannot wait to return there.

On shore dives, he extended his compact size by putting his fins on his hands to help him swim past the initial waves before putting them on his feet. That being said, He breezed through his stamina test, even though his fins were on his feet, not his hands. His determination is admirable and he almost managed to finish his time here without missing a single dive. But he was so much of an enthusiastic victim while assisting a rescue course that he had to give up his final fun dive the next day.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and cannot wait to see you underwater again soon! Update: Prat just became an instructor in February 2024, so congratulations and we miss you, Prajit.

Reilly O’Brien

Introducing the zen-master Reilly O’Brien, who came to us from the US of A and completed her divemaster training in July 2023, along with her deep speciality, allowing her to dive to 40m.

Reilly has a master’s degree in environmental policy and management and joined Indo Ocean Project to combine her scientific knowledge with fieldwork. This she hopes will help her to build a career focused on sustainability while serving communities.

Not only does Reilly have an environmental degree, she is also a creative designer and this shined through in the mapping project where she took on the role of the design queen which made her talent and hard work shine through.

This lady is the epiphany of health and manages to put us all to shame. In her free time, you can find Reilly drawing in a journal while sipping on some good coffee and eating a healthy breakfast. Breakfast rolls into lunch and Reilly always brings in mouthwatering lunches that make everyone eating Indonesian fried rice beside her extremely jealous. There is no stopping this superwoman as she not only eats healthy but also gets up early to do yoga and stretching every morning. So it came as no surprise to anyone that she breezed through the stamina test, receiving incredible scores.

Underwater Reilly exuded as much zen as she did on the surface, relaxed and in control, even in strong currents. It took her some time to get confident in her own abilities underwater but with her calm and reassuring appearance underwater, she proved she has what it takes to be a brilliant dive leader and demonstrate skills perfectly with her calm, clear, and relaxing attitude.

Reilly proved to be an amazing assistant underwater with great attention to safety but she did run into some problems finding her flow for the dive and boat briefings. After some practice, deep breaths and reset, she always managed to glide through and deliver.

After leaving us in Penida, you will find Reilly travelling through Thailand, not making too many future plans and embracing whatever comes next. We wish you smooth sailing toward all your future endeavours and hope to see you underwater again.

We miss you!

Gareth Leach

Introducing the wry Gareth Leach who came to us from the UK and completed his Divemaster program in July 2023. Despite not having a background in science Gareth set himself about his studies with humour and vigour and became a valued member of the research team, excelling particularly in BRUV drops.

Gareth came to us as a zero-to-hero so watching him develop from an utter novice to strong and confident dive master whose skills were always neat and clear and who underwent an almost miraculous transformation in air consumption.

Outside of the water, Gareth was a keen chess player and a pioneer in the exploration of Bira’s food scene, sniffing out new takeaways and bringing them back for everyone to try and would return from his many trips to Makassar with gifts of food. Gareth was exceptionally funny and quick-witted, although occasionally his delivery was so dry it was hard to determine the joke from the serious.

After leaving the project Gareth, who grew up in Indonesia, planned to spend quality time with old school friends in Jakarta before returning to London. He even intimated at looking into a career in marine conservation…go for it Gareth! This world could always do with more like you. We miss you Gareth!

Michael Van Zyl

Introducing the iiiiiiinteresting Michael Van Zyl who came to us from South Africa and finished his researcher program in July 2023. Mike had been working of boats for a long time before joining us and was keen to be submerged in the jungle life of Raja Ampat. His experience both on and in water was clear immediately and he was more that happy to share his knowledge and help the other interns as much as possible.

Mike was already a divemaster when he came into the program and had lots of experience underwater. However, this didn’t exactly show when he first arrived since he was struggling a bit with his buoyancy to great confusion of the other divers. This did, however, turned out to be due to his BCD self-inflating and once the problem was known everything could be addressed.

Mike was very committed to contributing to the science and was almost immediately taking the task of putting in data for dive against debris and unite Raja. He was also determined to watch some of the more difficult BRUVs, so him and another research intern would name every single fish that was returning on the video based on how annoying of a fish it was.

This go-to attitude was consistent in his entire program. Mike was always eager to help, sometime to the extend where people had to tell him to stop because they wanted to do things themselves. However, his friendly positive attitude meant that we quickly knew he was going to be a good addition to the team and he became the next research assistant of Raja.

When finishing his program, Mike was going to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and he was talking everyday about how he should be training for it. How ver the one time he did calf raises he couldn’t walk for three days.. so good luck from us Mike! You know we love you.

Louanne Gervais

Introducing the extravagant Louanne Gervais who came to us from France and completed her divemaster training in June 2023. Louanne had never tried diving before and was thus the first ever Zero to hero of Raja Ampat. She worked hard on getting into the world of diving and had exponential growth with her skills and comfort level underwater.

By the time she got to her rescue course, it became clear that nothing was going to stand in the way of this determined new diver. With good energy and a lot of attitude she smashed her rescue course and was ready to jump on the science. With a background in marine biology, Louanne was determined to learn as much as possible during her training and further her knowledge in marine conservation. She quickly passed all her species ID training and was ready to become a survey diver.

In the beginning Louanne seemed to have a bit of a language barrier when trying to follow conversations, however, it quickly became clear that this was not the case. Her mind simply had a tendency to wander and she would enter the conversation with the most random statements well knowing that it was very off subject. In spite of having the habit of always running everywhere, Louanne was notorious for being late. It got to the point where the interns were making bets on how many minutes she would be late to every workshop. However, this had nothing to do with her being lazy. Always full of energy and more than keen to carry as many tanks as possible on the wheelbarrow, she was eager to get as much out of her experience as possible.

Louanne was very engaged in getting to know the local people and was often found in the kitchen or with the captain on the boat learning the language. This enthusiasm was consistent throughout her program and we know her positive energy will come with her everywhere she goes. “Let’s go diving hein!”

Elsa Chaucesse

Introducing the assiduous Elsa who came to us from France and completed her Divemaster program in July 2023. With a background in communications Elsa was always the first to volunteer to create content for the IOP socials and create video logs.

Elsa was already a confident diver, having already dived far and wide, and excelled in all areas of her Divemaster programme. She also had that rare luck very few divers have of seeing most of Bira’s rare megafauna: a bumped mola (Mola alexandrini), a bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma) and a whale shark (Rhincodon typus). The Bira Dive Camp House Reef’s resident spotted eagle rays had a fondness for Elsa, seeming to want to see her on almost every dive there.

Besides the diving, Elsa was up early most mornings doing HIIT workouts or yoga and encouraging others to join. She was always suggesting a game to play or organising day trips – such as that to the village of Ammatoa or the Phinisi boatyards – and even helped organise fellow intern Tia’s snorkel test.

After leaving Bira, Elsa is explored Kuala Lumpur before beginning an exciting new job in the Maldives, working in Club Med’s environmental science department, looking after their coral restoration project and guiding guests on dives around restoration sites. They are very lucky to have her, we miss you Elsa!

Anna Lam

Introducing the lovely Anna Lam who came to us from Switzerland and finished her divemaster training in June 2023. Coming from working as a goldsmith, the world of science was a very new adventure for Anna but as she would with everything, she took this challenge with a smile was keen on learning as much about the science as possible.

Anna was already a rescue diver when she first arrived but had a bit of a unique diving history. She came to IOP, travelling with her partner Alex who was originally the one who made her try diving even though she really didn’t want to. And a year later, she somehow found herself starting her divemaster training. This reflected in the one thing she was lacking underwater, which was confidence. Even though she did everything perfectly, the sweet Anna was always questioning her own skills. However, she was lucky enough to get to assist a bunch of very new divers and found out that she was awesome at helping people out under water and enjoyed sharing the ocean experience. This attentiveness to people meant that she was really enjoying when she first started leading. She had an eye for spotting macro and was always determined to find as many interesting things as possible for her divers.

Anna had a natural care for others and was always the first to ask of people wanted something to drink after a dive or if there was ever anything she could do to help. On several occasions, she arranges activities for the interns to do in the evenings and wanted to include everyone. She created charades and arranged movie night under the stars and was in the kitchen for ages making caramelised popcorn for everyone.

After leaving us, Anna and Alex continued their traveling to Kuala Lumpur and was going to keep traveling for as long as they could before going back to Switzerland for work. We hope you enjoy your adventures! You’re amazing Anna!

Alexandre Clivaz

Introducing the talented Alexandre Clivaz who came to us from Switzerland and finished his divemaster training in June 2023. He arrived with his girlfriend Anna and with their open and positive nature, the two of them were immediately an integrated part of the team. They had been traveling for a long time, so getting used to the jungle life was no issue for Alex, with the exception of the occasional falling gecko which he would sometimes have a very specific reaction to…

Coming from a background in team management, Alex would address any issues with a cool head and was very efficient when it came to completing tasks. He quickly passed is ID training and was a valuable member of the research team. He had an extensive knowledge about dive theory and had no issues explaining the equipment as well as dive science to any of the newcomers.

As an already experienced diver, Alex had great diving skills from day one and only had to refine his communication which was close to non-existent. No matter what he saw under water, there was basically no reaction and you could never tell if he was enjoying the dive or being really bored. This was of course never the case as Alex was lucky to have to extraordinary sightings on dives and even though he enjoyed complaining about going to Friwen Wall, it was always with a joke and a wonderful positive attitude. In spite of him never wanting to be boat master, the interns quickly decided that he was the best at it since everything was always sorted and he would even help people get on the boat and welcome them in a proper manner. He had an ironic humour that would put everyone on the team in a good mood and would be that undercover comic relief that no one knew was coming.

After leaving us, Alex and Anna continued travelling Asia and wanted to explore as much as possible before going back to Switzerland. We miss you Alex!

Saskia Bursova

Introducing the bubbly Saskia Bursova who came to us from Slovakia and completed her divemaster in June 2023. When Saskia arrived, she meant business from the first day; already having her open and advanced certification and a master’s in Marine Biology, she was ready to apply her knowledge in real life and learn what it means to become a divemaster and research diver ready for her career ahead.

Saskia got off to a bad start at the beginning of her programme and fell off her scooter on day 2, so although she had to have a few dry days to begin, she was able to get a head-start on some of her theory. Saskia’s bruises persisted for the majority of her programme but she never let it dampen her mood, always excited to get in the water no water what the activity was. An ear infection then stopped her diving for a few days but that just meant she had more time to learn how to use her new camera and concentrate on uploading our turtle ID shots.

Soon enough, Saskia became very eager to get back in the water and ended up assisting open water, advanced DSD and a night dive back-to-back, and that still didn’t stop her; we had to force her to take a day off! We love to see enthusiastic divers. When it was time for Saskia to be boat master, she impressed all the staff and her fellow interns, radiating confidence and smiles to the boat; we were shocked it was her first time doing the job, and she only continued to be great, supporting all her other interns in the same role.

Saskia claims that an orca is her favourite marine animal and the reason she got into marine biology, but we beg to differ after we see her reaction to seeing the first mola of the season for IOP. Screaming from the rooftops when she got back to the dive, it was like the speed of light showing her pictures to her fellow interns. Unfortunately, not everyone was as passionate about watching Finding Nemo with her as they were about watching her Mola video, but after plenty of persuasion, Saskia ended her program the perfect way and convinced her fellow interns to have a movie night.

After leaving us Saskia was travelling around Bali for a few days before heading back home to the UK. Saskia plans to earn some money whilst looking for a job to start her career in marine biology. We wish you the best of luck for the future, Saskia. We know you will do great!
Rachel Lester

Introducing the joyful Rachel Lester who came to us from the USA and completed her divemaster in June 2023. Rachel already had plenty of experience as a diver, achieving her rescue certification a number of years ago, so she was ready to start her divemaster from day 1 and start learning something new about how marine ecology; having no prior formal marine science education, Rachel was excited to see what it was all about.

Rachel began her program quite nervous that she wasn’t ready to start her divemaster as her previous diving certifications had been so long ago, but we were sure to set Rachel straight as we knew she was more than ready. Slowly but surely she began to believe us, as all her previous knowledge came rushing back to her as soon as she was in the water.

When it was time for her ecology and science-based workshops, Rachel was always upfront and ready to learn. These may have been new methods and techniques for Rachel, but you would never know watching her completing fish surveys and dropping BRUVs; all the curiosity and interest in the workshops paid off with her learning every little detail she could to become the best at what she was doing. Rachel particularly enjoyed the shark workshop which inspired her to go on the Project Hui day trip herself to see the sharks she had learnt about, and she even got to meet the found herself, Madison Stewart.

Rachel blossomed into a beautiful diver over her time with us, and even if she didn’t know it when she arrived to us she would leave us as a ‘skills queen’, nothing but grace and perfection on her final skills circuit she did herself proud and Michaela even said she could sit and watch her skills all day, a very impressive feat.

After Rachel left us she was heading back home to the cold water diving she was previously used to. Rachel had no plans after she left us but she knew she didn’t want to be out of the water long. We hope to see you diving around the world again Rachel. We miss you!
Tony Wilkinson

Introducing the enthusiastic Tony Wilkinson who came to us from the UK and completed his research diver internship with us in April 2023. Tony was a cold water diver in the wrecks of the UK and was previously an engineer, so the warm waters of coral reefs were a whole new world for him. Coming to us following 2 previous coral-based internships elsewhere he was ready to get stuck straight in to learn even more.

Hearing lots of great stories from his wife, a previous intern with us, Tony couldn’t wait to learn how to become a survey diver. His eagerness to learn was a positive energy around the dive shop and we were always excited to have him in a workshop. He was particularly interested in the coral workshops and was worried he wouldn’t be able to remember them all, yet he did the best on the coral ID dive out of the group, even if he did blame his age when he forgot them in the classroom. Tony struggled with the fish ID, but after plenty of practice, he was busy taking photos on every dive ready to come back and show the other interns what he had identified.

When he wasn’t out diving, he was busy making a second trip back to the dive centre to collect gear he had forgotten to pack away. He even lost a few items under the water, no wonder he was off shopping at the dive shop every week. As Tony had no previous experience in marine science, he was enthusiastic and excited in all of the ecology workshops and was always ready to share his diving knowledge with all the other interns of course only when he was finished telling us about his bad experiences on every dive with triggerfish.

In Bira along with wife Emma, Tony managed to save one of Bira’s resident turtles from a fishing net. Not only was everyone at Blue Planet and IOP grateful but the turtle too as Tony was sure he saw her acknowledge him on his next dive. During his time at Bira, Tony was always ready to help other interns, picking up dropped equipment, steadying tanks, or checking the group was all together.

In Raja Tony had a positive attitude towards staff and was keen to help out on the boat and was interested in sitting in on additional workshops.

After completing the full cycle of IOP Tony is heading back to the UK and then planning to head to Thailand to retire and get a job working in coral restoration. We wish you the best of luck and happiness in Thailand and we are glad to have spent the time with you across all our projects.
Emma Wilkinson

Reintroducing the curious Emma Wilkinson who came to us from the UK and completed her research internship in April 2023. Emma came to us with a background in marine ecology and years of experience following her passion as a research diver, volunteering on marine conservation programs worldwide. She had come straight to us after finishing the previous one. Returning to IOP for a second time, Emma brought her husband along to spread her love for the coral reef and share their experience.

Emma’s enthusiasm shone from day one, pre-ordering coral manuals, to the dive shop, ready to study the day she landed, and this passion continued throughout her time with us. Already a DM, Emma spent her time underwater collecting data, doing fish surveys, benthic surveys, BRUVS, and her favourite, the coral-associated dives. All of Emma’s experiences were very clear from day one, and she smashed her fish ID, sizing, and coral ID straight away. However, that didn’t stop her from asking for a second, third and fourth coral ID dive with our marine biologist.

After dropping a BRUV on a dive, Emma struggled to get rid of Titan triggerfish that appeared to have it in for her. Since that day, Emma held a grudge against all triggerfish around Penida and made sure to show them her angry face every time she saw them on a dive, bringing a smile to everyone on the dive. Emma loves night dives and tries to do one in every place she dives; sadly, she couldn’t do the extra night dives she was hoping for in Penida due to a scooter accident at the end of her programme. Luckily, Emma and her husband were straight off to Bira and then on to Raja to complete our other projects so they will have plenty of time to see what is lurking underwater at night.

In Bira, there was plenty of opportunity for night dives, so Emma was in her element. She also took every opportunity to clean the beach, even in her free time – what a hero! A highlight of her stay was successfully saving one of the resident turtles from a fishing net, along with her husband Tony.

In Raja, Emma was keen to sit in on additional workshops. She just wanted to learn as much about coral identification as possible!

After being the first interns to complete the hat trick of IOP, Emma and Tony are looking to retire to Thailand to enjoy their days diving in the sun and working in coral conservation. Of course, not before Emma completes some more internships, she was hoping to do a turtle conservation programme in Australia, and we hope she is successful. We are very lucky to have met you, Emma, you have been a wonderful addition during your time here, we wish you lots of happiness in the future.
Manuela Poretti

Introducing the fantastic Manuela Poretti who came to us from Switzerland (the Italian part) and completed her divemaster in June 2023. Manuela came to us with her advanced open water and plenty of experience diving all around the world but was just as excited to get in the waters of Penida as a new diver and of course to see the manta rays. Manuela’s background was in marketing and although she was worried about her lack of previous science experience, that only made her enthusiastic to learn more.

Manuela did nothing but impress from day 1 and made the species hall of fame, passing her species ID test with flying colours the first time around, something only a handful of interns have ever done. Her passion for conservation was infectious and staff and interns loved to have her around. Manuela would always volunteer for extra work in her spare time and as a result, was our resident manta matching citizen science queen, spending her time uploading her ID shots of mantas to the online database and encouraging her fellow interns to do the same so she could try to match them with previously spotted individuals in the area. Not only that but she trawled through our database and helped fix any incorrect data regarding sex and injuries, what a treasure!

In her own words Manuela ‘just loves diving’ and this was obvious no matter what the activity was, on a macro hunt with her beloved camera or assisting courses and sharing all her knowledge with fellow divers and dive shop customers. Manuela was always smiling any time you would see her especially when she is learning something new in the ecology workshops and never missed a welcoming good morning to everyone around her. Manuela had to have some time out of the water due to illness but in true Manuela style she was fighting to get back in the water as soon as possible.

After leaving us Manuela headed to Komodo with some previous interns before travelling with her Partner and fellow intern Anthony and is considering her IDC in the future. We think she would make a great instructor and we are excited to see what is in the future for this woman. The diving world will be grateful to experience your love and passion for the ocean. We miss you, Manu!
Poppy Macdonald

Introducing the smiley Poppy Georgia Macdonald who came to us from the UK and completed her divemaster in June 2023. Poppy completed our Zero to Hero programme and came to us having never scuba-dived before. Due to covid, her programme was delayed many times but that only meant she was even more excited to become part of the diving world. Poppy’s previous experience was in animal health and welfare and she came with lots of animal stories to share with us.

There was no time for science in the beginning for Poppy as it was straight into the water to achieve her open and advanced water. Every day was a good day for Poppy in her first few weeks always coming back with a big smile on her face and nothing but praise and positive feedback from her instructors. This energy continued through her programme as she never missed a dive during the 14 weeks with us, a very impressive achievement.

When Poppy was not living her best life diving in Penida she is a private chef at home and brought those skills with her to share with her fellows’ interns and to their delight, cooking for them on multiple occasions. It’s not just diving skills that make you a good intern here. Nothing that Poppy did was average and she always exceeded expectations, particularly when she started leading dives as a divemaster in training she quickly became a dive site champion, giving the best dive site briefing Michaela has ever heard on her first ever lead.

Nothing ever phased Poppy and she just got on with everything that was thrown her way with a positive attitude, which turns into a great environment for staff and interns alike. Not having any marine science experience was nothing less than encouragement for Poppy to just get stuck in and learn as much as possible, dropping BRUVS and doing surveys like she had been doing it her whole life. Poppy was an incredible role model for new interns and was a great senior intern having built up a plethora of knowledge throughout her time with us. She even came to a stamina test for her fellow interns on her free morning just to cheer them on, what an incredible support! Poppy received some good karma for all her hard work with us and spotted an olive ridley turtle, a very rare sighting here in Penida.

After finishing her divemaster with us Poppy was planning to return to the UK before finding a job elsewhere in the world. We wish Poppy the best of luck in the future, whatever you do we know you will be great!
Tia DeHarpport

Introducing the resolute Tia DeHarpport who came to us from USA and completed her Divemaster program in June 2023. Despite not having a background in science, she took to it wholeheartedly with that becoming a highlight of her program.

Tia was already a Rescue Diver when she arrived so was able to jump straight into her Divemaster training. Her strong swimming skills stood her in good stead when overcoming tricky conditions for her final skills circuit and stamina test. No pool necessary here!

Tia showed a lot of fortitude after a small slip resulted in an injured wrist. After a few days rest, she was back in the water doing everything as usual even with one weak hand. All she needed was a little help getting her gear back onto the boat, a feat celebrated by her fellow interns in a one-armed obstacle course for her snorkel test. She won by miles of course.

Go-pro in hand, Tia managed to capture many wildlife encounters underwater which she diligently submitted to citizen science and our social media, sharing the joys of Bira with the rest of the world.

With ambitions to work in conservation, Tia was quick to pick up new knowledge in all the ecology workshops and coral course, so much so she immediately went to volunteer on a coral restoration project in the weeks following her course. She has a lot to give and we know she will be as valued there as she was at IOP. We’ll miss you Tia!
James Hood

Introducing the determined James Hood who came to us from England and finished his divemaster training in June 2023. Owning his own business and having years of various experience, James had no trouble jumping into new challenges both in science and diving. Even though James had done his rescue course years before, he wanted to do it again to ensure that he was learning as much as possible during his time with us. This engagement followed throughout his internship as he was always looking to take as much as he could from the training. His skills very quickly got up to date and underwater he could always be found in perfect trim and very calm and controlled movements. He was, however, one of those divers who showed absolutely no emotions or enthusiasm under water. Even after seeing a whale under water, his reply would simply be an okay sign and then back to his perfect trip. Never the less, out of the water there was no hiding the excitement and we could always find him after a dive, in awe about what he saw and how it was all “f*cking amazing”.

In spite of having a very devil-may-care English attitude and an accent that most people were struggling to understand, James was eager to learn about conservation and was dedicated to learn as much as possible about diving. This resulted in the most wonderful knowledge reviews which were an absolute pleasure to read and full of additional information. Wanting to get as much out of his experience as possible, James wasn’t shy of arranging activities for all the interns to do together. He set up an additional night dive on a different dive site as well as a beach barbecue on one of the nearby islands.

After leaving us, James went to Bali to do some more diving and taking a bit of well earned holiday, before going back to England for a bit and starting the next chapter of an already exiting adventure!

We miss you James!

2022 Graduates

2021 Graduates

2020 Graduates 

2019 Graduates 

2018 Pioneers

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