2023 Graduates

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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