Michaela Dudasova – Penida Project Manager

At the Penida project, interns and staff have welcomed the dry season with lots of sunny days ahead. In between diving, workshops, and fun activities, 11 interns have graduated from the program and obtained their PADI & SSI divemaster certifications! We would like to congratulate our graduates Shannen Charter, Klara Disbo, Samantha Armstrong, Poppy Georgia MacDonald, Anthony Foti, Manuela Poretti, Saskia Bursova, Rachel Lester, Prajit Timbadia, Reilly O’Brien, and Brian Smith for their achievements.

Diving couple Anthony and Emma Wilkinson joined as divemasters and completed their research program not only at the Penida project but also in Bira and Raja Ampat projects. I would like to thank them for joining us and sharing their knowledge and excitement for coral restoration. We also welcomed Eddie Loy who completed the Zero to Hero program, and worked on his thesis under the supervision of our science director, Pascal Sebastian, and with collaboration with MERO foundation in Tulamben, Bali. 

In May, our program coordinator and divemaster instructor Sigrid van der Stock came back to Penida after spending 4 months managing our Bira project as a champion. The happiest to welcome her back was probably her dog “Bakso”. Catlin Orzel has successfully completed her IOP staff training and we sent her off to join our Raja Ampat diving paradise with the best of wishes.

July shows the usual clear blue skies decorated with colourful kites flown by islanders of all ages over the island. While this month is considered as the best period to fly kites, the strong winds made diving more challenging. For almost one month we couldn’t dive and collect data in the southern dive sites, but once the wind ceased our team immediately went in hard and caught up with all the backlog.

The windy month also brought us stronger swells in Crystal Bay, which washed in more debris than usual. One of our enthusiastic intern Anthony Foti wanted to celebrated his birthday with a beach clean-up which we fully supported. It was a massive team effort with great results of 100 kg of trash collected.

Our collaboration with Nuansa Pulau, a local association of 26 coral lovers, is very popular amongst our interns.  In total, they have planted 30,000 corals on the north of Penida and each time they warmly welcome interns of IOP. This allowed the interns to help the local community restore the reef by learning the techniques and applying these skills with the staff out on their coral restoration site. The interns had a great time getting hands-on experience and come back with big smiles every time. We have donated 20 pairs of specialized glows to make sure that coral fragment and our hand are protected in a planting process.

The interns have also been busy outside of Reeflex getting inspiration for their future. A big thank you to Purple Dive Penida and Blue Corner Dive who have hosted our IDC workshops and Freedive Nusa for allowing the interns to experience freediving.

After mangrove planting in Semaya in March our mangrove nursery was ready to be refilled. Our community coordinator Arya didn’t hesitate to collect more propagules and topped up the nursery with 150 new seedlings. They are growing well and in the month of September we are planning another out-planting to widen the mangrove green belt.

It’s a sign of our success when graduated interns return to Nusa Penida and want to reconnect and dive with us. We have welcomed back the famous Rosie Bancroft, Marina Varga, Charlotte Weldon and Oliver Klompe. Rosie is now a Marketing Coordinator for Oceanic Global and an ambassador for Girls That Scuba, Marian has become an instructor and cave diver in Mexico, and Charlotte & Oliver came back after travelling around the world. Thanks for coming back to us and we hope to see you again soon!

Rinaldi Gotama – Marine Biologist and Data Analyst

I think the most important news from this quarterly is this: WE FINALLY PUBLISHED OUR PAPER! After years of designing the methods, conducting the surveys, data analyzing, and rounds of submissions (and rejections), we are very proud to have this work published in a peer-reviewed international journal. Our study shows that the data collected by our interns detected seasonal and spatial patterns of fish and megafauna assemblages in Nusa Penida. This is huge because citizen science data is often inconsistent and inaccurate, but we proved with proper training, we can still do high quality science worthy of international scientific recognition. 


Want to read our recent publication, you can find the link to the article by clicking below. If you can’t access it, just reach out to rinaldi@indooceanproject.org for a free copy. 

In other news, this quarter was filled with very interesting sightings from Nusa Penida. These included an olive ridley sea turtle, bumphead molas, and an array of rare elasmobranchs, including scalloped hammerhead sharks, a snaggletooth shark, a whale shark, a whitetip reef shark, marbled stingrays, a mangrove whipray, and a tahitian ray. These creatures were encountered from the many fun activities we do underwater: 36 roving surveys, 12 BRUV drops, 40 citizen science dives, 24 benthic surveys, 6 CoralWatch dives, 3 coral restoration dives, and 4 dive against debris.

From those encounters, we collected a lot of pictures to contribute to our collaborators. In total, we took pictures of 37 turtle cheeks and uploaded them to the Internet of Turtles, 8 reef manta bellies to MantaMatcher and IDTheManta, and 6 elasmobranchs to Elasmobranch Project Indonesia. Out of the 37 turtles we identified, 17 of them are new to science and never had their pictures uploaded before! Our effort in documenting these marine megafauna in Penida is progressing very well, and I’m excited with what we could find next!

All in all, I think that we are progressing very well in Penida, and I am very excited to continue discovering new things and making positive changes in our beloved community and marine ecosystem.

Sigrid Van den Stock – Program Coordinator and Dive Instructor

“Honey, I’m home…”

In May, I returned to Nusa Penida, after managing the Indo Ocean Project in Bira, Sulawesi for 3 months. It feels good to be back in Penida, which feels most like home to me. I am leaving the project in Bira in the competent and enthusiastic hands of powerhouses Ben and Jess who are taking over my role there. I Wish them all the best and foresee a lot of exciting megafauna in their future!

Upon my return to Penida project, I have had the pleasure to welcome Reilly O’Brien, Brian Smith, Constanza Maturana, Lachlan Nicol, Harry Longi, Nathalia Guiraud, Tanmay Robert Kharmarbha, Sherly Tham, Mia Talbot, Katie Lizza, Maleah Steward, together with Anindita Chatterjee who just could not say goodbye to Indo Ocean Project yet and after finishing her divemaster training in Raja Ampat, decided to visit the Penida project for two weeks in the hopes of spotting Penida’s most famous and elusive visitor; Mola Alexandrini (and yes, she did!) into our dive family.

The first days are always accompanied with a lot of smiling faces and excitement upon the start of their program as they take the plunge towards becoming dive professionals. There are also some nervous smiles and giggles involved but these nerves are quickly put at ease with the support system of our senior interns that are a great help in showing these guys the ropes.

On day one it is an overall welcome to Nusa Penida and the project as well as refreshing dive skills in our natural pool. On day two we jump straight into it (the ocean) with an exploration of our gorgeous house reef, Crystal Bay, to see the weird and wonderful creatures this dive site has to offer; seahorses, robust ghost pipefish, scorpionfish and leafy scorpionfish, nudibranchs, broadclub cuttlefish and a visit to our beautiful coral nursery. The water is cooling down, which means an occasional shiver underwater but also eyes peeking into the blue and keeping all fingers crossed in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the mysterious bumphead mola. A few days ago our divers and staff were lucky enough to spot the Mola alexandrini whilst on a dive at Crystal Bay! I have never seen so many smiles, hugs, dances and excitement underwater. Hard work and patience pays off!

When we say our program requires hard work we mean it! But our interns are up for the challenge. They have shown us determination and fantastic work ethic when it comes to their divemaster training and scientific aspects, collecting valuable data and developing their in water skills. Deep dives, gas planning, skill circuits, BRUV deployments, rescue scenarios, stamina tests,… nothing is too much for this powerhouse group!

As a staff member, I am also fortunate to develop my knowledge on coral reef ecology having the opportunity to sit in on the very interesting coral course we offer as part of the ecology training. Since then, each dive has opened a new world to me and the fellow interns on the course and we simply cannot contain our excitement when we spot a coral genus that we rarely see on Penida.

I am channeling my inner ocean geek, under the approving eye of our marine biologist and superman, Rinaldi Gotama! I love learning alongside our interns and developing as a team.

Marine Debris Assessments

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

Mahatma Gandhi

With big problems, we need to keep in mind that small changes can make huge waves. In these past few months, we have been busy making this world a more beautiful place, above water and below. 

We are proud to report that over the last few months we have collected 20 kilograms of rubbish on our dives against debris and 48 kilograms of rubbish on the community clean-ups. During our community and beach clean ups, we have also inspired some tourists and locals to come to join us and many well wishes and applause from people passing by

Want to join the team?

August to December is peak season in Bira, and we have some last minute spots available. Apply online to start you admissions process and join the team in Sulawesi!

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