Selene and Mario – Raja Ampat Project Co-Managers

As we enter the New Year, we proudly present the first monthly report for our conservation program in the stunning Raja Ampat. The past year was filled with challenges and triumphs, and we look forward to building on our successes in 2024.

We want to congratulate all the interns from various corners of the globe who have successfully concluded their Divemaster and Research Diver Program in the past three months: Sina Scheckenbach (Germany), Blanca Gimeno (Spain), Anine Bjerg Jørgensen (Danmark), Marina Lee (Germany), Sabrina Tu (USA), Vincent Duchemin (Switzerland), Ahmad Hatta Kamaruzzaman (Malaysia), Nicole Egloff (Switzerland), Amanda Rose (USA), Derek Phillips (USA), Nalani Ivelic (Chile), Elettra D’Amico (Italy), Maud Niessink (The Netherlands). This period has been a testament to your dedication, passion, and commitment to marine conservation and diving expertise.

We also had some professional divers join us and complete our 6-week research program: Tyla Sullivan (South Africa), David Wende (Canada), and Jessica Steckhan (Germany). 

We extend our best wishes to those exceptional people who have embarked on the remarkable journey to become Instructors: Marina, David, Derek, and Elettra. Your commitment to advancing to this level is proof to your passion for diving. As you take on this new role, may your journey be filled with success and positive impact, as you share your love for the ocean with new divers.

The active involvement of all our interns in a wide range of scientific research has significantly contributed to the depth of our scientific understanding. Their data collection and analysis have provided valuable insights into the health and dynamics of marine ecosystems in our region.

We are excited to share the numbers from our research and conservation efforts over the past three months. These achievements highlight the dedication of our team, the engagement of our interns, and the positive impact we are collectively making on marine ecology and conservation.

We conducted 47 Ecology workshops; 15 survey divers have been certified, contributing to the collection of valuable data for the understanding and preservation of marine ecosystems; 36 survey have been conducted, the data collected is instrumental in informing our conservation strategies and understanding the dynamic nature of the marine environments we work to protect and 17 BRUV deployed.  In our efforts to restore and preserve coral reefs, we are happy to report the successful planting of 233 corals in our nursery location. These young corals will play a crucial role in the ongoing restoration, contributing to the resilience and biodiversity of the local coral ecosystems.

During this period our surveys and BRUVs have highlighted a healthy population of reef sharks, in particular Black tip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), spotted with ease on almost all dives and BRUV viewings. Hawksbill and green sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata and Chelonia mydas in order) are a recurrent appearance during surveys, as well as the carpet shark: tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon)

Not only the most famous and popular dive sites have been source of excitement but also the house reef, showing an active population of Raja ampat epaulette sharks, commonly referred as walking sharks, (Hemiscyllium freycineti) that have been sighted mating and at different stages of their life cycle, from juvenile to deceasing.

With the beginning of the new season surface sightings have already brought us whales and mantas, we are highly excited for what fantastic views the ocean will provide us with when underwater.

Shaelynne Trunk – Program Coordinator and Marine Biologist

With our last report three months ago, we have continued to foster a home-like environment for our community within the recent holiday season celebrations, spending time together as the jungle family we are. The ability to share such important moments alongside each other as we ring in a new year was truly something special and one that we will all reminisce on for years to come. Since October, we have said goodbye to our newly graduated dive masters heading off on their next steps as instructors, world travelers, and further pursuing conservation research and welcomed in an array of excited and inspired divers from far and wide: Nalani Ivelic (Chile), Elettra D’Amico (Italy), Maud Niessink (Netherlands), Charlotte Law (UK), Noa Moffatt (Germany), Nora Hinrichs (Germany), Jessica Steckhan (Germany), Harsh Bijarnia (India), Dominique Schmid (Switzerland), Marlena Tavernier-Fine (USA), Emma Wilkins (Australia), Hannah Sodal (Norway), Alexandra Fuhrmann (UK), Rhea Drumm (Germany). With every new intern comes a fresh new energy into our jungle family that we are all so excited to welcome in with open arms. As we entered 2024 with camaraderie and celebration, we also spent time reflecting on all of our hard work accomplished throughout 2023, not just here in Raja Ampat but also at our other bases in both Nusa Penida and Bira.

Raja, the weather is coming back into full swing of our rainy season, and as we have been so grateful to watch the jungle come to life with lush green vibrancy, we have also found that our reefs have been ever so lively. In the last few months, we have noticed incredible creatures ever so curious, sharing once-in-a-lifetime sightings with our team and guests visiting from far and wide. From spending time alongside many curious Day Octopuses (Octopus cyanea), Indonesian Walking Sharks (Hemiscyllium halmahera) exploring in both the daylight and dusk, Tasselled Wobbegongs (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) gracefully gliding along the contours of our reefs, to our resident Dugongs (Dugong dugon) making their early morning rounds around our jetty, there is always something to see and spend time observing. Our environment here in Raja Ampat is ever-changing, with nutrient-dense upwellings and warm snaps that bring foragers to the blooms of marine life, making our time in the water all the more interesting. 

As every dive is a training dive, no matter your experience or age, it’s a pleasure to watch every diver here in Raja Ampat grow more confident and controlled in the water with every minute spent below the surface.

Survey’s and BRUV’s

With so much pride and excitement, we have stepped into this new year with a new record on how much we have achieved in our science goals, managing to almost double each of our completed tasks for each science target from our last report. Since September, we have even further solidified our research methods, and this shows in our number of successful BRUV Deployments, Roving Surveys, Benthic Surveys, and BRUV Viewings. With even more knowledge and experience in our science methods and efficiency as a team, the education that is passed down from our senior interns to our new arrivals has helped all of our team members with their understandings of our goals and aspirations in conservation based science.

Since the last quarterly report we have successfully completed:

  • 17 benthic surveys
  • 18 BRUV deployments
  • 7 BRUV Viewings done, with more in the works
  • 36 Surveys

Coral Reef Health Monitoring

With our methods in reef health monitoring standardised, we are able to utilise any data we collect from our surveys and even our coral garden observations to better understand our own reef, all the while also aiding in the data collected into citizen science databases. These surveys help expand knowledge of reef health around the globe but also aid in our own awareness of the health status among our local coastlines. In the last 3 months, we have conducted 6 CoralWatch surveys, and in this time frame, we have started noticing patterns of health responses to certain environmental shifts that have helped us to find more effective solutions to support and maintain overall reef well-being.

Coral Restoration

Since September, we have relocated our restoration site once again in search of the best environment for our Acropora nubbins. With successful efforts in more closely monitoring our 5 nursery tables, we have noticed trends in their susceptibility to environmental stressors with an increase in nubbin mortality. However, with the new location and concentrated focus on maintenance for this restoration site, we have planted 233 nubbins in the last 3 months, making for a total of 1,386 nubbins still growing and thriving in the nursery, adapting to the shifts in their environment’s quality. We are in the works of replacing nubbins that found mortality and working towards a fresh start for these beds to assist with offering them their best chances to continue adapting and expanding.

To our excitement, we have also located a new viable space to start another coral restoration site just off the house reef, and next year, we plan to invest more time into exploring and expanding our own restoration efforts. We hope to take all the adaptations and adjustments we have made with our current restoration efforts and conclude a better understanding of the best methods in our coral conversation here in the protected waters of Raja Ampat.

Marine Debris and Plastics

In conjunction with an incredible beach clean up organized by our interns in late October and 7 Dives Against Debris we have cleaned up a total of over 50kgs of trash from our oceans in the last few months. This may not sound like much for a 3 month period but it’s important to note that we do not often find much trash submerged here on our house reef aside from effects of certain weather events of winds and heavy rains bringing over debris to our coastlines. We can find trash on the surface, suspended in the water, and submerged on the seafloor and always make an effort that every dive of ours is a dive against debris dive, actively removing rubbish from our waters everyday. Yet, with our dives focused solely on removing debris in collaboration with PADI Aware, we commit this time to aiding in the efforts of coming together as a community and recording our findings and types of debris removal into their database. This work continues to highlight the importance of what it looks like when people come together to aid in ocean health and awareness and just how much of a difference it can really make. 

Want to join the team?

We are always seeking hard working and enthusiastic ocean lovers to join our award-winning and innovative divemaster and research diver internship. Contact us and apply online today!

Image Gallery