Coral, fish, invertebrates, dolphins….marine biology, oh my!

Categories Indonesia

My last post was the day before Halloween, which is a holiday that came and went in Raja Ampat, Indonesia without much of a celebration.  I am not terribly upset that I traded in costume parties for paradise this year.

The past seven days have gone by rather quickly, again, and I now only have one more week left in Indonesia.  Last Thursday I woke up early as usual and started in on learning some more marine biology.  After breakfast, I had a four hour lecture on fish species.  There are roughly 115 species of fish we monitor here.  The species of fish we monitor for here were carefully selected by our project scientist based on their ability to indicate the health of the marine ecosystem.  As it has been explained to me, you can get a pretty good idea as to the health of a reef based on the types of fish species that are present.  We also learned about the various types of algae that exist in Raja Ampat as well as the implications that the existence of certain types of algae have on the marine environment.  We dove back to back in the afternoon and I spent the whole time with our project scientist, Dave, checking out the new fish and algae species that we learned in the morning.

Last Friday was also super busy and we spent the majority of the day reviewing the fish and algae species that we learned about the previous day.  We went over everything we learned very intensely and then dove twice again in the afternoon to check out what we learned underwater, for the second time.  There wasn’t much of a chance to rest and by the time it was 8pm, I was ready for bed.

Saturday was another “fun day” so we headed off to a nearby dive site called, “Otdema,” to enjoy ourselves.  We didn’t really see too much big stuff but that dive site is filled with an abundance of micro life, which once you know what you’re looking at, is really enjoyable.  Once you learn about how to spot mantis shrimp, sea slugs, and Christmas tree worms, the colors on those particular life forms are enough to keep you entertained for hours.  Not to mention the fact that the coral at Otdema makes you feel like you’re in a Dr. Seuss book.  Late afternoon on Saturday we elected to do a dive a little closer to our base camp and went deeper than we normally do when we are taking surveys.  We saw some really cool stuff, including a white tip reef shark, a wobbiegong shark, and a huge school of barracuda.  After the last dive of the day, I spent about an hour messing around with the local kids on the beach, then we all enjoyed the standard Satuday night BBQ.  Another great night hanging with everybody…I was especially happy to spend most of the night with our boat driver Danny and his little brother Stanley, who has become a good buddy of mine.

Sunday was another chill out day so not much to report…lots of sun tanning and good music.  Monday we headed back over to see manta rays and the current was insane.  I literally had to grab onto a piece of dead coral with both hands for the entire dive to keep myself from being flung away.  The mantas were out in full force though and we got to see about five of them.  It was crazy to see how easily the mantas were able to cruise through the water even when dealing with such a strong current….evolution is a wild thing.

Tuesday morning could have been the best morning of my life.  I woke up at about 5:45am to a cool tropical breeze, got myself a glass of tea, and then headed to my usual sitting area to look at the ocean.  Not thirty seconds after I sat down, I saw dolphins about one hundred feet out from where I was.  The whole moment was unreal….I literally used to dream about walking out of my front door and seeing dolphins in the morning and there I was by myself, enjoying a nice cup of tea, watching dolphins, living a dream.  After seeing my magical dolphin friends, I headed over to the neighboring village Yenbuba where we were supposed to teach an English class.  Unfortunately school wasn’t in session (not unusual in the islands) so we spent our time checking out the newly constructed church and playing soccer with some of the local kids as well.  After we were done, two other volunteers and I got a ride back to our village in the sketchiest of boats with about thirteen other locals packed in for the ride.  It was awesome.  Two more science dives in the afternoon, including a coral test that I passed.  I am officially contributing to the science work here now…and I can name more species of hard coral, soft coral, invertebrates, and fish than you can imagine….lol.

I am in the local city Waisai once again right now and I will be heading back to the island for one more week this afternoon.  I’ll get a nice long reflective post up next week once this experience has come to an end.  It has been incredibly challenging, rewarding, and fun to be a part of this and I am thrilled with my decision to take part in this program.

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