Words and photos courtesy of Jessica Bouron

This summer I went on a two week expedition with Operation Wallacea to one of their marine sites in Indonesia. It was the most amazing experience, with each day being more exciting than the last, making it nearly impossible to choose a favourite! Hopefully this little snippet of my time there will be an accurate reflection of the whole trip.

Friday 26 th July 2019 – I wake up at 6am, just like I have done every morning since we arrived here at the Nirwana Buton Villa. Our schedules are packed full of activities, dives and lectures, and there’s no time to waste sleeping in in the morning! Today is slightly different to the first part of the week because we are spending the day off-site on a little island called “Snake Island”, named after the sea snakes which lay their eggs there. So after a full breakfast of rice, egg, and tempeh (an Indonesian speciality made from fermented soy beans), I pack up everything I might need for the day and join the other research assistants at the dive centre. We all get our SCUBA diving gear ready, check it thoroughly and load it onto the boat. Lifting and carrying cylinders is in my opinion the most tiring part about diving! Luckily, we have time to relax on the boat trip before arriving at the beautiful island. It’s in every way what you would imagine a little tropical island to look like: tall coconut trees standing on the edge of white sandy beaches, a small jungle type forest sitting at the other end of the island, and all around it clear bright blue water. I feel so lucky to be able to dive in such a wonderful place. We practise laying down a transect on the reef, recording the fish and estimating different lengths of tape underwater. Once I pass my Reef Survey Techniques exam tomorrow, I’ll be able to put these new skills into practise and help the other qualified research assistants with the reef monitoring which is very exciting! We spend our surface interval on the island, and as soon as we land on the beach, I notice the amount of plastic which covers even this remote little place. No one lives here and yet within half an hour we manage to collect over a dozen bin bags full of rubbish, which must just wash up with the tide. I hate to think how much more plastic there must be out there floating in our oceans, but unfortunately we don’t have time to pick up any more before lunch and our next dive. And what a fantastic dive it was! The highlight of the dive, and even possibly the highlight of my summer, was spotting a black tip reef shark swimming away from us! The beauty, diversity and abundance of marine life in this environment continues to fascinate me long after I come back up to the surface, travel back to the villa, and put away all the equipment we used so that it’s ready for the next day. I hold on to those fresh memories to motivate myself through an hour of revision. Luckily, it’s a lot more enjoyable to memorise over a hundred Latin names when you’re sat with a view of the sunset going down on the sea than when you’re stuck in a classroom or at home! The day slowly comes to an end and before long all the research assistants, staff and locals join round a huge bonfire for social night. The evening is filled with food, music, laughing, dancing and games. The atmosphere is so fun and friendly, and everyone chats with everyone until we’re all too tired and finally go to bed.

 

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