Written by Rachael Costanzo
Video by Tim Jacobs
Cover photo courtesy of Michele Murphy
The Wallace region in Indonesia is extremely remote- leaving Australia it took us three days, three planes, a 10-hour car ride and a 2-hour hike with our 15kg backpacks to make it to North camp, which was our home for the first week of the trip. We were well and truly in the middle of the Indonesian Rainforest – with the rain part of the word rainforest being 100% accurate. The word rain doesn’t even really do justice – think monsoon type torrential downpours! However, we weren’t going to let dismal weather dampen our excitement for this trip. It was a once in a life time experience for our students to work alongside real scientists collecting data that would actually be used in their research papers.
The way we did this was at least once a day we would hike a different transect. A transect is a straight line laid over the surface of the Earth, which we would then hike across to make observations of the wildlife presence – when lucky enough we got to see the animals, but more often than not we would find tracks, shelter and scat. An absolute highlight of our first week would have to be the night herps transect, in which we hiked along and through the river to see a huge array of toads, frogs, snakes and spiders. These same scientists would then explain to our boys how this data they were collecting would be used, to track how changes in the environment were affecting population numbers on endemic and endangered species. Every evening, our boys were treated to a lecture series about previous research that had been conducted in the region, showing them just how useful the work they were doing actually was. But, after a long and wet week in the rain, our students were ready for the tropical island paradise of Hoga.
Hoga is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth – both on land and in the water. On land, wooden huts that were our accommodation lined the white sandy beaches, whilst natives to the island ran local stores selling perfect souvenirs to bring back home. However, the real beauty was under the surface of the crystal-clear blue water; a coral and marine life heaven just begging to be explored. Some students used this week to obtain their Open Water PADI certificate, whilst others decided that they would snorkel, yet both groups would get out of the water to brag about the indescribable magnificence of marine life they experienced twice a day.
The Operation Wallace team ensured a smooth trip from planning, departure, arrival and the amazing two weeks spent in Indonesia. This adventure is genuinely a once in a life-time experience in which students are shown how real science is conducted and the potential pathways to get there. A must for any student who is thinking a career is science conservation is for them!