The first two weeks of this six-week expedition are spent in the forests of the Wallacea region, on Buton Island, followed by four weeks with the marine teams on Hoga Island. The first few days are split between jungle skills training and learning about Wallacean wildlife and ecology from lectures and field based practicals. For the remaining time in the forest, the group will help a team of biodiversity specialists complete surveys targeting bird communities using point counts, distance sampling and patch occupancy analysis for large mammals, mist netting for bats, Pollard walks for butterflies, and herpetofauna surveys. The teams will be based in the primary forests in the little studied northern forests of the island. The remaining four weeks will be based on Hoga, at the centre of the Coral Triangle – the most biodiverse reefs in the world. If you are not already dive trained but want to learn then you will start your time on Hoga with a PADI Open Water dive training course and then in your next week you will complete an Indo-Pacific reef survey techniques course with lectures and dive based practicals. If you are already dive trained or wishing to only snorkel on the expedition, you will complete the Indo-Pacific reef survey techniques course during your first week. After completing the Indo-Pacific reef survey techniques course you will then join the large team of specialists including coral intercept video transects and 3D mapping of reefs, fish behaviour surveys, stereo-video surveys of reef fish communities, marine plastics and many other projects. For an additional cost you can also take your diving qualifications to a higher level than PADI Open Water.
There is a triangle of reefs in Eastern Indonesia that have the highest diversity of hard coral genera, the proxy commonly used to assess overall diversity of coral reefs, anywhere in the world. Both the marine stations being used by the Opwall teams are in the centre of this triangle. The South Buton Marine Centre has established a series of standard monitoring sites on reefs south of Bau Bau and around the surrounding small islands, with the objective being to use the data to develop plans for conserving these reefs. The Hoga Island Marine Station is located in the heart of the Wakatobi Marine National Park. Over the last 20 years, a series of scientists have been based at this site during the Opwall survey seasons and as a result, this is now the most published site in the Coral Triangle. For the last 15 years a series of constant monitoring sites around Hoga and eastern Kaledupa have been monitored for macroinvertebrates, fish communities, coral cover and community structure. The 2020 season will complete this monitoring plus some additional projects.
The Wallacea region comprises islands of the central part of the Indonesian archipelago that are separated by deep ocean trenches which prevented them from being joined to the main continental land masses during the lowered sea levels of the Ice Ages. As a result of subsequently long periods of isolation, a large number of unique species evolved. The forests of the Wallacea region are one of the least biologically studied areas in the world and one of the most likely places to discover vertebrate species new to science. Since 1995, the Opwall teams have been surveying the biodiversity of Buton Island in SE Sulawesi, so that more information is now available on the wildlife of this well studied area than anywhere else in the Wallacea region. The Opwall gathered data are being submitted to support a REDD+ application to protect the carbon and biodiversity of the forests and ensure that local communities have a financial benefit from this conservation programme.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
In the tropical rainforests of Indonesia is is generally warm during the day (around 25 degrees Celsius), and humid, with up to 80% humidity. At night the temperatures drop lower, but not usually lower than around 15 degrees Celsius. It rains very frequently, and very heavily at times, but for short periods.
At the marine sites during the day, the weather is normally sunny and warm (around 30 degrees Celsius), and the night temperatures drop to around 20-25 degrees Celsius. Being on the coast means there is often a pleasant breeze so it does not always feel this hot. It rains rarely, but when it does it tends to be very heavy for short periods of time.
Fitness level required
High for the forest sites. You will need to hike for long periods, over steep and muddy terrain, at times with your large rucksack. At the marine sites some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
Facilities on Hoga are comfortable, but very basic – the site has shared huts with beds and mattresses and a mandi style bathroom (squat toilet and bucket shower) attached. There is very limited cell phone signal which can usually only be used with an Indonesian SIM card and no Wifi access.