A short video I made to expose the great work being done by social enterprise Wow Borneo, who are helping to save the endangered orangutan and preserving local culture and tradition through ecotourism in Central Kalimantan. For more information, visit their website.
Chanee Kalaweit is a former French national, who in 2012 gained his Indonesian citizenship. Since the tender age of 12, Chanee has dedicated his life to the gibbon, apes living in Asia’s tropical and subtropical rainforests, including in Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Chanee rose to fame when he created a video that went viral, addressing the president of the haze crisis of Sumatra and Kalimantan. We caught up with him in Palangkaraya to find out the full story of his NGO Kalaweit; the biggest gibbon protection programme in the world.
When did you first come to Indonesia?
I left for Indonesia at the age of 18 in May 1998. The first thing I did was go to Borneo for three months to survey and see how bad the deforestation situation was. After three months I realized that a project like mine was needed and the first gibbon programme was born in September 1999.
As a kid in France I always loved primates, and the first time I met a gibbon in a zoo, it looked into my eyes so sadly. It was alone and I wanted to help and understand what was wrong. I learned that gibbons are monogamists, which makes it difficult for zoos to carry out successful mating programmes.
I asked the director of the zoo if I could come for free every Wednesday when I wasn’t at school. I did this for five years, from the age of 12. Eventually I started helping other zoos in France with their gibbon programmes.
How did you raise funds to come and set up your charity Kalaweit in Indonesia?
When I was 16 I published a book on gibbon behaviours. Journalists were interested because I was a 16-year-old who wasn’t outside playing soccer with friends. Actress Muriel Robin called me and said, “You want to go to Asia to help gibbons, I want to help you.” She funded me, and to this day she still watches the development of the organization and we are good friends.
Tell us about the work your charity does in protecting the gibbon and other animals in threat.
Kalaweit covers all of Sumatra, Borneo and Mentawai. We have two sanctuaries and a reserve.
We help by:
1) Giving a second chance to animals detained as pets or who are victims of deforestation by rehabilitating and returning them to the wild. 285 gibbons are under our care right now. 2) Securing forestland for conservation – I buy land where biodiversity is very high to make micro-reserves. In Sumatra we have 281 hectares, and in Borneo we have 20 hectares, which we hope will reach 100 hectares by the end of the year. 3) Involving locals in our fight through our radio station and TV programmes.
We also aid the government in protecting reserves. I am a paramotor pilot and I fly over every location once a month – I also do this to illustrate deforestation.
How much does the forestland you buy for conservation purposes cost?
In Sumatra it costs around Rp.15 million per hectare and in Borneo around Rp.25 million per hectare.
Do any palm oil concession owners get involved with conservation?
You see big companies who own thousands of hectares of forestland trying to do good to protect their image. Some companies will actually keep 10 percent of their concession as a sanctuary for animals.
In Sumatra I released siamang gibbons into a 2,000-hectare reserve owned by a private guy in a palm oil concession. It will be very difficult for him to change his mind now, as I’ve released animals into his forest which we accompanied with a big publicity campaign.
The video you shot during the haze crisis went viral and really helped to raise awareness about this serious issue. Can you tell us what inspired you to make this video?
When you fight this industry you have to protect yourself by making yourself well-known. I was very upset as a father to see my kids very sick and people dying because of smoke and palm oil.
I never imagined the video would go viral. When I uploaded it, the next morning there were 35,000 views. The Minister of Forestry asked me to come to Jakarta, but it just felt like they didn’t want me to cause any more ‘problems’. I really feel like nothing will change. This year, if we have a dry season, the same thing will happen.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
The lack of law enforcement in Indonesia. There are also still many high profile people in Indonesia who work for the government yet still keep protected animals in their homes – because they can and they don’t care. When law enforcement doesn’t work, you can’t expect much.
You state that the forests of Indonesia will disappear by 2030. Do you see any progression from the government towards stopping this?
It’s the biggest frustration because you feel just like a witness. After logging takes place, forests still remain, although in bad shape. My goal was to secure forestland after logging to protect the animals left behind, but since 2000 every single piece of land is being converted to palm oil plantations.
The government thinks that companies who own concessions for palm oil don’t operate outside of their boundaries, but in fact there is a lot of land being used for palm oil plantations outside of these concessions, which are under private ownership, and are destroying forest, even on peat land. There is a moratorium, but this only applies to companies and not individuals.
With all the frustrations and difficulties you face, are you still optimistic that you can make a difference?
Every hectare of land and every animal saved is a victory.
I learned that the goal is less important than the process. If I know that the end of the world will be next week, I will still save gibbons because it’s what I do. I don’t want to be pessimistic because I will lose the energy to keep fighting. We just have to act.
Are you seeing a positive response from the listeners of your radio station Kalaweit Radio in Palangkaraya?
Our station started in 2003 and targets young people by airing good music and funny shows. Every hour we air messages about gibbons and the forest. 70 percent of the rescued animals we see are actually from our listeners. At schools, kids will tell their friends off for owning pet gibbons and in the end they hand them over to us for rehabilitation.
Tell us about your TV show Kalaweit Wildlife Rescue.
The second season on Metro TV starts in March. The cameras follow my team saving animals all over Sumatra, Borneo and Mentawai. It’s the first TV show on conservation shot in Indonesia. Having millions of people watching is the best way to help. On primetime French television I’m also in the middle of shooting a documentary series where we travel the world trying to save different endangered animals.
How can readers help?
The first thing is to say no to palm oil.
We have a lot of forest to save, but we need the money to buy the land. We require €550,000 a year to survive, which does not include money to buy forestland. We are 100 percent funded by donations.
Thank you, Chanee. Visit www.kalaweit.org for more information on how you can help this noble cause.
There is a special feeling that Borneo invokes. There really is no other experience that comes close to cruising on a tranquil river in Central Kalimantan surrounded by lush tropical jungle while watching rehabilitated orangutans frolicking in nature reserves.
Inspired by the virtually untapped tourism potential of Central Kalimantan, two British ladies, Gaye Thavisin and Lorna Dowson-Collins, converted a traditional Kalimantan riverboat known as a rangkan into the comfortable cruise boat we now know as the Rahai’i Pangun. Their venture brought the first jungle cruise to the Rangun River in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.
Ecotourism is at the heart of Kalimantan Tour Destinations. This social enterprise is a way of protecting the environment and creating alternative livelihoods in the region. Through this river cruise, they are able to demonstrate that business can be a vehicle to support development problems by demonstrating there is a different value for the forest, while supporting local inhabitants of the region.
Our journey onboard the Rahai’i Pangun began at 8.30am when we were picked up from our local hotel in Palangkaraya and brought by car to the river harbour. Here you can see how the river is a source of life to so many living along its riverbed; canoes with engines traverse up and down its waters, locals fish, bathe and find their livelihoods here.
Stepping onboard the Rahai’i Pangun, you feel instantly revived. It is a floating marvel made up of five bedrooms, an open-air dining area and living room, and a large observation deck. All rooms are air-conditioned with en-suite bathrooms, and although not five-star luxury, the rooms are certainly comfortable.
The boat departed from the harbour at 9am and we began cruising upstream on the Rangun River. The first half hour or so we passed through villages and fishing boats with friendly locals waving at us. Then the forest engulfed us and after a couple of hours, we reached the island of Kaja, a 25-hectare sanctuary where rehabilitated orangutans live, still fed by rangers watching over them on the opposite side of the river. The sight of three furry, orange friends hanging out in the trees was breathtaking – but there were many more orangutan encounters to follow over the next couple of days.
As we continued upriver, the sights and sounds of rich, forest wildlife, complete with hornbills flying overhead, were a sensory delight. But every now and then we would pass an illegal gold-miner, working on mobile gold-sifting units along the river, expelling smoke and loud noises from their engines. Our guide told us the river water is brown due to these illegal miners, churning up silt all along the river. “I will take you where the river is black tomorrow – that is the real colour of the river,” he said.
A delicious lunch was served on the boat before we stopped at Kanarakan – a traditional Dayak village. Children welcomed us curiously and we were given a traditional Dayak welcome ritual to cleanse our spirits, ensuring no harm would come to us during our visit in their village. I must admit, I fell in love with the children, and walked through the village with a chain of girls holding my hands the entire length of the tour.
Invited into one of the villager’s homes to sample local coffee, it was clear that this social enterprise puts the locals first and foremost. After every visit, the local representative is given a receipt, thus earning them a livelihood from hosting and entertaining tourists. Ecotourism at its finest.
One of the highlights of visiting this village was sampling betel nut, the region’s equivalent to South America’s coca leaves. The taste is foul and bitter, but the kick you get rivals that of coffee. It’s no wonder villagers chew the nut throughout the day, resulting in darkened gums and teeth.
After a couple of very insightful hours spent in the village, we returned to the boat and a delicious dinner was served as we continued on upstream. The food onboard is certainly a highlight of this weekend – fresh and sourced locally, with the ability to cater to different dietary requirements.
The next morning, we departed on smaller boats at 7am to an island surrounded by black water. Cruising through thick, dense jungle on either side, we felt reassured that there was still hope in the world. With these canoe-like boats, we were able to get much closer to the orangutans on Kaja Island, this time spotting seven in total; relaxing, grooming and playing with one another, quite oblivious to our curious eyes.
After lunch, back on the Rahai’i Pangun, we fell into a gentle nap on the deck on the comfortable sofas to the sound of the soft breeze blowing through the jungle leaves. Feeling rejuvenated, we hopped on another, larger canoe complete with a canopy and cushions – all the local villagers’ initiative – to Bapalas Island, another reserve, where 10 orangutans were hanging out.
Bapalas Island is a 14-hectare national park home to around 25 rehabilitated orangutans. One in particular caught my attention, whose name is Kesi. She was missing one hand. It turns out she was rescued from a palm oil plantation, where the plantation manager mutilated her.
50 percent of rescued orangutans in the region are found on palm oil plantations, going astray when wandering into these areas as they continue to encroach on the orangutan’s natural habitats. Plantation workers are often frightened of the creatures that they consider pests and order their staff to kill on sight.
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) work hard in the region to rescue and rehabilitate these beautiful animals. Their sanctuary in Palangkaraya has a capacity of 500, currently over capacity with 600. The rehabilitated orangutans live on Kaja or Bapalas Island until they are ready to be taken individually by helicopter to Bukit Petikap in North Kalimantan, a region where ancient rainforest is still intact and they will hopefully find a forever home.
Seeing these stunning animals in the wild, albeit rehabilitated and protected by rangers, is both a hopeful sight and one with a poignant reminder – that our continued development threatens their survival. Participating in a sustainable social and environmental enterprise like Kalimantan Tour Destinations is a responsible way of seeing the orangutans up-close, while giving back to the people and ensuring traditional cultures in the area are kept for many more generations to follow.
Province: Central Kalimantan
Population: 2,368,654 (2014)
Land size: 153,564.5 km2
How to get there: Daily flights with Garuda Indonesia to Palangkaraya. To catch the river cruise with Kalimantan Tour Destinations, you can either fly in on a Friday night or take the first flight with Garuda on Saturday morning, which gets you in at 7.30am
What to bring: Long trousers, jumper, sun block, hat, mosquito repellant, camera, a good book
Seeing an orangutan in its natural habitat is a rare and magical experience that, for many, will only happen once in a lifetime. 96.4 percent of our genetic makeup is shared with these Great Apes found in the wild on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo only. Due to mankind’s continued encroachment of their natural habitat—particularly for palm oil plantations, hunting and capture for the illegal wildlife trade—the Sumatran Orangutan population sits at critically endangered (6,500 left in the wild), and the Borneo Orangutan at endangered (54,000 remaining in the wild). Although they are protected by Indonesian, Malaysian and international laws, it is estimated that between four and 5,000 wild orangutans disappear every year.
Dr. Gary Shapiro was the first person to teach a symbolic communication system to an orangutan at Chaffee Zoological Park, California, and the first person to teach sign language to orangutans in their natural environment in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). “When I spent two years in the forests of Indonesian Borneo teaching sign language to a group of formerly owned “pet” orangutans that were learning to return to the wild, I became much more interested in the species and their plight,” Dr. Shapiro tells me. One particular orangutan named Princess adopted Dr. Shapiro as her father. “We did many things together as she learned her signs and became a free-ranging juvenile orangutan. It was during that time I knew I would devote my life to helping the species survive.”
At the time, Dr. Shapiro felt that not enough money was being spent on education and community outreach to address the root cause of the orangutan’s dilemma. It was clear to him that more had to be done to educate people about the species and their plight, which is why the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) was founded.
OURF works towards saving orangutans from extinction in the wild by funding education and outreach programs in Sumatra and Kalimantan, through the Orangutan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI), an Indonesia-registered non-profit project active since 2004. These organizations were born of the belief that saving orangutans can only be ensured by the people of Indonesia and Malaysia.
One of the foundation’s unique programmes is university scholarship funding to Indonesian students of biology, forestry and veterinary science. Students receiving these scholarships are required to work with local organisations, becoming more knowledgeable about orangutans during their schooling. They graduate as advocates for orangutans.
Another OURF project is Orangutan Caring Clubs of Indonesia, where the message of conservation is brought to schools, government offices and the wider community. Outreach projects include visiting schools in Jakarta and Medan with film and education materials, engaging local and national government officials in conservation issues, and recently, partnering with other orangutan advocacy groups to fund an educational forum with environmental advisers to the Indonesian presidential candidates.
Ridhwan Effendi is Director of OUREII and ensures all aspects of their programme run according to plan. He feels that due to ignorance, there is no sense of urgency among Indonesians to protect the orangutan. “Orangutans are an endemic species to Indonesia, but many Indonesians are not even aware of them,” he explains. “They often see the orangutan as a problem that must be eliminated, causing damage to crops and plantations. Even at managerial levels of palm oil plantations in Central Kalimantan, they consider the orangutan an enemy.”
Although the government has passed laws to protect the species, Effendi believes the problem remains in law enforcement. In 1990, the government passed UU No. 5 1990, article 21, where it states that a sentence of up to five years and a fine of 100 million rupiah will be given to those who capture, harm, own, kill or sell a protected animal, including orangutans.
In 2011, instructions were passed down from the president (Intruksi Presiden No.10 tahun 2011) to stop any further destruction of rainforest and peat land, however there has been no follow through – in the first three years since its passing, 6.4 million hectares of protected forest were cleared. Effendi believes the new government is more focused on political issues rather than the environment. “It does not seem that the new government is doing anything yet to protect the remaining rainforests and natural habitat of the orangutan. According to national statistics, 48.8 million hectares of ancient rainforest remain on Kalimantan, however Greenpeace’s figures are much lower, at 25.5 million hectares,” he tells me.
Although it may feel like a lost cause, due to the hard work that non-governmental organisations such as OURF and OUREII do, there is still hope. “For every person who might have purchased an orangutan and decided not to because of our programs, six to eight orangutans may have been saved,” Dr. Shapiro explains. “Our field education program helps save individual orangutans that might be killed as pests when they wander into a farmer’s garden or orchard. Peoples’ attitudes have changed and many who would have poached or killed an orangutan are not doing so anymore.”
According to Dr. Shapiro, we can each help to make a difference by paying attention to the contents of our grocery shopping. “Stop buying products made of conflict palm oil, which is produced under conditions associated with the ongoing destruction of rainforests, expansion on carbon-rich peat lands, and human rights violations, including the failure to recognize and respect the customary land rights of forest-dependent communities and the use of forced labour and child labour,” he says. Choosing products that are orangutan-safe will require some investigation, but Dr. Shapiro assures us that there are guides and apps available to help us.
Partaking in ecotourism can also make a difference. Dr. Shapiro urges us to join small groups that visit orangutan viewing areas near and around national parks in Kalimantan and Sumatra, as this helps to support families and small businesses that have an economic interest in keeping forests and orangutans alive. He adds, “It also sends a message to local officials that forests are worth saving for their tour value.”
For those in Bali who would like to help support the orangutan, OURF will be holding a fundraiser, Voices for the Jungle, on March 6th in Seminyak.
Borneo, the largest island in Asia and the third largest in the world, is home to ancient rainforests that are 140 million years old, making them one of the oldest on planet Earth. Shared by Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, with Indonesia’s territory making up approximately 73% of the southern territory, the island of Borneo is an incredibly rich and diverse place in flora, fauna and culture. Sadly, development has been encroaching on her territory and is quickly destroying her natural beauty.
In the 1950s, the chainsaw and the tractor arrived on the island, causing much destruction to its rainforests. Satellite studies show that 56% of protected lowland rainforests were cut down between 1985 and 2001 to supply global timber demand. Protection laws are in effect, but inadequately monitored and enforced. The global demand for the production of palm oil has been one of the most devastating reasons for the demise of these ancient forests, as Indonesia and Malaysia account for over 90% of the world’s production area of this product, increasing from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to six million hectares in 2007.
With much of the lowland rainforests already destroyed, pressure is being put on the highland regions, like the Barito River watershed in Central Kalimantan. It is here that The Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities (BRINCC) was founded whilst working at a research station in the Sebangau National Park’s Natural Laboratory, and where this pioneering organization is working on the forefront of conservation.
“Progress is inevitable,” Michal Zrust, BRINCC’s Director of Conservation tells me, “however, through science-based mitigation measures, we can help lessen the destructive impact on this fragile environment.” Michal graduated with a degree in Economics and ultimately ended up working in conservation via a number of research projects. He also works with large multinational palm oil companies to push for better production standards for the Zoological Society of London.
BRINCC’s work is separated into capacity building, biodiversity surveys and working with local communities. Their most impressive work is mapping one of the most understudied regions of Borneo, the Murung Raya Region. This map provides new data on species distributions, densities and population numbers, which are essential for making informed conservation decisions. BRINCC’s latest expedition extended the known ranges of many bird species, found numerous endangered tree species and tried to find the boundary of a known gibbon hybrid. This information will provide a deep understanding of the ecology of the region, essential in the policy decision process of the future.
BRINCC use standardized methodology for biodiversity mapping, such as the use of remotely activated camera traps to survey nocturnal animals. They also actively engage in the use of cutting-edge technology to provide researchers with an opportunity to field test and perfect methods. “On our current expedition, one of our visiting researchers is looking at the feasibility of using genetic analysis of blood extracted from leeches to survey rare mammals. If the leeches have sucked blood from, for example, a clouded leopard, we will know it is there, even if we never actually photograph it,” Michal explains.
BRINCC is very proud of the fact that their expeditions are majority Indonesian, employing local staff, including government officials and villagers. They take promising undergraduate and postgraduate students in Indonesia, fund them and bring them on their rainforest expeditions to gain invaluable knowledge.There have been two expeditions so far; the first expedition took place in 2011 and the latest, this year, is still ongoing. Team members are dedicated and extremely passionate individuals from varied backgrounds. BRINCC’s directors consists of: Andrea Höing (Germany), Director of Social-Ecological Research; Dominic Rowland (UK), Director of Expeditions; Director of Wildlife Ecology, Peter R. Houlihan (USA); Director of Mammal Research, Dr. Susan Cheyne (UK); and their leader, Michal Zrust (Czech Republic), Director of Conservation.
Working in the jungle environment for months at a time, and living in very basic conditions, can be very challenging. The team have suffered inevitable illnesses and nutritional deficiencies, not to mention the general lack of home comforts. But their passion for this region’s welfare has helped them through each expedition, bringing them back to this magical area which most of them have dreamt of coming to for years.
In order for their work to bring about a positive change, BRINCC believe that other stakeholders need to be engaged in the process, most importantly the companies themselves.
“The industries working in the area need to acknowledge the fragility of the environment in which they are working and as a group work to ensure mitigation of impacts on the landscape level. We are working to engage the industry players before extraction begins,” says Michal.
The government is a fundamental player in ensuring that such extraction is done within the confines of the law and is the ultimate judge on where it is done and that it avoids negative impacts as far as possible.
Michal urges Indonesia’s economists to think of this natural habitat as having true monetary and intrinsic value if left intact. “Indonesia’s natural heritage is of fundamental value to its society, not just in terms of the magnificent biodiversity it holds, but also in terms of the services that it provides to its citizens and those of the world. The results of deforestation can be seen in the recent haze and this is underlined by loss of clean water provision, loss of fish in rivers, loss of micro-nutrients for local communities, as well as the incredible costs to human health from chest infections (amongst others).”
Michal’s words on how mankind must evolve to live side by side with nature are poignant. “It is only when we begin to value the services we receive from nature, rather than perceiving it as a free, exploitable good, that we will begin to make more sensible and sustainable development decisions.”BRINCC provides field data to inform and support policy development and implementation and are always open to collaboration, whether it is with the government, local or international civil society. They believe that with these partnerships, their work can have a much greater impact.
BRINCC’s work runs solely on donations and sponsorships. They welcome anyone who wishes to collaborate or support them in other ways to visit http://www.brinccborneo.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a long weekend coming up and you’re trying frantically to book a villa in Bali but it seems everywhere is fully booked. Belitung have no availabilities and you don’t fancy attempting to drive to Bandung or Pelabuhan Ratu for fear it will take you hours and hours to get there. So where are you going to go?
My answer to you is Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Direct flights from Jakarta to Kota Kinabalu (also known as K.K.) are available and are cheaper than flights to Bali. In two and a half hours you’re in another country and another world and you can enjoy a pedestrianized city with light traffic and fresh air. The attractions in K.K itself are limited to shopping, walking and eating, however it’s what’s just outside of the city that makes the journey to this side of Borneo all the worthwhile.
Our trip was somewhat adventurous, starting with a two-day hike up and down Mount Kinabalu, located in Kinabalu National Park, a two hour drive from K.K. Peaking at 4090.2 metres this is one of the easier mountains of this stature to conquer and a lot of effort has been put into this trail. Starting the ascent at 9am, we hiked through lush rainforest, admiring several miniature waterfalls during the way, and enjoying rest stations equipped with toilet and treated spring water.
The trail to Labuan Rata, the lodge where hikers rest overnight before ascending to the peak, is six kilometres up and we were four clicks in before the inevitable happened to slow us down – the tropical heavens opened and what a downpour it was. One thing every tour operator and website will tell you is to make sure to bring waterproofs and how right they all were. Waterproof trousers is the one thing you need most after a waterproof poncho.
Spotting Labuan Rata was a glorious moment, which meant shelter and rest. This lodge is made up of several unheated dorm-style rooms of various sizes, equipped with bunk beds and showers. Downstairs a large canteen area serves decent buffet meals for the famished trekker. After cleansing, adorning our thermals and eating as much as we could, our weary bodies tried to catch a few hours sleep before waking again at 1.30am for the final push to Low’s Peak to watch the sunrise.
Now this is where the hike gets hard. Leaving at 2.30 am after a light breakfast, head lamps light the way up steep rock-face and there are actually three segments where you have to pull yourself up rope – gloves with a grip come in very handy. It’s a three-hour climb to the bitter-cold finish where the waking sun welcomes you with open arms and the incredible view opens up to you (if it weren’t below freezing I would have stayed for much longer admiring it).
Two hours later and back at the lodge, a big breakfast was thoroughly enjoyed, followed by a short hour’s rest before a four-hour hike down the mountain the same way from which we came. In true rainforest fashion, the heavens opened up again halfway down, but we smiled and enjoyed it knowing that we were on our way back to a warm shower in a warm hotel room and that our feet could soon get some much-deserved rest.
The next day we organized a day trip to visit a small orangutan sanctuary where young rescued orphans were being rehabilitated. At 130 Ringgid each this was a lovely morning out and meant we were free to walk, yes again, around the city in the afternoon. There are many day trips available, which you can book via a tour operator or through your hotel. Orangutan sanctuary trips book up fast so make sure to reserve in advance during high seasons.
Next on our itinerary was diving at the renowned Sipadan Island, one of the word’s top ten dive destinations. Sipadan, in the Celebes Sea, is only half a km in length and 200 metres in width, and was once at the centre of a territorial dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia, with Malaysia being awarded the island by the International Court of Justice on the basis of “effective occupation” in 2002. Jacques Cousteau said, in his film Borneo: The Ghost of the Sea Turtle, “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.”
Untouched it may have been, but nowadays many boats from neighbouring islands take you to Sipadan and120 divers daily are permitted to dive in its surrounding waters, with a permit fee of 40 Ringgid per person per day. We enjoyed three dives a day and were lucky to gain access to Sipadan for two whole days, enjoying an abundance of sharks – black tip and white tip – Hawkbill turtles, schools of barracuda, schools of jack fish, schools of bumphead parrotfish and an array of other species of fish and macro sea life, including a rare spotting of a Dragon Seamoth which was one of the sweetest creatures I’ve ever seen!
With such a profusion of divers, it is so important to dive responsibly in these waters to lessen the degrading the effect dive tourism has had on its once pristine reefs. We witnessed a diver carelessly diving along the bottom of the ocean, dragging his second regulator across the reef, breaking off bits of coral on his way. As much as we all tried to pull him up and tell him off in sign language, he carried on, which brings me to an important point; learn to dive properly before you attempt underwater photography.