Bio Rock: Saving the reefs


Published in Insight Magazine, Bali

The Indonesian archipelago is home to the richest assortment of coral species in the world, but its reefs are vanishing as global warming, pollution and unsustainable fishing and tourism practices take their toll.

Indonesia’s appalling conservation record is well documented and it would be easy to write yet another article about imminent disaster; but I am sick of all the doom and gloom, because with destruction comes regeneration.  While politicians  and environmental agencies gather in endless global summits and engage in pointless debates about how to fix things,  often the most effective change is happening at a grassroots level, and I knew that somewhere in Bali someone would be doing something to save the reefs.

I find my story in the north of the island, in a humble village that sits in the shadows of the mountains. Just meters off  Pemuteran’s  black sandy shore lies the  Karang Lestari (Everlasting Reef) Project, one of the largest and most ambitious coral restoration projects in the world. A reef that had badly damaged is once again thriving due to a unique technology called Bio-Rock, which uses electric currents to stimulate the growth of coral.

All coral photographs courtesy of Rani E. Morrow-Wuigk

 

I have no idea what to expect, but this is unbelievable, a kind of futuristic underwater fantasy world. Fifty large steel structures span over 1000 feet and take the form of a caterpillar, a whale, an igloo, a dome, a tent, and a  flower,  all covered in a profusion of brightly coloured coral. Hundreds of tiny blue fish hover above the dome, bat fish flitter amidst the flowers. I see starfish, lionfish, a school of snapper and cheeky little Nemos everywhere. Soft pastel corals sway in the current and purple tipped table corals sprawl across the metal bars. The reef surrounding the structures is also thriving, everywhere I look I see life and vibrant colour. Natural power is the plan for future structures (which includes a Goddess rising from a lotus.) Reef Seen Aquatics Dive Center have already set  things in motion,  sponsoring two structures, a bio wreck and a giant turtle that are powered by solar panels. Continue reading

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A different side of Singapore

Singapore, a gleaming metropolis of soaring skyscrapers, manicured gardens, and people in suits; where shopping malls are supersize, electronics are truly king, and chewing gum is illegal. I have passed through the city many times, but never considered it as more than a brief stop on my way somewhere else. Now I have a three-day visa run and am determined to get a glimpse into life beyond the shiny facade. I catch a bumboat to Pulau Ubin, a small island that is home to one of the last remaining kampoengs (traditional villages in Singapore).

Continue reading

Into the wild: Sumatra

drinking milk

The jungle rises steeply in front of us and we cross the river balanced precariously on a dug out canoe. The wall of dense green foliage looks impenetrable but a narrow, muddy trail has been carved out and the ranger leads us to a small clearing and a feeding platform. We only have to wait a couple of minutes before an orangutan comes swinging gracefully through the trees. It’s a female, and her scrawny baby clings on tightly as she stuffs bunches of bananas into her mouth and scoffs handfuls of milk from the rangers bucket. Continue reading

Labuanbajo, Flores

Published in Bali Advertiser

Dawn is breaking over Labuanbajo, as we settle into the small outrigger which will take us to Rinca island, home of the legendary Komodo dragon. The early morning silence is shattered when the boat captain fires up the outboard motor, it’s a noisy beast  and conversation becomes impossible, but it doesn’t matter as the scenery unfolding before me  is so spectacular that I am rendered speechless. The boat cuts across the deep inky  blue water and weaves through  the jagged volcanic islands that make up Komodo National Park. It is dry season and the islands are parched and barren, some are little more than big piles of black lava rock. Others have strips of dazzling white sand and a smattering of palm trees, while the bigger islands have villages of stilt houses. Continue reading

24 hours in Jakarta

24 hours in Jakarta

Jakarta doesn’t enjoy the best of reputations ,but anyone who spends any amount of time in Indonesia is bound to pass through the sweltering capital at some point. I have 24 hours and am determined to find something endearing about the city which is home to ten million people. I arrive two weeks after the bombs, but apart from the area directly around the Marriot and the Ritz Carlton, life has continued as normal. Continue reading

Bombastic plastix

 

from this

 

 

to this.....

 

They are handed out gleefully by cashiers the length and breadth of the island, used once and abandoned. Their fate − to float down rivers, ride the waves, wash up on the beaches or smolder in black smoky fires.…. In Bali there is no escaping  plastic bags.   But there is always hope, and a small company called Bombastic Plastix  is hard at work turning plastic trash into  funky fashion accessories.

Recycled products often get a bad wrap (no pun intended) because they are produced poorly with little thought for design. But Bombastic Plastix has turned recycling into an art form and their products – bags, purses, wallets,  are attractive in their own right, regardless of their ‘greenness’. Let’s face it, most of us want to do our bit to save the planet but there is nothing wrong with looking good while we are doing it.

It all started a few years ago, on Bombastic founder, Sam Miller’s kitchen floor. He was a man on a mission, armed with an environmental conscience, a keen sense of design, a heap of plastic bags and an iron. Through trial and error he discovered a way to fuse plastic bags into sheets of plastic fabric, which form the base of all his products.  “Its hardly like we are using all the plastic in the world,” he tells me, “but at least we are using some of it; and we are taking something that has a service life of 30 minutes  and converting in into something that lasts years.”

Check out the website, its great fun and really informative, and you will love Sam – he is one super cool dude!

http://www.bombasticsplastix.com

BAWA and Bali Dogs

BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association) was founded by Janice Girardi, a Californian native who rescued her first Bali dog in Kintamani 27 years ago, so beginning a one woman crusade to improve life for man’s best friend across the island. Her passion for animals and their welfare is consuming, and she is an inspiring example of how one person really can make a difference. For years she has been feeding street dogs and rescuing sick and injured animals, loading them on to a makeshift stretcher and driving them to the vet in Denpasar. In 2007 she formalized her position and along with one of Indonesia’s top veterinarians, Dr Dewa Dharma, created BAWA. Finding homes for puppies is just one of BAWA’s programs: The not-for-profit charity also supports a 24 hour clinic; an animal ambulance; a mobile sterilization clinic; an education program; and a range of community projects. Continue reading