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 →
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).
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 →
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 →
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 →
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!
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 →