Autor: Nijae

Where are you going?

As a traveler you better get used to being asked where you are from, as this question comes up early in conversations no matter where you are going in the world. Nevertheless I was surprised to hear the Indonesian version “dari mana?” constantly when walking down the roads of Labuan Bajo. Without a greeting like “Halo” or “Selamat” it felt rather direct for the generally very modest and polite Indonesians. Of course, we didn’t want to be the rude foreigners and learned our reply: “Dari Jerman”. OK, actually Yoeri is “Belanda” by passport, but he is also a Berliner, and the Dutch are not very much loved in Indonesia.
More complicated was a second question which often followed, sometimes was even the only one asked: Ke mana? Where are you going? We were not only passing through as tourists therefore I didn’t know what to answer; hopefully nowhere for a while. Even though Labuan Bajo isn’t the most appealing place to be, it serves as a gateway to Komodo National Park with all its natural wonders as well as lush Flores. It was winter in Europe so we were definitely planning to stay in Indonesia for some time. Basically we came to stay, but on which islands and for how long we had no idea. “Where are you going?” turned out to be even more of a philosophical question revealing that we were drifting, going with the flow – quite happily, but without any proper destination or plan.
After a while we started to understand that these questions in fact are meant as a greeting. Unlike in other parts of the world where only strangers are asked, in Indonesia everybody is addressing everybody else this way. It’s simply not so much how you are doing, but where you are doing it. But even then you don’t have to be precise. You can say “jalan-jalan” for walking or my favourite expression “makan angin” (eating wind) which in a way reflected our approach to come to Indonesia quite well.
We moved on by now. But we still don’t really know where we are going or when this will happen. We are enjoying life where we are – most of the time at least. However I can show you where we are coming from and maybe where you are going to one day as we highly recommend exploring the beauties of Komodo yourself:

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Stay wild: Blacklist of tourist attractions and stunning beauty of nature

We just read a disturbing story of two dugongs, mother and child, that were kept on a chain in a little cage in shallow waters in Indonesia to be presented to eager tourists who could enter the cage for taking pictures with these endangered animals (selfie mania: stick to yourself!). Luckily two tourists not only refused to fall for this “attraction” and explained the status of these protected animals to the fisherman who caught and kept them, but also alerted wildlife authorities who freed them in the end (read full story on The Dodo).

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World Animal Protection

It’s easy to blame the fisherman for imprisoning these gentle creatures, but truth is as long as there is a demand there will be a market. (That’s why the US war on drugs can’t be won by oppressing the producers in other countries, but that’s another story.) Therefore everybody: Please, be aware of the so-called tourist attractions that involve animals. Not always is the abuse as obvious as with a dugong on a chain in a cage.

World Animal Protection listed the 10 most cruel tourist attractions:

In Bali we were constantly offered an island tour that included a stop for a very special coffee: kopi luwak. Ripe coffee cherries are eaten by the civet cat. While the pulp is digested the bean stays intact. Collected from the poo – actually here I wasn’t interested anymore – the beans are further processed. With so many tourists on Bali and all the tours offering this particular stop you can imagine how much poo has to be collected – every day. Instead of crawling through the bushes it’s much easier to catch a civet and forth fed coffee sherries to produce high quantities. Apparently all over South East Asia and for an international market… Tony Wild presented in The Guardian not only the development of this market, but also discussed a sustainable way of producing kopi luwak: Stay wild!

“Wild kopi luwak could provide smallholders with a premium product that also helps conserve the animal’s natural forest habitat. Maybe not so repulsive after all…”

Same goes for other animal attractions worldwide. There are very destructive and harmful ways and alternatives that can support local livelihoods and protect animal and their habitats in a truly sustainable way. We will put together some additional posting regarding tarsiers and whale sharks in the Philippines (to be linked soon).

But sometimes the only solution is: Stay away (like Boycott Seaworld)! For all divers and snorkelers it should be clear already: Don’t touch, don’t hold, don’t harass or chase (also not with that camera on a stick!).

If you want to see a dugong, find out where there are high chances of spotting them in the wild – without disturbing them. Apparently they can be seen in Komodo National Park. We keep our fingers crossed and our eyes open. But even without a dugong we have had fantastic diving, fascinating nature observations and unforgettable wildlife encounters on all our trips from Labuan Bajo. See for yourself in Yoeri’s clip for Uber Scuba Komodo:

 

 

 

 

Update on seabed mining

My arrival in Indonesia: Dig or dive?

Whitesand beach with plam trees and crystal clear water at Bangka Island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia (Photo: Fabio Achilli, flickr with cclisence)
Bangka Island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia (photo: Fabio Achilli, flickr with cclisence)

During the flight to Indonesia in the beginning of December 2015 I read in my diving magazine Unterwasser about Bangka Island in the North of Sulawesi: Beautiful and diverse coral reefs just outside the famous Bunaken National Marine Park – less known, but very much worth going, especially if you enjoy small island life and would like to explore dive sites where hardly anybody has dived before. This tiny island of only 48 sq km is a hotspot of biodiversity. Perfect conditions for community-based ecotourism and conservation work how it is implemented in the South of Sulawesi by Wakatobi Dive Resort since more than 20 years already. Unfortunately the reefs are not the only natural resource found in the region.

“PT Mikgro Metal Perdana (MMP), an Indonesian subsidiary of Hong Kong based Aempire Resource Group, has been seeking licenses to extract iron ore from Bangka since 2008” (The Guardian, 3 April 2015). Even though a ruling of Indonesia’s Supreme Court in 2013 blocked further mining activities on Bangka the former Minister for Energy and Minerals, Jero Wacik, granted the exploitation license covering two-thirds of the island in 2014. Since then construction of mining and transportation infrastructure is causing direct demolition of reefs as well as indirect destruction via run-offs and waste products. The support campaign for the little diving heaven started immediately, but hasn’t been able to put a halt to the mining activities yet (read more on activism and diving around Bangka on Dive Advisor).

This case in the country where we hope to stay for 2016 or longer not only brought together my two passions, diving and activism, but combined the issue of marine protection with the topic that kept me pretty busy in 2015. After we came back from St. Eustatius in June I started researching the global impact of European trade and investment policy on exploitation of raw materials for PowerShift e.V. and the campaign Stop Mad Mining. Finally the study has been published! Title of the study "Alles für uns!? Der globale Einfluss der europäischen Handels- und Investitionspolitik" von Nicola JaegerIn German though: Alles für uns!? Der globale Einfluss der europäischen Handels- und Investitionspolitik auf Rohstoffausbeutung. Even though the EU calls her newest trade and investment strategy “Trade for all” it is clearly in the interest of big European corporations while democratic, sustainable, transparent and fair concepts of governing the natural resources from civil societies as well as Governments in resource rich countries are undermined.

Local populations are the ones who are most likely to lose everything: Their land, their intact (marine) ecosystems, their livelihood, and their future. “Bangka Island’s 2700 residents make their living fishing, tending coconut and cashew plantations, and catering to a growing tourism trade based on the coral reef. Residents are virtually united in their rejection of the mine, concerned it will threaten coral reefs and diminish fishing yields” (Inside Indonesia, April-June 2014). Mining doesn’t bring jobs or economic development to the region – or in this case island. In most cases local populations are not profiting from the infrastructure or getting any sort of revenue of mining projects. The Indonesian government tried to increase the national benefits of their natural resources, but rolled new mining law in 2014 when Newmount Mining used the ISDS mechanism (investor-state dispute settlement) of a Bilateral Investment Treaty to sue Indonesia for compensation (Hilde van der Pas and Riza Damanik): “The case of Newmont Mining vs Indonesia is a powerful example of how investment agreements, particularly Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), are used by companies to get exemptions from government regulations and legislation, undermining democracy and development.”

ISDS is a corporate weapon against public policies worldwide and is used to discipline states once a foreign corporation has invested in a country which signed BITs. But in the case of Bangka there was actually an Indonesian law prior to granting the exploitation license which prohibits mining on islands smaller than 2,000 sq km. Inside Indonesia writes: “Only weeks after the re-zoning, in December 2013, the Indonesian parliament revised Law no. 27/2007 to allow large-scale extractive industry investment on five small islands previously protected by small island conservation provisions – including Bangka. The revision was enacted very quietly.” Money talks, one could think. And in another mining case in Indonesia there is actually proof.

grasberg mine in papua and protests (photo: AK Rockefeller on flickr with cclisence)
grasberg mine papua (photo: AK Rockefeller on flickr with cclisence)

During that same flight I read about a corruption case that would be debated in Indonesia in December 2015: “The speaker of the House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, stood accused of trying to extort $4 billion in shares from the local unit of the American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan” (The New York Times, 17 December 2015). The operation license for the company’s Grasberg mine is ending in 2021. The controversial project in the East of Indonesia is the world’s largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine (collection on Grasberg mine by the London Mining Network). Mining friendly decisions on all levels are contrasting to the attempts to increase (eco and diving) tourism in the country. Digging and diving is a bad match.

Or so I thought: A couple of weeks later on a diving boat in Komodo National Park I met an engineer who is working in the Grasberg mine. Strangely enough his holiday love affair was a NGO campaigner from Peru who needed a little break from fighting to keep roads, illegal settlements and the oil industry out of natural and indigenous reserves.

Pic for Video gallery: ISDS – Corporate weapon against public policies worldwide
Video gallery on „The ISDS cases“ on youtube
The only way to travel: boat! Explore the (under)water world and islands in the sky. Dive into the endless ocean and enjoy the sparkling sun on the water while travelling through this magnificent part of the Flores Sea in Indonesia: Komodo Nationalpark.

Islands in the sky

The only way to explore the water world of Komodo Nationalpark: boat! But it’s more than just a way to travel. We enjoy the view of the islands in the sky before diving into the endless ocean and the sparkling sun on the water when getting back up after another magnificent dive part of the Flores Sea. Come to think of it: We actually wouldn’t mind to live aboard.

 

With happy regards from Komodo

A week ago raining season started in Labuan Bajo. Even though the land in all the Eastern parts of Indonesia badly needed the rain, it does have its downsides. Not only are the clouds blocking our precious sun, but it creates quite some runoff that together with rubbish is being washed into the sea. But that’s a story for another day. Unfortunately it seems like the water, sediments and garbage have flushed away our internet too. Since five days there is no more connection in our accommodation anymore. “Maybe tomorrow?”, is the daily answer. Additionally to our nightly blackouts electricity stopped working this morning too. It most definitely does not make me happy.

It is annoying. It keeps me from doing things I planned to get done today. No idea when electricity is coming back, I’ve almost given up hope on internet all together. But what can I do? Be angry and frustrated all day about the situation, about the staff, about the circumstances in town, the weather in general. Possible, but it doesn’t change a thing. In fact I can’t control any of this. All I can do is to adapt my plan.

Just before the rain started I set up a new page on our website: Warm regards. I just got notice that my first real postcards from Indonesia started to arrive around the world. The idea for this section of online cards evolved from an evening with friends when we agreed that running – or any excessive sporting for that matter – is not our path to happiness, as well as a postcard I sent to my dad. Even though the quote on there is actually not from Buddha, it’s a good approach to life: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” Nothing against running by the way: Take your time and enjoy it.

Nature is taking over all parts of the former marshalling yard in "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in Berlin (Germany). I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. This is the first picture of a series of three: There is no way to happiness. 2nd: Happiness is the way. 3rd: Take your time and enjoy.
Tube one can walk through in "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in Berlin (Germany) where nature and art are meeting in the industrial setup of a former marshalling yard. I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. This is the second picture of a series of three: Happiness is the way. 1st: There is no way to happiness. 3rd: Take your time and enjoy.
3rd part of the series: Take your time and enjoy. 1st: There is no way to happiness. 2nd: Happiness is the way. Showing runner in park "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in the city of Berlin where nature and art are meeting in the industrial setup of a former marchalling yard. I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. Nothing against running, but if happiness is the way, running will not get you there any quicker.

Instead of sharing my happy moments via cards I would love to have family and friends with me whilst travelling. Even the most paradisiac islands are better together. Come to think of it, a lot of these wonderful places don’t have internet or even reliable electricity. After all at the moment I only have to walk over to the dive center to get online. OK, the advertised “Free wifi” doesn’t exist, but the cable connection at least seems to be waterproof. Electricity just came back. Happy day!

 

Selamat tahun baru!

Devocean Pictures wishes a Happy New YearHappy ending and off to a good start. Nevertheless we don’t know where 2016 is taking us. Therefore we keep our eyes open and follow our hearts: „Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there“. Enjoy the soundtrack (Incubus: Drive) and see you hopefully somewhere at some point in this year.

 

 

Bali: Coming home

We liked Bali from the moment we arrived: Already on the way from the airport to Radha Homestay we noticed happily how traditional styles are beautifully combined with natural, symbolic and day-to-day elements in a unique way not only within the many temples but basically everywhere: from houses to hotels, supermarkets and car parks. Sanur itself, even though highly touristic and definitely not the place we’d like to spend an entire holiday, has all these little statues, house temples, small offerings everywhere, including the narrow sidewalks, and an abundance of flowers, colours and smells.

Finally back in Asia! Before we had an exploration period in the West we worked in Blue Planet Andamans on Long Island in India. Bali feels like a little bit of India in Indonesia. It’s loud, smelly, dirty and crowded on the one hand, but people are happy, proud, kind, and spiritual on the other. And additionally there is nature in its tropical beauty and abundance. Bali touches the heart, soul and all senses, just as Long Island and India did too.

Watch Yoeri’s newest video clip to get an idea: Long Island, Andamans Island, Indian Ocean. In addition to the two clips introducing you to the underwater world of the Middle Andamans (one and two) he is showing you life on land:

 

The reefs of the Visayas

We are getting itchy feed. Last projects in Europe have to be finished this month, but all we can think about is diving! Thanks to Yoeri we have new clips to fuel our wish.

“The reefs of the Visayas I and II” are perfectly complementing “Critters” and give a very good overall impression of the best diving the Visayas have to offer. It made us think to go back there. After all we met in Alona Beach. In the end we opted for a fresh start, explore in a place new to the both to us. We wouldn’t mind to visit the Philippines again. See it for yourself: