For all ocean addicts, explorers, nature lovers, and everybody else who has to stay at home due to the coronavirus and is perhaps longing for a refreshing dip in the ocean: Watch Sulawesi Splendour I-IV. All these creatures are out there waiting for us. Hopefully, when all this is over, instead of going back to business-as-usual, we care for and protect the countless species that share this planet with us. So many of them are under threat already – be it in or outside the ocean.
Dive into the underwater wonderland of Sulawesi
In “Sulawesi Splendour” we introduce you to some of the stunning reefs and marine life of the warm tropical waters surrounding the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Being the 4th largest island in the Indonesian archipelago, Sulawesi has a rich cultural background and incredible biodiversity, both on land as well as underwater. Travel from Lembeh (arguably the „Muck Diving Capital“ of the world) in the North to the beautiful coral atolls of Wakatobi in the South.
We went on a diving holiday to Lembeh in January 2018, somewhat troubling times for me as I tried to describe in “The picture that made it into the final”. We enjoyed visiting the muck but actually started to miss “our” reefs back in Wakatobi quite quickly. Granted it was great to see some creatures for the first time in my life, but we both love colours, forms and patterns a lot (Art by nature) as well as observing the behaviour of countless species with one another in a healthy and protected environment.
Stay in Wakatobi
On April 4th 2016 Yoeri and I moved to Tolandono, the tiny island with the exclusive and inviting Wakatobi Dive Resort, to start our new lives as Dive Experience Managers. We flew over a part of the beautiful islands and atolls forming the region Wakatobi and landed on the resort’s own Airstrip Maranggo on Tomia island. Wakatobi is actually an acronym for Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko, the four biggest islands from North to South in this remote and unspoiled corner of Sulawesi, the South-East end so to say.
We fell utterly and completely in love with Wakatobi’s reefs teeming with life, kilometres of untouched wonderland with corals at the heart of it all. After all, these living creatures are the ones building the foundation of this ecosystem with a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours, providing both food and shelter for an enormous amount of creatures spending their lives here. Not only did we dive to explore the reefs themselves, but whenever on land we dived into ID books and other resources to learn more about hard and soft corals, sponges, tunicates, and anemones forming the vibrant background to study and show all other inhabitants. Some are hiding out in their homes, others are out and about quite prominently. Reefs, sustainably managed, provide resources, food and lively-hood in various ways. On top of that, they offer protection to the islands above the surface from the tremendous power of the ocean. So, by protecting our reefs, we are protecting ourselves!
Protection as a partnership
Lorenz Mäder, the founder of Wakatobi, believes that protection of the reefs works best if the interests of local communities, the environment and the dive resort align. Therefore, right when he started setting up the resort in the early 90ies, he reached out to local communities and developed the Collaborative Reef Conservation Programme for which Wakatobi has won numerous prizes over the years. The basic concept is to
create an economically viable alternative to destructive and unsustainable fishing practices, and to communicate the intrinsic economic value of the region’s coral reefs to the people living within the Wakatobi region. This understanding led to the creation of the Collaborative Reef Conservation Program in 1998, following consultations with local leaders and village elders. Initially, this involved an agreement with local people to designate a 6 km section of reef as a marine sanctuary. Direct payments were provided to area villages and fishermen in exchange for honoring this no-fishing zone. These payments in turn encouraged the villages to take an active role in protecting the marine ecosystem.
Over the years, more and more communities joined as they also saw the benefit for the villages participating as well as an increase in numbers and sizes of fish even outside the no-fishing zones.
We are not the only ones being enchanted by Wakatobi’s reefs. So many guests come back to visit Wakatobi Dive Resort. Some every year, some after some years when they haven’t found the same diversity in reef life or the healthy state of corals in other parts of the world. We have heard from many guests over our three years, that the reefs and the overall marine life have improved. These days, 17 local communities around the resort are part of the Conservation programme protecting more than 20km of “our” reefs. We really hope Wakatobi goes back to business-as-usual, in the sense that protecting the reefs is a centre part of the business strategy as well as improving the living conditions of the local communities.
Our home away from home
Wakatobi is the first diving location where we have stayed for full three years. After all, there are so many places to visit around the world and so many sites to dive. After finishing our contract, we stayed another week for filming and photographing. It felt way too short. Standing on the Maranggo airstrip saying goodbye to Lorenz, I had tears in my eyes. He invited us, not only to come back to work but also just to visit. Hopefully, one day we can take him up on that offer.
More video work
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