For six weeks (from June 18, 2018 to July 30th, 2018), my study abroad group and I traveled from island to island in a beautiful country called Indonesia, learning about different Indonesian communities and nature conservation. During those intense six weeks, we planted over 300 trees, swam with manta rays, and even hiked up a mountain into a volcano! Here are the places I visited and what we did in those places:
At Nusa Lembongan, we worked with an organization called the Marine Megafauna to ID some Manta Rays. IDing Manta Rays is a off-hands approach to research and protect the Mantas. We also IDed fish with the co-owner of the Blue Corner Dive (we stayed in their eco-resort) and talked about coral restoration.
At Nusa Penida, we worked in conjunction with a organization called FNPF (Friends of National Parks Foundation) to do our final research project on reforestation. FNPF is a “Indonesian conservation not-for-profit organization working to protect wildlife and its habitat, at the same time as supporting local communities”. We collected data from six plots of land and interviewed the landowners in Bahasa Indonesian (we later translated it to English) for FNPF and for our research project. FNPF wanted to see if there was anything they needed to work on, how to support/involve the community better, and if they needed to work hard on their reforestation project. We eventually came to the consensus that planting/ reforesting during the dry season will cause the plants to dry out quicker and die. We also realized (while interviewing) that the landowners loved FNPF but they were unhappy about how FNPF was not actively involving and monitoring the different communities reforestation projects. That is why their plots of land did not succeed (they needed to educate the community better on reforestation and how to take care/ maintain their plots of land).
In Borneo, my group and I worked with FNPF again but this time instead of focusing on data research and interviews, we got our hands dirty and planted over 300 trees! We stayed for a week and we helped out FNPF with some reforestation, only this time we were planting because there were huge forest fires a couple of months before we visited. It wiped out everything FNPF worked for. So FNPF decided to replant and build what was lost again, because many animals (such as the orangutans and the proboscis monkeys) are only native to Borneo and they had nowhere else to go. They would’ve died if FNPF did not try to save and reforest what was burned down to the ground. We also visited some palm oil plantations and learned about how they are contributing to the downfall of Borneo’s ecosystem. Many times the owners of the palm oil plantation would kill an orangutan if it accidentally wanders into the plantation. Also, the amount of damage these palm oil plantations does to the Indonesian land is astounding.
In Java, my group and I woke up at twelve AM and decided to hike up a mountain and hike down into a volcano for six hours!! We wanted to see the blue flames in the volcano (it was beautiful btw) and make it back up in time to see the sunrise (which was equally as beautiful). The only thing I would recommend if one was to travel into a volcano, would be to bring a gas mask. There is so much sulfuric gas billowing from the volcano, you can barely breathe or see without feeling a burning sensation. Immediately after that excursion, we went straight to a waterfall to recharge and I was the only one brave enough to climb on the sharp rocks.
My group and I stayed with the local community in Jembrana for three days. We each had our own host family and got to communicate with our “siblings” and “parents/grandparents”. At the end of those three days, the whole entire community threw a traditional dance ceremony for us and we were able to participate and show off our moves!
Kerambitan was our first and last stop. When we first arrived, we went to two religious temples and explored our little community. We spoke to our neighbors, shop owners, and even music players! We learned how to play Gamelan with local Gamelan musicians and eventually had our own little Gamelan jam sessions. We also did a bird project (our professor is an Ornithologist) and we had to talk about the decline of certain types of birds in Kerambitan and Jembrana and what caused this decline (it was because of humans and disturbing the environment with community expansion).
Because of the ELOA, I was able to learn, research, and experience biodiversity, ecotourism, and nature conservation in a country that has such a diverse ecosystem. I am so blessed to have received this award, and I am grateful that I got to experience all of the beauty that is in Indonesia.