CI-Indonesia Office, Jakarta
S 06º16"37.8 E 106º49'26.1"
Halmahera bound! Halma-what you say? I've been hearing a lot of that lately. Halmahera is the largest island of Indonesia's North Maluku province, historically a key region for the spice trade, and right in the heart of the coral triangle, the richest area for marine diversity on earth.
CI is participating in an expedition to circumnavigate Halmahera and its surrouding smaller islands, along with our regional partners The Nature Conservancy, The World Wildlife Fund, the Indonesian Ministries of Forestry and Marine Affairs & Fisheries, LIPI, Khariun University of Ternate, and the Provincial Government of North Maluku.
This is the expedition I have been dreaming about for months, ever since my friend Dr. Gerry Allen told me of his trip in 2005 when he recorded an incredible 800 fish species in a two week survey of the island. Situated between the stellar Raja Ampat islands and Sulawesi's incredible marine biodiversity, Halmahera is bound to exceed expectations of even the most seasoned diver.
I was honored and delighted when Dr. Mark Erdmann invited me to document the expedition in stills and video. Thanks to the Conservation Through Photography Alliance sponsored by BG Group, CI has the funds to rapidly deploy photographers on expeditions like this.
I am joining the team mid-way though their journey, and you can follow the progress thus far on CI-Indonesia's website. The blog is in both Bahasa Indonesian and English, so be sure to scroll down to catch entries by TNC's reef resilience expert, Rod Salm. So far the results look extremely promising, with the team experiencing some of the most intact reefs in Indonesia, in addition to unprecented numbers of fish and coral species after only a few days of diving. It's an auspicous start, and I can't wait to get in the water.
Getting to the water however, is another story. A story that begins, with my usual all-night anxiety around packing for a long dive trip. Underwater photography involves a good deal of equipment, with a lot of little bits and pieces. Forget any one of them, and it can ruin your trip.
So I tend to make lists and triple check them. Since I will be shooting both underwater stills and video, I had to bring close to 300 lbs. of luggage with me. Traveling light is not part of the underwater photographer's vocabulary! So far all of my luggage has made it to Jakarta. There are few things that make me happier than after 30 hours of traveling seeing all four pieces of luggage show up on the carosel (except maybe making it through customs without a hassle).
Now comes the fun part - domestic flights. It's three hops to Buli, on the east side of Halmahera where I will meet up with the boat. Tomorrow I'll head to Ternate, where I will meet up with Joanne Wilson, lead scientist for TNC's Coral Triangle Center, and the next day we'll head to Buli. We've made special arrangements with the small prop plane to take my excess baggage, but I'll only be happy once my luggage makes it to the boat. If all goes well, I'll have photos to post with my next entry later in the week.
Until then, it's time to try and fight this jet-lag and get some sleep before tomorrow's flight.
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