My six week expedition to Indonesia

Caroline Dunnett, a third year Ecology BSc(Hons) student talks about her expedition with Operation Wallacea in Indonesia.

“For 6 weeks over the summer of 2018, I travelled to Indonesia to a remote island called Hoga in the Sulawesi National Park. I spent my time there completing my open water P.A.D.I and collect data for my dissertation on Coral Reefs and their Interaction with Sponges.

Whilst on the island with around 30 other dissertation students I lived in a small hut with my friend Lydia. The hut was basic with a squat toilet and a cold-water bucket shower! There was no running water on the island and electricity only in the evenings. For food we had rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner usually accompanied with fish and some veg. Very basic, but to be in such an amazing location you don’t need any more and soon get used to it!

A typical day during the 6 weeks included waking up at 5:30am and going to set up the kit for the first dive of the day. Once you collected all your equipment you made your way to the boats which took you to your dive site. Diving was definitely the best part of the day; the almost pristine coral reefs are among the best in the world. Dives lasted for 50 minutes and data was collected in that time. After reluctantly leaving the water you would have breakfast, log your data and head to the next and sadly last dive of the day. After that you would log your data, have lunch and usually relax on the beach with a book or go for a walk. In the evenings you have dinner, watch the breath-taking sunsets and sometimes had  a talk by one of the many PhD students also on the island which were very interesting and helpful.

If you felt like you had collected enough data for your needs that you could allow yourself a fun dive, when you could explore the reefs and look out for many of the organisms. On a typical dive you would see plenty of the cutest and most beautiful Nudibranchs, blue-spotted rays, bump-head parrot fish, Barracuda and even Manta Rays!! The list goes on! We also learnt all the Latin names for most corals, fish and invertebrates which are locked in my memory.

During the expedition you are assigned a mentor and have constant access to them who help you enormously to make sure you’re on the right track with your research. Although they are very busy with their own projects, (usually PHD students) they will always any questions you have.

Sundays are social nights where you get a treat of coconut rice and a few Bintangs (beers) in the evening you then have the next day off diving which are for resting on the beach and catching up on work.

All the hard work over the 6 weeks was worth every second, and I would go back in an instant. I feel extremely privileged to have been able to travel to such a fantastic area of the world to complete all the data and information for my dissertation. It was the best experience of my life and opened my eyes to many issues in the world. I can’t wait to go back one day and catch up with all the lovely people I met.”

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Operation Wallacea is an organisation that provides research opportunities for undergraduate and masters students overseas.

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