Back to School, For Kids Big and Small (Part 1 of 2)

Kim McCabe is attending CI’s seascapes workshop in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Read more reports on the meeting from our marine team.

I woke up with the sun this morning and spent several quiet minutes drinking in the view outside my driftwood-constructed guest house at the Misool Eco Resort – the entire resort was built with fallen lumber and driftwood its owners found on area beaches!

The lagoon’s turquoise surface was as smooth as glass, while beneath it, a colorful variety of life darted this way and that. I must say, it’s pretty cool to watch wild sea creatures like blacktip reef sharks [Carcharhinus melanopterus], inquisitive batfish and bright yellow butterflyfish, right under your feet. I wanted to etch this place’s natural perfection into my memory, before we boarded boats to embark on the long journey home.

The day before, I had been lucky enough to join CI’s Marine Program Director for Indonesia, Ketut Putra, on a long snorkeling expedition. Ketut is from Indonesia and knows the patterns and variety of incredible marine life in Raja Ampat almost as well as his own children. He also has a child-like enthusiasm for sea life which is infectious.

Within the course of a few hours, I experienced so many first-sightings, my head was practically spinning – a long gray barracuda, stalking a school of prey…a huge group of bumphead parrotfish [Bolbometopon muricatum], with bizarre protuberances on their foreheads…a lone giant grouper [Epinephelus lanceolatus], scanning the side of a reef slope for lunch…a sweetlips fish [Plectorhinchus sp.], whose puffy yellow lips look cartoon-like…a gray Olive Ridley sea turtle [Lepidochelys olivacea] who took off when I swam over him…and particularly exciting, a gorgeous green turtle illuminated by sun beams, peacefully swimming under my feet. I also saw surreal swaths of hard and soft coral in so many colors and textures, I felt like I’d woken up in an “Avatar” fantasy.

But also evident were large areas of seafloor that had been decimated by previous years of undeterred dynamite fishing. In these places, the rainbow colors of healthy reefs were replaced by gray chards of ashen coral that reminded me of a post-apocalyptic film scene.

It was the kind of experience that emboldens one’s motivation and passion for conservation. Helping to protect these guys and their healthy habitats – for their benefit and ours – is more critical than ever.

Kim McCabe is CI’s U.S. Media Manager. Read the conclusion of her post here.


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