Week 1 of Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course

Jul 07, 2021 BY Cara Rees

Drawn to the ocean? Fascinated by the marine world? Passionate to work conserving one of earths most amazing environments? Or love scuba but want more from your diving? Then the Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course could be just what you’re looking for. This is week 1 of my Indo Ocean Project experience.

Week 1 of Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course Photo by Cara Rees

How my adventure started

In July 2019 I was served with notice of redundancy. I had been working in pharmaceutical manufacture for 8 years and had already been questioning if this was the right career for me.

I did a lot of soul searching, assessing what was really important to me and by September I knew. I want to follow my childhood dream to work in marine conservation.

Shortly after I found the amazing Indo Ocean Project that offers marine conservation internship with divemaster qualification. I applied and was accepted to join their 12 week training for people who already have completed one of the many Open Water scuba diving courses worldwide.

Image courtesy of Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course in Nusa Penida Indonesia

Why the Indo Ocean Project?

There are so many reasons I chose the Indo Ocean Project. Starting with the range of conservation projects and experience they offer. The 12 week internship meant I could really get suck in and get to apply the knowledge & skills I learn.

In particularly I want to work with the mangrove and coral restoration. I really like that the project is partnered with marine biologist & citizen scientists around the world and they share their data. It’s great to know the data collected will be used to the max.

I can’t deny I was also drawn by the high possibility of seeing manta ray, turtles and mola (Sunfish) at Nusa Penida – which is why I chose this location. Plus Nusa Penida is only a 30-45min boat trip from Bali.

About Indo Ocean Project

I was attracted to this project because of it’s mission, vision and goals. The project aims to ‘conserve the marine environment through research & education’. Their vision is to help protect the local communities livelihoods by supporting the development of eco-tourism and sustainable fishing practices.

They are also actively restoring mangroves and coral reefs which are arguably two of the most diverse and important habitats on the planet. Effective marine conservation relies heavily on in-depth knowledge of population dynamics. The project conducts detailed surveys into marine populations including the impact of humans on the environment.

The data is then used to assist in policy making and marine park management. The marine conservation and divemaster course allows the Indo Ocean Project (IOP) to train new research divers and divemaster professionals. Of course anyone coming from the program are avid ocean protection advocates.

Image courtesy of Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course in Nusa Penida, Indonesia

About the marine conservation and divemaster course

The internship incorporates divemaster and specialist research diver training with conservation experience. You can chose to to complete your dive qualifications under PADI or SSI. I chose SSI because it is a bit cheaper and I like their online materials.

The programme has a rolling intake. I think this is really good because the more advanced interns support and assist in the training of the newbies. This does mean that no two interns are likely to complete their training items to exactly the same schedule.

The internship is for 6 days of every week but the training is spread out with free time for study. I thought I’d find this really tiring, but there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy lovely Nusa Penida. My weekly mini diaries from the Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course should give you more of an idea of what is involved.

Week 1: Arrival, orientation and advanced adventure diver course.

Day 1: Warm welcome

I arrived this morning in Nusa Penida, Indonesia to start my internship. This is a snapshot of the little piece of paradise I will be living in for the next 12 weeks.

Reeflex Divers in Nusa Penida Indonesia Photo by Cara Rees

It was straight to business with only time to drop off my bags before heading to the dive shop. IOP are partnered with Reeflex Divers who kitted me out with scuba gear to hire.

This morning was refresher training of my open water dive skills. This included; setting up equipment, buddy check, regulator recovery, mask clearance, buoyancy and other skills. Then proper cleaning and storage of the equipment.

After lunch at a local Warung (family run cafe/restaurant) with some other interns I had the IOP orientation. This consisted of a friendly welcome, all about the project and some necessary paperwork.

In the evening a group of interns went out for a welcome dinner. I didn’t have a scooter yet but was kindly given a lift. We went to Ba’Bar Kitchen a western restaurant which was good. Although I am very excited about Indonesia food some of the longer term interns fancied a change.

Day 2: Beach dive Crystal Bay and course outline

This morning was my check out dive off of Crystal Bay beach. It’s a really scenic location and so is the reef. We saw grouper, snapper, butterfly fish, fusiliers and squid to name just a few. I’m so excited to be back in the ocean observing it’s beauty!

Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida, Indonesia Photo by Cara Rees

The afternoon was spent with an introduction to the divemaster training. A clear outline was given of everything the course involves. There is a lot to do but I was reassured that the internship is set-up so there is plenty of time and each intern is supported to progress through it at a pace comfortable to them.

Day 3: First boat dives

Today was my first two boat dives and they were awesome. I saw so many fish! Including giant barracuda, a school of giant trevally, snappers, grouper, parrot fish which are all IOP key species because of the role they play in the reef ecosystem. I’ll be learning a lot more about this.

Week 1 of Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course Photo by Cara Rees

I also saw an octopus. At first I thought it was a rock then it moved which was amazing to observe.

Day 4: Start of advanced adventurer dive course

I started my advanced adventurer course which consists of 5 speciality dives. Today we did perfect buoyancy and underwater navigation in Crystal Bay.

Buoyancy is a key skill to enjoying scuba safely without damaging the environment around you. It is especially important that I gain good buoyancy control to get involved in the IOP marine conservation activities. It was fun practicing the skills. Lot’s a hovering including with head down while spinning, which did make me a little dizzy.

Good navigation is required for my divemaster qualification to enable me to lead dives. It felt great navigating a square and returning to exactly the same spot. Although we were practicing there was still some time to appreciate the amazing coral vistas, and fish galore.

Nusa Penida, Indonesia Photo by Cara Rees

Highlights of todays dives included seeing cuttlefish, large squid with their eggs and my first turtle in Nusa Penida waters. There seems to be beauty everywhere. Even the roads are scenic here!

Day 5: My first night dive

Oh what a day! And what a night!

My advanced adventurer continued with; deep, manta ray and night dives. As with all the specialities there is online and classroom learning in advance.

We started with the deep dive to 30m at Bat Rock (photo). I was a bit nervous as there is a greater risk of narcosis with a 30m dive. Narcosis slows down your mental capacity so the instructor tested us with some basic mathematics at the surface and at 30m to see if we were effected. I wasn’t and I really enjoyed my first wall dive.

Scuba diving at Bat Rock off Nusa Penida, Indonesia Photo by Cara Rees

Then we went to Manta Point, which is a cleaning station. The manta have a symbiotic relationship with the cleaner fish that live at Manta point. The Manta visit and even line up to be cleaned internally & externally. For the cleaner fish it is a meal delivered to their door.

It is essential to follow the manta code of conduct so that this very important interaction is not disturbed. Watching the reef manta glide by has to be one of the most magical scuba diving experiences worldwide. Most were close to 3m in size and some chose to pass within touching distance. Of course we do not touch them!

The awesome day was finished with another first – a night dive in Crystal Bay. As we entered the water our torches attracted tiny fish that were jumping all around us. Once underwater it was a little eerie only being able to see within the torches range but I soon got used to it.

Different species are out and others are sleeping. Plus you see everything in a new light. Some cool things we saw were; a sleeping turtle, parrotfish in their mucus bubbles, squid and a 2.5m marble sting ray. Then we turned out the lights and waved our arms to see a few tiny bioluminescent plankton floating by. It is a magical world diving at night.

Day 6: Turtle hospital

A busy work day today! We helped out at a turtle hospital this morning doing lots of cleaning and gardening as well as learning more about what they do. The hospital mainly rehabilitates sick or injured turtles found in local waters. Although sometimes they take in turtles that were being kept as pets or trafficked illegally.

They also work to educate the local residents. Happily only one turtle was resident when we visited. An adult Olive Ridley sea turtle who had been found floating. The carapace (shell) was dry on top which indicates it was unable to dive for sometime. Meaning it could not feed so was underweight. The hospital feed the turtle and perform basic medical assessments.

Reef fish during Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course Photo by Cara Rees

In the afternoon we had classroom studies looking at the science of diving and diving tables. Then after work a few of us headed out snorkeling in Crystal Bay. This photo is one of my first attempts at underwater photography, it doesn’t do the reef justice!

Day 7: Nusa Lembongan boat dives

I can’t believe it has been a week already! This picture is of Toya Pakeh beach where we launched from. Today we did two boat dives off Nusa Lembongan an island off the north west coast of Nusa Penida. They were drift dives, where you let the current carry you along the reef. This is really cool but takes a bit of getting used to.

Toya Pakeh, Nusa Penida, Indonesia Photo by Cara Rees

We were practicing fish ID, recording key species and their size on an underwater slate. There were so many, it was amazing but impossible to record them all.

After the dives we compared and discussed what we had recorded. This was a good training exercise in learning the species and calibrating size judgements which can be affected by the underwater magnification. My highlight was watching a Hawksbill turtle eat.

That’s it for week 1 of the Indo Ocean Project marine conservation and divemaster course. Come back for the next installment in a weeks time.

To find out more about the project you can visit indooceanproject.org. This mini diary is an extension of my microblog on Instagram and Facebook. If you’ve enjoyed it you can follow me @conservation_cara.

Asia, Bali, Crystal Bay, Indian Ocean, Indonesia, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Penida Marine Park, South East Asia
Scuba Diving, Snorkelling
Conservation, Divemaster, Manta, PADI, SSI, Turtles
Travel Articles

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