I welcomed our very first marine conservation volunteers to Papua on 21st November 2012. Elfi McMicken and Lukas Vollmer (an aunt and nephew team from Germany) came on board the Hang Tuah in Sorong and didn’t waste anytime getting straight to work!
Next on the list was creating our fish fiddlesticks and Elfi & Lukas got creative, making fish of all shapes and sizes. The fiddlesticks will be put to use teaching future volunteers how to estimate fish lengths underwater so they can complete fish transects and gather base-line data about the marine life in our No Take Zone.Lukas, a qualified cabinet maker and carpenter, put his skills to great use and within a couple of days we had fantastic new dive benches on the aft deck to house our tanks and gear. Everyone chipped in, whether it was sanding down wood or keeping the workers plied with tea and cookies!
Once we arrived at the mooring in Penemu our main focus was exploring the area and starting to build up a really good idea of the dive sites we have in the NTZ, mapping those sites and logging key sightings and activity.
In total, we logged a fantastic 39 dives during Elfi & Lukas’ stay! We were super excited by the diversity and volume of marine life we found in the area. It was really encouraging to see black tip reef sharks on almost every dive but we also spotted a huge range of creatures and critters.
Lukas was keen to continue his PADI training – so in between mapping sites and logging dives, we also completed his Advanced and Rescue certifications.Among the favourite sightings were two blue ringed octopus, a pygmy seahorse, an eagle ray, several hawksbill turtles, tassled wobbegong and a couple of big crocodilefish. We also got in a fantastic night dive which brought us a huge decorator crab, lots of shrimps, nudis and a cone shell. Not a bad start to Lukas’ log book, considering he arrived in Papua a newly certified Open Water diver.
But the action wasn’t just below the water – our friends from Papua Diving, Tersius and Banbam, came on board to help start work on the foundations for our look out post on Batu Rufus and we went over to Batu Rufus to inventory the materials and climbed up to the site to check out the progress.
We also spent some time in Secret Bay – the jewel in Penemu’s crown. A beautiful bay dotted with small islands, it’s perfect to explore by kayak so, after a climb up to the ridge to take photos, we hit the water and eventually decided to kayak all the way back to the Hang Tuah. Next time, I’m going to make sure I’m not solo in the kayak – it’s further than it looks and Elfi & Lukas definitely had an advantage! There were some aching shoulders the next morning…
Sadly, Christmas was our last day on the boat and on 26th December, after a very busy 6 weeks, we headed back to Sorong and it was time for Elfi & Lukas to take their flights.That didn’t stop us from decking the boat up for Christmas though and we got festive with tinsel, decorations and Christmas lights. On Christmas Day we celebrated wtih two dives and lovely dinner of roast chicken with chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes and veggies, all washed own with a bottle of rum for our Christmas tipple!
So our pioneer volunteers got a real taste of Raja Ampat and were a massive help. Thanks to them we have fabulous new dive benches, fish fiddlesticks, a rain catcher, 18 dive sites on the map and some great memories! It was a fantastic start our new marine conservation volunteer program. Thanks Elfi & Lukas – I hope you come back soon… we still have to find that elusive frogfish!
There are loads more pictures of our experiences in the gallery >