Ever since we (myself and the then other half) came across a couple of ads on the PADI (Prof. Assoc. of Dive Instrs.) jobs board back in 2009, while looking for the jobs that ultimately took us to Egypt, I have always said - one day, when I've the time and money, I'll apply to do that sort of work. The work in question was of a voluntary nature, hence why it wasn't possible at the time - we needed to earn money back then, to fund our 3 last months in New Zealand. There were two organisations whose names I never forgot, and whose websites I would look at from time to time since then, wondering whether what they do is really worthwhile, and knowing that the only way to find out would be to go and volunteer with them sometime. The organisations in question were Frontier and Operation Wallacea. In both cases, students pay a lot of money to volunteer on different sorts of conservation projects around the world - mostly in tropical regions. In both cases, the organisations in question need qualified staff volunteers to help organise the activities etc. of the paying volunteers. The ads I had seen were looking for just that: qualified diving staff to work for free in the name of marine conservation. I was extremely tempted.
Fortunately last year the opportunity finally presented itself. I managed to find myself a job teaching English at a university in France with a 2-year contract - paid even during the holidays! What an amazing job this was (and still is) in so many ways. But in the context of this blog, this job gave me the perfect opportunity to apply to become a member of the volunteer staff with one of these organisations and to find out how worthwhile what they do is. I chose to apply with the British group Operation Wallacea, as they do short term (up to 8 weeks) volunteering, whereas Frontier offer 6 to 12 month contracts. So in April I signed my contract with them: 5 weeks on the island of Hoga in the Wakatobi Marine National Park (part of the Tukangbesi Islands) off the south-east coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Living conditions: no electricity (apart from in the main buildings) nor running water, diving 6 days a week, helping out with Open-Water courses (and possibly other courses too), guiding divers on research dives in the local area and possibly on the liveaboard for one week... Paradise! What a splendid way to spend 5 weeks while the university job finances me all the way And the perfect way to suss out whether marine conservation work is something I'd like to do more of in the future.
Of course, with 2 months holidays, and an easy-to-get 60-day visa, the plan is to spend an extra 3 weeks at the end of the trip exploring other parts of Indonesia, namely Bali, Lombok, Komodo and the western end of Flores, with my dear kiwi friend Cushla...Very exciting!!!
Anyways, this blog is where I'm going to try to update family and friends of my adventures. I'm not sure, however, how often these updates will appear. As I'm not taking my laptop, and am still smartphone-less, I'll have no way of connecting to wifi along the way. So I'll be relying on the good old-fashioned internet café. Here's hoping there are still plenty of them around! On Hoga there will be 8 computers with internet connections between 200 westerners, and I'm not sure how good the connection will be and whether it'll be worth paying for.. We shall see.. In any case, I'll do my best, and I'll use a pencil and paper in the meantime so as I don't forget any important or interesting details! Any photos I upload during that time will be found here.
Incidentally, Operation Wallacea takes its name from the lesser-known of the natural selection theory scientists: Alfred Russel Wallace. He was a British naturalist who in fact co-discovered natural selection with Darwin, but Darwin published first! He discovered that in the area of Indonesia, there is a biogeographic line (now called the Wallace Line) that splits Malaysian-like fauna to the north-west of the archipelago and Australasian-like fauna to the south-east (more or less). When geologists finally understood and were able to explain plate tectonics, Wallace's theories that certain areas of land had been connected at different intervals in the past, and that certain other areas had never been connected, were proven. His travel journal of the time he spent in the Malaysian Archipelago makes for some seriously fascinating reading. Imagine Indonesia in the 1860s - the people, the flora and fauna - it's all in his books. And it's an easy read too, despite its size! Curiously, some of the sentences structures he uses could be formed today by a French person translating directly from French - the type of structure that I would correct if I heard one of my students using it - clearly English back then used to be more similar to today's French than it is now! If I find another example of such a sentence, I'll add it here later
So now, to finish packing and await departure