Indonesian coral reefs reside to one of the world’s most biodiverse marine areas. On his recent trip, Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell learnt about conservation efforts in this fragile ecosystem
Indonesian coral reefs
Sometimes a set of statistics, however obvious in retrospect, just stops you in your tracks. The one that hit home with me was in an old National Geographic magazine I picked up over Christmas: the oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and contain 97% of the earth’s water; and 95% of the ocean is unexplored. Perhaps somewhere in this, there is hope.
Images of plastic in the ocean and reports of depleted fish stocks are the common stories of gloom that we consume every day, but maybe in its unexplored immensity, the ocean has some answers and some reason for qualified optimism. 2019 was relentlessly grim on land with images of wildfires in California and Australia, and the worrying depletion of the Amazon in Brazil. So I looked to Indonesia and its seas for hope, and in November, embarked on the inaugural voyage of the explorer yacht, Aqua Blu. The country, which comprises more than 17,000 islands and has a coastline of some 57,000km, has at least 25,900 sq km of coral reefs – which is 8% of the world’s coral reefs.
Over a wonderful 12 days, we travelled from the island of Bali to Flores via Mojo Island, Saleh Bay and the Komodo National Park. Throughout the journey, I was constantly astounded by the largely unspoilt reef and the diversity of marine life we spotted on diving and snorkelling outings. It was also fascinating to speak to the onboard guides and naturalists at length about the challenges and successes of conservation in the area.
Aqua Blu also explores two of Indonesia’s most spectacular and pristine areas: the Raja Ampat Islands and the Spice Islands, both in the north-east of the country. These are two of our favourite Indonesian destinations and particularly famous for their biodiverse marine life. Deciding where you would like to travel is likely to be dependent on when you would like to travel due to Indonesia’s distinct climates. For example, the best time to go to Komodo National Park is June to September; the optimum months for the Spice Islands are October and November; and for Raja Ampat, we recommend travelling between November and March. The latter is an area that does not have the land-based infrastructure to support high-end tourism, so travelling by boat is the only way to experience these captivating, far-flung isles.