Today was our first day on Belitung Island. The day was a designated research day. So, the plan of today was joining the local activity of Island hopping in North-West Sumba to gain more insights. Research can be a lot of fun, especially in tropical destinations.
I woke up early, only a couple hundred meters away from the beach. My Inner clock is by now completely adapted to the local surroundings – meaning I woke up naturally around 6 am (around sunrise, the perfect time of the day). If you, ever visit a tropical country, don’t sleep in, the early morning should not be missed. People on the streets will greet you with a smile, there is a fresh cup of coffee just around the corner waiting for you and the temperature is not too hot and not too cold, but perfect. As every morning, my group members missed this magical time of the day – their loss.
After having a relaxed breakfast – tasty nasi goreng and some toast with the local alternative of Nutella, we headed out for our day trip. We arrived in a small harbor area – just 5 min away from our accommodation by car. An immense amount of boats was lying there, waiting for tourists to arrive. We found out earlier that there are around 150 boats, which on weekends are fully booked for tours. We meet our captain – and equipped with snorkeling gear, sunscreen and swim clothing – went into the sea. We were one of the earliest boats leaving and arrived at our first stop after a scenic 30min trip. It was a reef, our snorkel location, and we fixed our boat to a prepared mooring. I think this is nice, because this way the anchor cannot destroy the precious coral. The underwater world there was quite amazing, and the reef looked very healthy. Huge amounts of fish were swarming around us and different colors of coral were on every stone. It made for quite a picturesque painting.
For the first 30min, we were the only ones there in the water and our captain seemed to be also an avid snorkeler. But soon after, the masses arrived – at least 20 boats full of domestic, Indonesian tourists joined us. It was quite comedic to see masses of people jump in to the water – all wearing their orange life vest (many locals do not know how to swim). We decided to leave further, to the neighboring island Pulau Lengkuas. In the harbor, at least 50 boats were already parked, transporting masses of local tourists on the island. We saw small beach shops, selling fresh coconuts and other amenities and a lot of tourists. The harbor water was full of marine diesel and oil and the beach was littered with plastic. On this Island the negative impacts of (mass-) tourism were clearly visible.
During this day I felt more like a tourist than a researcher. I was quite amazed how clear the water was in the snorkeling area, and how healthy the reef was. Later I was shocked about the amounts of tourists visiting these places – and will sadly make a prediction that future generations will not find the beauty of those places anymore. As always, the remaining nature will be destroyed…
Written by: Philipp