As a long-term nomad, I have stayed in a LOT of different places. One of the most memorable was a homestay on Ataúro Island in Timor-Leste.
Families on Ataúro are opening their homes to visitors in an effort to generate a new income stream for their community, which is in the midst of change. I spent two weeks in a homestay on Ataúro while working with conservation NGO Blue Ventures last spring.
Read my story about this experience and meet a few of these pioneering families on the Blue Ventures’ blog Beyond Conservation.
Meet Monda Costa… She is one of a team of community members working with marine conservation NGO Blue Ventures to save sea grass habitats on Ataúro Island in Timor-Leste.
Seagrasses are flowering plants that form meadows in shallow waters. These meadows are ecological superstars. Protecting them is a priority in Timor-Leste, but scientists, community members and decision-makers need more information about the location, composition and use of existing seagrass beds. Community members like Monda are embracing the opportunity to work with Blue Ventures to conserve these habitats.
On a bright quiet morning last May, a boat and its captain rested patiently on the tropical seas around Ataúro Island in Timor-Leste. A reflection of the island’s rugged coastline glimmered on the water’s glasslike surface as three orange buoys glided silently along, marking the presence of scuba divers from conservation NGO Blue Ventures. As the captain monitored the seas, the divers explored Watu Aii, a sloping reef with a dense flourish of colorful corals and lively fish.
It seemed a sleepy morning, until a riot of hoots and hollers erupted near one of the buoys. One voice rose above the others shouting, “Mola mola! Mola mola!”
This is the beginning of a story I wrote for Blue Ventures after spending six weeks as a volunteer in Timor-Leste. Amos’ family has relied on the sea for their food and livelihood for generations, but he believes they must now look to a new future. To continue reading about his journey of becoming a scuba diver and conservation advocate, please visit the Blue Ventures’ blog.
It is Sunday in the village of Biqueli on Ataúro, a small island in Timor-Leste. Fishing nets hang above wooden boats in the tropical midday sun as the community enjoys a day set aside for prayer and time with family and friends. Jemima Gomes, who was born in Biqueli, walks along the beach, chatting with visitors who have come to Ataúro for an expedition with Blue Ventures.
As a teenager, Jemima spent her days helping her father pull nets full of fish from the teeming seas around Ataúro. Today, at age 23, she still spends her days in the sea, but in a different way—one that reflects the changing times for the island. Jemima is Ataúro’s first female scuba diver, and she is on the path to becoming Timor-Leste’s first female Dive Master…
This past spring, I was fortunate enough to be one of the “visitors” that Jemima was chatting with on the beach. I wrote about her journey for Blue Ventures, a conservation-focused NGO that is helping local communities drive marine conservation efforts in East Timor. To read the rest of the story and see more photos, please visit Blue Ventures’ Beyond Conservation Blog.
Divers Log #146 24 April 2016
Dauin, Island of Negros, Philippines
The creature was ablaze. Waves of violet, cream and ebony fired along its armored back as it lumbered across the ocean floor like a miniature triceratops. Three pairs of arms stretched and swayed from its mantle in hypnotic motion. We hovered nearby in practiced stillness, anchored only by the tip of a muck stick and the lip of a fin. The sound of our slow steady exhalations bubbled rhythmically upward. Indifferent to our presence, it extended an extraordinarily long, skinny tongue with the controlled skill of a patient hunter. It paused, and with the quickest twitch, snatched a microscopic snack out of the surrounding water.
I looked at my guide and scuba instructor Tim in delighted surprise. He nodded as if to say, “Look who’s come to your party!”
As we continued watching, an errant crab startled our little cuttlefish, and in a flash, its brilliant undulations disappeared. For a moment it stood in a cloak of ghostly white…