Last month a group of 15 students from Yale NUS College joined Orca for a week long camp, filled with wildlife and underwater activities. This time they spent the week on the beautiful island of Pulau Weh, Indonesia, enjoying a packed schedule of wildlife tours, adventures, snorkelling and diving. Often, many of the students attending Orca school camps don’t dive at all. This time, however, everyone within the group was a qualified diver, with a range of experience levels varying between Open Water students, Advanced Open Water students and Fun Divers. To ensure everybody stayed engaged throughout the camp, each member of the team was given a schedule to suit their ability, experience and personal preferences.
On arrival in Pulau Weh, the students were welcomed with refreshing watermelon juice. They were then shown to their bunk bed dormitories at the resort, and given a chance to unpack and freshen up. After that, everyone took a walk along the pebble beach, playing with the resident kittens, getting accustomed to the amazing scenery, and verbally planning their dives.
The week would include a broad variety of dive sites, so we rotated the groups, allowing everyone to dive each different location. On the southern side of the island, near the resort, we dived on the house reef, where our divers encountered the area’s common culprits: scorpion fish, trumpet fish, sea snakes, blue spotted stingrays, and a variety of crustaceans.
On the northern side of the island the students were able to dive around clusters of boulders, reefs, an army tank wreck, and a local buoyancy park. The marine life included a wide variety of coral reef fish, such as the blue triggerfish, butterfly fish, many different types of moray eels, cowfish, immaculate pufferfish, garden eels, pipefish and lionfish.
Having already experienced a wonderful array of marine life, the students moved onto the conservation and environmental projects that we had planned for them. These included fish identification projects, where the students learnt to draw sketches and make notes on special underwater notepads, documenting the various creatures they saw, as well as taking photographs. Back on land, the sketches, notes and pictures were carefully cross-referenced with various fish and critter identification books. Once satisfied, our divers recorded what they’d encountered in their log books, and prepared for more of the same, focusing on what they could do differently to improve their techniques.
A group of more advanced fun divers decided to do a transect of the reef, where they would measure up and study a particular section of coral, record their findings, and discuss their conclusions with their Orca Instructors and facilitators.
The last few days provided an opportunity for some boat diving, enabling the group to reach some of the magnificent offshore reefs around Pulau Weh. In one location, known as Sea Garden, the divers encountered huge, dark green sea fan corals, and rocky valleys that descended way down into the blue.
Visibility here was up to 30m and, with deep water very close by, all sorts of larger, pelagic species were in attendance: giant trevally, tuna, and mobula rays. Near the reef we saw turtles, giant morays, sweetlips, octopuses, ribbon eels, and titan triggerfish.
Throughout the week, each of our Open Water and Advanced Open Water students successfully completed their training dives, and continued to join the already qualified fun divers on their adventures around the island.
It was truly inspiring to see so many young divers enjoying the near-perfect dive conditions. Their genuine passion for the underwater world, and their enthusiasm for experiencing it first hand, was a real joy for our instructors to behold. WIth another trip already in the calendar, this time to Rawa Island, there was plenty of chatter every evening. We’re all looking forward to enjoying more adventures together in 2018!