Time to reflect – by Luka

A Unique Experience on My Journey Around Earth! I am currently traveling around the world during my gap year. Before joining Gili Shark Conservation I worked for a marine conservation organisation in Thailand and will take part in another internship of this sort in the Philippines. Through this projects, apart from enjoying traveling, I aim to find and define my fields of interest and gain more knowledge in marine science. My plan is to study marine biology at university after my year abroad; hence my time spend is also preparation for higher education. After spending one month on Gili Air, being a research diver with Gili Shark Conservation, I leave this nice little island with not only an increased understanding of conducting survey dives and entering the data into online databases, but also with many new likeminded friends, who I am sure I will meet again in the not so distant future. To begin with, the environment of the Gili Islands is great: you have very popular but not too touristy dive spots right at your doorstep, the local food is great and never gets boring, there are plenty of weekend activities on the island and Lombok is just a 15 minute boat ride away (I spent almost all of my weekends in Lombok). Apart from meeting other participants, I also made many local friends who accommodated me in and showed me around Lombok, which is a beautiful island with rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, endless beaches, lush untouched landscapes and tasty spicy food. Secondly, the experience itself was interesting: the major part is taken up by survey dives, which are conducted twice a day for four days a week (the species surveyed include predatory bony fish as well as sharks, rays and sea turtles); in between dives time is spent on deploying a baited camera mount called BRUV. The third scientific dive activity is taking ID photographs of turtles (although this was no priority during my time at Gili Shark Conservation, I looked into taking ID shots and uploading them to a software called I3S Pattern in my free time). After collecting data the dry tasks consisted of uploading the data to online databases and analysing the BRUVs, which was altogether new to me and very interesting. Finally, there are many social activities interwoven in the project, which make it special compared to other similar internships. For instance, you have the weekly Bahasa Indonesia language class, which assists you in conversing with locals. From time to time there is also a collective cooking class at Villa Nangka, which is great fun. In my opinion, these activities integrate new participants into everyday life and are a very important social aspect of the project. Believing that marine conservation is among the world’s most important subjects, I would recommend to join Gili Shark Conservation to anyone who is interested in marine science and the health and state of our oceans. However, already being a certified diver greatly helps one in the entry phase of survey diving; having joined the project as a Rescue Diver I could quickly catch on and perform professional, valid surveys early in the project. I would also recommend putting the focus on data collection instead of acquiring a dive certification; in this way I was able to fully enjoy the entirety of the scientific tasks. Looking back, Gili Shark Conservation has done a good job introducing me to underwater surveying as well as the scientific necessity of data entry and sharing.
  • By Luka, 18, Germany