Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
I like being under water. But I also like being on the water. Between two dives, in Weda Bay, I enjoy the pleasure of sailing, from one reef to another, from one creek to another, under the Indonesian sun.
Sailing on a dive boat
It was March 2013. I'll take you back to Weda Bay in Halmahera, the big island in the north of the Maluku archipelago, in Indonesia.
I'm staying there, at Weda ResortFrom where we go diving in the bay every day:
I love being at sea. I love being on a boat sailing at the end of the world. I like to contemplate the horizon and the wake when we cross the bay, I like to see the forest pass when we go along the shore, without knowing yet what we are going to discover.
The atmosphere on the boat is nice.
We are very small. Four to six divers depending on the day, our two Indonesian guides Johnny and Radyal, two crew members, and sometimes also Rob, the owner of Wesa Resort, which is added as a guide when necessary.
I note with amusement that I'm not the only crazy underwater photo lugging my Canon SLR in a bulky waterproof box in the depths of Indonesia. On the boat, a Dutch couple has the same Ikelite gear as me for their Nikon. On the left, my camera, on the right, theirs:
Between two dives, we sympathize, we tell nonsense, we take a picture ... We savor the pleasure of being there, away from everything, nose to the wind, under the sun.
On two occasions, during our trips, we came across dolphins players. The Indonesian crew and our guides are never bored by the show and are as enthusiastic as we, the divers-divers ...
And then, there are chance meetings, depending on our route, from one dive site to another: sometimes fishermen, or people sailing from one village to another, on a traditional canoe.
To ask ecological questions
We are also discovering a show less pleasing to the eye, but one that has a significant economic, social and environmental impact for the local population: the huge cargo of a mining company.
It can be seen in the distance, from the resort. Barges permanently store ore there.
That's Indonesia too.
Mining operations, there are everywhere in the archipelago, and more and more. Here in Halmahera, but also in North Sulawesi or in the Papuan peninsula, to name some areas where I traveled recently. The wealth of basements, nickel, iron, gold, cobalt, etc. arouses the greed, Chinese companies in particular.
Below, a map of 2011 found on the PWC.com website. Even if it is not readable on this scale, each point of color representing a mining area, we can see the magnitude of the phenomenon ...
The beautiful Bangka Island (North Sulawesi), where I also went on this trip in March 2013, after a first stay in July 2010 (and I'll get back to you in future posts), should escape a mining projectwhich promised to be destructive.
According to the environmental policy of the mining, the ecological consequences are more or less catastrophic: deforestation, poisoning of the soil and the water of the rivers, accumulation of sediments near the coasts which smother little by little the underwater funds ...
During their first installation in Halmahera, a few years ago, Rob and Linda, the owners of Weda Resort, had to completely review their project and resign themselves to changing places, because of the proximity of one of these mines.
Their new Weda Resort, the one where I lived, between jungle and mangrove, is located near the villages of Kobe and Sawai Itepoand not too far from another mine, Weda Bay Nickel. But, for now, the owners of the Weda Resort seem to maintain a good relationship with this company. It claims to care more than others about the ecological, economic and social impact of its activities (what others dispute, see the links that I added a little lower, in November 2013).
Interesting detail: the mine Weda Bay Nickel is operated by French people, in cooperation, among others, with the Sandouville factory near Le Havre, in Haute-Normandie (Sic). Visit these links, they bring a lot of information on the region and the operations conducted by the French mining company.
For my part, I have not conducted the investigation and I am not in a position to give an informed opinion on the matter. In addition, the bay of Weda is immense: from one zone to another, I imagine that the situations must be very diverse. I came as a tourist, I just dive, and I just could see that we still found in Weda Bay splendid coral reefs.
Nevertheless, it is permissible to worry: will Weda Bay remain as beautiful and relatively preserved as it seems to be today?
Updated: November 2013
I just found articles about the Weda Bay Nickel company, which do not bode well, alas:
Between two dives, we also stop in small creeks, the time of the "degassing" interval. We must let a good hour, so that our bodies eliminate the excess nitrogen accumulated during the first dive.
Most often, we take advantage of this rest forced to snorkel (swimming with mask and snorkel) on the surface.
Otherwise, we learn about local fishing techniques.
That day, it's a harpoon lesson.
We went a little further south in the bay, I think, to a place that I would be hard put to locate on a map. Apparently, it's near a village.
On the pontoon, there are two little boys and, not far away, a gentleman whom I suppose to be their father. Children play in the water. He walks the shallow waters of the cove with his harpoon.
The kids, all naked, hastily retract T-shirt and bermuda discovering that there are ladies on the tourist boat mooring.
Around the pontoon, in an incredible turquoise blue water, there are tiny schools of fish.
Our fisherman arrives to harpoon them with a staggering precision.
He brings back several of them, planted on the spears at the end of his harpoon, with each throwing.
One of the kids proudly takes the pose with some of the catch of the day.
While our guides chat with the fisherman, we, the tourists, we play tourists: we take photos and we admire the view.
Michael, my dive buddy, goes back to the water with his mask, his snorkel and his fins, for a new snorkeling session. He never has enough.
The fisherman, to impress us, returns to the water harpooning a moray eel, which he deposits at our feet. The poor squirms violently on the hot planks of the pontoon. But his ordeal will last only a few minutes, the man quickly rejects the water. Obviously, it must not be terrible to eat, the moray eel ...
But our surface interval is coming to an end. We must go back on the boat. We go back to diving, leaving the children to return to their games and the guy to his fishing.
Now that I'm back in France, far from the bay of Weda, I enjoy reminding myself of these nice little stops between two dives, to review these pictures.
Unique moments, just as precious to me, as our underwater explorations!