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March 2013. Bangka Island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. My new home, for a few days, is called Coral Eye. "The eye of the coral", what a beautiful name!
In March 2013, I returned to the island of Bangka, which I had loved so much, during my previous stay in North Sulawesi, three years ago. (Not to be confused with the other island named Bangka, near Sumatra).
I had seen the project going up, in 2010 (I talk about it here, in the article Back to Indonesia). And then, their website, which I stumbled upon by chance, in early 2013, while researching Bangka, piqued my curiosity... So I contacted them and went to spend a few days at the Coral Eye. Very good choice!
Created by young Italian marine biologists, Coral Eye welcomes students, researchers and scientists throughout the year. Recently, the place has also been opened to tourists.
But it does not look like any of the other resorts or dive centers in the area ...
Here, there is a large building in hard, harmoniously designed for life and work in community. A little behind the beach, it is hidden behind the coconut trees.
Downstairs, a large living room, open to the outside on all four sides, around which are distributed other smaller rooms: a library, an office, sanitary facilities, the kitchen...
The rooms - immaculate - are upstairs, away from anything that crawls, trots or pokes. Two staircases without handrails lead to a wooden mezzanine, which goes around. Facing the sea, a large terrace with resting beds to read quietly or admire the sunsets.
We meet downstairs at mealtime, to eat all at the same table, a large square wooden surface, with benches and seats, which can accommodate a dozen guests.
Above, the huge roof. It is traditionally built in dried palm leaves, supported by a spectacular frame, which rises very high.
White walls, minimalist decor. It's beautiful, sober and elegant, very zen. I like it.
Marco and Clara, two of the young Italian marine biologists at the origin of the project, make the place live and take care of everything with good humor, from cooking to diving, with a small Indonesian team, very nice.
Next to them are the cottages where they live, and another, smaller building, which houses the diving center and work rooms with aquariums.
At high tide, you can swim (and really swim) in front of the white sand beach. At very low tide, the top of the coral potatoes outcrops.
The house-reef (the part of the reef just in front of the beach) has become a real coral farm, with "nursery" and "crops" carefully maintained near the pontoon.
I accompanied Clara on a dive one afternoon, in 3 meters of water, to see her accomplish this patient work which consists in fixing pieces of broken coral on stable supports, to encourage their "regrowth". Coral is not a plant, so we can't really talk about "cuttings", but that's the idea.
(Click on the pictures to see them big.)
It reminded me of the Biorock from PemuteranIn Bali, where, on the same principle, the "Reef Gardeners" are working to recover and fix pieces of coral on artificial structures - metallic, in the case of Biorock, to stimulate the fixation and growth of coral by electric current.
I loved the atmosphere at Coral Eye. We are far from everything, quiet, in a beautiful environment.
Marco and Clara live and work there most of the year. Clara and her Indonesian husband Danny have a little girl who is about the same age as Coral Eye.
The closest neighbors are Indonesian families, who also live on the beach, in rustic huts made of wood and palm leaves. We meet some fishermen in traditional boats. Sometimes visitors from Sulawesi or other divers come to take a break.
It's quiet here. There is nothing... The other resorts of the island are not very close. And you have to walk a long time in the jungle to reach the village. All trips are made by the sea.
I knew it: Bangka is really the perfect place to let go!