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 am since Tuesday in Pemuteran, a small village in West Bali. I love it !
There is not much here, except for the fishermen's village, a handful of luxury hotels, a few budget family guesthouses, and diving centers.
The whole thing is wedged between a noisy road and a gorgeous black sand cove.
A peaceful and authentic fishing village
One has a beautiful panoramic view of the bay by climbing to the small temple located at the top of a hill, just west of the hotel area. A nice and easy walk, to be done before dusk, when the sunlight becomes soft, and gives a golden glow to the mountains that dominate the bay.
After just go down the steps leading to the temple, and continue by the hard way, to the sea, to return by the beach.
The quiet, authentic atmosphere of Pemuteran stands in stark contrast to the tourist frenzy of so many of Bali's busier spots. And the people here are super friendly.
In the evening, at low tide, the villagers collect shells, their feet in the water, between the piles of dead coral on the shore. The children proudly show me their catch of the day, with big radiant smiles.
All mobilized to protect the reef
In Pemuteran, all activities revolve around the protection of the coral reef. Since the 1990s, several ecological initiatives have been successfully launched to raise awareness among villagers and tourists about the fragility of the marine ecosystem.
As in many other places, the coral here has suffered from the warming of the water caused by El Niño and the practices (no longer used in the area) of fishing with cyanide and dynamite.
The diving center Reef Seenled by Chris Brown, an Australian settled here for 17 years, started in 1992 on Turtle Hatchery Project (or Proyek Penyu(in Indonesian): a turtle nursery. It is located right next to the bungalows where the divers stay.
The turtle eggs are bought from the fishermen who find them, then they are buried in the warmth of the sand, in the famous "nursery", for 45 to 60 days, until they hatch.
The baby turtles then stay in the adjoining basins for 2 to 3 months.
We don't release them right away. The idea is to wait until the babies are big enough and strong enough, before giving them back their freedom. The young turtles thus put back in water will probably have better chances of survival.
Two adult turtles, named Boomer and Billy, also live there, in Reef Seen tanks. The center has tried several times to return them to their natural environment, but they have never really regained their freedom. Each time, they came back!
Unusual : a temple under water
Right next to Reef Seen, there are also Reef Gardeners, Reef Gardeners of Pemuteran A team of young Balinese people, who have been trained to dive and made aware of the protection of the underwater environment.
They harvest the crowns of thorn or Acanthaster, these thorny sea stars corpulent coral. They maintain the reef, which they show to visitors. They have created several underwater sites, close to the beach, to encourage the regrowth of coral, by immersing shipwrecks on the bottom.
Under the surface, they also built... a temple! An amazing site, with statues of turtles and Buddhas in Khmer style, on which I dived yesterday. Strange atmosphere, a bit ghostly.
It is really a strange thing to evolve in this way, between 30 and 15 meters deep, in the middle of these statues covered (entirely, for the oldest) with corals and gorgonians. So many solid supports for the coral, which seems to be well fixed there.
Electric corals in front of the beach
Finally, Reef Gardeners also participated in the artificial reef project BiorockThis is an electrically stimulated pool. This one is located a few meters from the shore, in front of the hotel Pondok Sari. From the beach, you can see the cables sinking into the water.
Just follow them in palm-mask-snorkel (Snorkel) to observe the metallic structures that support the corals. Some are boat-shaped, others are flower-shaped or pyramid-shaped. The oldest ones date from 2000-2001 and are nicely decorated with small coral massifs.
The method is simple: coral branches, which have broken or detached from the natural reef, are attached to an immersed metal support through which an electric current flows. The result is a phenomenon ofelectrolysiswhich allows the coral's limestone to set more quickly. Four to five times faster, according to the young man who informed me at the small Biorock office next to the Pondok Sari hotel.
Some people contest the process: the coral would be fixed faster, but less solidly... And it is true that I saw quite a few coral tables overturned or lying on the sand, during my little snorkeling trip (fins-mask-tuba). But the Reef Gardeners are there to restore all that.
Anyway, the fairy-like spectacle of these coral groves - a spectacle accessible to all, a few meters from the shore - is definitely worth the detour! A great initiative, really.
In short, I am under the spell of this beach, where everyone, from visitors to locals, is concerned about preserving the beauty of the underwater world!
And for those who practice diving, the sites of Pemuteran as well as those of Menjangan Island, not far away, are well worth a stay of a few days.
Added February 16, 2009. To read further, on the Biorock project of Pemuteran, my article in the Sunday West-France February 15, 2009 :
Bali's electric corals
Electricity to save the coral? Called Biorock, this technique makes it possible to revitalize the fragile ecosystems of tropical seas.
On the northwest coast of Bali, in the Indonesian archipelago, Pemuteran is a quiet village, nestled between a black sandy cove and barren mountains.
On the beach, you can see cables running down to the sea. You just have to follow them, with a mask and snorkel, to discover, at a shallow depth, a fabulous treasure: hundreds of coral corollas and branches, fixed to tunnel, flower, pyramid or cone shaped frames... This is the Biorock project, which consists in stimulating coral growth with electricity.
The process is based on a simple and cheap technique: electrolysis. A low voltage current is circulated in the immersed metal structures. By electrochemical reaction, a thin layer of limestone is gradually deposited. Now limestone is precisely what serves as the "skeleton" of the coral. To create an artificial reef, pieces of coral, which have been broken or torn off the natural reef by the currents, are attached to these metal arches. Thanks to the electricity that accumulates the limestone, the branches will gradually fix themselves and continue to "grow".
Three to five times faster
There are about forty Biorock arches in Pemuteran, arranged between 3 and 7 meters deep, over 300 meters long. The oldest ones date back to 2000. They were built with the villagers, who are aware of the protection of the underwater environment. The initiative was financed by local diving centers and hoteliers.
A decade ago, the reef was dying, a victim of warming waters and fishing with cyanide or dynamite. Today, thanks to the Biorock project and other environmental initiatives, Pemuteran has become a model of ecotourism.
Conceived in the early 70's by the German Wolf Hilbertz, developed by the Jamaican Thomas Goreau at the end of the 80's, the Biorock process reproduces the natural calcification present in all oceans. But 3 to 5 times faster! The coral stimulated by electricity develops at full speed. It would also be more resistant to environmental aggressions.
Launched in 1988, the Biorock projects have since spread throughout the world's seas, in some twenty countries: Jamaica, the Gulf of Mexico, the Seychelles, the Maldives, Panama... The Indonesian installation in Pemuteran, Bali, is the largest.
→ Link on Ouest-France.fr: Bali's electric corals