Operation Wallacea is one of those rare opportunities in life for students to experience something completely life changing; to get a sense of the real world, its challenges, rigors and beauty. This was my second year leading a group of my students on Operation Wallacea to North Buton and Hoga island in Indonesia and despite the awful weather. It rained for the entire two weeks, and trust me if anything is going to dampen spirits its sleeping in a wet sleeping bag, there was no dampening of spirits among our cohort. The rain was greeted like an old friend and boots squelched on, whilst sipping coffee in the dim morning mist, as minds wandered to the hill of death that awaited us on our long trek to the forest transects. Indeed as one student recalled with a broad smile - "Operation Wallacea, its kinda like saving the world, one terrible trek at a time." After days in the field we would always return to our little boondock which became the epicenter of our jungle experiences. So much so that one night an improptu disc started with the locals and students sharing dances, music and magic. Pak Dessar - the local village headman - was left shaking his head as the cards move, the dancers swayed and the music played...all the time to the drum of the rain on the roof and the chirp of the Tarsier's which surround the camp.
Our week in the jungles could be summarized as incessant wetness, treks, transects, lectures, learning, friendships, dancing challenges and huge, huge enjoyment. We all left, treking out from our little camp, deep in contemplation, realizing that we had all experienced something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Week 2 - Diving and Hoga. As soon as we were met and whisked onto the boat, with some anticipation we awaited Hoga as it slowly chugged into view from behind a skirt of rain. It had a lot to live up to. Hoga is one of the most picturesque and stunningly beautiful islands in the world and it did not disappoint. As an active research base with many more university students from around the world Hoga feels very different. Its buzzes with activity, people zipping around on their own little missions all under the watchful eye (and instruction) of Pippa!
If I am honest you come to Hoga to dive - The diving is incredible - two dives a day for 5 days pushes students to their limits, but it is so, so worth it. The coral, the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem that rings this small island is stunning - out highlight was the school of Eagle rays, just hanging out off the reef, not doing much, just mooching around.
Then suddenly, it's over..at least for another year.
Operation Wallacea is one of the most incredible journeys any high school or secondary student can and should do. It pushes students to go beyond their envelope, their boundaries and opens their eyes to what was only heard of in school and through books
Opwell - see ya in 2017