A fantastic learning experience

Impact: 8
Support: 10
Fun: 7
Value: 9
Safety: 9

This wasn't my first expedition with Opwall - i went on a 2 week expedition to Mexico with my school back in 2014, and even that was literally lifechanging! The singe week we spent diving convinced me to study Marine Biology at University rather than my planned Archaeology.

This time I signed up for a 4 week Marine expedition in Indonesia, the price was high, but I was able to scrape together enough from fundraising, grant applications and a part time job. For those interested in applying, I would urge you to also apply for the Alfred Russel Wallace Grant, which can net you a £1000 grant! It's only for those going to Indonesia, and few discover it - the deadline has been extended twice because not enough people have applied, so definitely go for it.

Anyways, onto the review - I was only there for ~ 2 weeks, having to return to the UK early when an internship changed their starting state, so I can only talk about the South Buton site. Here's a rough description of the itinerary, it may change a little in future years but not by much. For the first week we were split into 2 groups, those who already have a diving qualification, and those without. Both groups dived twice a day at the same time, but again in separate groups.

Those with a qualification did their Reef Survey Course, which consisted of 2 lectures a day where we learned reef ecology and species/family names of the fish, coral, algae and invertebrates we encountered. In the two daily dives we were taught surveying techniques and surveyed the species/families we learned in the previous lecture. We ere then tested at the end of the week in an exam where we identified what were in photos. The required pass mark was high (I think it was 90/80%?) but you can repeat the exam and no-one has ever needed to do the exam more than twice.

Those without a qualification did their PADI Open Water Course, which had 1 lecture a day - the two dives will be spent learning techniques.

In the second week, those who just got their PADI qualification went onto learning the Reef Survey Course, the rest of us assisted the dissertation students with collecting data. Everyone was also given the option of doing the Advanced PADI Open Water Course for a cheaper price than if we had done it at home. I'd recommend you get your OW qualification before going so you can get that extra experience with the dissertation students and then do your AOW in your second week at the lower price (plus so you don't have to do the Reef Survey Course & AOW at the same time).

Every week there's a degassing day, where you an go into town to visit the supermarket complex, do your own thing and have a barbecue/party in the evening. Meals are buffet style, with rice, a variety of veg dishes, fried eggs and fruit. Despite being told meat/fish would be a rare treat, we actually ended having some for at least 1 in 3 meals. The food was great, and for those who aren't huge fans of rice they always had some noodles too (which tended to go quickly). The accommodation was very comfortable, 2-3 beds in a room with air conditioning (!) and an ensuite shower and toilet.

The diving centre staff were incredibly helpful and patient with us if we forgot to check a piece of kit back in or out, even when they have 3/4 groups to deal with at once! The opwall/administrative staff were also hugely helpful, when I had to go back early they helped me book tickets and made what might have been an incredibly stressful problem go much smoother. Everyone was always up for a chat - if you go talk to as many people as possible! Everyone has stories to tell and the researchers have so much experience and information you can learn, I study Marine Biology but I probably learned more in those 2 weeks from diving and talking to people than I did in a term back at Uni!

Whilst there you'll spend most of your time - diving, eating, relaxing, learning - with the other research assistants, even though I was only there for 2 weeks I formed great friendships with some and am still in contact with them months later - I even met up with some in London a few weeks ago.

Also, a couple things that aren't necessary but are useful - an underwater camera (and bring the right charger! still killing me that I took the wrong one) and a small laptop or tablet for revising.

So, a bit of a lengthy review, but I hope I've given you a good insight into what you'll be doing in your 2 weeks at South Buton. These expeditions are amazing, whether you study the biological sciences or not, and if you're thinking of going on an expedition then I cannot recommend Indonesia and Opwall enough! Go for it!

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed