The Mysterious Island of Buton with Operation Wallacea

Impact: 4
Support: 5
Fun: 5
Value: 5
Safety: 4

There's nothing that can quite describe the excitement of waking up in the middle of the rainforest, slogging it through mud that'd make Glastonbury look like a sandbox, eat a gigantic bowl of rice only to bathe in a gently flowing river, and then journey off for a hike into the wilderness, on the search for wildlife!

The trip I went on was the very first mobile expedition to the north of Buton, which surveyed in the mountainous region there, and later on, in the nearby villages and coastline. At times, it felt like a whistle-stop tour through nature's jewellry box; the sun would carve beams into the canopy after a great tempest, the ocean would glitter and shine, the fish rippling like opals, the butterflies dancing in the roads and clearings... There honestly is no way to descrbe the beauty and adventure of living in such a remote region!

Every day, food is provided, and it's a delight for the culinary senses, which is made all the more incredible that locals cook it in the jungle, in jungle conditions! A lot of different biological professions were there, and you generally hang around with the biologist who has expertise in the area you're most interested in, but everyone stays together, and you can freely join a 'herp' walk, or help out measuring the pitch of bats echo-locating if you wish!

The locals that Opwall hired along the way were courteous and always ready to help! But the best part is sitting down, and trying your Indonesian; I came armed with but a preliminary bit of knowledge from a guidebook, and I often found I could make good conversation, especially given they were so keen to help out!

I personall don't think there's any better way to have such a *raw* experience of the jungle and of Indonesian culture firsthand than by joining a mobile team with Opwall. We were kindly invited down to the local village to witness the celebration marking the end of Eid, and the villagers' generosity was humbling, to say the least.

Of course, it's quite tough, living most of the time in a jungle environment, and you will probably come back with a few insect bites and scars from rattan, but here's where the medic becomes a lifesaver! Medication and general advice is always available, and if you do accidentally get a bit roughed up on a hike, trip or otherwise injure yourself, everyone pulls together to help out, so you're never left on your own!

If adventure's the goal, you couldn't do any better than Opwall; I personally feel a changed person after venturing to this little part of the world, and I assure you that by the end, four weeks won't have been enough time in the jungle (even if a bug-free environment beckons!).

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