Indonesia 

Oceanic Cetacean 

Program

Research 
Area Description

 
 
Northern Sulawesi

Sangihe-Talaud Islands

Komodo National Park & World Heritage Area

The People of Minahasa

The Ultimate in Marine Diversity


    Indonesia
Indonesia's 17,000 islands make up by far the largest and most varied archipelago on Earth and span over 5000 equatorial kilometres between Asia and Australia.  Its total coastline extends over 80.000 km - close to one third of the Earth's circumreference at the equator!  So it is with good reason that Indonesians think of their country as 'Tanah air kita' - Our land and water. 

The Indonesian Archipelago consists of some of the largest islands in the world which rise up from deep oceanic trenches.   Some contain dense jungle slopes and huge mountains - capped with ice and snow, despite their tropical coastlines!
Indonesian islands names conjure up images of exotic and unknown South East Asia destinations: Bali, Borneo and Komodo; Lombok and New Guinea; the Spice Islands of Halmahera, Sumatra and Sulawesi, also formerly known as Celebes. From freezing glaciers to coral reefs, the sheer diversity of island scenes and life defies the imagination. 


"Some Indonesian islands contain dense jungle slopes and huge mountains - capped with ice and snow, despite their tropical coastlines!"

The enormous number of Indonesia's islands and their location in a tropical, equatorial climate has produced an unrivalled diversity of plant and animal life. With only 1% of the world's land area, Indonesia is home to over 10% of all mammal species, and 17 % of all birds.  Indonesia is over 80% water. For marine creatures it is a vast melting pot, at the influence of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The mingling of life from these two great oceans around thousands of islands has created the greatest diversity of marine life on Earth. 

The ocean currents here are rich in nutrients. They're responsible for the world's most colourful and diverse coral reefs. So vast is the archipelago that some of the best reefs are barely known. There are over 500 species of coral, and 3000 species of fish as well as 30 species of whales and dolphins.  The Sulawesi Sea is a highway for sperm whales, oceanic dolphins and other large marine life such as sea turtles and manta rays.


"For marine creatures Indonesia is a vast melting pot, at the influence of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans"

Indonesia is also the world's fourth largest country and home to a population of 195 million people - mainly moderate Muslim with substantial Christian, Hindu and Buddist minorities.  Indigenous tribes still exist in the remote reaches of Indonesia, from Kalimantan to Irian Jaya. (Map of Reseach Areas). 

This expanding population is largely dependent of the ocean's health for its own well being.  The combination of huge population pressures on rich, productive marine resources illustates the need and urgency for sustainable, minimum impact practices amonst all nature-based industries operating in Indonesia. 

 
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    Northern Sulawesi
Northern Sulawesi, and especially the Manado region of Minahasa, is a politically stable and beautifully remote region of Indonesia. 

With its modern international airport and exceptional natural riches, such as exceptionally bio-diverse reefs and rainforests which inhabit numerous endemic species, it is well positioned to become one of the major nature-based tourism centres of South East Asia. It can be reached by direct flights from Singapore, Davao (Philippines), Bali and numerous Indonesian cities. 

North Sulawesi consists of an area of about 27,500 sq. km and is divided into four districts, all of which having their different cultures: Minahasa, Bolaang Mongondow, Gorontalo, and the remote Sangihe-Talaud Archipelago. 

The area is highly mountainous and very scenic, culminating in 54 peaks, some of which are volcanic and still active. The coast is made up of long stretches of virgin white sandy beaches with magnificent corals and an immense wealth of colourful, tropical marine life.

Northern Sulawesi's waters are warm, clear and superb for snorkelling and skin diving. The water averages a balmy 28 degrees C and visibility is sensational - 30m or more. Beautiful reefs and coral gardens with an immense wealth of marine life are found here. Near Manado, Bunaken National Marine Park has stunning reef sites and drop-offs. Lembeh Strait is renowned for its incredible abundance of macro marine life and is being considered as an additional Marine Park. The remote reefs and fish life of the Sangihe-Talaud Archipelago are simply world class.
North Sulawesi remains peaceful and calm. It has a sound economic basis, and is relatively prosperous and unaffected by the recent economical hardships and political problems facing the country. It enjoys a physical (1000's km) as well as cultural distance from the occassional disturbances in other regions of Indonesia.


     The Sangihe-Talaud Islands
The Sangihe-Talaud Archipelago lies to the north of Manado and is dominated by the 1830m Karangetang volcano.  This chain of around 40 steep and lush volcanic islands connects Indonesia with the Philippines. 

It is regarded as one of the most scenic regions of all of Indonesia. Here deep oceanic trenches rise to form towering volcanic islands. Several of these are still active, such as spectacular Siao, a rainforest island which rises to over 1400m above sea level. 

The abundant marine life and magical reefs fringing these islands are only accessible by a live-aboard boat and are truly impressive, even to the most jaded traveller.

All along the Sangihe-Talaud Island the reefs are described by international divers and snorkellers as 'remote, pristine and world class'. These coral reef fringed island are among the most pristine in Indonesia, and considered by experts as the pinnacle of marine bio-diversity worldwide.The waters surrounding the islands are frequented by numerous species of cetaceans such as sperm whales, pilot whales, melon-headed whales and numerous species of dolphins are sighted travelling in enormous pods. 

In addition, pods of rare tropical killer whales or orcas are sighted here occasionally. One of the most amazing geological features of this archipelago is the Mahangatang active underwater volcano near Siau.  To view the release of the Earth's interior gases a metre or two below the surface of the ocean - while being surrounded by tropical reef life - is most surreal.

 


"One of the most amazing geological features of the Sangihe-Talaud island chain is an active volcano, which is submerged just under the surface of the reef"

     The People of Minahasa
 
The people of Minahasa are some of the most western-oriented people in Indonesia. They are very hospitable, friendly and open-minded. The great majority is Christian. Their first contact with the Europeans came in the 16th century with the arrival of Spaniards and Portuguese spice traders. 

However, it wasn't until the Dutch landed on their shores that they became integrated with western society. The province has retained its strong links with the Netherlands and many of the older people speak Dutch, in addition to Indonesian and Minahasan. 

Minahasans today are a welcoming, friendly people and are proud of the politically stability and natural riches of this most beautiful part of Indonesia. The traditional villages are rich in cultures and most rely on the ocean for food, voyaging large distances in primitive yet seaworthy dug-out sailing canoes with colourful square sails. 


"Minahasans today are a welcoming, friendly people and are proud of the politically stability and natural riches of this most beautiful part of Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia"


    The Ultimate in Marine Diversity
 
Scientists consider the imaginary triangle between the Philippines, Bali and Irian Jaya the epicentre of maximum marine diversity. The peninsula and islands of northern Sulawesi are located right in the middle of this triangle and are thus exceptional in their marine life and ecological significance. 

This relatively small ocean region inhabits over 3000 species of fish as well as over 500 species of coral and 30 species of whales and dolphins. It has the most diverse and profuse variety of marine life you will find worldwide.  The research and conservation efforts in this region are especially important to ensure the ecologically sustainable use of this exceptional marine realm. 

The  Oceanic Cetacean Film & Photographic Expeditions have access to this most pristine and bio-diverse region of Indonesia.  It enables adventurous film makers and professional photographers to experience an exceptional marine wilderness in total safety, with all creature comforts on board. Professional cetacean and reef experts are part of the expedition team.

 


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