DIVING AND CORALS
Ghost Pipefishes (Solenostomidae) (Issue: 02-07)
By: David White
One of the most impressive and beautiful fish to be found on the
reef are Ghost Pipefish. A close relation of the seahorse
(Hippocampinae), they come in various shapes, colors and forms and
their camouflage renders them almost unnoticeable so as many divers
swim by them oblivious to their existence! There are four forms
recognized by taxonomists although each of these has various subtle
to a maximum of around fifteen centimeters the Ghost Pipefish begins
its’ life with a lengthy spell drifting on oceanic currents in a
larval form, before gradually maturing and settling on the seafloor.
Initially transparent they make their way to the reef to reproduce,
commonly found in the shallows down to around thirty-five meters.
They form pairs and can sometimes be observed for days if not weeks.
The larger female will hold up to three-hundred eggs in a brooding
pouch, which in turn are released into the oceanic currents to
restart the cycle. It is commonly believed that Ghost Pipefishes
have an annual life cycle so don't expect to find the same one next
Around Pulau Weh you can be lucky enough to find the Ghost Pipefish
on most dive-sites. Look next to feather stars, dead leaves,
gorgonian fans and even old pieces of fishing net. At times it can
be difficult to differentiate between the fish and its host. By far
the two most prolific sites for finding these amazing fish are the
Tugboat Wreck and the House Reef outside Lumba Lumba on Gapang
Beach. I personally have managed to photograph over forty
individuals in a myriad of colors and at various stages of
development. They really make great pictures if you're lucky enough
to find them with an interesting host, where, given time you may
also be able to observe them changing color.
So next time you're drifting along the reef and you see a feather
star give it a closer inspection and just maybe you'll get your
reward! Happy diving!
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A Diving Community (Issue: 02-07)
Indonesia is a maritime nation and the Acehnese a strictly coastal
people with a long history of international trade and domination,
all the way to Malaysia. No wonder people of Pulau Weh are excellent
fishermen and lousy farmers. Diving is an increasingly popular
activity in Indonesia; however villagers in remote places like Pulau
Weh rarely get a chance to enjoy real diving; at most, only
commercial diving with inadequate traditional equipment and at high
risk. Their economy does not allow them to dive like tourists, even
though it is their own island.
Lumba Diving Centre in Gapang recently carried out an educational
program to raise awareness about the coral reefs and to teach diving
in order to increase opportunities for locals to participate in the
local diving businesses. ILO (International Labor Organization)
covered the costs of diving and Lumba Lumba invested in the
educational material of Scuba Schools International (SSI), as they
have material in Indonesian language.
The interest for this program was very big, even guys who barely
could swim applied to the course. The selection was however made by
a local youth leader. Ten young and very enthusiastic local men did
about seven 7 dives each. The enthusiasm was high before and even
higher afterwards. All of them passed both the practical and
theoretical exams. Two have already got part time jobs as divers in
Gapang. One of the instructors commented: "One could see their happy
faces shine of enthusiasm when they experienced the underwater
Unfortunately it was only limited to ten and there were no female
participants. The owners of the Diving Centre, the Dutch couple
Marjan and Ton, hope that if another course takes place, there will
be a few girls also. In the mid-nineties they taught a local girl,
however she found her love in the water and left for Europe.
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A Wanted Man (Issue: 02-07)
In April this year Sabang got its first Mayor ever in direct
elections. Elections were held all over Aceh. In Sabang, like in
most of the regencies in Aceh, members of GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka
or the Free Aceh Movement) were elected by the Acehnese. Before
tsunami they were actively fighting the Indonesian forces, in 2005 a
peace was signed and in 2007 the GAM leaders were chosen in most
elections in Aceh. Today they lead a peaceful Aceh in harmony with
the central government in Jakarta. It is amazing when one think
Munawar Liza Zainal, our new Mayor, was born in the Pidie regency in
1973. He studied in Java for six years and at the Al-Azhar
University in Cairo for seven years. He followed up with other
studies in Thailand and USA. He is fluent in Acehnese, Indonesian,
Arabic, and English. He even knows some Thai and Swedish. He has
during his education been active in several organizations. In 1998
he got active internationally in SIRA, an organization advocating
for referendum on independence for Aceh. In 2005 he was a member of
GAM's delegation at the peace talks in Helsinki. Since then he has
also been a spokesman for GAM.
In the end of 2005 he returned back to Aceh as a member of AMM (Aceh
Monitoring Mission) and helped implement the M.O.U. between the
Government in Jakarta and GAM. On his first visit ever to Pulau Weh
he obviously made a very good impression. Not long after he was
approached by friends and community leaders to stand for election in
Sabang. He did and, in competition with five other candidates, won
with 35% of the votes.
Mr. Munawar is optimistic about the future. He told us that he and
his GAM friends for the first time can feel safe in Aceh and that he
is convinced that the peace will last forever.
His biggest challenge now is to change the mentality of the people,
especially the civil servants, formed by 30 years of oppression and
corruption. For this sake, discipline is a priority. We non-civil
servants have already noticed the absence of the civil servants from
the coffee shops over the island!
For the development of Pulau Weh, Mr. Munawar welcomes investors,
but only with environmental friendly projects. Waste handling on
Pulau Weh has to be developed. Organic waste must be decomposed and
inorganic waste recycled. Tourism is an important sector, but must
be developed in a way that saves the nature and the culture as far
as possible. Mass tourism is of no interest to Pulau Weh. Mr.
Munawar ends the interview by saying: "We don’t want the tourists to
change Pulau Weh, but Pulau Weh to change the tourists!"
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