27 Dec The Coral Goddess
The kula community has supported the Aspara sculpture in Jemeluk Bay and the Coral Goddess in Pemuteran both have now become very successful underwater sculpture parks supporting the local community in restoring and managing their marine Eco-systems.
In 2011 The Coral Goddess was blessed by the local community and sunk in the award winning reef conservation project run by Karang Lesteri. The coral reef in the bay located in the North West of Bali close to Menjangan Island has been brought back to life using an innovative coral restoration technique call bio-rock. This uses a gentle electrical current to enhance coral growth and survival rates. The Coral Goddess was not only the first artistic sculpture to be sunk. It was also the first to be powered by alternative energy and the Kula donation went towards the purchase of the wind and solar unit. Inspired by this artwork, the community has added over 20 new bio-rock artworks in the shapes of seahorses, Ganesha, panthers and other elaborate designs, to name but a few.
Climate change is revealing itself; the world is becoming a windier place. Seasonal winds that have been predictable for a long time are no longer blowing in their anticipated directions or at the right time of year. This is causing unusual weather, and last year Pemuteran was hit by very big waves that came into the usually protected bay from a peculiar angle. The coral garden was hit badly and many of the bio-rock structures were damaged. The weakened reef was then attacked by the predatory crown of thorns it has been a tough year for the corals! During the storm, Bali Dive Academy’s boat broke loose from its anchor and landed treacherously close to the Goddess. She was miraculously unharmed and the locals believe this is because she is blessed and protects their coral garden.
Jemeluk Bay Underwater Sculpture Park situated on the North east near Amed is run by the local community and Reef check Indonesia. They have also struggled with big storms. Apsara and the Mermaid are situated close to each other and we decided last year to ensure their stability by adding stabilising boulders and structures to their base. This will not only ensure that they do not move or roll down the slope but also provide added habitat for fish and corals. This will be done by local fishermen turn divers and reef conservationists in February when hopefully the waters will be calm.
Local artists have been inspired and the Jemeluk underwater Gallery is also growing. I asked Derta of Reef Check if they viewed this project as a success, he indicated that several of their targets have been met: the fishermen declared the area as a ‘No Take Zone’ which means they have stop fishing. This commitment along with the artificial reef art structures enables two main targets to be set. Firstly, the ability to self fund through Eco tourism. Historically environmental projects are funded by grants which has proven to be unsustainable in the long term. Reef Check say the community has successful implemented self-finance-funding through voluntary tag donation as well as building a local diving industry; Apneista has their Ahmed free diving school just in front. There has also been good outcomes in terms of reaching conservation goals through monitoring on both the natural and artificial reefs.
The sculptures are constantly changing new life moving through them daily as well as others moving in permanently. The corals we planted on the Coral Goddess thrive and on the Mermaid and Aspara the natural life is settling. This process is slower as layer of algae and natural life needs to settle for the very sensitive babies corals to be able to land and mature. Coral life on the base of the mermaid is becoming established, she was installed in 2013. The Apsara was sunk in late 2015 and she is surrounded by fish.
I would highly recommended getting out of the hustle and bustle of the Bali South and visit the wonderful underwater sculpture gardens, experience these unique works of Eco art and support the local community in their goals.
By Celia Gregory