Underwater photographer Stuart Ecob has spent a lot of time shooting in Bali and the surrounding islands. One place in particular that captured his imagination was Nusa Penida, an arid largely undeveloped island east of Bali. It's not surprising - the turbulent waters around Penida attract a myriad species, from giant mola-mola sunfish and oceanic mantas to the tiny critters that make up most of this beautiful photo story. Good to know, then, that they're being protected...
In the ever increasing bustle of Bali it's easy to forget that you're smack bang in the middle of the richest marine ecosystem on the planet. Mention the Coral Triangle, the world's epicentre of marine biodiversity, to most visitors to the island and you'll probably draw a blank look..."wow, where's that?" Well....you're in it! If the Coral Triangle is the underwater equivalent of the Amazon, Bali is, geographically speaking, like the Brazilian city of Manaus, which sits in the heart of the rainforest.
While dive purists evangelize about other Indonesian destinations like Raja Ampat or Bunaken or Komodo, Bali's coastal waters offer an incredible variety of dive experiences. Arguably the most dramatic and diverse is Nusa Penida.This offshore island is separated from Bali by the Badung Strait and its water are infamous for their treacherous currents. But it's these currents of course which account for the incredibly rich biodiversity in the area.
Situated at the confluence of two great oceans, the Pacific and Indian, Nusa Penida - like so much of the Indonesian archipelago - is surrounded by nutrient rich waters that are brought up from the deep ocean by cold upwellings. This rich interface is known as the Indonesian Throughflow and it's one of the major reasons that it is here that you find the highest levels of marine biodiversity on the planet.
Many of the dive sites around Nusa Penida require advanced diving skills and are not to be taken lightly - powerful down currents that can drag you down many metres in a matter of seconds are the norm here. But the payoff is an incredibly rich repository of marine life - from big pelagic species like oceanic manta rays to the elusive mola-mola sun fish for which the area has become famous - to macro favourites like those featured in this photo essay.
The Coral Triangle Center, a project of The Nature Conservancy, has been instrumental in establishing an innovative Marine Protected Area in the waters around Nusa Penida. The MPA has been selected by Blue Solutions, a knowledge sharing project focusing on innovative marine related projects, as a model that can be replicated in other areas too.
Among the many successful approaches put in place in Nusa Penida are collaborative management with full community participation, a successful zoning system with buy in by all stakeholders, regeneration of reef and mangrove systems, successful eco-tourism businesses and the gathering of important baseline data.
Of course, as a diver you may not be aware of any of this - you just get to enjoy reefs brimful of colour and life!
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