On Sunday, June 2, the Nat Geo Student Expeditions group was able to partake in a bucket-list experience that was certainly a first for the majority of the students. We visited a turtle rehabilitation center in Pemuteran and released two eligible hawksbill sea turtles, Shelly and Flip Flop. It was an inspirational sight to see Shelly and then Flip Flop work their way through the warm sand and then joyfully let the cool ocean waves splash over their shells as they reached the water. It was a moment that none of the students will ever forget.
Later that evening, we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. As the sun went down, the group left the Tirta Sari Bungalow Resort and headed down to the beach. There we equipped ourselves with snorkeling gear and fearlessly stepped into the cool, dark waters; awaiting the unknown with butterflies in our stomachs. Beginning our excursion of night snorkeling with bioluminescence, we felt what can be described as the closest thing to magic with blue sea stars, colorful fish, and coral reefs most foreign to us, making it an unforgettable experience. Although some sea creatures, such as sea urchins and eels, were scary to most, we soon learned that under the water was not such a scary place at all. With the moon and the stars as well as our trusty flashlights guiding us through the salty sea, we found our way back to shore after an hour or so of our divine dip, laughing and smiling together in awe of the surreal experience.
The next day was truly magical. We started the day off with a delicious breakfast at the Tirta Sari Resort and soon after went to the Bali Dive Academy. The students gathered their equipment and hopped in a couple of vans to a busy dock filled with moving vehicles and a load of small, wooden dive boats. The group split up onto different boats and drove away from the shore’s commotion. We headed toward Java, a mountainous island off the coast of Bali. The terrain had multiple volcanoes covered in beautiful clouds.
We ultimately went to Menjangen, a different island near Bali. First the group snorkeled and dove at Eel Garden, which consisted of a wall of coral and different marine creatures that were easily visible through the crystal-clear water. After a tasty lunch, singing, dancing, and sunning on the boat, the group took a short boat ride to Shark Tip, where divers even saw a black tip reef shark in the deep blue. The snorkelers saw hundreds of vibrant fish among the many different corals. The group was even able to spot the crown of thorns sea star, which competes with coral for resources. Since the population of the sea star has been increasing, many different species of coral are becoming endangered. After another boat ride back to shore, the students returned to the resort. Overall, the past two days were very special and an experience that we all will never forget.