Turtles @ Derawan

In the first week at Derawan I saw so many turtles, therefore a post about the “production of new turtles”. Yesterday night I saw 4 turtles (Chelonia mydas) crawling on the beach to search for a suitable site to lay their eggs above the high tide line.

She digged out a large hole in the surface of the beach using a swimming movement of her front flippers, creating the “body pit”. After ten minutes or more, actively throwing sand behind her, she beginned digging with her hind limbs, excavating the egg chamber of about 60 cm deep. Without pausing she continued laying 90 ‘ping-pong-sized-eggs’ (While the eggs are being deposited into the egg chamber, they can tolerate bouncing, rolling, tumbling or handling, but about two hours after being laid, the embryo will resume development, and may be killed by a simple roll of the egg.) Ferry from the WWF digged up the eggs to protect them from poachers. Now we have to wait 45-70 days for the small Tukik (turtle hatchling in Bahasa Indonesia) to hatch. Higher temperatures produce more females and result in shorter incubation periods. At Derawan Ferry will check development of the nests so that he can digg the eggs out and release the small flippering friends before poachers or predators find them.
After nesting, the female went back to the coral reef to rest and complete the next clutch of eggs. They are known to mainly rely on their stored fat reserved while resting and completing the next clutch of eggs. She can lay several clutches of eggs at approximately two-week intervals before finally migrating back to her feeding ground. We are still in doubt if the mother turtles are the same ones grazing on the seagrass fields in front of Derawan at daytime, or if they only visit this Island to lay their eggs and travel back to their feeding ground.

My first cage

Before my supervisors arrive and the experiment will be started I’m first testing my cage set-up. The cages are build out of concrete-iron with fishing nets on the sides and on top of the cage, attached by cable ties. The net is 5cm in diameter to prevent the turtles from getting stuck into the net. Within the cage I’ve tested the best way to sample, harvest and count the seagrass shoots. And also tested how long it takes for the seagrass leaves to grow back. The locals are very interested in the strange things that I’m doing underwater so it’s never boring. I’m leaving to Balikpapan know to pick up my supervisors and check the seagrass in Balikpapan bay and after that the experiment can start. Finally! Click on the photo for more pictures.

1st week pilot Derawan

The first days I’m testing the set-up of my experiment, I’m snorkeling 4 hours a day to check out the seagrass and the turtles here (also found dugong grazing trails!), and I’m talking to officials here and setting up logistics at this island. The 21th of May my supervisors and students are arriving so I will travel back to Balikpapan to pick them up and do some measurements at Balikpapan bay.

Derawan Beach Cafe

At this moment I’m staying at Derawan Beach Cafe. It’s a convenient place with very kind people, good food (with vegetables, and nasi goreng as breakfast) 24hrs power, airco and a toilet to sit on. The only question is if I can stay here until september because the 300.000rp per night.

For some more pictures click here!

Transport of research materials Balikpapan-Derawan

Trying to find all the materials needed for research is one thing. Transporting them to Derawan is really much more adventurous. The rainy season is not over yet and the road between Samarinda and Berau is in bad condition and sometimes not excisting anymore. But this is the only way to get your stuff (if you’re also transporting liquids) to Derawan.

So I chartered a car with driver, to get from Balikpapan to Derawan, like a Kijang (but next time I will charter a 4×4 car) This costed me 3,5 million rupiah and 36 hours travelling (you see why below!), sharing my chair with Dani, my assistent from Balikpapan. After this we arrived at Tanjung Batu at low tide, so I had to spend the night at the only losmen and take the boat to Derawan the next day 48 hours from the start of the journey.

The other option is to send your materials with air cargo (Balikpapan-Berau and than arrange transport to Derawan via Tanjung Batu by car), which will cost 3000 rupiah/kilo excl car.

Collecting materials for experiment 1

Before I can start with experiment 1, I have to start from scratch with the collection of the materials which are needed to start experiment 1. The family of the homestay in Balikpapan are pro-actively helping me with every weird thing that I carry to their house. After showering I exitedly noticed that the father of the house already started cutting the 360 pieces of steel.

Hello Jakarta!

I just want to let you know that me and my bagage arrived safely in Jakarta after a 23hr trip. The last 6 days (with much more to come) Wawan his daugher and I spend many hours arranging documents to get my Research Permit for the next 6 months. This picture gives you an idea of the daily panorama that I have to observate. When I finish this procedure I will publish a manual how to get this visa, because the procedure has changed after 15 december 2007. Sampai lagi!

VISA procedures, episode I

Finally! 23 hours before my flight left to Jakarta I got my VISA! It was a really stressful last week and without Pak Wawan helping me, I would never had made it in time before my flight left.

So for all of you curious about how this procedure worked out for me here is a manual (but be aware that rules and things change frequently) to arrange a VISA to travel into Indonesia. The manual of how to get your KITAS (which you need to stay for limited stay) will be coming soon after my first week in Jakarta.

1. Application at RISTEK (2 months, depending on which part of the month you send it)

From 15-12-2007 official permits for foreign researchers pursuing research activities in Indonesia, will be issued by the State Ministry for Research and Technology and not by LIPI anymore.
You will have to arrange all documents which are stated at RISTEK’s website.
The most time consuming one is getting the letter from your counterpart in Indonesia (this took most of the time for me), stating that your sponsor supports the cooperation research, the title of the project and contact person. The best way to arrange this is to find an Indonesian contact person who will go to the offices in person to ask for the letter. The safest way to get the letter is to ask your contact person to scan and email it to you. The official version of this letter for me got lost in the mail system, but the fax was sufficient at the embassy.
In the mean time arrange the rest of the documents necessary for application. And also send a separate abstract of your research proposal (otherwise they will request for it later)
Fill in the online application form and send all the documents by email to frp@RISTEK.go.id

Once a month somewhere in the middle (it was 12th of March for me), the coordinating team will discuss all the research proposal and decide if they will approve it or not. Be sure to send your application way before the ½ of the month. After this meeting I had to wait for 3 weeks to hear the outcome of this meeting by email luckily it was -> approved!

2. Application Immigration Jakarta
(2 weeks)

Now RISTEK will have to send your application to Immigration Jakarta, this will take at least 10 (working) days. Although, if you are in a rush, you can ask for the express procedure (300.000 rupiah). Don’t count on this last procedure, I asked for the express procedure but it still took 10 days. They asked me to send CV, copy of the passport and pass photo by email. After 10 days -> approved!

Now RISTEK will have to fax 2 documents to You AND your Embassy (Embassy Netherlands fax: +31 70 3643 331):

  • Penguasaan visa (=approval Immigration)
  • Permohonan visa (=approval RISTEK).

In my case the Embassy did not receive the fax so I could hand over my own copy. My contact person in Jakarta (Wawan) was so kind for me to check personally at RISTEK, that really speeded up the process of faxing.

3. Application at Embassy (5 days)

Day 1: First call the eductions department of your Embassy (For the Netherlands: 070 3109140, Ibu Rina) if they received the 2 documents by fax. Then go to your Embassy (NL: between 9-13:00, to Ibu Rina, kamer 15) and give here the following documents:

  • Pass photo
  • Application form (fill in and print from visa4indonesia.nl)
  • Passport
  • Flight schedule
  • Letter of your sponsor/counterpart (same as send to RISTEK 1.)
  • Letter from your supervisor stating your purpose of research (in my case: fieldwork for PhD)
  • Penguasaan visa (=approval Immigration)
  • Permohonan visa (=approval RISTEK)

A letter will be prepared, and you get your paper back, which you should hand over at the visa counter. Pay 100 euro’s (take cash with you in case the PIN is defect, otherwise you will have to search a ATM like I did) and come back in 4 days. I did this in 2 days (in stead of 5) and the staff of the Embassy was very kind to make an exception so that I could still catch my flight.

Day 5. Pick up your passport, WITH VISA inside -> celebrate, fly to Indonesia and prepare for 2 more weeks of visa procedures when in Indonesia.

Microscopic view of tropical seagrasses

Together with Liesbeth Pierson we spend a day looking to seagrasses at a totally different perspective. The results from 6 tropical seagrass species are published at vitual classroom biology but you can get sneak preview of microscopic views of Cymodocea serrulata below.


In this movie you can see the transport of chloroplasts over a cytoplasmatic strand.