Komodo National Park Beach Clean
October 2017, Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Duration: 90 minutes
The waters of Indonesia are choking with inorganic trash. Some of this is ocean-borne; pushed towards the area by prevailing winds. Most however is the result of trash that is simply dropped from tourist boats and by the tourists themselves, when they come ashore to hike the various nature trails.
Our objective was to engage the industry and tourists to clean one of Komodo National Park’s most visited sunset beaches to encourage them to change their littering behaviour.
Komodo National Park is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Established in 1980 to conserve the unique Komodo dragon, the Park has expanded to protect the terrestrial and marine biodiversity of this remarkable place.
In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Both of these designations indicate the Park's biological importance and qualify Komodo as a true Bucket List destination.
Komodo National Park comprises three major islands (Komodo, Rinca and Padar), as well as numerous smaller islands extending across an area of 1817 km. As well as being home to the Komodo dragon, the Park provides refuge for many other terrestrial species, such as buffalo, deer, monkeys and an endemic species of rat.
Komodo National Park preserves one of the world's richest marine environments. It features over 260 species of reef building corals, 70 species of sponges, and more than 1000 species of marine fish. Giant manta rays are commonly seen, as are turtles, dolphins, dugong and whales.
Scarcity of time allowed for only one morning to be dedicated to the beach clean. We had visited the island on the first day of our travels and witnessed first-hand the trash that was being left by visiting boats.
Mid-way through our trip, we returned to the island in order to set about cleaning the foreshore; both above and below the high tide mark. We had brought disposable gloves and trash sacks with us to make the task more manageable and had hoped to be able to separate recyclables from non-recyclables as we cleaned.
Nine volunteers (passengers and crew of our liveaboard) fanned out along the beach; combing the scrub, scouring trails and wading through the shallows. Within minutes, the number of volunteers had swelled to 20, as additional crew members and Rangers and staff of Komodo National Park joined us in cleaning.
After 90 minutes, the beach and shallows were spotless. We’d also managed to clear the waste from most of the scrub and the start of mountainous trails. Unfortunately, we were unable to separate the trash as we went; although only a surprisingly small fraction of what we gathered was actually recyclable.
We logged the types of trash collected and loaded the sacks back on to our boat for transport back to Labuan Bajo.
Once back in Labuan Bajo, local partners Trash Hero Komodo came and collected the sacks, weighed them and took them for proper disposal.
Key tourist beachfront cleaned of inorganic trash
Collected trash, recorded it, weighed it and sent it for disposal
Industry awareness reinforced.
We selected one of the most popular islands for cleaning as it is where every tourist is brought to watch the sun set from the hills, when they participate in a liveaboard in Komodo National Park. The island has superb fringing coral reefs, although plastic bags, cigarette buts, water bottles/ cups and food wrappers all pose a significant issue.
Trash Hero Komodo provided our group with a briefing the night before we departed Labuan Bajo and recorded our collection data to add to that reported to government. This helps maintain the pressure on authorities to support environmental conservation efforts in order to protect tourism revenue.
SUP Wilderness Adventures donated Au$200 to Trash Hero on completion of the project.
Gardening gloves were purchased in Australia to protect the hands of volunteers during the beach clean. These were an additional cost of Au$5.
Total cash outlay: Au$205
It was never expected that a single beach clean would solve the enormous challenge facing the world as a result of plastic pollution. However, by supporting local initiatives such as Trash Hero, it is hoped their ongoing community education efforts will be strengthened.
Komodo National Park staff and the boat crew joined us in the beach clean. It is hoped that by witnessing tourists caring for Komodo’s terrestrial and marine environments, they will better understand how important it is that they help keep the park trash-free.
Ultimately, it only takes one plastic bag to kill a turtle. Collectively, we removed 20 sacks of inorganic waste. That token gesture will at least remove some of those that cause the park’s marine-life causing harm.
Two Llamas and SUP Wilderness Adventures will continue to work in with local community groups to encourage community behavioural change. We return to Komodo in August 2018 and will again, engage in a beach clean while there.