How the Gili Shark Conservation Project Gave me Hope

Imagine waking up to mountainous landscapes with the wind gently blowing as your boat cuts through the clearest ocean waters you have ever seen. Imagine doing this everyday with the knowledge that in just a few moments, you’ll be swimming alongside Moorish idols, green sea turtles, schools of snappers and of course, reef sharks. Imagine endless laughter, an overall happy consensus, locals who wish you “hellos” and “good mornings” just because they want to wish you well. This was Gili Shark Conservation. This was Gili Air.

What if this Whole Project was a Scam?

I was apprehensive when I first signed up. Gili Shark Conservation was a relatively new organization with limited reviews (just being honest!) and as someone who has never volunteered abroad let alone gone diving in my life, I was so scared. What if this was a scam? What if this was a massive waste of time and money and what if I just hated my life while there?

Well, I can confidently say that by the end of this trip, I had become a PADI certified Advanced Open Water Diver, I had logged 20 plus dives, I had done numerous survey dives and gained practical knowledge, witnessed first-hand the effects of ocean degradation in the dying or already dead coral reef; the dull, complete lack of marine life and biodiversity in certain areas of the Gilis, and the garbage that floated so out of place amidst the beautiful mystery that is the ocean.

Instead, this Project gave me Hope

It was depressing. It was reality. It was a wake-up call, and it gave me hope because what I also saw were groups of people coming together to make this situation better. I saw dive centres arrange dive clean-ups and beach clean-ups across the island. I saw this organization initiate dive centre collaboration to record data on shark sightings to hopefully establish the area as a shark nursery (which would in turn lead to better legal and political protection of the marine area here). Of course, once a week, Gili Shark Conservation also hosted community outreach events to help spread the word about our work, our purpose and why doing this is so important to locals, tourists, and anyone who would listen.


A Project for Everyone that cares about Shark Conservation

If you are contemplating doing this project, if you care about the oceans, even if you just want to learn how to dive and do it with a purpose, this project is for you. Gili Shark Conservation is a welcoming group of people, people who believe and care about something bigger than themselves, and diving with Oceans5 Dive Centre was absolutely the best choice this organization could have made because they are professional, knowledgeable and meticulous in their practice. I now feel fully confident and safe when I dive, and I also (think) I know what I can do in my personal and professional life to contribute to a solution to this problem.

Come September, I will start my MSc Marine Systems & Policies at the University of Edinburgh and you can bet that I mentioned this project in my application. Keep your fingers crossed that I transition to a career in marine policy or the blue economy 😉

How I raised money to join the Research Team

Now, when it comes to funding, I think it’s important to note that I did successfully fundraise for my trip. I created a GoFundMe page, shared it on every piece of social media that I had, I asked my friends and family to share my page on theirs, and I successfully fundraised 50% of my stay/the project’s cost. If you’re short on cash and could use some help, I highly, highly recommend using a GoFundMe page or doing fundraisers of your own sort. I know it’s scary to put yourself out there and become vulnerable, but realistically, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will be so surprised by the amount of support that people will show you, but people care – because the oceans are important, this work is important, and the world absolutely needs it.

So go out, get some fundraising going, do your best, and then come to Gili Shark Conservation, learn to dive, conduct some research, understand what it means to conduct survey dives and then contribute to this mission of saving the oceans. You will have a fantastic time, and one that you’ll remember for a lifetime. I’m sure.