Ocean Footprint

The year is 2015, long time best friends Charlie and Travis are just months away from graduating high school. Keeping that in mind, Charlie believes they should celebrate this achievement; and his idea is to have a vacation in Indonesia’s Thousand Islands. Charlie suggested this to Travis, and he loved the idea. However, he wants to invite all their friends so this becomes a huge group vacation that they can all enjoy together. The next day during lunch, Charlie and Travis asked Kelly, Frank, and Darren if they wanted to come with them to the Thousand Islands.


“Guys, Travis and I want to go to the Thousand Islands after graduation as a way to celebrate, it would be really fun if you guys would come!” Charlie said, enthusiastically.


Kelly, Frank, and Darren responded excitedly as they were all looking to find a way to relax and have fun after enduring a year long stress from all the assignments and university application deadlines. 


A question was raised by Frank, “What are we going to do in the Thousand Islands? Isn’t it better if we spend a week abroad instead?


To which Travis answered “The Island’s are known for its beautiful beaches and amazing diving spots! It’s one of the things that I want to do with you guys before we all go our separate ways for university.”


This response made the group realise how close they are from possibly being separated due to university, thus they all agreed to go to the Thousand Islands and enjoy all the activities that it has to offer. 


As weeks go by, Charlie and his friends are getting more excited for the trip. They started to research the different things that they can do on the trip. They found that they can go snorkeling, see sharks and the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, play many different water sports such as jet ski, water ski, flying fish, and banana boat. Looking at the many different activities offered in these islands, made Travis wander whether or not it is best to island hop.


“Isn’t it better if we island hop instead? We can get the most of each island. Said Travis. 


“Yes, I agree. We can dive as you want and each island will give us a different experience! It can be so much fun. Just choose 4 islands that we all want to go to.” Said Kelly to Travis


“Okay, sure! Let’s all go to Pulau Tidung, Pulau Sepa, Pulau Pari, and Pulau Pramuka. These islands are best known for their diving spots and views!” Said Travis.


Now knowing the islands that they’re going to and the different activities, the group decided that it’s enough and eagerly wait until graduation. From now until graduation, the group focuses on their studies.


Days turn to weeks, and weeks turn to months. It’s already graduation day as the group is getting ready for the ceremony and packing their bags to go on vacation to the Thousand Islands. During their graduation ceremony, Travis could not stop talking about the trip. He is very excited to go diving with his friends which made the group very excited to see why Travis really wanted to dive in these spots. Travis has been hyping up about the many different sea life that they could possibly encounter in their diving session such as reef sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and also how beautiful the coral reefs are in these islands. Right after their ceremony, they quickly went to Ancol where they rented a yacht. 


“Finally, the day has come. I can’t put it into words how happy I am right now, to spend the next 4 days with my best friends diving and making such incredible memories with you guys.” Said Darren emotionally.


The group laughed and they all relaxed on their yacht while jamming out to their favourite songs on their way to the first island, Pulau Tidung. As the Island is the closest from Jakarta, it only took the group 1 hour to reach their destination. Once they arrived, the group took their bags and laid it all on the beach. 


“Come on guys lets change to our diving gear before the sun sets! we have about 2 hours to explore the diving spot in Pulau Tidung before it gets too dark.” Said Charlie to the group


The group immediately got their diving gear out and changed into it. Not long after they went to the receptionist asking if there is anyone available to act as their diving guide for their diving session. The group was recommended to go with Wisnu, a diving instructor of 15 years. Wisnu met up with the group in the dock, and quickly explained to the group the do’s and don’ts. As Travis is the only experienced diver, he would act as the assistant of Wisnu during this diving session. The group and Wisnu got the necessary diving gear on to a speedboat to go to the diving spot. 


15 minutes away from Pulau Tidung, is the diving spot. Once the group arrived, Wisnu is the first to go as he is the guide. One by one, the group jumped to the ocean; and they are now all floating, just waiting until they got the green light from Wisnu to go down. Travis could not wait any longer as he went down before Wisnu gives the go-ahead. Quickly after that Wisnu and the rest of the group went down and caught up with Travis around 10 meters deep. At that point the group was able to see the beauty of the underwater sea life, and was stunned. Travis brought a camera for the dive trip so he could document their experience, and he took a bunch of pictures throughout the trip. However, the experience went from stunning to heartbreaking in matters of minutes. 


At 20 meters deep, the group started seeing odd debris clinging on to the corals and floating away being carried by the tide. Once they got a closer look, they were shocked. They realised it was plastic. Travis, being an avid diver, felt the need to pick up these plastics as a way to keep the sea clean and the life down there healthy, Throughout the 1 hour diving session, the group collected all the plastic debris that they found and brought it back to the boat. Once on the boat, the group was in complete disarray, they could not imagine how much plastic they collected within an hour. 


“Oh my god, this is a lot of plastic we just collected. I was here to see the beauty of the ocean but instead all i saw was plastics!” shouted Travis angrily. He could not fathom how bad the impact that society had on the sea life. The group’s morale was down at this point as they could not imagine how irresponsible people are with their trash. 


However Kelly and Darren tried to be optimistic. Kelly said “maybe these plastics are only found here in this island as it is so close to the mainland. I don’t think we’ll be seeing anymore plastic debris in the ocean floor and corals in the next island as it will be further away from Jakarta!” Darren agreed to Kelly’s thinking and encouraged the group to stay in high spirits as the trip is just beginning.  


Once back on the island, Darren becomes widely aware of his surroundings. He observed the behaviour of the other guests on the island, to figure out whether the plastic all came from the mainland and drifted to this side of the ocean, or it is also caused by the guests of the island. As hours went by, Darren realised that the guests were also to blame in this matter. He observed that the guests would bring food to the ocean while they were swimming and relaxing on the shallow parts and would unconsciously leave the wrapper behind. This disturbed Darren, because he thinks that part of the Thousand Island experience is the beautiful, clear waters and the amazing diving experience that it offered. However, how can people enjoy these if there are guests that are so ignorant that they destroy the main attraction of these islands. 


Darren kept his observation to himself, and is optimistic that this occurrence is an anomaly. He is still looking forward for the rest of the trip and is excited to finally experience the beauty of the ocean in the other islands without all the plastic debris distracting him and his friends. They all went back on their yacht and slept there as they set out to go to Pulau Sepa early in the morning. 


The next morning arrived, and the group sets out to leave Pulau Tidung with high expectations. It is clear that the group was heavily affected by their discovery, the group is still talking about the plastic debris that they found during their diving session. They complained and argued.

Charlie started to blame Travis for his poor choices of Islands. “Travis, why did you choose this island? It was covered with plastic and just completely ruined our experience!” 


Travis responded “How was I suppose to know that the ocean was as bad as this? I thought the people here will try their best to keep the environment clean. Surely I did not realise that the people here are this ignorant.” 


The argument went on throughout the journey to the next island. As they are minutes away from arriving, the argument died and the group focuses on making this vacation memorable. They decided to spend time on the yacht, singing and dancing on the yacht so that they are in a better mood. Though they have arrived on the Island, the group decided to just spend some time on the yacht continuing their party before diving down at 1 PM. Kelly decided to rent a jet ski so she could ride it around the yacht, and have fun zooming past her friends. As she rides her jet ski, her adventurous spirit got the better of her as she drives away from the island to the open ocean. As she was driving away, she started to spot plastic bottles floating around her, and once again disappointment sets in. She quickly collected the plastic bottles she found and placed it covertly so her friends would not see it. She drove back to the island and ran over to the trash bin to dispose the plastic bottle found. 


Kelly said to herself “God I hope that’s the last of it. Please no more plastic debris in the ocean. I am getting tired of seeing how ruined our ocean is.” 


Nearing 1 PM, the group gets ready to dive down and met up with the local diving guide. They departed to go to the diving spot and once there, they jumped off the boat with excitement. But again, the group was met with a heart breaking scene. They saw plastic debris everywhere similar to the one they saw in Pulau Tidung, but now they saw a turtle with plastic hanging out of its mouth. In shock, they decided to end the diving session early and hopped back onto the boat. Once on the boat they called the authorities, to let them know what they saw. This incident disturbed Travis so much that he kept quiet throughout the ride back to the island. He is so disappointed as the trip is a complete disaster due to the abundance of plastic found under the sea. 

The rest of the trip the group found similar incidents like the first two diving sessions. After spending 4 days, the group went back home in complete disgust and anger at the Indonesian society. Therefore, Travis made it his mission to clean up the ocean as he could not bear to move on knowing the horrible state that the ocean is currently in. He has an idea to raise awareness on this issue on social media, and asked the rest of the group if they wanted to join this fight with him. The group agreed and they got started on working. It took them weeks to gather enough evidence and content for them to start posting on social media so that the Indonesian community realise what they are doing. The group went back and forth to the Thousand Islands, documenting the plastic debris found and explained how terrible the sea is currently. 


The group believes doing this is the best approach in raising awareness because it is not widely known by the Indonesian people that even the ocean surrounding the Thousand Islands are filled with plastics. On social media, the group showed their followers the abundance of plastic that they found, sea animals with plastic on them, and corals with plastic clinging onto them. They also explained to their followers how our daily activity could have this massive impact on sea life. It did not take long for the group to find massive support. Many well known celebrities, social media influencers, and even politicians supported the message that the group is sending, as they shared the posts and account to their friends. These findings created a movement within the Indonesian society that pushed for better waste management. Charlie, Travis, and Kelly are all heavily invested in this movement; and they all constantly meet up to clean the ocean in the Thousand Islands. The account that they made, Ocean Footprint, quickly gained popularity and people started following the group to clean up the ocean in the Thousand Islands. 


Although they have gathered massive support around the cause, Travis said “I know we are doing something for the environment. But this is not a permanent fix. Nobody has the time or money to keep on going back and forth to the island and keep on cleaning it.” The group knew this, but they believe that even such small actions matter. Kelly responded “It’s okay, as long as the people know how our actions negatively impacted the ocean, we are one step closer to our goal. All we can do is continue to promote this message and hope that the government will come up with policies that could decrease the amount of plastic pollution in Indonesia” 


Charlie and co. has now been working on this project for over 6 months. They realise that soon they have to be leave for uni, and so could not keep this up any longer.


“It’s alright guys, I am proud of how far we went with this. The project succeeded to bring attention to the issue and also started a movement. How many people can sey that they can do that?” Chuckled Kelly as she is trying to reassure the group.


The group eventually sees it the way Kelly sees it, and accepts that the issue that they are fighting for is a wicked problem, therefore there is not a single solution that can solve it. 2 months later, it was time for the group to move on and pursue their undergraduate degree. They are satisfied with the way things worked out, and hoped that they have created change within the Indonesian community. All but Travis, left for university. He decided to take a gap year to continue to push this movement to ensure that there is something being done. He dedicated the following year with this movement, before he moves abroad for university. 



admin. (2022, April 4). 8 Most Satisfying Seribu Island Diving Spots, Indonesia. Spotdiving.com. https://spotdiving.com/most-satisfying-thousand-island-diving-spots-indonesia/?amp=1