The World’s Coolest Floating Classroom

“Kalabia!” “Kalabia!” “Kalabia!”  The cries of excited children running and shouting out the name of this colorful ship captures the local enthusiasm for the world’s coolest floating classroom as seen in our latest IMAX film, “Journey to the South Pacific.”   Check it out in this new video.


The brainchild of Dr. Mark Erdmann, Senior Advisor to Conservation International’s Indonesia Marine Program, the Kalabia is a 100-foot former illegal tuna fishing boat that was confiscated and re-fitted to give valuable ocean education lessons to island children throughout the Bird’s Head Seascape in eastern Indonesia.  The children and families living in these remote villages in West Papua depend on healthy reefs for their survival and livelihoods.  The need for greater protection of these reefs inspired the original purchase of the Kalabia in 2007 by Conservation International, which along with partners, helped develop the successful program.   Named after West Papua’s endemic “walking shark,” the Kalabia  is now run by the indigenous Kalabia Indonesia Foundation.

Local, well-trained educators deliver lessons to some of the most eager students in the world about what keeps a marine ecosystem healthy.  They have already reached more than 4,000 local children and parents in 130 villages.  Compelling science lessons are imparted through creative interactive games, such as the Coral Reef Game, in which the children take on the role of coral polyps searching for  plankton—and are rewarded with peanut treats given out by their instructors.  For three days in each village, children gain invaluable lessons about the importance of their backyard ocean habitat and preserving it now and for future generations. As future stewards, the children are the key for the continued health of this uniquely beautiful marine environment.

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