Weather and the Kalabia

A note about the anti-malaria medication Malarone: oh my goodness does it pack a punch. Not only does it inspire absolutely insane dreams, it makes you feel like you are on a boat, even when you’re on dry land. But this region of Indonesia, West Papua, is known for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and I’ve been bitten eight times already. So I’m in a pickle: risk malaria (no thank you), or get used to my new dizzy state of being?

Today we had our earliest call time: breakfast at 4:45am. When people show up, no matter what time they went to sleep, each person is eager and ready to start the day. There is no grogginess or grumpiness here – there is simply no time for it. We headed out while it was still dark, and saw a truly extraordinary sunrise, with colors coming up over the islands. 

Our filming today is taking place on the Kalabia, a former fishing boat that was confiscated and turned into a floating classroom.  It takes over two years for the Kalabia to travel to all 120 of the island villages in Raja Ampat, where on-board educators teach kids about marine ecology and conservation.  We’re including the Kalabia in our film to show some of the unique and innovative methods being used in Raja Ampat to build awareness and support for coral reef conservation.

We docked at Sawinggrai and the entire village came out to watch us from the dock.  I imagine how strange we must look with all our filmmaking gear.  The vibe on the ship is very relaxed and low-key, a theme here in Indonesia. There is none of the frantic pace that we have become so used to in the States.



We are greeted by Angela Beer, director of the Kalabia’s educational program. A Canadian expat who has lived in Raja Ampat for five years, Angela was formerly a high school science teacher.  The islanders call her “Mama Kalabia” because of her love and dedication to the Kalabia project.  The original idea for the Kalabia came from Mark Erdmann, Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Marine Program for Conservation International and our major science advisor for the film.  He had the idea for ten years, but it was only after he recruited Beer that the program took off. She is outgoing, lively, and with her ability to speak Bahasa like a local, she’s absolutely marvelous with the kids.  She developed the curriculum for the Kalabia, recruited and trained the local teachers for two years and then in 2008, the trawler finished its colorful transformation into a floating classroom.

Because it is overcast, we decide to shoot deck scenes with the children and teachers rather than the scenics we had originally planned. The teachers use a game to teach kids about the tiny coral animals that build reefs, and we filmed them playing it.


When filming on location, one of the main issues is always weather.  Here in Raja Ampat, the weather can fluctuate from hot and sunny to overcast with monsoon rains within minutes.  Every day, we wait for the perfect weather to create the perfect light for each shot.  It can be frustrating, but once the sun shines through, the payoff is huge. 

We finished the day back on the Sawinggrai pier at 5:00pm instead of the usual 8:00pm. No one complained about the idea of getting to bed a little early tonight.



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