There is the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and now, the Aseanarean. Coined by Francis Lee, co-author of the self-published Marine Parks of Indonesia, the term is a fitting name and tribute to Southeast Asia's amazingly diverse collection of archipelagos, peninsulas, seas and straits.
Comprising mainly Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, the region has long been regarded as having some of the world's top diving spots. It is therefore no surprise that the Aseanarean is also home to the world's richest marine biodiversity life, hosting an astonishing variety of extremely important yet delicate riches: Marine and coastal habitats, hard and soft coral species and marine creatures. And because such fragile wealth will fade one day, all steps must be taken to protect it — a responsibility recently undertaken by Lee, president of Raffles Marina, British researcher Patricia Seward and Chou Loke Ming, a biological science professor from the National University of Singapore.
Together, the trio sailed the seas of the Indonesian archipelago to explore Indonesia's Marine Parks. The extraordinary story of their 4,500-nautical mile research and fact-gathering expedition both on land and underwater is recounted and shared in the book. The second in the Aseanarean Expeditions Series, Marine Parks of Indonesia was also the inspiration for National Geographic Channel's award-winning documentary Indonesia Beyond the Reefs in 2002, loosely based on the research gathered during the expedition.
The book presents a wealth of marine, biological and geological information in an accessible and compact form. Written in fluid prose, the text is interspersed with interesting facts and figures surrounding Indonesia's marine diversity, what can be found in the parks and conservation efforts. It also includes useful maps, drawn to near accurate nautical chart standards.
A total of eight marine parks are featured, each different and unique in their own way. The Komodo National Park houses abundant marine life including fish, sharks, dolphins and whales as well. Taka Bone Rate National Marine Park is located in the largest atoll in the Indonesian archipelago and is inhabited by a small, isolated fishing community that the crew visited. The most well-developed of parks is Bukanen, a stark contrast to the remotest park at Teluk Cenderawasih, but both nonetheless impress with its exquisite underwater worlds and pristine, sandy beaches.
And because the book also includes the authors' firsthand account of the three-month expedition rather than a mere delivery of information, it proves an entertaining read by detailing the crew's daily life throughout the journey: Rare encounters with extremely human-shy birds, glorious sunsets, cultural exchanges and even the unexpected events and difficulties faced during the trip are all recorded. Made up entirely of volunteers, the team consisted of dedicated Singapore marine scientists and conservationists, artists, divers and photographers. The 368-page hard cover book is also comprehensively illustrated with beautiful photographs, some so visually stunning that passing a cursory glance simply will not suffice.
From the first page to the end, you cannot help but be inclined to recall the words of Sir David Attenborough, famed BBC naturalist: “An understanding of the natural world and what's in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment” — a fulfillment which this reader can undoubtedly claim for her own upon reaching the conclusion of this delightful book.
Marine Parks of Indonesia is a non-profit publication sponsored by Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) Pte Ltd. It was launched in April this year and is available at Raffles Marina and the Nature Society (Singapore) at $150. All proceeds are dedicated to marine conservation in Indonesia.