About Richest Reefs - Carden Wallace PHD


What is so very special about Indonesia that nature's undersea builders - the coral polyps - and all of their fellow reef dwellers, have so favoured its waters with their presence? This is a question that has fascinated and preoccupied scientists for a long time, and indeed it is part of a broader question about life on earth as we know it: why is the Indonesian region home to more biodiversity than anywhere else on earth? And of course this question has another side - how to treasure and care for the most abundant natural resources on earth so they are still there for future generations?


The first step is understanding and appreciation.  Pleasures innumerable await the diver on Indonesia's wonderful reefs, and faced with extraordinary variety, where to start? This dilemma must have faced even Michael Aw, now truly able to call Indonesian reefs a spiritual home, when he first turned his goggles towards the "taman laut". From fringing reef to barrier, atoll and lagoon, incredible walls to underwater volcanos, tidal shoals and raised jellyfish lakes, each region of the vast Indonesian archipelago has its own special features. Add to this the "topside" pleasures of meeting the inhabitants and enjoying the cuisine, cultures and special characteristics of such a vast array of differing cultural groups that make up Indonesia's population. Michael has since spent fifteen years documenting Indonesia’s tropical paradise and the result is here before you in detailed documentation.


In this book Michael distils what has made diving and photographing throughout Indonesia so special for him. He does this firstly in the way he excels - his stunning photography. Underpinning this is a true naturalist's knowledge of the behavioural patterns of his subjects, the underwater creatures, and a special ability to bring out the best in them for the camera. In addition to this I'm sure you will detect from this book something much deeper, a genuine appreciation of the marvellous underwater places that Michael documents. If you are from "outside", this book will make you itch to visit or re-visit these special reef places. If you are Indonesian, you can be truly proud of your natural heritage.


Of course being the custodians of some of the world's greatest reefs carries a great responsibility. Visitors and locals alike must understand and heed the protocols of environmentally sound practice.  We must not hide away from the dangers that face reefs, in both Indonesia and the world at large. Global warming, unsafe or unsustainable fishing, pollution, greed and general lack of care have seen the great proportion of the world's reefs threatened in very recent times. As divers our special privilege in observing the underwater world means we also get to see the damage, sometimes even the devastation, that human carelessness can cause. Michael Aw has seen these things more than most of us, and he does not shy away from the responsibility to bring them to our attention.


I have been lucky enough to visit most of the places in this book, due to the kindness of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), of innumerable Indonesian people and scientist and dive friends, and of Michael Aw himself, who has been a mentor, friend and guide on many a dive trip. I feel I have been privileged to see many of these special places at their best and to find some of the previously unknown species, of which many more await our attention. I hope that the armchair experience of seeing these places and their inhabitants through Michael Aw's lens will lead all readers to appreciate, cherish and care for Indonesia's beautiful coral sea gardens. 


Carden Wallace,

Principal Scientist,

Museum of Tropical Queensland