Explore Lombok’s natural beauty and laid back charm with a former shark fisherman who has hung up his nets in favour of guiding tourists, instead of hunting down the dwindling shark population. When you book an eco-tour, you support his new livelihood.
After we first told their story a few years ago, many like Eunice were inspired to go on these eco-tours. Recently, we also made a journey with The Dorsal Effect to take in the natural wonders of Lombok - and how it has changed lives.
Meet Suhardi, your friendly neighbourhood guide
He dives into the clear blue waters of Lombok, proudly guiding snorkellers as they take in the vibrant coral reefs.
It is a long way from his previous trade - shark fishing. Born and bred in Lombok, Suhardi became a shark fisherman when he was 10 years old.
He would go out to sea two to three weeks at a time, cut off from his wife and two children. As the relentless demand for sharks decimated their numbers, his income dwindled.
Fishermen have had to venture further to hunt sharks, which meant that each expedition cost more. Depending on the catch, Suhardi would take home around S$50 to S$200, notwithstanding the inherent dangers of being out at sea.
Now, working for The Dorsal Effect, “I can sleep at home every night with my wife and kids,” he shares. He has also saved enough from his four years as a guide to buy a second boat, which he uses to run a local boat taxi service for extra income.
And he loves meeting new people, and showing off the beautiful and pristine islands of Lombok.
Dive into the dream
A trip with The Dorsal Effect is both a venture into a dreamscape and stark reality.
As a guest, you will be taken on a boat to pristine snorkel sites and secluded beaches far away from the touristy areas, where you can swim in crystal clear waters amid healthy reefs. If you’re lucky, you may even spot sharks swimming in their natural habitat.
And you can choose to trek around scenic rice paddy fields and visit beautiful waterfalls in Lombok’s luxuriant rainforests. Meals consist of local delicacies such as nasi campur (mixed rice with vegetables) and yummy curries.
But you also visit Tanjong Luar market to see firsthand the shark trade, and learn how precarious it is for both the sharks and the men who hunt them, as the trade is increasingly unsustainable.
And you see the pitfalls of tourism, when you see how little care other tourists take when traipsing through the islands. During our trip, we saw some guides and tourists on other tours picking up corals from the sea floor, to pose for pictures.
You also learn how to not just enjoy, but also respect the environment - Suhardi, unlike other boat operators, only lands his anchor on sand, to ensure that the coral reefs are not damaged from the boat tours.
The one who started it all — Kathy
An ex-secondary school teacher from Singapore, Kathy’s passion for the environment and dismay over shark trade spurred her to start The Dorsal Effect. Her solution? Persuade shark fishermen to earn their livelihoods as eco-tour guides, and save sharks from being hunted down for their fins.
When you see sharks in their natural habitat, I think that there's a point where something would change in you and you really want your future generations to be able to experience that as well.
Founder, The Dorsal Effect
The difference you make
Booking an eco-tour could help fulfIll Kathy’s audacious dream - to get more shark fishermen to switch to leading such eco-tourism tours for a sustainable income.
Demand from responsible travellers like you encourages fishermen to consider eco-tourism as an alternative to hunting sharks for income.
In the long run, this could improve the situation for the shark population in the region, and result in a healthier marine ecosystem in and around Lombok.
Travellers can fly to Lombok, or catch a boat from nearby islands. The Dorsal Effect can pick you up from Kuta, Senggigi or Mataram. Costs differ depending on your selected pickup point.