Harmony with the tides: Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan’s seaweed farms nurturing local economy and marine life – Exploring Indonesia

Explore the world beneath the surface of Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan, where pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters hide a remarkable secret: seaweed farms. These farms, deeply rooted in local tradition, not only support the islands’ economy but also embody a harmonious relationship with nature. Discover how seaweed farming is a delicate art that plays a vital role in the global seaweed industry. Beyond economics, these underwater gardens act as nurseries for marine life and fortify the surrounding ocean ecosystem. Gain a unique perspective from KUBU221, overlooking this hidden world, and learn how it’s a vital guardian of the sea, influencing tides, nurturing seaweed, and sustaining the local community.

Ceningan, Indonesia
4 October 2023

When you imagine the Indonesian islands of Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan, your mind likely conjures up images of pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.

But what these islands hold something more beneath the surface. A world of seaweed farms that not only sustains the local economy but also whispers a story of simplicity and harmony with nature. It’s a side of this place that often goes unnoticed.

The tradition of seaweed farming runs deep in Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan, a practice handed down through generations. It’s a unique bond between the islanders and their marine environment, a testament to sustainability and coexistence. In a rapidly modernizing world, this tradition stands as a poignant reminder of the profound connection between humanity and nature.

Seaweed farming here is a precise art. Different types of seaweed, such as Eucheuma cottonii and Gracilaria, are carefully cultivated on bamboo structures anchored to the seabed. These underwater fields harness the islands’ rich marine life and favorable conditions, ensuring a bountiful harvest—a living example of nature’s delicate equilibrium.

These seaweed farms aren’t just local endeavors; they have a global impact. While they might seem small in the grand scheme, they play a crucial role in the global seaweed industry. This marine plant is a versatile resource, finding its way into various aspects of our lives, from cuisine and cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. The islands quietly contribute to meeting the world’s growing demand for this remarkable resource.

Beyond economics, these underwater gardens bestow invaluable environmental gifts. Acting as nurseries for juvenile fish and absorbing excess nutrients, they fortify the surrounding ocean ecosystem. It’s a natural rhythm worth cherishing, a testament to the intricate dance of life below the surface.

Our stay at KUBU221 provided a unique perspective on these seaweed farms, overlooking the south-west strip dividing Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. This vantage point allowed us to witness the ebb and flow of the tides, revealing a mesmerizing transformation.

As the tide recedes, it reveals a minimalist landscape—a narrow band of sand, seemingly abandoned boats, and the subtle greens of seaweed plots marked by bamboo. With the rising tide, the waters transform into a breathtaking crystal-clear blue.

But how does the harvesting of seaweed work? It is influenced by tidal phases due to the growth and location of seaweed.

  1. Identifying cultivation areas: Local communities or businesses identify suitable coastal areas for seaweed cultivation based on factors like sunlight, water quality, and depth.
  2. Seaweed cultivation: Seaweed is planted or attached to underwater structures like ropes or nets using seeds or mature fragments. They are allowed to grow over a specific period.
  3. Harvesting during low tide: Mature seaweed is harvested during low tides when the water recedes, making it more accessible. Growers cut or detach the seaweed.
  4. Separation and processing: After harvesting, seaweed is brought ashore and processed. This typically involves washing, drying, and packaging for transport and use.
  5. Sale and use: The harvested seaweed is sold in local or international markets and used in various applications, including cuisine, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food products.

Seaweed harvesting is planned around tidal cycles, as low tide makes seaweed more accessible. Sustainable management is crucial to prevent harm to marine ecosystems.

I had hoped to engage in conversation with one of these hardworking harvesters but hesitated to disturb them during their labor. In hindsight, it was a missed opportunity. The Indonesian people I’ve met have always been welcoming and eager to converse. I’ve learned that in future encounters, I won’t let such opportunities slip away.

Instead, I contented myself with capturing a few photographs from a distance. 

I hope you will enjoy these images, and that them transport you for a moment to this remarkable place.

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