I was very grateful that I was selected as one of 30 participants from a competitive pool of over 2,500 applicants from all over ASEAN to join the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp in Bohol, Philippines. The YSEALI SEA Camp started with a week-long activity from March 19-26, 2018. This program is organised by Save Philippine Seas (SPS) in partnership with the U.S Department of State to give young people a platform to play bigger roles in conservation.

On March 19, I put my first step in the Philippines. Along the flight to Bohol, I met other participants selected from other ASEAN countries. It was not so hard to recognize them, as we have already known their name and face on the website before. We were still shy on the first day, but only less than a week we were able to become closer than I could imagine.

One week in YSEALI SEA Camp I got inspiring activities such as team-building exercise, panel discussion, field trip, elevator pitch, writing to leader and project management. It gives me the best experience for my self-development to understand myself and other people. It also encourages me to follow my passion, be brave to take action and to become the positive influencer to people and environment.

Team-building exercises

In the first day of SEA Camp, the committee asked all the participant to draw their soul. This activity conducted on the first day and the last day of SEA Camp. Through this activity, I understand the development of my mind also with other participants in marine conservation area at SEA Camp. In the first day, I draw my soul as a bucket that received inputs from many people. It is quite hard to explain myself because I think too many of people’s suggestion to my life. But in the end of the SEA Camp I draw my soul as a person who has a purpose to take a role in the conservation area. A person who has a long way and strong wind to reach the purpose. But along the road, there is a lot of Beautiful things. Through SEA Camp, I realize that it has encouraged me to be brave following my passion in marine conservation.

Retno Ningrum

Retno Ningrum explains her soul in draw your soul activity


The team-building exercise did not only help us to have a good teamwork and good bonding with other participants. It also exercising our analytical thinking of some issues in marine environment area through the fun activity. The first fun activities are Dynamite, Storm, Fisherfolk Game. In this game all the participant act as marine ecosystem (mangrove, seagrass, coral reef). As the participant act as marine ecosystem, they understand the damage that caused by dynamite, storm, and fisherfolk by marine ecosystem point of view.

The second activities is Multistakeholder activity. The issue given is the case that happens in Jagna Philippines where the national regulation would apply the ban of mobula ray fishing activities. The participants were divided into several stakeholders (NGO, Government, fisherfolk) and discuss the best policy to take by the mayor. This activity gives me the experience of being in the national regulation plan discussion. It trained me to adapt to the new group to have same thoughts and prepare to deliver it correctly in a good manner.

Multistakeholder activity

Learning empathy and negation skills during multi-stakeholder activity

The third activities is Imaginocean activity. The participants were divided into small groups. In 30 minutes each group needs to create their imaginary island with any object on the spot. Each group has the opportunity to explain their island in two minutes. After all groups demonstrate their imaginary island, the other group must destroy the other’s island only in 10 seconds. After that, each group could get back to their island and repair their island only in 20 seconds. Through this game, we learned that to build the environment takes effort and long time. But to destroy the environment only take a short time where the effect is destroying the longtime effort. We have the chance to re-built it again in limited time but the result was not as good as the first time. The participants contemplate through this game that the best way to keep the environment is by not destroying the environment.

Writing to Leader

Beside the team-building exercises, YSEALI SEA Camp also encourage me to share my thought through writing. It can become the tool to make people understand our mind. Writing also become one of the successful tools to raise the awareness and engage people especially through social media. In this session, the participants were encouraged to speak up their mind through writing a letter to the leader. The letter could be a compliment letter or a complaining letter because people need to be accountable for their positivity or negativity. In this session, I write a complaining letter to one of the supermarkets in Banyuwangi who insist us to use their plastic bag even when we have refused it. With the tips that committee gives to us, I write my complaining with compliment opening. After that, I describe the terminal difficulties along with the recommendation that they can do to improve the issue. I mention things that the reader would interest in the last paragraph. Before I kept the thought of others in my mind but this session encourages me to speak up my mind through action in writing the letter.

Elevator Pitch

YSEALI SEA Camp also help me to improve my communication skill through the elevator pitch session by practising the elevator pitch in front of all the participant improve my confidence in public speaking. After all the participant gives their elevator pitch, we watch our video footage of elevator pitch. By seeing myself in that video, I recognize things that we did not notice before and it really helps me to improve my elevator pitch skill. The committee and other participants also give a constructive criticism which helps me to improve my elevator pitch.

Field trip

In the third day, we visited Pamilacan island and tarsier conservation centre. Both are the example of the successful conservation area in Bohol. People used to hunt manta ray and whale shark in Pamilacan island, but after the whale shark fishing is unlawful since 1998, the fisherman starts to stop catching whale shark. Some of them change their job into dolphin watching tourism which now become the one of the main tourist activity in Pamilacan. In Pamilacan island, we were given the opportunity to see the dolphin in the ocean and we saw the spinner dolphin. We also snorkelling in Pamilacan island and see the coral reef ecosystem condition.

dolphin watching

Learning about marine conservation issues in the Philippines while dolphin watching at Pamilacan Island

Right after visited Pamilacan island, we went to Bohol tarsier conservation centre. It is the place that provides an area for tarsier sanctuary and provides information to the visitor about tarsier which now is become the nearly threatened species. Tarsier is a sensitive animal and they are easy to stress. Before we enter the conservation centre, we were given information of the code of conduct during visiting the tarsier. This conservation centre only has 6 tarsiers that are allowed to be seen. Each tarsier has a tarsier ranger that ready to give the information to the visitor and also to ensure the tarsier condition.

Both of this trip enlightens me that to conduct the conservation work we need to design a good and responsible plan. The design also should be informative which allowed the common people to understand, respect and appreciate the nature and environment more.

Panel Discussion

The speakers in panel discussion session not only from the Philippines but also from other ASEAN countries. They talk about their conservation project. The speaker’s experience of their conservation project opens my mind that the key to realize the conservation work is by engaging the common people to take action in conservation. It is not easy to influence people through our project, but we can always take a simple action and overcome the challenges in order to achieve the goal of our own project. After all the speakers explain their experience, we were divided into small groups to have a speed date with the speakers. In speed date session we have time to discuss with each speaker about their experience, or even about our project. I also use this session to ask for their suggestion in finding my passion and what I am going to be for the future.

Project Management

In SEA Camp I was encouraged by the speaker to figure out myself, find what I want to do for the future and to be the environment influencer. Right after that, the speaker taught us to have our own project and give the tips and trick on the project proposal, budget and report writing. I proposed the local student outreach programme in Muncar about mobulid rays conservation status. It will help to increase local students knowledge of mobulid rays conservation status and it links to local coastal community livelihood.

This experience develops my writing skill in making the project proposal budget and report. It also helps me to increase my confidence in public speaking because I need to pitch my project proposal. During this session, I got a lot of positive input to improve the project proposal. In the next day, the committee gave the second opportunity to pitch my revised project proposal. Surprisingly, the panelist chooses me as one from 10 participant’s to be awarded by U.S Embassy of The Philippines to implement the sustainable development initiatives in each home countries.


Personal Impact

I still can feel SEA Camp experiences in my heart. The experiences that allowed me to have role in succeeding the YSEALI SEA Camp itself. The camp was not only gain my awareness but also encourage me to take action to keep the environment. It is inspiring me to develop the school outreach programme that I have conducted with MantaWatch’s Sustainable Fisheries Team. Doing the workshop and seminars only gain student awareness. So I add the field trip session in school outreach programme which more interactive. I believe it will help the student to have a memorable experience and encourages them to take simple action in preserving mobulid ray.

The learning experiences I gained during the YSEALI SEA Camp will really support my professional development and become invaluable when I bring the experience back to Indonesia. YSEALI SEA Camp was not only influenced me to take action in protecting the environment but it has encouraged me to become the influencer for people around me to take simple action protecting the environment. Overall, YSEALI SEA Camp has provided me with the excellent speakers talking about their experiences in the conservation which increase my knowledge also encourage me to have a role in conservation activity. The team-building exercise, project management, writing skill, public speaking, communication also important as my role as MantaWatch Sustainable Fisheries Assistant specializes in stakeholder outreach and education involves the collaboration with local governments, communities, and students to improve the implementation of sustainable fisheries in Muncar, Banyuwangi.



Project Assistant

Retno is MantaWatch’s Sustainable Fisheries Assistant and an alumnus of MIP-2016.