I visited Sulawesi from October 7 to 20, 2023. The goal of the trip was the lakes (Poso, Matano, Towuti) and also meeting with our partners. German aquarist Gunnar Loibl was a great traveling companion for me. We brought back a huge amount of knowledge, ideas, as well as photo and video material, which we will gradually process.

We'll be posting a selection of the most interesting photos here on the Sulawesi Keepers blog in the coming weeks. We start with an overview of the ten most important aspects of the entire expedition:

1. Exposed lake shores

In October, everyone starts to look forward to the rainy season. The drought this time was really long and the temperatures were unusually high, which caused the lake level to drop. This was most noticeable at Lake Poso, where the exposed banks were covered with the shells of thousands of dead snails and bivalves.

2. Local people

Not only shrimp collectors, but also fishermen and other people living immediately around the lakes are a valuable source of information, real experts. It is interesting to talk to them and observe their work.

3. Lake Poso Mini-museum

We visited Institut Mosintuwu and discussed plans for the further development of the mini-museum right on the spot. This is an exciting and great part of our work together!

4. Iqram's team and the search in Lake Matano

Iqram, a member of Sulawesi Keepers, worked on Lake Matano with a team of students from UNHAS (Hasanuddin University). They searched for the critically endangered species Tylomelania zeamais and then helped us with our survey.

5. Future conservation breeding center in Makassar

We also visited the Department of Biology at UNHAS. In addition to meeting with the management and members of the department, we also had a discussion with students and viewed the premises where a center for conservation breeding of Sulawesi freshwater endemic species should be established in the future.

6. Water testing

At many locations, we took water samples for analysis and made basic measurements directly on site.

7. Drone for mapping shore morphology and aquatic plants

Thanks to the drone, we gained a bird's-eye view – in the future, we would like to use it much more, for example, to map invasive plants that pose a threat to endemics, including the iconic Ottelia mesenterium.

8. Underwater drone

We also tested an underwater drone. This is a pilot project that we will fully embark on next year. This is how we want to intensify the research and go deep (literally).

9. Hours and hours… in the water

What would lake exploration be if we didn't get wet. The endless hours of snorkeling were really challenging and took their toll…

10. Underwater worlds revealed

… but it was worth it! I got to know completely different places and different aspects of the lakes. I understood a little more the biology of the species that we (more or less successfully) try to breed in aquariums. I observed and documented many species.

But about that next time, where we will look at the best of shrimps, snails, fish, crabs, plants

Markéta Rejlková