OCEAN’S BEAUTY

A trip to At­las Pearls’ farm in Labuan Bajo

Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Risty Nur­raisa

Aone and a half hour flight took me straight from Bali to Labuan Bajo in Flores. Lo­cated in the east­ern part of In­done­sia, Labuan Bajo is one of the coun­try’s trend­ing des­ti­na­tions af­ter Bali that is fa­mously known for its pris­tine beaches and crys­tal clear wa­ter. Most tourists come to Labuan Bajo for div­ing and snor­kel­ing or sim­ply for is­land hop­ping as there are nu­mer­ous breath­tak­ing is­lands sur­round­ing the area, one of the most pop­u­lar be­ing Ko­modo Is­land.

How­ever, my visit to Labuan Bajo was for a dif­fer­ent rea­son. Among all the beau­ti­ful small is­lands sur­round­ing Labuan Bajo, there is one that is unique as it is home to a pearl farm that pro­duces world-class jew­elry. The name of the is­land is Pungu Is­land. And a 30-minute speed­boat from Labuan Bajo took me there with a group of VIP guests to dis­cover At­las Pearls’ farm and their newly re­designed jew­elry bou­tique.

THE PEARL FARM

The view of small is­lands scat­tered around Labuan Bajo pleased our eyes as we jour­neyed on to Pungu Is­land. As our speed­boat ap­proached the des­ti­na­tion, I could see a line of buoys float­ing on the crys­tal clear wa­ter. The buoys were at­tached to lines and their func­tion is to mark where the oys­ters are

kept in the ocean. This is the At­las Pearls’ farm in Pungu Is­land. The view re­minded me of their pearl farm in Penya­ban­gan Vil­lage in North Bali which I vis­ited a cou­ple of years ago.

The speed­boat fi­nally landed at the dock and At­las Pearls’ team greeted us as we hopped out of the boat. As I set my foot on the white sandy beach, I re­al­ized that At­las Pearls the only in­hab­i­tant of Pungu Is­land. Not far from the dock, there was a show­room where the lat­est de­signs of At­las Pearls’ jew­elry were on dis­play for sale. De­signed with floor-to-top glass win­dows, the show­room looks chic with a wooden deck where our group in­dulged

in some re­fresh­ing cock­tails and canapés – the menu in­cluded some pearl oys­ter ce­viche sa­tay – for the af­ter­noon cock­tail party.

“We re­ceive oys­ters from our farm in Bali,” stated Nathan Jambu, the Project Man­ager. In Bali, the Pinc­tada max­ima oys­ters – which pro­duce high-qual­ity South Sea Pearls – go through a seed­ing process where a del­i­cate surgery is done to ini­ti­ate the nat­u­ral process of de­vel­op­ing a pearl pouch with the help of a nu­clei. “Then, we have them sent here where there’s enough food in these wa­ters and hang them on the line for them to grow.” The wa­ter in Pungu Is­land is con­sid­ered to be warm for the oys­ters to grow and the lo­ca­tion of the is­land is per­fect for the oys­ters to live as the cur­rent from Pa­cific Ocean brings nu­tri­ents to the wa­ter and food like plank­ton for the oys­ters. “There are some preda­tors like sea tur­tles and par­rot­fish, but over­all, our oys­ters are safe here,” added Nathan.

It takes four years for an oys­ter to pro­duce a pearl, and within that four years, an oys­ter is touched 600 times to keep them healthy. But the unique thing about har­vest­ing a pearl is that we will never know what kind of pearl the oys­ter will pro­duce. Each oys­ter can pro­duce a dif­fer­ent type of pearl, from a Grade A (the high­est qual­ity) to an oval-shaped pearl, baroque or keshi, or even none.

It is al­ways a sur­prise when it comes to dis­cov­er­ing what type of pearl the oys­ter has, which you can ex­pe­ri­ence at the har­vest­ing demon­stra­tion that takes place at the back deck of the show­room. Dur­ing the demon­stra­tion, tourists can see first­hand how the pro­fes­sion­als har­vest a pearl and seed an oys­ter. “If the oys­ter pro­duces a high-qual­ity pearl, we will seed it for the se­cond time and put it back in the wa­ter. We’ll wait for an­other two or three

years to har­vest its pearl,” stated Nathan.

TREA­SURE HUNT

The back deck of the show­room also dis­plays posters that ex­plain the process of pro­duc­ing pearls, from the hatch­ery to har­vest time, and how it takes 3,000 com­mit­ted hands at At­las Pearls to pro­duce world­class stun­ning jew­elry which you can see in their show­room.

And now you have all the more rea­son to visit as At­las Pearls has just launched a num­ber of new ac­tiv­i­ties in their farm in Pungu Is­land. One of them be­ing “Trea­sure Hunt” where you can swim in the shal­low wa­ters of the la­goon for a quest to find your shells and pearls. At­las Pearls also of­fers “Trea­sure Pouch” where you can be one of the firsts to dis­cover their loose pearls at the farm man­ager’s of­fice and “Trea­sure Bag” that show­cases a se­lec­tion of jew­elry on-land, in case you can’t make it to visit the farm.

So, who’s up for a pearl hunt in Pungu Is­land this sum­mer?

The view from Pungu Is­land.

Wit­ness a seed­ing and har­vest­ing de­mostra­tion.

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