A trip to Atlas Pearls’ farm in Labuan Bajo
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.
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.