Finalist in the #LifeUnderWaterChallenge

I was recently featured among the nine finalists in a photography competition run by that aimed to highlight beautiful underwater photographs and people making a real difference to the ocean. The competition focussed on both the image and the backstory, as in how this image exemplifies the positive example you set and how you are inspiring change to protect our oceans. Although I didn’t win, I was delighted at the chance to be featured among a lineup of such wonderful photos and wish all the best to the three winners for their incredible images and stories!

My entry and story can be found below, as well as on my instagram page: @matthews_uw.

More information on the competition, as well as a full gallery of finalists and winners can be found here

~story time~

Competition entry:


This image of two resident False Percula Clownfish was taken at a dive site called Kaledupa Double Spur, on the north coast of Kaledupa in Wakatobi, Indonesia. Some of you may have seen this image before, but might not have heard the story behind it. It was taken at the end of a dive with the @operation_wallacea reef monitoring team on Hoga, an island just to the south. We had been conducting surveys of the local reefs to gather data on fish, invertebrate and coral populations. The camera only came out at the end of the dive because we had work to do! 😂
I’ve spent a total of about 5 months volunteering on Hoga as a research assistant and divemaster. There really hasn’t been another place on Earth that has influenced what I want to do more than Hoga. The data we attained there would go on to inform a number of scientific studies, actually making it the most published scientific site in the Coral Triangle. I learnt so much about marine sciences, having to transition from a more lab-based practice of molecular biology to the different demands of field work. It is with a heavy heart that I learnt that the expedition would be cancelled this year due to COVID-19, as I was due to return as part of the monitoring team to continue their important work.
Teaching school and university students from Makassar and around the world scientific diving and reef ecology was incredibly rewarding; so many of them said they’d love to do the same in the future! We also ran two different coral nurseries, seeding multiple species of Acropora (stag horn coral) over a rope tower nursery and reef stars, following the MARRS methodology. We planted over 1000 fragments!
I can’t mention Hoga without a big thank you to all the fantastic local staff too. Getting to work alongside the local Bajau (subject of many documentaries, especially Sampella, a ‘floating village’ next to the site), Kaledupan and other Indonesian staff was nothing short of a privilege. Kampo, Nani, Ola, Ham, Maliani, Ramadin, Yadin, Rowan, Pippa, Maria and Melissa (and all the others): Terimah Kasi! I hope to see you all again soon!