8 May, 2020

Author: Jeni Kardinal

So wild, we decided to create a children's book about Wallace’s life and his remarkable discoveries in Indonesia.

wallace book cover

This is the story of how it evolved.


SeaTrek has been following in Wallace’s footsteps for decades, but what spurred the idea of creating a book about him? It all started during a SeaTrek trip: In Search of Wallace and his Living Treasures whilst in the Village of Dodinga, on the island of Halmahera in Eastern Indonesia - a place where great ideas are born!


SeaTrek arrived with a boat full of adventurous guests with naturalist Dr. George Beccaloni (founder of the Wallace Correspondence Project) in search of the location where Wallace had stayed in February 1858. We followed the clues described in Wallace’s book, The Malay Archipelago (1869).

George Beccaloni on a SeaTrek Adventure Jan 2018. Photo by: Jeni Kardinal

It seemed like a treasure hunt with George taking the lead stating excitedly , “it could likely be here!” A bend in the river near an old Dutch fort, - which was in total shambles but cemented the fact that we were indeed close to the place where Wallace had his epiphany. George described the scene: - Wallace was drenched in sweat with bouts of fever (most likely malaria); his mind racing through the eons of geological time and how species changed over time. It was here in this tiny Village of Dodinga that the theory of Natural Selection was born.

He wrote an essay titled: On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type in February 1858. Shortly after, Wallace mailed his essay to Darwin from Ternate to England by steamer in March 1858. Once Darwin received it he stated: “all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed”.


This essay changed the way the world looked at species diversity and sparked Darwin to write the book, The Origin of Species. Darwin and Wallace are known to be the co-founders of the Theory of Natural Selection and amazingly enough, here we were, standing in the very spot Wallace wrote it!


Our faces must have been an odd sight as we looked on with amazement while George continued with the story about Wallace’s stay in Dodinga. We noticed a village elder – a respected Hadji in the community - and asked him if he had heard about the English Naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace? He had not, nor did it appear anyone in the village had either. We talked of Wallace's love of nature and all the wonderful discoveries Wallace had made in Halmahera and the neighbouring islands. There were many species which had never been seen in the outside world until Wallace’s specimens where shared with Museums and private collectors in Europe and beyond. These animals only existed here, in the special habitats of the Maluku islands. Iconic endemic species such as: Wallace’s Standardwing Bird of Paradise, Wallace's Giant Bee, and Wallace's Golden Birdwing Butterfly. The Hadji was interested and wished the children could learn more about nature and the importance of conservation. We all looked at each other, thinking the same thing! Let’s create a children's book about Wallace to donate to the local schools so they could learn more about Wallace and the natural wonders that are so special within Indonesia.

Hadji with his wife in Dodinga, Halmahera, Indonesia

SeaTrek put together a Team - writers, illustrators, translators and experts


George Beccaloni was on board to oversee the accuracy of the story and illustrations. His participation was key in keeping the story as authentic as possible. We are extremely grateful for the many hours he spent editing the story and heading us in the right direction with a wealth of information from The Wallace Correspondence Project. To learn even more about Wallace, join George Beccaloni on board Ombak Putih.

From left to right: Director of Literasi Anak Indonesia - Aprile Collett with associate Grace Mailuhu,, Jeni Kardinal with SeaTrek Sailing Adventures, and Coco Melati (illustrator).

I am also very fortunate to know Aprile Collett, a passionate educator and founder of Literasi Anak Indonesia. A literacy program that began in 2014 developing reading materials for Primary schools in Indonesia, educating both children and teachers. Aprile was immediately drawn to the project and began writing an outline for the story in collaboration with Jeni and George. Aprile was also a good friend of Tony Whitten whom this book is dedicated; their children grew up together in Jakarta when Aprile was teaching at the Jakarta International School before moving to Bali. It was a perfect fit.

Book Dedication to British Naturalist: Tony Whitten


Tony was a British Naturalist who frequently traveled in Wallace’s footsteps on board SeaTrek’s Ombak Putih, leading trips for many years until his tragic death in November 2017.

Tony Whitten from the SeaTrek cruise October 2017. Photo by: Jeni Kardinal.

Tony was known for his feverish enthusiasm and for the many books he wrote about Indonesian Flora and Fauna including:

Book Illustrator: Coco Melati


Coco Melati: Coco is Balinese, who was raised by a jewellery designer from California living in Bali. Her adopted mother was able to give Coco the opportunity to go to International School and onto art school in Australia. A recent graduate of Art school in Melbourne, the Wallace book is Coco’s first project out of school and she couldn't be more thrilled to have the opportunity. Coco is really pouring her heart and soul into the project and it really shows in her beautiful illustrations bringing the story to life.

One of the goals of the Wallace book is - educating children about the wonders of nature and the importance of habitat preservation. Many species depend on diverse habitats with minimal anthropogenic disturbance for their survival.

The book will be printed in both English and Indonesian separately, and are best suited for middle age children. The English versions will be available to purchase for $20.00 usd. Each purchase of one English version will support the distribution of 8 Indonesian versions of the book. Copies will be available for sale in October 2020.

Book Projects and SeaTrek


Ocean Champions Book


In 2018 SeaTrek teamed up with a long time sailing friend and author Michelle Mech, who wrote Ocean Champions - a children's story of an underwater adventure with “Botley” a discarded water bottle who introduces kids to science and the effects of trash and pollutants within the marine environment. With funds from the DAP program (Direct Aid Program), sponsored by the Australian Consulates office in Bali, we were able to get the book translated into Indonesian and print 5,000 copies for distribution to remote villages around Indonesia. SeaTrek was the perfect vessel to distribute these books on board Katharina and Ombak Putih. The book is also available as an ebook in Indonesian. This book is best suited for middle school age children.


SeaTrek has printed an additional 2,000 copies and continues to distribute books related to ocean conservation. Thanks to Michelle Mech for her support and permission to make copies for donations to schools.

Wayan and the Turtle King


Wayan and the Turtle King is written by a British author: Yvette Bezuidenhout and has also given SeaTrek permission to make copies for distribution to schools around Indonesia. The book also focuses on environmental education complete with activities at the back of the book. The book is best suited for primary aged children. SeaTrek has been able to distribute around 2,000 copies so far.

Wayan & the Turtle King Book Cover

Future Books on the Horizon


Our next children's book will focus on Coral Reefs and Reef Restoration.


SeaTrek has been learning about Reef Restoration from Ocean Gardeners, an organization in Bali led by Coral expert: Vincent Chalias. Vincent is a coral Aquarist with over 20 years experience in Coral farming. Coral farmers have an incredible amount of knowledge on how to grow corals and are great partners in coral restoration.

Ocean Gardener Coral Racks in Candidasa, Bali

Director Frank Hyde of SeaTrek during a Ocean Gardeners training workshop in Bali. Photo by Jeni Kardinal

Ocean Gardeners offers courses on Coral Ecology and coral restoration projects in Bali and around Indonesia. SeaTrek Tour leaders have begun taking these courses and SeaTrek even has their own coral racks growing hard and soft corals in Bali. In the future both tour leaders and guest will have a chance to participate in our coral restoration projects along SeaTrek's sailing routes.

The goal of the book is to share knowledge from local experts on the importance of protecting Coral Reefs in a kid friendly storybook format. Learning how healthy reefs support local fisheries and the environment. Plus coral reefs help protect communities from breaking down wave action from tropical storms.