In “Totok’s Dream”, Martijn van Monsjou and Tobias Buijs capture the story of Metamorfosa as a part of Gemtrack‘s documentary series “Positive Pioneers”. You can watch the full documentary here.

Curious to find out about how their time with the team shaped their thoughts, we spoke to them about a variety of topics like the mindset of the local community, teamwork, positive change and creative challenges.




“The key is to listen” Martijn told me as we spoke about the factors that influence the success of a project like Metamorfosa.

During their stay in Sumberkima, Martijn and Tobias witnessed how trash was being tossed out in nature mindlessly and learnt about dynamite fishing and the use of potassium to catch aquarium fish – an important cause of coral death. It is blindingly obvious that there is a problem with the way the environment has been treated.

“So for Metamorfosa to succeed, the mindset of everyone in the village has to change. But with so many different religions and opinions, the task is challenging (to say the least). Imagine explaining to a fisherman that he will have to change the way he has been working for years. It’s about altering a deeply rooted belief at its core – which takes time.”

They did already notice a changing mindset in Sumberkima. People have now started collecting and separating garbage and are cleaning beaches of the plastic that is washed ashore. Damaging activities, like dynamite fishing, have stopped.



And as if nature is keeping track of time, the gradual change in mindset is reflected in the reef: the new section is bursting with life, while the dead, bleached reef sits beside it as a constant reminder that it wasn’t always like this.

Tobias remarks that this contrast is a vital part of the Metamorfosa experience. “I think it is important that travellers can see the physical change. The new coral symbolizes the new mindset and travellers should be aware of the work that went into the transition.”



“It was spending hours and hours with the team on the water that really brought us into this ‘Metamorfosa vibe’. We soon felt as much part of the team as the other guys.”

Inspired by the team’s radical humility, Martijn paints us a picture. “The team feels like a small, select group, inspiring the masses.”

Tobias wistfully adds to the image. “On some days it felt like we were part of a small revolution, a small speck on the ocean. Metamorfosa is located bang in the middle of an area filled with people who are still in the process of becoming more environmentally aware. Slowly but surely, the Metamorfosa team inspires locals to make (more) conscious choices.




“Filming this documentary was a real technical challenge, since we were constantly surrounded by water!” Martijn talks about how they got by with only a GoPro, instead of their usual professional equipment. Communication under water proved to be tricky to say the least. “We were mostly signalling with our hands and feet. Getting the perfect shot was a real creative challenge.”

Tobias expression changes to dead serious when he tells me: “I was so happy that Martijn was there with me. I’m such a wimp when it comes to diving! We would not have been able to do this if it hadn’t been for Marty swimming around so gracefully”.

Back on land, Tobias had found himself a challenge of his own: the interview with the project head Totok, who turned out to be a bit camera shy. “Some of the funniest moments I ever had, were while trying to capture the radiant personality of Totok. It was as if Totok would turn into a shy and modest man once the red light on the camera started blinking. Totok is a warm human being with a contagious sense of humour and it was important to us to transfer his energy to screen in an apt way.”




“The energy was amazing though. It was the last documentary we were making for the series and there was a strong feeling of ‘let’s do this!’. It was inspiring to spend time with Totok, a man who is so driven to do this project for the people around him. This man radiates joy.”

Tobias agrees, by paraphrasing what Totok told him in the car. They were discussing the key to happiness.

“When I was working for a big company, it always felt like I would disappear in the masses. As if my work didn’t matter. Now, with Metamorfosa, we have a small team. Some people tell me that I used to be a richer man, but I think that they are wrong. If you can be satisfied with less and consciously enjoy what you have, happiness will come to you”.