Who we are.
What we do.


Okeanos Foundation for the Sea is a German philantrophic organization active in the Pacific and in Europe. We support Pacific island states in their efforts to operate and build fossil-fuel traditional sailing canoes (Vakas) for passenger and cargo transportation needs, culturally based education and research. Our Okeanos Vaka Motu operations are conducted by Pacific islands-led social enterprises that offer traditionally based sustainable sea transportation to meet day-to-day needs. Okeanos Foundation and its social enterprises share a vision for a sustainable, fossil-fuel free future built on respect for traditional knowledge, environmental stewardship, biodiversity, holistic place-based education and development strategies.

In Europe, we focus on ocean – and environmental protection through mindful, experience-based education. Our Vaka Okeanos in the Mediterranean Sea is the floating island from which members of our association ‘Okeanos – Learning from the Sea’ experience the Mediterranean marine environment and its inhabitants while developing the motivation to become ‘navigators’ – living and promoting the shift of social norms for the societal transformation we need. A message that we also carry into classrooms through professional formats combining scientific facts with entertaining, multimedia oceanstory-telling and messages of hope.

Especially with the beginning of the UN Decade ‘Ocean Research for Sustainable Development’, we also invite scientists to contact us if they are planning to conduct research in remote Pacific environments or in the Mediterranean. Our Vakas are a sustainable means of transportation for natural as well as social scientists and a cultural bridge between research teams and local communities.

Our foundation develops and implements projects that inspire and initiate positive change for people and environment – while increasing awareness not only of the threats our oceans face but also of transformation paths leading to solutions.


Early History

Dieter Paulmann’s love for oceans and underwater filmmaking led to the establishment of the Okeanos Foundation to support a variety of ocean advocacy, research and communication projects. Since 2007, Okeanos has been supporting symposia on ocean noise, climate change, and the role of phytoplankton while collaborating with globally recognized science communicators such as Carl Safina.

Deeply troubled by the global threat to biodiversity, in 2009 Okeanos began producing the feature documentary Racing Extinction, directed by Academy Award winner Louis Psihoyos. Filmed across the globe over 5 years, Racing Extinction draws attention to mankind’s role in a potential loss of at least half of the world’s species. On December 2nd 2015, Racing Extinction was broadcasted simultaneously in 220 countries by the Discovery Channel in recognition of the United Nations’ Paris Climate Conference. Please visit our page Racing Extinction Film Project to learn more.


Te Mana O Te Moana voyage

In 2010, Okeanos began working with voyaging societies across the Pacific to develop and build a fleet of seven traditionally designed, fossil fuel free double masted Vaka Moanas, representing ten island nations. The spirit of tradition and ancient wisdom spoke to our hearts and created a longing for solidarity, cooperation, and kinship.

Our international voyage ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean) began in April 2011. Over the course of two years, hundreds of  sailors navigated from Aotearoa to Hawai’i to the US West Coast with a historic arrival at San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in August 2011. Our journey home began January 2012 with stops at Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu concluding at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands, August 2012.

Our voyage demonstrated the genius of Pacific vaka design and the power of the almost lost culture of celestial navigation.

Collectively we safely sailed 210,000 nautical miles of open ocean and showed the world the great power and potential of the vaka.


Our voyage continues

Te Mana O Te Moana voyage launched a renaissance in traditionally based ocean stewardship and engagement. Our journey embraced the collective ethos that we must look to the past to prepare for the challenges of the future.

While visiting small island nations, powerful and transformative ideas collectively emerged as to how traditionally designed fossil fuel free modern vakas could best be incorporated into the day to day lives of the Pacific peoples. Today, the Okeanos journey continues building upon the success and trained community of Te Mana O Te Moana.

We have designed new vakas from information shared by many different island groups, resulting in one mast sailing vessels – called ‘Vaka Motu’ – specific to Pacific inter-island transport that are culturally meaningful, environmentally sustainable while satisfying all sea transportation needs.

Our new vaka technology connects the best of the past with the best of the future including solar panels and, most recently, biofuel-powered engines, perfectly suited for fossil-fuel free transport of people, food, medicine, and supplies between Pacific Islands.



Okeanos Foundation for the Sea has chosen three paths for making an impact.

On an infrastructural level

For over 10 years, the dedicated work of the Okeanos Foundation has fostered a renaissance in traditional Pacific boat construction, open ocean sailing and navigational training that has inspired innovative, culturally adequate local solutions while supporting sustainable development and energy independence.

Throughout the Pacific, our Vakas are fulfilling a variety of regional needs for transportation between the islands. They are certified for open ocean safety for transport of passengers and cargo (e.g. local crops, provisions, educational supplies, medicine, tools and spare parts) as well as disaster relief.

Our support of sustainable sea transportation in the Pacific has galvanized partnerships between Okeanos and island governments to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The diversified use of the Okeanos Vaka Motu can meet up to thirteen UNFCCC Sustainable Development Goals.

On an educational level

In the Pacific, our fleet of Vaka Motus is serving as a platform for vocational sailing training, culture-based education programs and ocean science research. In the Mediterranean Sea, we support mindful encounters with marine ecosystems from our ‘floating Pacific island’ – Vaka Okeanos.

Through professional and inspiring storytelling

Raising awareness is important. Equally game-changing are messages of hope that include blueprints for the transformation we need in our societies. We see professional storytelling as the spark that can light the fire!