Raja Ampat, Indonesia: ‘The Last Paradise on Earth’

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(CNN) — More than 30 years ago, Dutch and history buff Max Amar discovered a World War II aircraft from his then-war veteran landlord. Indonesia.

This tip led him on a four-month long diving expedition through various archipelagos, consulting local fishermen along the way.

One place in his journey stands out from the rest. Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia.

Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the Raja Ampat Marine Reserve network spans over 4 million hectares and includes about 1,500 islands.

Raja Ampat, believed to have the richest marine biodiversity on earth and a relatively remote location that has made it possible to escape mass tourism, is marketed as the ‘last paradise on earth’. Of course there are many. It is home to over 1,600 species of fish and about 75% of the world’s known coral species.

“There are endless beautiful areas and hundreds of beautiful coral gardens,” says Ammer.

His love for both natural beauty and the local community led him to open the Kuri Eco Dive Resort in 1994 with the aim of training local divers and bringing people to the “pristine world of water.” It was a trigger. The resort continued on nearby Soldio Bay, with two properties operating under his Ammer’s. papua diving Company.

One of the most successful conservation projects on the planet

Raja Ampat, often referred to as ‘the last paradise on earth’, is renowned for its rich marine biodiversity.

Diving Resorts in Papua

Raja Ampat is not always a conservation success story, proving that real change is possible with the right approach.

“About 20 years ago, Raja Ampat was in decline due to unregulated commercial fishing and unsustainable practices. Conservasi Indonesiaciting examples of shark finning and sea turtle poaching, he told CNN Travel.

“It took a lot of work with different stakeholders to turn this around.”

In 2004 Raja Ampat was added to West Papua. Bird’s Head Seascape Initiative, a project created to devise a network of marine protected areas, with the support of international parents and local authorities. We strive to protect marine resources while ensuring food security and sustainable economic benefits for local people.

“Since the start of the initiative, fish populations have recovered. Poaching by outside fishermen has decreased by approximately 90%, corals are recovering, and long-term food and livelihood security for communities has improved.” says Irmadhiany.

Encouraging local communities to become active members of conservation efforts is key to its success.

The park employs locals to survey and protect the area. They retain local indigenous knowledge, values, and traditional practices such as “sasi,” which refers to age-old local traditions of isolating areas to allow for ecological restoration. increase.

“We need to start with the community and make sure the solution fits their needs. The goal is to support their voluntary commitment to protect their place. It is sustainable and benefits local people and biodiversity,” says Irmadhiany.

Their efforts are paying off. Earlier this year, the Raja Ampat Marine Park Network was published, comprising 10 protected areas spanning more than 2 million hectares. blue park award.

Hosted by Marine Conservation International and endorsed by the United Nations, this annual award recognizes marine parks around the world that meet the highest science-based conservation effectiveness standards.

From shark fin camp to eco-resort

Misool Eco Resort "no take zone." All fishing and hunting activities are prohibited within the 300,000-acre marine reserve.

Misool Eco Resort is located in the “Exclusion Zone”. All fishing and hunting activities are prohibited within the 300,000-acre marine reserve.

Sean Hinrichs

Marit Miners is now famous for Misol Eco Resort The Misool Foundation is one of the best examples of the importance of engaging local communities to create a financially and environmentally sustainable resort.

Her relationship with Raja Ampat started as a love story. While traveling in Bangkok in 2005, she met her fellow diving enthusiast and her future husband Andrew Her Miners.

On their third date, he invited her to go diving in Raja Ampat.

“My first visit to Raja Ampat in 2005 changed my life,” Miners told CNN Travel. Born in Sweden, he studied anthropology before discovering his passion for scuba diving and yoga in Thailand.

“It was something I had never experienced before, both on and in the water.”

The coral reef on Batbitim Island, where Misool is now located, was magnificent, but there was something about the former shark fin fishing camp that irritated the miners.

“We had never seen a single shark live,” says Miners.

Biodiversity had not yet recovered from years of commercial fishing. In 2005, not long after their first visit, the two founded the Misool Foundation and Misool Resorts, the latter a means of financially supporting conservation efforts.

They then reached an agreement with the local community to change the Misool Marine Reserve to a “no fishing zone.” This means that all fishing and hunting activities within the 300,000 acre area will be prohibited. They have hired their own Ranger Patrol to monitor the waters since 2007.

As for the resort itself, sustainability is always at the forefront of operations.

For example, solar panels reduce the use of fossil fuels. Collect rainwater to make drinking water. Organic food is served in the on-site garden. The Foundation’s waste management program includes purchasing trash and marine plastics to sell to recyclers.

Sharks and other marine life have returned to Mysore.

Sharks and other marine life have returned to Mysore.

Sean Hinrichs

Meanwhile, sea creatures are returning to places that were once “dead, finned sharks left in the shallows”, and a richer underwater life is becoming more attractive to divers.

“Since 2007, fish biomass (in Misore) has increased by an average of 250% and shark populations have recovered. It’s also essential for the locals who depend on it for their livelihood,” Miners says.

She says community engagement is critical to Raja Ampat’s continued success, as a well-protected marine environment requires collaboration and long-term commitment.

“As ecosystems recover, their richness becomes increasingly attractive to those seeking to take advantage of them. Threats evolve and diversify over time… It is unrealistic and dangerous to assume that

This is why we need dedication from communities, local governments, scientists, business owners, nonprofits, schools, funders, and influential local and international supporters, she adds.

“This holistic approach maximizes your chances of success. It takes a lot of the spirit and energy that you find here in Raja Ampat,” says Miners.

Raja Ampat’s Kulhi Cape and other must-sees

Ammer has also observed positive changes at his two Papua diving resorts.

about 20 years ago Dr. Gerry Allen, Conservation International When diving at Cape Kuri on Papua Diving’s House Reef, he set a record for recording 327 species in a single dive. Ten years later, that number had grown to 374 species in his 90 minutes.

“When we started, there was a lot of toxic activity going on all over Raja Ampat: bomb fishing, potassium cyanide fishing, shark fishing, logging,” Ammer said.

“All of that has been slowly eradicated. In our case, mostly by creating other options for making a living. ), they no longer need to be involved in harm.”

Two of Papua Diving’s locations are built in already dilapidated areas. Both are former coconut plantations, meaning that the original forests have not been destroyed.

They are mostly made from local materials, but the inclusion of stainless steel extends the life of the wood. The roof is made of traditional thatched palm leaves harvested and purchased by the local community.

They designed a more fuel-efficient catamaran built by locals. A new catamaran currently in development will be fully electric and autonomous once it hits the water.

Papua Diving’s two resorts have a conservation center and a diving center, and about 90% of the staff are locals.

When asked about his favorite places to dive in Raja Ampat, Amar said the list is almost endless.

“I still often get surprised when I look around while diving.

In addition to Cape Chestnut, a house reef famous for Papuan diving, Sardine Reef is said to have “so many fish that it can block the sun”.

Named after Ammer’s daughter, Melissa’s Garden has a stunningly beautiful shallow reef plateau filled with both hard and soft corals. With its hard reef plateau, Otto Dima is named after Otto Her Awom, a local Papuan who Amer trained to become one of her most experienced diving guides.

Raja Ampat also has a lot to offer on the water.

“The water is littered with small mushroom-shaped outcrops and covered with pitcher plants and wild orchids,” says a Misool miner.

“Coconut crabs, the largest terrestrial arthropods, can be found trotting in the undergrowth, and rare birds such as sulfur-crested cockatoos, Bryce hornbills and Brahmin kites are common sights. , serves as a nursery for juveniles and as a nursery for juveniles, a refuge for flying foxes and fruit bat roosts.

“On land, there are hikes with spectacular views of iconic karst islands and blue lagoons.”

“Learn from us”

The Papua Diving founder says the alternative to employment has helped eradicate once-harmful fishing practices.

The Papua Diving founder says the alternative to employment has helped eradicate once-harmful fishing practices.

thomas hider

Luis Cabez, a local dive guide for Papua Diving, told CNN Travel that in order to have the best experience in Raja Ampat, travelers should “visit local villages and share time at local schools.” says that there is

“Tell us about your country. Learn from us. Come eat with us,” says Kaves from Savandarek village on Batanta, one of Raja Ampat’s main islands.

He says he is proud that Raja Ampat is now a famous place and proud to be a diving guide.

Having spent 30 years in Raja Ampat and visited over 400 WWII aircraft sites, Ammer agrees that the biggest attraction is the people.

“Interact with people, anywhere,” adds Ammer.

Source: www.cnn.com

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