The Seven Seas News - February 2016
Raja Ampat: Biodiversity hotspot in the Coral Triangle
Trip Report by Rili Djohani. Photos by Bojan Tercon & Linda Johnston.
What a joy to be back in Raja Ampat after 10 years! Situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle region, it is fabulous to see that the network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Raja Ampat is operational and the marine ecosystems are striving. Diving in Misool was mesmerizing surrounded by schools of colorful fish and large fish such as the Bumphead and Napoleons wrasses, groupers, and the playful clown trigger fish. So much abundance of fish whilst diving has become rare in Indonesia.
Topped by close encounters with reef and oceanic mantas, hawksbill turtles, dolphins and the numerous critter dives with such variety of nudibranchs, flat-and tube worms, mantis shrimps, tunicates and sponges. Diving anywhere else in the world doesn't get much better than in Raja Ampat.
The diving in the north at Fam and Waigeo was also beautiful with the most extensive and diverse coral gardens. So spectacular to have mantas swimming next to you and above and in the next dive spotting the Wobbegong sharks in the sand. I was in awe when one came up swimming right to me! It was fun to see the pygmy seahorses in the beautiful coral fans and observe numerous juvenile fish such as the peacock razor fish and the spotted parrot fish in the shallow areas.
Raja Ampat is still so pristine, so beautiful and remote. The bottom up approach to establish the MPA network in Raja Ampat with full engagement and support of the local communities early on has been pivotal for its success. The local government with support of international NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International and a number of other smaller international and local NGOs as well as the eco-resorts and live-aboard vessels in Raja Ampat are all working together to keep this area well preserved.
The challenge is to make those efforts sustainable and ensure commercial interests on the land and in the sea are addressed and integrated in larger spatial planning and governance processes at the district, provincial, national and international levels. Coral Triangle Center will remain committed to develop and strengthen local leadership and capacity, establish MPA learning sites as well as to inform the larger public about the global importance to ensure the most diverse reefs on earth continue to be well preserved now and for future generations.
We had the best experience again on the Seven Seas bringing us to the most wonderful and unique locations in Raja Ampat to enjoy the underwater beauty as well as the magnificent view from Wayag combined with visits to the local villages, hikes and the remote beaches. My sister and I were floating on our backs in the Tomolol cave taking in the mystique atmosphere around us. We heard the forest come to life with the singing of the birds; slowly seeing the contours of the trees and a lazy cus-cus with the rising of the sun. We heard the calls of several birds and suddenly saw the endangered red bird of paradise dancing in the canopy of the trees! Wow!
The crew has been superb with Karl and Linda as our cruise directors and hosts, captain Wahyu, our dive guides Irwan and Jeffrey, cook Nico aided by Widhi serving delicious food everyday and everyone else of the team were great. It was an extra special trip for me to finally go this time on holidays in Raja Ampat (not for work) with my family, Hilly, Fica, and Indra and my dear buddies Joost, Asmeen and our friends: Arnoud and Marion, David and Pras, Agnes and Praab, Bojan and Bud,Yvonne and Alberto. The crew made it possible for all of us to enjoy the trip to the fullest and especially for my mother with extra special care from Hera! Thank you Seven Seas, Jos, Lida and Mark for providing us a spectacular and unforgettable trip on your boat.
Rili Djohani, Coral Triangle Center
Waigeo, 27 January 2016
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