Raja Ampat means “four kings”, legend has it that a long time ago, on the island of Waigeo, King Waikew found six eggs. Four of them hatched, giving birth to four men who became kings of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool… the four kings.
OUBIEZ THE CAPS, THE WRONG TIME ... YOU ARE IN RAJA AMPAT
RAJA AMPAT IN INDONESIAN PAPUAIA: THE CORAL TRIANGLE
It did not take me long to accept the proposal of Ziad El Zein, director of the Key Largo agency, to discover during a diving cruise, the Raja Ampat.
Think about it, Unesco plans to include the Raja Ampat on the World Heritage list, as an area with the greatest marine biodiversity on our planet. And from the first dives, the richness of the seabed is striking. The last census, which dates from September 2008, reports 1511 species of reef fish, including about thirty endemic species, 600 species of hard corals which represents 75% of species known throughout the world, and 57 species of mantis shrimp, 8 of which are endemic! This is what is called the coral triangle, at the junction between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, a veritable bubbling of reef life.
"THE BIRD HEAD SEASCAPE": AN IMMENSE MARINE RESERVE
The “Bird Head Seascape” covers 180.000 km2 and more than 2500 islands. 2 recent biological studies demonstrate the incredible biodiversity of the area. In fact, 56 new species of fish were counted there in less than 6 weeks… Out of 56 species, 50 are endemic…
If the human impact is less strong in the archipelago than in other places in Indonesia, the natural resources are nevertheless threatened, for example by destructive fishing methods, or by the poaching of turtles, but also by the mining and forestry. The Indonesian government recently designated Raja Ampat as a separate administrative unit, which gives local communities greater influence in the management of natural resources and should be an opportunity to put forward the conservation of natural heritage: the aim being to protect the reefs of Raja Ampat while supporting the livelihoods of local populations.
MSY SEAHORSE: A 2 WOODEN MAST 30 METERS
Looks like a pirate ship! All in wood, the MSY Seahorse is a two mast 33 meters long by 8,5 wide. It has six standard double cabins of 12 square meters equipped with two single beds, and two Deluxe cabins, a little more spacious, equipped with large beds. Each cabin, air-conditioned, has a private bathroom: all the comforts in a traditional boat! Outside, a large table allows videographers and photographers to arrange their equipment. However, nothing is planned to enjoy, especially in the evening, the breathtaking starry skies, and long tropical evenings. I'm exaggerating a bit, there are sun loungers on the upper deck but not the slightest light… The meals are “air conditioned” and are all taken inside… but we will come back to that.
SEAHORSE DIVES: INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE
Every day, 4 dives are on the program, 3 during the day and 1 at night. Although there is no legislation as to the depth, they take place without decoration. Regarding the duration, the only instruction is to get out of the water with 30 bars on the meter and if it takes you 120 minutes, no one will find fault with it. During night dives, all divers are asked to finish the dive at 60 minutes.
The ship offers optional nitrox (US $ 160 package), almost essential given the number of daily dives. Two groups of 8 divers, one "yellow" and one "green" are created according to the affinities of each. Two guides per group accompany you on each dive in order to make you discover the infinitely small, for example, the pygmy seahorses which are almost impossible to find without their sharp eyes. A diving dinghy drops off the two groups one after the other in the area, and a “taxi” boat allows you to get back to shore without waiting for your entire group. All the sites are within 5 minutes of navigation, which is quite appreciable.
It is clearly preferable, if you are not an English speaker, to go with someone who speaks English.
Boo, Fiabacet, Raja Ampat, Three Towers, Sagof, Dampier Strait, Aljui Bay, Batanta, Penemu… not to mention The Passage, so many must-see and legendary Raja Ampat dives.