Daily Ramblings - March 31, 2009

March 31, 2009 - It is the last day of March.  We have settled in the Raja Ampat Islands and the weather has been bright sun and calm seas.  This clearly is an undiscovered paradise.

Located off the northwest tip of Bird's Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. It encompasses more than 9.8 million acres of land and sea, which also contains Cenderawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in Indonesia. It is a part of West Papua Province of Indonesia.  New Guinea occupies the western half of the island that is shared with the independent country Papua New Guinea which we visited in December.  The people throughout the islands are Papua, which are different from the rest of native Indonesians.

Marine life diversity here is amazing.  The Coral Triangle is the heart of the world's coral reef biodiversity and the seas around Raja Ampat are possibly the richest in the world. The area's massive coral colonies are resistant to threats like coral bleaching and disease - threats that now jeopardize the survival of corals around the world, though this area is remote and relatively untouched by humans. In addition, Raja Ampat's strong ocean currents sweep coral larvae across the Indian and Pacific Oceans to replenish other reef ecosystems. Raja Ampat's coral diversity, resilience, and ability to replenish reefs make it a global priority for marine protection.  With over 1,070 fish species, 537 coral species, and 699 mollusk species, the variety of marine life is staggering.

On Monday we did a drift dive along a point where 208 unique fish species have been counted.  It was amazing to see all of the varieties surrounding the incredibly colorful coral heads and formations. Tuesday’s dive was in a submerged reef in the center of the tidal currents.  The huge fish we were among included shark, rays, grouper, snapper, jacks, barracuda, Spanish mackerel, Napoleon fish, Moray eel and hundreds of coral fish.  Cam and I gave fishing a go – even though discouraged by our local friends.  It is interesting that with the plethora of fish everywhere we turn, their interest in artificial lures is minimal.  We landed only one barracuda.

This morning, Captain Walter and I visited a local village.  The people were welcoming.  Their tidy sand streets, church, school and community center gave the 150 residents reason for pride.  We hired the kids to clean up the beaches surrounding their island, as the tides left plastic bottles and debris scattered among the palms and trees lining the beautiful beeches.  While taking a photo of a couple boys, a coconut fell, just missing the boys by inches.  Interestingly, more people are killed by falling coconuts than sharks or any sea life.

I am struck by the balance of life, security, and consumption of the people here with our Mother Earth.  They seem to want for little and project contentment.  Of course, their children and hope for the future dominates their village culture as it does all of our lives.  I am grateful we have no television contact and my view to the world today was this tidy Raja Ampat village.

It has been a pleasure getting to know Max, a native Dutchman, who has built a delightful diving resort. Papua Diving.  You can learn about it at www.papua-diving.com.  The accommodations are comfortable and the diving among the greatest in the world.  He has shared his knowledge and staff generously and made a significant difference in our experience here in Raja Ampat.  Max is like a kid with the arrival of his new ultra light airplane.

Mark, our photographer, arrives tomorrow and we get to spend the next few days shooting photos of the lifestyle Major Wager has to offer future charter guests.

Read March 29 Log

Read March 12 Log