Raja Ampat – Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

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Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea - Photo 1

Raja Ampat – Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Reading time 7 min. The most metaphysical and moving beauty in this world is nature. Plato once said: “If anything is worth living for, it is beauty.” Although beauty is hard to describe…

Diving - where to go and when to go? Useful Information (Issue 5) - Photo 1

Diving – where to go and when to go? Useful information (Issue 5)

Reading time 12 min. Raja Ampat – Indonesia Raja Ampat is a region located in the western part of Indonesian Papua (Iran Jaya Province). It consists of over 600 islands and islets. These areas…

Places worth visiting at least once in your life - photo 1

Places worth visiting at least once in your life

Reading time 7 min. The world is full of beautiful regions that attract people with their magnificent views. But there are so many places to visit on this planet that it would be hard to prioritize. If you…

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Raja Ampat – Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

The most metaphysical and touching beauty in this world is nature . Plato once said: “If anything is worth living for, it is beauty. Although beauty is difficult to describe and define, I always try to see it in all aspects of life, places and people.

In our search for the most beautiful, pristine and undiscovered dive sites, we arrived at Raja Ampat in West Papua. This place has long been on our list of dreams, but only now were we able to make them come true… because everything in our life has its time and place.

Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

We live in an incredibly beautiful place on the island of Yeben, in the west of Indonesian Papua. Six private, cozy villas are located on the northern coast of the island, with stunning views of the ocean. A purple-colored wooden pier, a beach covered with exotic seashells and coconut palms. It’s hard to believe that just 15 minutes separates us from the famous mountainous island Penema, the slopes of which are covered with emerald green tropical forests. The road to the top of the hill is long and tiring, but when we get there, we feel as if we have touched the sky. The view we see will never let us forget what we see…tiny mountain islands scattered across the ocean, surrounded by shallow lagoons of the most beautiful shades of blue and turquoise green. A fascinating, even unreal picture…

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Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Life on the island of Yeban is very slow, and its rhythm is determined by the time of day. If I had two words to describe this delightful place, I would use the title of the movie “Exile” – from the world of director Robert Zemeckis. The island is uninhabited, with the exception of a few tourists and vacationers who come to Yeben. The only connection of the island with the outside world is the wooden pier, which goes far into the sea. Here we go diving every day at dawn. The pier also “shelters” numerous shoals of fish: redfish or humpback grouper, which are hidden in the shade of the sea grasses from the large shoals of black-tip sharks. In the shallow lagoon surrounding the island, there are so many fish that the sandy bottom cannot be seen. It only appears when a shark enters and the shoals open up like a curtain.

When I am here and see this extraordinary, rich underwater world, I cannot believe that just a few years ago the population of sharks, manta rays and other creatures that inhabited Raja Ampat were badly shaken by destructive human activity. How is it that this part of the world has been preserved and its pristine beauty restored?

In 2002, this extraordinary land was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Raja Ampat has been called the “Ocean of Mirrors” because the waters surrounding the islands are crystal clear and the nature is lively and unpolluted. The richness of this part of the world is not in the gold, but in the vast shoals of fish – over 600 species of hard and soft corals in the most beautiful colors of the rainbow, shark pods, manta rays and countless other corals making up the largest underwater land of biodiversity in the world.

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Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

When I first dived into the warm waters surrounding Jeben Island, I thought I was dreaming or that I had landed in the underwater sky… at that moment, the ocean sparkled with a million stars because of the fluorescent plankton, and I found myself in the middle of the most beautiful spectacle in the world. Two enormous black and white manta rays danced over a reef that seemed to stretch endlessly. These beautiful, gentle creatures have an extraordinary power, they can fill every cell of my body with happiness… peace, freedom, joy and emotion, all these feelings manifested simultaneously. It is one of the most beautiful performances in the natural world, which takes place before our eyes and inspires hope.

I think this is what the underwater world looked like in the time of Jacques-Yves Cousteau . The journey to Raja Ampat is a journey through time that each of us must take, virtually or physically, to understand what we will lose if we do not begin to fight together for our planet.

Raja Ampat is a paradise saved thanks to outstanding people who had the courage to speak on behalf of the animals that inhabit both the Ocean and the many islands that together occupy 46,296 square kilometers of land .

Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Marc Erdmann, a biologist working on behalf of Conservation International, a nongovernmental organization specializing in the conservation and protection of nature, has contributed very much to the protection of this part of the world. Their basic philosophy is “People need nature to live”. Marc Erdmann is a real authority on the management of the marine protected areas around Raja Ampat. He works with locals who used to catch sharks and now are conservationists who work together to protect and defend their home. Because they realized that what they were doing up until now was wrong, and they need to fix it. That’s why education is so important and plays a key role here.

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Marc Erdmann has been working with the Indonesian government for several years now, together they created a special protection system for the Raja Ampat. Special water patrols consisting of specially trained local people have been set up to patrol the fisheries day and night and protect them from poachers. Systematic practice has reduced poaching in this part of the world by 90% and ecotourism is booming.

Drones are also being used to patrol larger areas, which are more environmentally friendly than combustion-powered boats.

Young people want to learn and act to protect Raja Ampat, an example of how miracles can be achieved through education and awareness of more than just local communities.

Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

A prime example of this is Sean Heinrich , filmmaker and underwater photographer. He spent more than five years in West Papua tracking and fighting poachers who brutally hunted sharks and rays. One day while diving, Sean saw a beautiful whiskered shark that had been savagely stripped of its fins for their culinary qualities. The animal was still alive when it swam up to him, it was lying on a coral reef, slowly dying in agony. Sean recorded the shocking image… called the director of WildAid, an organisation that works with numerous celebrities from Asia and Europe whose image is meant to grab people’s attention and dissuade them from buying products from the wild.

Raja Ampat - Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

Raja Ampat, Paradise Found. Papua New Guinea

The organization uses widely known social media to do this. WildAid created a very emotional commercial (which you can see on their website) showing a shot of a dying shark taken by Sean. It was aired in prime time on every possible TV channel. The commercial reached hundreds of millions of Chinese . Thanks to this campaign and the support of the Chinese government, the consumption of shark fin soup was reduced by more than 80%. The commercial showed people a sad, scary story that touched their hearts and caused great emotion… they saw the suffering of a helpless creature, not the finished product on a plate.

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“Raja Ampat is a story of the impossible – thanks to the participation of so many people, the number of turtles, sharks, mantas, fish and other creatures that inhabit this amazing land has recovered and continues to grow. Nowhere else in the world will we find such diversity and rich life as in West Papua . It was here that I dived the most beautiful coral reefs in the world and encountered a carpet shark . Raja Ampat is an example that the impossible does not exist.

The season in West Papua lasts all year round, but the best diving conditions are from October to April . The currents can be very strong, but where they are there is life, large herds of sharks, manta rays and impressive schools of fish . When we discover such a place on Earth, we wish we could stay there forever, but our journey continues, and who knows, maybe it’s just beginning…

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