Raja Ampat. Over 30 years ago, Max Ammer, a Dutch history enthusiast, embarked on a four-month diving expedition in Indonesia, following a lead about submerged WWII aircraft. His journey led him to Raja Ampat in West Papua Province, Indonesia. Nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle, this area boasts the richest marine biodiversity on the planet, with over 1,600 fish species and 75% of the world’s known coral species.
Inspired by the region’s natural beauty and local communities, Max Ammer established the Kri Eco Dive Resort in 1994. His mission was to train local divers and introduce people to the unspoiled aquatic world. Later, a resort in nearby Sorido Bay joined his Papua Diving company.
Raja Ampat faced environmental challenges, such as unregulated fishing and unsustainable practices like shark finning and turtle poaching. However, the right approach and partnerships led to change.
Turning the Tide
Around 20 years ago, Raja Ampat was in decline due to unregulated commercial fishing. In 2004, it became part of West Papua’s Bird’s Head Seascape initiative. This project aimed to create Marine Protected Areas in collaboration with international conservators and local authorities. The goal was to preserve marine resources, ensure food security, and provide sustainable economic benefits to locals.
Engaging local communities has been pivotal to Raja Ampat’s conservation success. The parks employ locals to protect and survey the areas, preserving their indigenous knowledge and traditions. Local traditions like “Sasi,” which allows ecosystems to recover by sequestering areas, are upheld.
A Model of Sustainability
The effort is bearing fruit. The Raja Ampat Marine Parks Network, comprising ten protected areas spanning over two million hectares, received the Blue Parks Award this year. Endorsed by the United Nations, this award acknowledges marine parks worldwide for meeting high science-based standards for conservation effectiveness.
Misool Eco Resort: A Sustainable Oasis
Marit Miners, co-founder of the renowned Misool Eco Resort and Misool Foundation, demonstrates the importance of engaging local communities for sustainability.
Her love story with Raja Ampat began when she met fellow diving enthusiast Andrew Miners. A date in Raja Ampat changed her life. Marit, originally from Sweden, studied anthropology and later found her passion for scuba diving and yoga in Thailand.
Now, Raja Ampat stands as a testament to the power of community-driven conservation in preserving Earth’s last paradise.