By Nikolas Tjhin
Located off the northwestern tip of Indonesia’s West Papua Province, the archipelago of Raja Ampat (The Four Kings) is the holy grail of Scuba diving.
With more than 1,309 fish species, 537 coral species, and 699 mollusk species, Raja Ampat boasts the highest recorded marine life diversity on Earth, according to marine surveys conducted by Conservation International.
Raja Ampat consists of about 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo. The region is blessed with natural beauty, both above and below the waterline. It has a startling diversity of habitats to explore — from the wave-pounded slopes beneath jutting limestone cliffs, to blue water mangroves and plankton-rich upwellings.
But unfortunately, the scenic beauty of Raja Ampat is under threat. Bomb fishing, deep-sea trawlers, logging, and mining are damaging this pristine environment. The big fish are starting to dwindle.
Luckily, in 2007, Raja Ampat was formally declared a Marine Park, the first step toward ensuring its conservation. A Tourism Entrance Fee of IDR500,000 (US$50) is now charged. The fee goes to community development, conservation and enforcement, with various monitoring programs to keep an eye on illegal activities on water and land.
But as tourism grows and Raja Ampat becomes more accessible to the masses, life on this remote collection of islands will change. New developments are in the works, not all of which are fully eco-friendly. More people mean less secluded beauty, so book your trip now to see the Holy Grail of Scuba Diving untouched and unspoiled.
Part of a NileGuide Special Report: 25 Destinations to See Before They Change Forever.