Raja Ampat: Ultimate Underwater Expedition
The roaring engines fixed to a large wooden boat are finally quiet. Nothing can be heard but the rifting little waves, lapping against the vibrant paint on the sides of the vessel that gracefully slows down. Native birds hop on the tip of a small tree in one of the deserted islands in the distance.
Raja Ampat or ‘Four Kings’, is the name given to these islands and comes from a local myth. The four major islands found here are Waigeo, Misool (which is home to ancient rock paintings), Salawati, and Batanta.
Underwater enthusiasts flock to this region because it offers the world’s best marine sights. Two days earlier, some of these travelers had been at a deafening corner of a tourist trap in Bali. Once they took their flight to the bird head of the island of Papua everything changed as they embarked on a diving tour of a lifetime. In the Raja Ampat islands, divers can explore vertical underwater walls. The thrill of drift diving is another great challenge. These are the awesome experiences you will find in Raja Ampat.
Meanwhile, on this tour several divers were well equipped and looked advanced. The territory within the islands of the Four Kings is enormous, covering 9.8 million acres of land and sea, home to 540 types of corals, more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. This makes it the most diverse living library for world’s coral reef and underwater biota. According to a report developed by The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, around 75% of the world’s species live here. When divers first arrive here their excitement is palpable. It’s common to hear people praise God as they take in the remarkable scenery. Others prefer to remain in silence taking in the overwhelming sight of so many islands with crystal clear water that softly brushes over the white sandy beaches.
“Disini bagus!”, says the friendly local guide who had been appointed by the tour operator who runs an eco-lodge in Raja Ampat, indicating that they have arrived at one of the most fantastic diving sites. On other days, this guide is just a simple fisherman. The local fishermen here are accustomed to foreigners and are friendly, especially when offered pinang (betel nuts) or some sweet candies. These are very popular and offering these sweets is considered polite and a good way to win an instant smile. The fishermen usually eat this snack during Para-para Pinang, or social chatting and exchanging funny stories while chewing Pinang. In many respects, like nature, culture, and history, these fishermen are closer to the Moluccas.