Raja Ampat: 1000 paradise islands

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The Raja Ampat Islands are located off the tip of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesian’s West Papua Province. The four main islands are Batanta, Misool, Salawati and Waigeo, but this tropical archipelago is made up of more than 1000 paradise islands.

With steep islands covered in dense jungle, luscious white-sand beaches, secret lagoons and picturesque blue waters, Raja Ampat must be one of the most beautiful island chains in Southeast Asia!

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Overlooking Pianemo Islands

Raja Ampat is the ‘Holy Grail’ for divers, having the highest marine biodiversity in the world. The average reef in Raja Ampat has more than ten times the species found throughout the entire Caribbean.

The reefs of Raja Ampat are home to over 1400 species of reef fish, over 600 species of molluscs and 5 species of turtles. With amazing underwater topography, and nutrient rich currents, it’s very common to see many shark species and both oceanic (Manta birostris) and reef (Manta alfredi) manta rays. These cerulean blue waters also host at least 15 different species of marine mammals, from the famous killer whale (Orcinus orca), to the docile dugong (Dugong dugon).

‘There is absolutely nothing else that compares! Our surveys reveal that this region is the richest on the planet for reef fishes. The Raja Ampat islands are situated in the midst of a ‘biological crossroad’ and the result of this is a lavishly rich reef fish fauna that has no equal’ – Dr Gerald Allen, world renowned fish expert.

An average dive in the Dampier Strait offers unparalleled biodiversity

An average dive in the Dampier Strait offers unparalleled biodiversity

Many compare diving in the Raja Ampat Islands to diving in a tropical aquarium, but there just isn’t a tropical aquarium that even compares. The diversity and abundance of species in this biological hotspot are so numerous; the coral reefs here replenish systems throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

In the past many locals used destructive fishing techniques to catch huge amount of fish. Cyanide and dynamite fishing destroy coral species and kill many species living in and around the blast site. The damage done can still be seen on some dives today. Nowadays, Raja Ampat has a network of seven large marine parks, meaning strict regulations on fishing techniques have been established.

Whether you want to dive in gigantic schools of fish, come face to face with sharks, or be surrounded by barrel-rolling manta rays, every dive in Raja Ampat is a sensory overload!

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Nathan is a marine biologist, avid scuba diver and conservationist. He specialises in coral reef ecology, investigating aspects under the principal themes of marine protected areas, anthropogenic impacts and reef resilience. He has research experience in the Cayman Islands, where he investigated the effectiveness of marine protected areas, and has conducted extensive research documenting fish, benthic and sea slug communities in Southeast Asia. Some of his recent expeditions in Asia include, travelling to Bukit Lawang, Sumatra to investigate issues surrounding the palm oil industry and the effects this has on native habitats for tigers, elephants and orangutans. Furthermore, he travelled to Cenderawasih Bay, Papua to investigate local issues surrounding the food provisioning of whale sharks, and educate the locals on conservation-based practical approaches to anthropogenic impacts on the environment and subsequent effects on whale sharks. He is currently living and working in Nosy Be, Madagascar as a principal investigator for a marine conservation program. He conducts regular fish and invertebrate surveys to investigate the health of coral reefs

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