If you are nature lover and underwater aficionado a must on your bucket list should be a journey to the Raja Ampat Islands also known as the Amazon Forest under the sea. Located on the island of new guinea in Indonesia’s west papua province, Raja Ampat is part of the coral trangle composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and East Timor.
A diver’s paradise, this tropical archipelago covers 9.8 million acres of land and sea and is home to 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals, 540 types of corals and more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. According to Conservation International the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth with a diverse living library in the world for coral reef and underwater biota (75% of the world’s species can be found here). Often referred to as the Four Kings, Raja Ampat received its name from local mythology that tells about a woman who finds seven eggs. Four of the seven eggs hatch and become kings that occupy four of Raja Ampat biggest islands whilst the other three become a ghost, a woman, and a stone.
If you want to experience the epicentre of tropical marine bio-diversity, one must book a stay at the Misool Eco Resort (www.misoolecoresort.com). An exclusive dive resort and conservation centre that belongs to a boutique collection of hotels called Secret Retreats (www.secret-retreats.com), Misool Eco Resort is nestled deep in an archipelago of uninhabited islands on the island of Batbitim. The owners, Marit and Andrew Miners, are a visionary couple who built the entire resort from reclaimed tropical hardwood providing sustainable local employment opportunities decoupled from extraction of marine resources. This is one of the very few places on earth in which the quality of reef is actually increasing year by year because of their ‘No-Take Zone’ policy where all fishing, cyanide fishing, bombing, shark finning, harvesting of turtle eggs, and shellfish is prohibited, allowing for marine biodiversity to continue to grow and remain protected for generations to come. Staying at this eco-friendly resort, you will not only get to experience the Amazon of Asia but, as the resort’s name implies, you will be directly supporting their numerous conservation initiatives.
Although Raja Ampat is more remote than other diving destinations, it is also what has kept it from becoming overly saturated with tourists. To get to Raja Ampat one can take a six-hour flight from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, to Sorong and from there you can take a public or express ferry