The Raja Ampat archipelago in Indonesia is made up over 1,500 islands and cays, although only a fraction of those are inhabited by humans. However, the turquoise waters surrounding this mass of islands are inhabited by some extraordinary marine life and colourful reefs. A 2006 study found a greater number of species here than anywhere else in Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
Many of the reefs in this remote part of West Papua Province are yet to be explored making it somewhat of a frontier for scuba divers. Those who have been lucky enough to dive in Raja Ampat from one of the liveaboards will tell you it’s some of the finest on the planet. If you don’t like the diving here, there is nowhere on earth you will.
If you’re still not convinced, here are a few statistics. There are over 1,200 marine species recorded so far and 284 species spotted on a single dive broke a world record. On over 50% dives, more than 200 fish species are seen and more than 600 coral species reside here.
Due to the currents, the waters are not suitable for complete beginners, but you certainly don’t need to be an expert to dive in Raja Ampat. Those who don’t have experience can jump in the water with snorkelling gear and have close encounters with pods of dolphins and passing whales.
Wildlife experts The Great Projects run program with blends marine conservation with daily dives. Goals include mapping coastal habitats, advising local governments and communities on establishing a Marine Protected Area, educating local communities on long-term protection and alleviating poverty.
Volunteers are expected to take part in many of the daily activities and tasks including:
Coral reef conservation and monitoring
During twice daily research dives, volunteers will produce detailed coastal habitat maps which are used to advise the local government and communities on Marine Protected Areas. Volunteers will monitor reefs to check how healthy they are. This is done over a long period, and the findings are passed on to local government.
Working within local communities
Working with local communities is a vital part of the project. Volunteers can get involved with teaching English to school children as well as providing education on environmental issues and eco-tourism to the local community. You may also be involved in a range of other activities including livelihood diversification workshops if they are being run during your stay.
To ensure the oceans and environment are pristine, volunteers are required to take part in beach clean-ups. As with much of the world, rubbish is becoming increasingly dangerous to the oceans, so the clean-ups are helping to safeguard this incredible archipelago.
Encourage entrepreneurial attitudes
The goal of the projects is to deter local communities from unsustainable destructive activities like shark finning or dynamite fishing. Working behind the scenes with local communities to help them set up and grow small businesses like homestays is essential in helping alleviate poverty.
Manta ray monitory programme
One of the most exciting elements of the projects is being trained to study and monitor manta ray populations. Volunteers will be looking for key characteristics, markings and behaviours of these gentle giants, as well as their ecology, biology and conservation. If this is important, volunteers should visit between June and October when manta rays are most common in the region.
Throughout the project, volunteers will have plenty of time to dive in their free time. This is one of earth’s finest diving spots, so spending as much time in the underwater world as possible is essential. Saturdays are completely free for leisure dives.
Proudly sponsored by The Great Projects