Maintaining Exoticsm of Raja Ampat
When you hear the name Raja Ampat, the shadow of everyone will look into an island area in West Papua that is famous for its natural beauty. Raja Ampat is indeed now in the midst of a profession among tourists, both foreign and domestic. Especially for those who have diving (diving). Raja Ampat is like a paradise for divers.
What makes the Raja Ampat Islands so attractive to tourists, that they don’t care about the amount of money they have to spend to enjoy their exotic nature?
Natural Exotic of the Raja Ampat Islands
The waters of the Raja Ampat Islands according to various sources are known as one of the 10 best waters for diving sites throughout the world. In fact, it might also be recognized as number one for completing the underwater flora and fauna at this time.
The Raja Ampat Islands, located at the westernmost tip of Papua Island, about 50 miles northwest of Sorong, have the best coral areas in Indonesia. About 450 types of coral were identified during the two weeks of research in the area.
Enjoying the exoticism of the Raja Ampat Islands at heights is an experience that is difficult to describe with words. A stretch of green and clear sea with dozens or even small coral islands scattered. There is unspeakable peace by just looking at the expanse and enjoying the sea air which is still far from air pollution. The right word in describing that feeling is ‘biophilia’.
The Raja Ampat Islands themselves are located in Raja Ampat Regency, one of the districts in West Papua as a result of the expansion of Sorong Regency since 2003. There are approximately 610 islands in this area, although only about 35 islands are inhabited. Among these are the four main islands in this district, namely, Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. The total population of the last census is known to be around 42,508 people with an area of 46,296 km2.
As an archipelago with 85% of the area being an ocean, Raja Ampat has many specialties, which are the main attraction for this region. The surrounding sea is the heart of the Coral Triangle region that is recognized worldwide as the center of coral reef biodiversity. The Raja Ampat Islands are home to more than 75% of the world’s coral species. A total of 537 hard coral species were identified in TNC’s Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) in 2002.
The Raja Ampat Islands are also the richest region in the world for the number of reef fish fauna that reach at least 1427 species. This number shows the highest number in marine biodiversity compared to other regions with the same area in the world. REA carried out by TNC produced 104 new discoveries for the Raja Ampat islands, including 4 new discoveries in Indonesia. At present, the number of these species has increased to 553 species of hard coral and 1470 numbers of reef fish fauna. In Raja Ampat, scientists also find more fish than the same area in other regions of the world – some species are only found in Raja Ampat
There are several coral reef areas that are still very good condition with a percentage of live coral cover up to 90%, namely in the Dampier Strait (strait between P. Waigeo and P. Batanta), Kofiau Islands, Kepualauan Misool, South and Wayag Islands. The types of coral reefs in Raja Ampat are generally edge reefs with steep to steep contours. But it is also found atoll type and charred type or taka. In some places such as in Saondarek village, when the tides are lowest, coral reefs can be witnessed without diving and with their own adaptation, the reef can still live even in the open air and in direct sunlight.
The unique species that can be found during diving are several types of dwarf seahorses, wobbegongs, and Manta rays. There are also endemic fish of Raja Ampat, namely Eviota raja, a type of gobbie fish. At Manta Point located in Arborek Selat Dampier, we can dive in the company of some tame Manta Ray like when we dived in Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan. If you dive at Cape Kri or Chicken Reef, you can be surrounded by thousands of fish. Sometimes a collection of tuna, giant trevallies and snappers. But it is tense if we are surrounded by a collection of barracuda fish, although actually it is relatively harmless (which is dangerous if we meet a solitary barracuda or alone). Reef sharks are also often seen, and if you’re lucky you can also see turtles quietly eating sponges or swimming around you. In some places such as Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo, you can also see Dugongs or mermaids.
Because the area with many islands and straits is narrow, most dive sites at certain times have strong currents. This also allows for drift diving, diving while following a strong current with very clear water while breaking through a collection of fish (Wikipedia).
This is what later made the Raja Ampat Islands as an “underwater paradise” with the beauty of diversity that is difficult to match anywhere in the world.
Increased Number of Tourists and Threats
The indication of the increasing recognition of the Raja Ampat Islands as a marine tourism area that should be visited is reflected in the number of tourists visiting in the last 4 years. According to data from the Raja Ampat Culture and Tourism Service, if in 2008 there were only around 2000 visitors, in 2010 this number increased to 3,855. In 2012 this number increased to 6000 people. At the end of 2013 it is estimated that the number will increase considerably.
The higher number of tourists has an impact on increasing existing tourism facilities, which also experienced significant additions. From the beginning one resort has now become seven resorts and five home stays in tourist villages. The same is true for the number of cruise ships, an alternative exclusive vehicle to enjoy the beauty of Raja Ampat, increasing from 12 ships to 36 ships in three years.
Tourists visiting Raja Ampat generally come from Europe, and only a small portion from within the country, so the tariffs imposed on visitors are usually in Euro standards.