RICHEST REEFS OF THE WORLD

Raja Ampat, Bird’s Head Peninsula, West Papua, eastern Indonesia
[March 2014]

Raja Ampat is a place were I get a strong feeling of visiting a wilderness unaltered by man, by us humans. Everything is in place, the predators come in good numbers, the schools of fish are mind-blowing and large animals like manta rays keep visiting their cleaning stations on a regular basis. But it is the completeness of the reefs that is most impressive. Looking down at a reef I see an unrivaled diversity of corals, fishlife and invertebrates. All in one big pot steeming with life. Even if it sounds a bit fuzzy I can “sense” the balance and complexity when swimming over these reefs and this completeness works like a safety system to resist problems like coral bleaching in comparison to other coral habitats already sailing with a disarmed set of sails.

MLU_20110506_172106_20A colubrine sea krait or yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) swimming to the surface to breath. This is a very venomous but not aggressive snake.

Raja Ampat is a small archipelago in the far east of Indonesia with a unique set of pristine coral reefs celebrating an incredible abundance of life forms. In fact this underwater wilderness have more fish and coral species than anywhere else on earth. Scientists believe these particular reefs are the turning wheel of the famous Coral Triangle, and the mother of Southeast Asia’s coral gardens. An irresistible place to photograph underwater and I just had to visit the phenomenon called Raja Ampat – the heart of marine biodiversity.

MLU_20110508_110534_42 The tip of a Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) a tube-building polychaete worms very common on coral reefs.

I am glad to see that the small local communities are working hard to keep this fantastic place like it is. Good examples are RARCC – Raja Ampat Research & Conservation Centre and Kalabia Conservation Education Program. I lift my hat for all their efforts.

Biodiversity features in Raja Ampat and the Birds Head Peninsula
→ 1 606 species of reef fish
→ 35 species of endemic reef fish found only in the Birds Head Seascape
→ 603 species of hard coral
→ 75% of all known coral species in the world
→ 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the entire Caribbean
→ 57 species of mantis shrimp
→ 13 species of marine mammals
→ 5 species of endangered sea turtles

Declared Shark Sanctuary 15th November 2010

The Regent of Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Bupati Drs Marcus Wanma, has declared a Shark Sanctuary for the entire 17 760 square mile area of Raja Ampat. This is an important milestone, as Raja Ampat enjoys the highest marine biodiversity level on the planet. It has also been the scene of destructive overfishing that has severely threatened sharks, mantas, and other vulnerable species.

MLU_20110510_101217_38It is all about timing when photographing a flasher wrasse male “flashing” his display of bright colours and long fins over the rich coral carpet in Raja Ampat.