Literally meaning “four kings”, the archipelago of Raja Ampat in Indonesia’s West Papua is part of the 225,000km2 Bird’s Head Seascape – home to the most diverse marine life in the world. That fact is underlined by numerous recent expeditions that have identified over 2,000 different marine species. For this photo essay, photographer and writer Tommy Schultz joined one such expedition, a 12-day voyage through this paradise of coral reefs and idyllic islands teeming with life.
Protecting Bird’s Head Seascape
The situation for this diverse environment wasn’t always rosy. Less than a decade ago, the waters around Raja Ampat and surrounding archipelagos were prey to unregulated commercial fishing and poaching. In 2004, US NGO Conservation International (CI), along with partners such as the people of West Papua, the Indonesian government and the WWF created a network of 12 marine protected areas (MPAs) covering more than 3.6 million hectares. Through grants, MPAs employ local people to survey and protect coasts, reefs and fish, while educating them on the importance of the local habitat. At the World Ocean Summit in February 2017, CI announced that US$23 million (S$30.7 million) had already been raised through various donors to support the long-term future of the MPAs.
The writer and photographer was on a 12-day cruise with Seven Seas Liveaboard (thesevenseas.net)
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine