A Volunteers Week in Raja Ampat… “Mind Blowing” Just About Covers it…
Having recently graduated from University Bernie Burczak still has a fresh memory of lectures about tropical marine ecology always referring to the coral reef sanctuary that is Raja Ampat. It was not until she dived into the bright blue waters of Arborek Island house reef that she really understood the epic diversity of the underwater paradise slowly unfolding before her. With in a week she has already been lucky enough to encountered; Manta rays, Wobbegons, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles, Bumphead Parrot Fish, Triggerfish, huge schools of Trevally, Nudibranchs, and Pygmy Seahorse’s to name just a few of the amazing creatures spotted.
Here dive site names can be taken literally- “Blue Magic”, “Manta Sandy” and “Crazy Corner”(Cape Mansaur) are truly other world experiences and may cause serious over stimulation for any biologist or recreational diver alike, due to the extravaganza of life on every dive. Raja Ampat is truly a marine paradise not just for professionals but also for anyone who has the slightest interest in diving or coral reefs. Here, not only do you get the rare opportunity to see amazing creatures almost daily, but you are given the unique chance to understand what your looking at.
With the Science-Training Program (STP) given by the Science Officers of Jejak Kaki Konservasi you are able to learn about some of the animals your find whilst diving, and how they play a key role in the finely balanced ecosystem. Following on from this you are then able to participate in Reef Check surveys on the coral reefs on the surrounding islands with the Jejak Kaki Konservasi science officers. Giving volunteers making up the survey teams the chance to dive sites rarely if ever visited by your average tourist. This project will help local park managers target management strategies to conserve these precious reefs, allowing for future generation to see the beauty that we have been lucky enough to bare witness to.
“You know you’re in an amazing place when sharks are left off the list of cool things you saw on your dive because there were just so many”
I knew I was in for a treat when I arrived at Arborek base camp because before I’d even gotten in the water I had seen dolphins and pilot whales on the boat trip to the island. As if this was not enough on arrival at base camp I saw a juvenile black tip reef shark feeding around the stilts of my new house- now a regular occurrence. Although all these animals were amazing the highlight of my out of water experiences has been seeing a Manta Ray breaching nearly a meter out of the water… all of this and I didn’t even need to put on a scuba tank!”