The jewels of raja ampat
It’s not everyday you get the opportunity arise to work for 10 days in raja ampat. If you’ve never heard of this place, they are a chain of islands just off of west Papua, consisting of hundreds of jungle covered, untouched islands with beautiful white sand beaches and 75% of the worlds coral reefs. Sounds like paradise already right? So it was obvious there was no way I was turning this one down. I was given the opportunity by a company called Seatreksailing Adventures who had been sailing this area for years along with other parts of Indonesia.
Getting to west Papua
With the volcano still bubbling away in Bali, my trip was left in Mother Natures hands. With flights still being cancelled I made my way to the airport hoping mine wasn’t. What would be a 3 hour direct flight if there was one was a 8 hour set of connection flights, my flight still scheduled and in the departure lounge. I began to fill with excitement for the 10 days ahead- only for that to be short lived by being delayed for 3 hours. This left me with only 1 hour to pick up my luggage and re-check in. And if you’ve ever been to an Indonesian airport you be family with just how much cargo locals check in. This was going to be cutting it so fine, the closest airport call of my life. But… I made my connection with minutes to spare.
Sorong to set sail
Tired and hungry on arriving to sorong one thing was clear; the Indonesian people looked very different here, more Papua Like with the aboriginal features. I was picked up by my driver who took me to the port where I met Anistasia our tour leader. A quick dingy ride out into the bay and I arrived at my home for 10 days. There it was- the beautiful Katharina, an ex cargo ship transformed into a beautiful passenger ship, with her pirateship-like shape and features. The young boy who loved Treasure Island and pirates started to come alive inside again.
I was shown to my cabin, a stunning double bed with an en-suite like a hotel room. You would never of guessed you were on a ship. I was introduced to the rest of the 12 man crew who immediately were fantastic and joking around with me before going to pick up the rest of the guests. Thinking the boat would be full, I was surprised when there were only 4 more guests. It was like we had our own private yacht for the week. I couldn’t believe my luck.
All settled in and introduced we pulled up the anchors and got on the open sea. As soon as we left sorong, you began to see the beauty and our first stop hit my jaw to the ground. A tiny sand island in the middle of the ocean surrounded by crystal clear blue water and coral reef. We got in the ocean and went for our first snorkel which was like being in an aquarium with stunning living coral and and the most colourful fish. This was just the start of what was set to be the best 10 days of my life.
Days that followed
As the days past everyday I woke up in a new location saying WOW. I knew this place was going to beautiful but nothing prepared me for what I encountered. Each day was spend doing activities, snorkelling insane coral reefs, visiting breathtaking waterfalls and visiting ancient paintings, caves and secluded beaches. I would be able to write a book about this place but I’m going to narrow it down to my top 3 favourite moments.
Number 3- The rare bird of paradise
If you have ever seen any wildlife documentaries you would have at least seen one about this bird. Known for its unusual mating call of dancing and spreading its feathers. A 4am alarm and hike up through the Forrest guided by a local we arrived in the dark at this tree house he had build and sat and waited for the bird to show as the sun slowly started to rise. The whistles of birds around was like a song to my ear then there it was in all its beauty the red bird of paradise shaking his feathers like a Brazilian carnival it was so stunning to watch as he called for the females and they came. Unsuccessful at mating this time but was such an incredible site to see.
Number 2 – jellyfish lake
We were told we were going to be swimming in a jellyfish lake. “WHAT SWIMMING WITH JELLY FISH ARE YOU CRAZY” I hear you say, my first reaction to, but fear not these were stingless jellyfish. We arrived at this lake in the middle of a small island I didn’t know what to expect but snorkel on we dived in. I put my face under the water and began to float looking around were thousands and thousands of these beautiful jellyfish swimming so gracefully like a dance. It was so peaceful and calm to watch these incredible creatures move through the water and reminded me of when I saw the northern lights. I felt as if I was in a different planet and come out of the water feeling as if I just watched one of the greatest shows on earth.
Number 1 – Yensawai village
I don’t know where to start with this one, but as a photographer I have always wanted to capture an image of someone who has never seen themselves on a camera or very rarely seen an image of themselves. This is something I knew was going to be so hard to do in this 21st century with all the smart phones and technology around these days. Almost everyone had a camera phone or something which could create an image. We were told the village was very rarely visited by tourists my excitement began to grow. We arrived at the village and I began shooting instantly. I put my drone up and the kids went absolutely nuts, surrounding me trying to see the screen, all trying to get to the front like a sworn of wasps around honey. My smile was so big as you’ll see in the photos. I then showed them snapchat filters which sent them over the edge with excitement and laughter which I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The children of the village then performed a local dance for us which was so nice to watch and see. After I began to shoot as many portraits of people from the village I could, before a game of football kicked off with the local boys. This village really changed me and made me realise how lucky I was growing up the way I did and the things I had around me these children had very little but what they did have was life and they were so happy. Yensawai is a place I will hold close to my heart and wish to return to very soon.
Cut off from the world with no phone service for many days Raja ampat opened my eyes in many ways and gave me some good thinking time- some good and some not so good, but I will start with the bad: PLASTIC. There is plastic everywhere in our oceans and it’s something that needs to be dealt with immediately, but to see small parts of plastic even effect some of the most beautiful places in the world is heart-breaking. Seatrek are doing something incredible to try stop this by not using single use plastic at all on there trips and providing guests with free refillable water bottles which is fantastic also bringing all rubbish they find back to the boat to be disposed of properly. People need more information on what plastic is doing to our oceans around the world not only here.
This trip has been one I will never ever forgot and memories I have for a lifetime. I can’t thank seatreak enough for the fantastic experience and opportunity which was “work”. Raja Ampat is a must and to anyone thinking of going you will not be disappointed but you also won’t be ready for how incredibly beautiful this place is. I seem to be leaving parts of my heart all over the world but here I have left a big part of my heart, where life won’t seem the same until I return to find it something like the heart of a dead mans chest….I told you I was a pirate.