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Papuan Folks of Raja Ampat

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8 – 25 February

In 1526, Jorge de Menses, the first Portuguese governor to the Moluccan “spice islands” was swept ashore by a storm to the Bird’s Head Peninsula (West Papua) even before he reached his post. He named the country Ilhas dos Papuas (Islands of the Papuans) derived from the Malay term “orang papuwah” meaning the man with frizzy hair (Souter 1963; Langdon 1971).

And true enough, all Papuans we’ve met all throughout our travels indeed had frizzy hair!

Victor our boat driver expertly shows off his diving skillsVictor our boat driver expertly shows off his diving skills

When they jumped into the water, they come out with instant dry hair after one vigorous head shake.

TheirTheir kinky hair just does not seem to retain water, its amazing!

Raja Ampat literally means four kings referring to the 4 western islands away from the mainland – from north to south, the islands are Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. We stayed in Sorido Bay Resort which is nestled in a tiny little island called Kri, found between Waigeo and Batanta. For three weeks, we dived and dived. We were brought to some famous dive spots where there are what we call “pockets of spectacular”. More on that later, but for now here are some fisherfolks we have encountered along the way – in between dive surface intervals and going to and fro the many islands from the resort.

Dark clouds in the horizon causes this fisherman to quickly make his way homeDark clouds in the horizon causes this fisherman to quickly make his way home Another dark cloud in the horizon that will momentarily drench a fisherman like this one while he continues fishingAnother dark cloud in the horizon that will momentarily drench a fisherman like this one while he continues fishing

Mainly using hook & line and spear fishing, the local fishermen have fishing grounds that can be the envy of all fishermen throughout the world. One local fisherman with eye glasses catches and supplies Spanish mackerel to Sorido Bay Resort and Kri Eco Resort. When we were getting ready to leaving Sorido one day, he asked us in English “Going diving today?”

Spearfishing in the reef near the mangroves, this Papuan has a quaint houseboat behind himSpearfishing in the reef near the mangroves, this Papuan has a quaint houseboat with thatched roof behind him Husband and wife paddle through the thick mangrove area of Raja AmpatHusband and wife paddle through the thick mangrove area of Raja Ampat

The marine environment here has a healthy stock of commercial fish species like skipjack tuna, mackerel, bluefin trevally, barracuda, snapper, grouper, emperor, fusilier . . . and I’m not mentioning any of the critters yet.

Several signs like this are littered in the manta areaSeveral signs like this "Sasi Gereja" are prominent in the sandy areas where the mantas are abundant

There is the traditional way of fisheries management that works here – sasi. The leaders of the village that own the waters open and close a season for catching certain marine species like snails or fish.

This Papuan man had been inside the mangrove forest cutting trees for building materialThis Papuan man had been inside the mangrove forest cutting trees for building material A very photogenic point of view of an outrigger canoe!A very photogenic point of view of an outrigger canoe from underwater! Starting young, these Papuan kids go fishing everyday from the jettyStarting young, these Papuan kids go fishing everyday from the jetty Massive canoe silhouetted in the sunsetMassive canoe silhouetted in the sunset

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Comments


  • Allyson

    Im sorry, I just have to know, incase Im wrong… But why is he being praised when he is stepping on coral in a couple pictures? Everytime Im even near a reef, we are told over and over to never step on the coral… Im confused. Cause I know you shouldnt step on it!

    • http://www.jurgenfreund.com Stella Chiu-Freund

      Hello Allyson, many thanks for your comment. Yes, we agree with you. On an ideal controlled environment, with tourist operator’s ability to instruct and guide people to swim over a selected reef visited over and over again by tourists, stepping on coral is not the right thing to do. The reef is under pressure of daily visits by hundreds of people. And for that your comment is absolutely right.

      Population puts pressure on any reef. Where there are village people taking from the reef, the reefs will suffer. Corals will break. There is a common practice in Southeast Asia called gleaning at low tide to collect sea cucumber and invertibrates. This is extremely destructive to shallow reefs.

      We are doing a photo documentation of life in the Coral Triangle. We can neither pass judgement or praise. Our job is to photograph and present. If we pass judgement, we will never be able to see real life activities of people. They will not allow us.

  • Ian

    Hi Stella, how do I look back on some of the interesting older articles you posted earlier on because I don’t seem to be able to locate any link to click on. Anyway, still following your journey through your blog … love the write-ups & pics ..