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