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Behind the stunning beauty of the Indonesian

A group of islands on the Bird’s Head peninsula of West Papua in Indonesia, Raja Ampat is one of the most popular diving destinations around the globe. It’s a beautiful and diverse marine environment that allows you to see vibrant tropical fish that are visible to the naked eye from above the waters.

Formerly named Irian Jaya, the western portion on the Island of Papua is declared by Indonesia in the year 1961. The inhabitants in West Papua voted to become member of Indonesia in a highly contested referendum in the year 1969. In 2003, the territory was divided into two provinces: West Papua and Papua. They are generally called West Papua.

The country is experiencing a strong independence movement throughout Papua, particularly in the highlands. In addition, the military and police frequently are able to repress rebels. However, the coastal region, which includes Raja Ampat, is politically stable and secure.

The islands are awash with natural beauty, making them appear like a natural paradise. However, of the over 45,000 residents, 20 percent are below the poverty level with limited access to health care, education as well as markets.

The data shows how, in the year 2015, a typical household comprising four to five persons within Raja Ampat spent an average of USD 65 per month on food and other items of daily use. This is 10% more than the average for the nation due to the fact that the costs of living on the islands are extremely high.

Relative isolation

It will take about 8 hours to get to Raja Ampat from Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. From Jakarta, it is possible to take direct flights to Sorong or make a stop in Makassar, located in the area that lies in Sulawesi between Java and Papua, and continue the flight until Sorong, located at the northwest end of Papua.

After that, you take the ferry to Waigeo Island (also called Amber or Waigiu), which is among the four major islands that make up the Raja-Ampat.

Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, is located on Waigeo, the biggest island of the group. Elites of the local community own several cottages on the island. The majority of Raja-Ampat’s administrative and government functions are centered in Waisai. However, the population is spread over a number of islands.

To conduct my doctoral studies, I spent a week at Mainyafun Island, which is about four hours away by boat from Waisai in April 2016. Mainyafun has five households, with each household comprising between 9 and 12 members.

As with several towns in Raja Ampat, Mainyafun doesn’t have the facility for water treatment. Drinking water that is safe for consumption is sourced from Waisai at least twice per month or every two months, based on the time of year. People also take rainwater to drink. The mountain water is piped to the village center, but it contains an extremely mineral-rich content.

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Jane S. King

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