The stunning natural beauty of Raja Ampat isles, located on the northwestern tip of the Indonesian province of West Papua, is often seen as a heaven on earth, where dreams of divers come true and nature lovers find a perfect place.
Raja Ampat, which literally means "Four Kings," is located in the Coral Triangle, the heart of the worlds coral reef biodiversity.
The seas around Raja Ampat Isles are home to the richest varieties of species in the world, including 75 percent of all known coral species.
The Raja Ampat archipelago encompasses 15 thousand square miles of land and sea. There are around 1.8 thousand isles in Raja Ampat District.
The name Raja Ampat, or "Four Kings," is derived from a local myth. It has four major islands: Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool, which are home to ancient rock paintings.
In total, the Raja Ampat district has around 1.7 thousand islands, including the unoccupied and most beautiful Isle of Wayag, which is made of karst or limestone from other isles.
Its four major islands --- Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool --- shelter a vast array of terrestrial species and valuable forests.
The region includes the Pacifics most important Leatherback Turtle nesting site, the Nature Conservancy writes on its website.
Offshore reefs protect some 1,427 species of fish and more than 550 species of coral.
Some of these reefs have proven to be particularly resilient, and include coral-building resources that help sustain the entire Coral Triangle.
With one of the most beautiful marine panoramas in the world, Raja Ampat has the potential to draw many foreign tourists and, in particular, world-class divers.
The most-visited resorts in Raja Ampat are now found on the isles of Pianemo, Air Borek and Wayag, Raja Ampat District Head Abdul Faris Umlati said in Sorong, West Papua recently.
Umlati, however, said there is a remote and tropical but lesser known hideaway, an isle called Misol, the most visually breathtaking site among isles in Raja Ampat.
Misol is considered more beautiful than Air Borek, Wayag and Painemo Isles, he added.
Several national and international tourism and conservation agencies have scored Pinanemo as 67, Wayag at 78, and Misol as 100, he revealed.
The Raja Ampat District Administration plans to develop Misol as a tourist resort in West Papua.
"Misol Isle, however, has not been promoted because it lacks facilities and infrastructure for tourism," Umlati underlined.
The district will build facilities and infrastructure to support the Misol tourism industry, including by providing stairs to climb a rock cliff, to allow tourists to have an aerial view of the chain of isles. Several restaurants and hotels will also be built in the region.
"We will try to have regular transportation connecting Waisai to Misol to encourage tourists intending to visit the isle," he remarked.
Raja Ampat is not only famous for its beautiful marine views, but also for its forests where the birds of Paradise dance and sing every morning.
Raja Ampat isles are also home to over 300 bird species. Of the total, 94 were protected and 11 are endemic ones, such as birds of Paradise, locally called the birds of Cenderawasih.
The birds of Paradise, however, face a threat from poachers. Visitors, too, often seek dead and preserved ones as souvenirs.
Therefore, Umlati has called for the protection and preservation of the birds of Paradise, found in large numbers throughout the forest in the district.
The Birds of Paradise, members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes (Perching Birds), need to be protected for both future generations and for the areas tourism, he noted.
In Sapokrem forest, visitors can view the beautiful birds and enjoy their calls, he pointed out.
In addition to the Birds of Paradise, the Papua Island, comprising West Papua and Papua Provinces, is also home to the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria) and Crested Cockatoo, locally called the Mambruk birds.
The West Papua provincial administration has issued a regulation banning the hunting of Birds of Paradise and other rare birds.
However, without the support of local inhabitants, particularly the traditional adat (customary) community, the ban on hunting will be useless, he noted.
The Raja Ampat District administration has carried out public campaigns to improve the publics awareness about preserving rare birds.
"We continue to implement programs to change the way of thinking of those still hunting these Birds of Paradise so that the tourists are able to enjoy their beauty eternally," he added. ***1***
EDITED BY INE
(T.F001/A/KR-BSR/F001) 29-09-2016 06:31:51