18 January, 2024

By Frank Hyde

In a Clamshell: 

  • Things are looking good and why it matters to our guests 
  • Reshark is here 
  • More people guarding Manta’s than ever before 
  • Barefoot Conservation is on the move 
  • SeaPeople are out there just doing it 
  • Our Experts continue to educate us  
  • Local guides are growing Trees 
  • Our all-Indonesian crew continues to scout out great new spots 
  • How to stay in touch with what is going on (ST Conservation Actions group)

Things are looking good and why it matters: 

There is nothing like traveling to a place as beautiful as Raja Ampat to wrap up a good year and set the stage for new things to come. This trip with my family and a boatload of switched-on and energetic people did not disappoint. Besides all of the great wildlife and culture that we usually see there was a whole wave of new possibilities that came about as we sailed among the luxuriously green islands.

For some time now we have been working to move SeaTrek toward offering our guests more opportunities to learn about and engage in conservation and restoration activities. Of course, we will still want to have lots of fun and have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery above and below the water.

But how can we add a layer to those fun experiences to keep that wonderful feeling going even after our guests go back to their everyday lives? How can we give our guests an experience that keeps on producing those lovely feelings, the awe of nature, and the wonder of connecting with people of entirely different cultures?

Perhaps above all else how can we help you leave with a smile on your face knowing that when you come back you will find a place even more spectacular than when you left? This last trip provided me with a much-needed top-up of optimism for the Raja Ampat region. 

Reshark is Here 

Zebra Shark

We are very excited to be able to go to the world’s first Zebra Shark Restoration Program when we are in the Raja Ampat region. These are beautiful little animals when we see them that then grow up to be 7 feet long. Before commercialized fishing in the region, they were plentiful and not dangerous to humans. They play a very important role in coral reef ecology and the “Reshark” program has a plan to bring them back.  

More people are looking out for Manta’s than ever before. 

With the increasing number of visitors to certain manta cleaning stations in the Raja Ampat region comes increasing stress on the mantas which can drive them away from their favorite spots called “cleaning stations” Mantas like to arrive and get a grooming from the particular species of fish that live in these spots. The fish get a meal, and the mantas get rid of pesky parasites that cling to their bodies and make it harder for them to swim and feed.  

Manta Ray. Photo by Dion Luas

A great example of effective management is near Arborek Island. Through local collaboration assisted by Barefoot Conservation, there is now a ranger station near the cleaning station (where mantas like to go). People who want to have the spectacular experience of being in the water with a manta are required to register ahead of time and then check in at the ranger station. At check-in, they are briefed about how to be in the water with a manta without disturbing them. 

Another good example is near Batanta island where a local homestay has taken it open themselves to watch out for bad behavior such as swimming too close, chasing after or touching the mantas, and the ultimate annoyance of anchoring nearly on top of the cleaning station! When these behaviors are observed they temporarily close the area to all visitors to give the mantas some time to recover from the disturbance. 

Mantas are surprisingly aware of what is going on around them so it is important to be considerate of them while in the water and around the spots where they like to be close to the surface. To learn more about these amazing animals that are now believed to be self-aware, you can read our article – Do Mantas Have Stinger Envy?

Barefoot Conservation is on the move. 

Barefoot Conservation is getting it done in Raja Ampat. As mentioned earlier they have programs to protect the local cleaning station for Manta’s. They also take part in local coral conservation projects. They are a switched-on and energetic group that is happy to come aboard and talk about what they are doing and answer any questions that guests have about these important efforts. 

SeaPeople are out there just doing it! 

SeaPeople is an inspiring local Raja Ampat organization that has made amazing progress in bringing coral restoration and conservation to the people of Raja Ampat. Of particular interest is their program to develop a system and train paid Coral Gardeners that provide highly sought-after positions in local communities. There is such a tight relationship between the local food supply (fish) and reef health these concepts are easily understood and supported by village communities. We are looking forward to collaborating with them and helping to bring their knowledge to other remote islands in the Raja Ampat region.

Our Experts continue to educate our guests as well as us 

george beccaloni and a beautiful butterfly on his nose
George Beccaloni

George Beccaloni – George is about everything Wallace including the Wallace plaque and the great-grandson of ARW coming to dedicate it to his great grandfather. He also is completely into the insect world as well. Even Walace’s famous birdwing seems to sense his passion.

Ray and Angela Hale
Ray and Angela Hale

The Hales – Speaking of insects Ray and Angela Hale are bringing a new approach to appreciating the natural world through drawing. They coach our guests on how to draw what they see and for those a little less confident they can color in pre-done sketches and add details. This approach has been a particular success on our family-focused trips.

vincent chalias
Vincent Chalias

Vincent Chalias – Founder of Ocean Gardeners, we have been so lucky to get to know Vincent. He is now onboard a cruise helping our guests learn about the amazing life of corals and the incredible symbiotic foundation they provide for the thriving life on a coral reef. Vincent is also in the process of educating our tour leaders on the amazing life of corals and our tour leaders have unparalleled access to the amazing knowledge it has accumulated over 20 years of growing corals in Indonesia.  

Vincent has also been instrumental in helping us work on a coral restoration project in our hometown Sanur Bali. We have been able to help turn an area of ruble with not a fish in site into a place that hosts many corals that are home to clouds of fish. Something I never would have dreamed possible! 

Bird poachers are turning into Birding guides, rangers, and native tree restoration foresters. 

Red Birds of Paradise. Photo by Dion Luas

How good can it get? Warkesi Forest Farmers group is converting poachers to protectors. This forward-thinking program helps locals to understand that birds are worth more alive than dead, trees are worth more standing, and providing habitat for the incredible birds of paradise. We regularly bring our guests to the protected area and are working on offering our guests a chance to pitch in for an hour or so to help replant native species of trees back into the forest that provides the habitat for a stunning array of bird life in the area. For more on this awesome effort see: Conservation of Birds of Heaven in Raja Ampat Warkesi Forest.

Our all-Indonesian crew continues to scout out great new spots. 

Thanks to some new members of our Tour Leading Team and diligent research by our existing Tour Leaders, we have been able to find some great new spots for coral viewing. There are few things better than floating silently and weightlessly in body-temperature water over a thriving coral landscape. It is a scene filled with bustling fish communities and a cacophony of fish sounds. Yes, that right fish can sing, Once you know what to listen for a quiet swim across the reef is much like a stroll through the forest with bird calls coming from everywhere.

This year already we have two new manta spots, several new snorkeling spots, a more remote hike to see the beautiful waterways of Raja Ampat from a karst peak, and a potential new Stingless Jelly lake. It’s only January so for sure there will be lots of new learning and discoveries in the months to come. 

How to stay in touch with what is going on? 

We never want your trip to be over. Our hope is, that we can help you fall in love with Indonesia much like we have, To keep you up to date with what is going on with the SeaTrek Clan and the good things happening with SeaTrek conservation we have our SeaTrek conservation Facebook group. Here you can see up-to-date things that are happening with our conservation efforts.