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Can ecotourism protect Raja Ampat, the ‘Crown Jewel’ of New Guinea?

Karst limestome formations in Piaynemo. The spires are estimated to be up to 16.5 million years old. Raja Ampat. Photo by Mike DiGirolamo for Mongabay.

  • The world’s most biodiverse marine environment, Raja Ampat in Indonesia, is often seen as a conservation success story.
  • With more than 20,000 square kilometers (7,700 square miles) of marine protected areas, the archipelago is famous for its government-supported conservation efforts, ecotourism, sapphire-blue waters, and stunning geography.
  • On this episode of Mongabay’s podcast, host Mike DiGirolamo travels to several islands in the area to speak with local communities about the benefits and challenges of ecotourism and to catch a glimpse of some amazing endemic species.

Raja Ampat on the Bird’s Head Peninsula of far northwestern New Guinea is often called the “crown jewel” of the region. This equatorial archipelago contains probably the world’s greatest concentration of marine biodiversity due in part to a huge network of marine protected areas covering more than 20,000 square kilometers (7,700 square miles).

On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, documentary filmmaker Wahyu Mul details the benefits and challenges of ecotourism for the Raja Ampat district of Indonesian Papua.

Then, longtime resident and resort owner Max Ammer details the projects of his Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre, which trains and employs local communities in a variety of skills while aiding visiting foreign researchers with logistics and accommodation.

Finally, veteran birder Benny Mambrasar guides the Mongabay team into the forest on Waigeo Island, where two endemic species of birds-of-paradise make an appearance.

Listen here:

While the recent ecotourism boom is bringing new revenue streams to local communities, vigilance is needed to preserve its invaluable ecosystems and prevent the displacement of Papuans, as the Indonesian central government pushes forward a development plan that has split the region into five new provinces, sources say.

Benny Mambrasar adjusts a telescope on an early morning viewing session to catch a glimpse of the red bird-of-paradise. Photo by Mike DiGirolamo/Mongabay.

For additional regional context, the Mongabay Explores podcast published a seven-part series on the island of New Guinea’s conservation issues, challenges and solutions in 2022. Listen to the first episode here.

Subscribe to or follow the Mongabay Newscast wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts, from Apple to Spotify, and you can also listen to all episodes here on the Mongabay website, or download our free app for Apple and Android devices to gain instant access to our latest episodes and all of our previous ones.

Banner image: Karst limestone formations in Piaynemo, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. These geological features are estimated to be up to 16.5 million years old. Image by Mike DiGirolamo/Mongabay.

Mike DiGirolamo is a host and associate producer for Mongabay based in Sydney. He co-hosts and edits the Mongabay Newscast. Find him on LinkedInBluesky and Instagram.

Related Reading:

Ray care center: Indonesia’s Raja Ampat a key nursery for young reef mantas

Strong marine protected areas credited with manta ray surge in Indonesia

Plan to carve up Indonesian Papua rings alarm over fate of people and forests

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