Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Raja Ampat: Epicenter of marine biodiversity

Scientists have recorded over five hundred coral species and more than one thousand fish species while diving around Raja Ampat. Thereby justifying this small region's claim as the epicenter of marine biodiversity.

Dr. Gerald R. Allen actually counted a record number of 284 fish species in just one dive... So, if you ever wanted to find and name a new fish after yourself, this is probably a good place to start looking - once you've memorized and can keep apart all those already known to science.

Not being a great marine biologist myself - I'm already happy when I can tell which family a fish belongs to - I can't really say that I actually noticed any reef fish that were new to me. What I did notice though is how vast and vibrant many of the reefs still are here. Boasting fabulous pristine coral gardens swarming with fish of all kinds. Indeed, I've never seen so many beautiful reefs nor such an abundance of fish in my 14 years of diving.

One of the reasons for this incredible biodiversity, is the unique conglomerance of various habitats: small protected bays, shaded sheltering mangroves, sun-soaked shallow reefs and nutrient-rich current swept channels offer ideal conditions for a wide variety of aquatic life forms.

Most of the dive sites (e.g. Cape Kri, Mike's point, Mios Kon, Sardines, Sleeping barracuda, Surgeon fish slope, etc) are within a 10km radius from Kri, and require at most 15' to get there. To reach the more remote spots (e.g. Fam island, Jellyfish bay, Manta station, Mansuar island, Passage, Pulau Dua, the P47D Thunderbolt bomber, etc) may take 30-60' and costs 20-60 Euro extra per diver for fuel.

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