It took 3 planes, an overnight visit in a dodgy Indonesian airport hotel, and a 13 hour boat trip, but the southern area of Raja Ampat was worth the hike to get there! Whilst the easier to access parts of Raja Ampat are showing early signs of a yet another remote paradise soon to be taken over by the tourist dollar, the remoteness of the south is providing fabulous protection from the inevitable decline that happens when masses of tourists move into an area.
The archipelago is thought to contain the richest marine biodiversity on our planet. Positioned between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the meeting of four tectonic plates, has contributed to this diversity. The reefs are also relatively resistant to coral bleaching and disease.
The marine life and landscapes we kayaked around for 10 days were mind boggling, crystal clear, blue water, calm, protected lagoons, massive limestone, weather-worn rocks, carnivorous plants, wild seas and currents, sea turtles, reef sharks, too many fish to name….One of the highlights was swimming through a dark and majestic limestone cave with just our head torch (think Jenolan caves without the kitsch coloured lighting)….I did hear later that salt water crocodiles had previously been spotted in the cave…that could have made for an interesting full stop to my mortal existance!
Sadly, even in this remote and beautiful part of the planet is being inundated with plastic brought in by the currents. On most of our kayak day trips, we collected plastic to be brought back to the ship. This would then be returned to the local recycling plant that had been setup. The Misool Foundation is a great organisation which is doing it’s bit to help keep the reefs clean. The trip was inspiring and left me with lots of food for thought…. as well as a few ‘plastic souvenirs’ which I’ll be using to make work for an upcoming group exhibition opening 5th July 2018. ‘Sea Shape reflects on our relationship with the sea. Artists will work with discarded plastics and marine debris in response to the changing shape of our seas, and the way we live in our urban environments.