The Raja Ampat coral reefs are one of the places on Earth hosting the highest biodiversity. Consider that only the hard coral species here are ten times more numerous than those in the whole Caribbean region. Raja Ampat (Four Kings) are an archipelago with more than 1,500 islets, surrounding five main islands (Misool, Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo and Kofiau), in the West Papua province of Indonesia. They are rather close to New Guinea’s Bird’s Head Peninsula.
They are located at the boundary between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and they are the heart of the Pacific Coral Triangle, hosting the highest marine diversity on Earth. This is due to the high water temperatures, deep-sea currents that constantly supply nutrients and the underwater terrain features that allow the formation of reefs, seagrass beds or mangrove flats, each with its specific plant and animal species. The Raja Ampat coral reefs are protected by the Indonesian government, as part of Bird’s Head Seascape. The Raja Ampat marine protected area totals around 9,100 km².
As for the local biodiversity, 1,508 fish species were recorded, along with 537 corals – an unbelievable 75% of all identified coral species (including the vast majority of world’s scleractinia), 699 mollusks (with 7 species of giant clams included), lots of crustaceans (including 57 species of the amazing mantis shrimp) and 13 marine mammals (the dugong, a marine elephant relative, included). Additionally, 828 fish species were recorded, increasing the identified total for the region to a fantastic 1,074. On land, the study found nesting shores, unusual plants, limestone outcroppings, and verdant woods for hundreds of sea turtles. Rather isolated, these ecosystems are relatively undisturbed by man, dynamite fishing and oil prospecting being the most serious threats. The reefs’ incredible biodiversity and role as a larval dispersal source make them one of the most important natural sites in Indonesia. They are also among the most popular diving locations in the world, attracting more and more tourists each year. Visitors usually reach the Raja Ampat coral reefs by boat, coming from the nearby city of Sorong.