Health and Safety
in Raja Ampat Marine Park
Raja Ampat is a remote location, and in some areas a completely untouched marine and terrestial wilderness. Whilst emergency services and medical care is available, these services are located in the cities of Waisai and Sorong. Therefore, when travelling throughout the archipelago, whilst your host (homestay, liveaboard, resort) will have their own safety standards and practices, your safety is primarily your responsiblity. Please take note of the information below as this will enable you to prepare adequately and stay safe throughout your visit to Raja Ampat Marine Park, whilst enjoying the abundant natural beauty the region has to offer.
Search and Rescue (SAR):
Travel, Medical and Dive Insurance
It is the responsibility of the individual to determine whether or not they opt for any form of insurance when visiting Raja Ampat. If scuba diving, it is highly recommended that Diving Insurance is obtained, and some form of insurance which provides for emergency medical evacuation. Like many types of insurance, it may be that you do not need it, but in the instance you do need it and you don’t have it, many emergency services (medical, evacuation) will not be available and/or be incredibly expensive or even unaffordable.
With beautiful landscapes and remote villages dotting relatively untouched islands, trekking is becoming an increasingly popular activity in Raja Ampat. If trekking, please wear appropriate shoes and clothing, carry enough water, and have general safety equipment (compass, torch) with you.
When trekking, always use a local guide; whether it be for half a day or for a week, it is essential to have a guide with rich local knowledge leading you. Dense jungles, limestone cliffs, hills, ridges and crevasses can quickly disorientate or injure even the most experienced of trekkers. Attempting to trek alone significantly increases the likelihood of getting lost or becoming injured, for both the trekker and any members of a search and rescue party. Using local guides also supports local community members in providing paid employment.
Wild Animals - Land and Sea
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All the islands of Raja Ampat are fringed with picturesque coconute trees. And whilst the dream may be to sit under the shade of one of these trees whilst on a pristine tropical island… DON’T.
Falling coconuts are lethal! Never sit, lie or sleep under a coconut tree, unless you can clearly see it has been trimmed of coconuts. High winds may also cause falling branches.
Malaria and other Mosquito Born Illness
Malaria is present in Raja Ampat, however, given the nature of transmission, malaria is more prevalent on more populated areas such as Sorong or Waisai. Malaria in Raja Ampat is entirely preventable. To avoid malaria:
1) Always use mosquito nets, this ensures 100% protection and is a chemical free way to stay safe from mosquitos
2) Avoid dark clothing, and where loose long sleeves / long pants
3) Mosquito repellent: Any mosquito repellant with active ingredients DEET 20% or more is highly effective, but please DO NOT apply DEET insect repellent before entering the sensitive marine environment in Raja Ampat. Remember – there are no mosquitos underwater!
4) Anti Malarial medication – this is a decision for the individual to undertake. Infection (source) on the islands is rare, but not unheard of. Should you feel you need anti-malarial medication, consult your doctor and be sure to be informed of all possible side effects.
5) The female anopheles (the mosquitos that carry malaria) are active between around 6am-6pm, and whilst they can be present anywhere, tend to be in areas protected from breeze (forest, dark/shaded areas or buildings). During these times, avoid these areas, or exercise the points above.
Dengue is also present (rare) in Raja Ampat, with carrying mosquitos most active around sunrise and sunset. Japanese Encephalitis is present in Papua, and Zika transmission has been reported in Papua New Guinea. Whilst no reported cases exist in Raja Ampat, by using the simple methods above to avoid being bitten by mosquitos, you can radically reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of becoming infected.
There is a very high risk of sunburn in Raja Ampat, but it is als extremely easy to avoid.
Cover up by wearing a hat, tshirt, loose long sleeved shirts, and stay in the shade. Use sun-safe swimwear like rashvests which will also keep you safe from small jellyfish or stinging plankton in the water.
Using suncream is ok but should not be considered the main form of sun protection. Any suncream should be used with caution – as the active ingredient in most suncreams causes damage to coral reefs, even in small amounts.
Any suncream you use in Raja Ampat must be reef safe and biodegradable. You will not be able to purchase suncream like this in, or around, Raja Ampat. Purchase it before you arrive, and if possible, purchase products with recycled or bio-plastic packaging.
Most visitors to Raja Ampat are not accustomed to the heat and high humidity. Combined with activities such as diving, snorkeling, swimming or trekking, anyone not paying attention to their water consumption is susceptible to dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, irritability, poor concentration, constipation, fogginess, low blood pressure, headaches or loss appetite. This is not a good way to experience a holiday.
Deydration is extremely easy to avoid by staying appropriately hydrated. Drink water before you’re thirstly. If you want some variation, drink coconut water or juice (NO STRAW!). If you are drinking alcohol, coffee or carbonated drinks, these are not fluids that will help you to redehydrate, in this instance, use a 1:1 ratio with water.
Aim for 2L of drinking water per day, more if you’ve been particularly active.
Other ways to avoid heatstroke include avoiding strenuous activities in the heat of the day, adding a slight pinch of salt to your food or pack hydration salts in your bag. And lastly, keep an eye on the colour of your urine, the darker yellow it is the more dehydrated you are.
Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or even death. Symptoms include: malaise, fatigue, dizziness, headache and feeling faint.
To avoid heatstroke stay hydrated and avoid overheating. To alleviate symptoms, rehydrate and stay cool (ie: fans, shade, breeze, cool shower, icepacks or a cold softdrink can on pulse points, splashing/spraying water upon your face).
If these symptoms do not resolve using the methods above it is a sign that the heatstroke is more serious and urgent medical attention is needed, usually with rehydration using intravenous fluids.
This level of medical attention is not available on the islands; so the simplest solution is to employ the methods above, and prevent heatstroke from occuring.
More commonly known as a tummy bug, stomach flu, intestinal flu, food poisoning, and traveller’s diarrhoea, gastroenteritis is the irritation of the digestive tract caused by a viral, bacterial, or (more rarely) parasitic infection. Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain or cramping which can last anywhere from 1-3 days.
Gastroenteris is highly infectious largely because the microbes that can cause gastroenteritis are easily spread via contaminated food or water, and through person-to-person contact.
In Raja Ampat, to avoid gastroenteritis, only drink boiled or otherwise purified drinking water. Do not drink from taps or wells, and do not create excess plastic bottles but rather use refillable water and the larger water gallons. Always ensure basic hygiene such as handwashing with soap to limit contamination.
In the instance you are infected, treatment mainly involves symptom relief and fluid replacement – with the latter being most important. If symptoms do not pass within a few days, seek medical attention in Waisai or Sorong.
Cuts, Wounds, Skin Infections
An open cut, wound or skin infection in the tropics can become infected very quickly, and takes a long time to heal. To assist in the healing process and prevent infection; clean and treat even small wounds with antiseptic, and check frequently for any signs of infection. Keeping wounds dry is also best for healing, but difficult if only staying for a short holiday.
Fungal infections also occur more frequently in the tropics, so good practice would be to have some antifungal cream on hand.
Ear Infections: ear infections are quite common, particular during when scubadiving or recreating in nutrient rich tropical waters. Although relatively harmless, ear infections are painful and can restrict your water based activities.
Prevention is better then cure, so it is recommended after each dive (or water based activity) you rinse your ears with drinking water.
Treatment is simple via anti-inflammatory / antibiotic drops, however, you cannot buy these in Raja Ampat and are best to bring with you from your home location.
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