Located within the Bird’s Head Seascape, and at the heart of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat is one of the most marine biodiverse locations on earth. Encompassing around 4.6 million hectares of land and sea, of which over 2 million is Marine Protected Area, the archipelago is home to more than 1,600 species of fish, 75% of the world’s known coral species, 6 of the 7 known species of vulnerable to critically endangered sea turtles, and 17 known species of marine mammals.
Powerful deep-sea currents funnel nutrients into Raja Ampat’s abundant network of fringing, barrier, patch and atoll reefs, and even further into its mangroves, marine lakes and seagrass beds, forming complex food webs that feed a spectacular diversity of marine life. Nicknamed the ‘species factory’, Raja Ampat is a globally significant biodiversity hotspot and these abundant reefs surrounding its 1411 islands provide a vital source of nutrition and a basis for local livelihoods.
Raja Ampat’s reefs are teeming with an abundance of life and colour that can be found nowhere else on the planet. Brilliantly hued soft corals and sea fans, sponges, tunicates, crinoids and hard corals merge to form habitats for mollusks and crustaceans, nudibranchs, giant clams, urchins and sea stars. Schools of brightly coloured reef fish such parrotfish, tangs and rainbow runners roam the coral. Dense schools of snapper, sweetlips and barracuda hang effortlessly in the current, whilst tuna and sharks cruise by. Among the mangroves there are more muted colours, with mangrove roots and corals providing habitats for juvenile fish, sharks and macro invertebrate species such as sea snails, flatworms, crabs and shrimp.
It is because if this extraordinary marine biodiversity, and the interconnectedness and dependence of local people upon this biodiversity, that Raja Ampat must be considered a global priority for conservation. The Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority strives to protect the world’s last remaining coral stronghold through sustainable management that holds environment, local community wellbeing and sustainable development at its core.