Raja Ampat Biodiversity Nature Resort is an Indonesian resort helping locals by promoting Red Bird of Paradise Treks, among many other altruistic projects
An Indonesian resort managed by a committed team
Biodiversity Nature Resort is an Indonesian resort situated on Gam island, at the heart of the Dampier Strait, West Papua. Since our beginning in 2013, our mission as divers and nature lovers has been to promote a resort which practices environmentally sustainable eco-tourism. Through this concept our mission is to manage our natural resources to maintain the quality of the environment around our area, as well as help improve the lives of the surrounding communities.
As a guideline on this path, our Management is certified with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council GSCT, which is the Global Baseline Standard for Sustainable Tourism practices. We use their industry criteria in our daily operations, as a guideline in our path to sustainability.
Our beautiful setting
We manage our beautiful and bountiful natural resources in a responsible way and take care to maintain the beauty of the island of Gam.
Minimising the impact of our presence is a priority for us. We have many programs in place that contribute to the communities and the environment, which all have long term programs to support a positive impact for the future.
All of our guests agree that we are surrounded by spectacular nature, rich habitat, flora and fauna both above and below the water. We worry that the large numbers of these new guests consider today’s reality as being the benchmark of extreme biodiversity and beauty. We can only imagine what the health of these reefs and jungles was like in the past, and what they could be like again!
The importance of Gam Island for Sir Wallace
One historical man who visited this area and helped to define the importance of the diversity of species and define history with his natural selection theory was Sir Alfred Russel Wallace. In particular he was fascinated by a small family of birds called the Paradisaeidae, in particular the Red Bird of paradise (Paradisaea rubra). We are very lucky to have these spectacular birds right behind our resort on Gam island!!
A history about birds
To understand the importance of having these extraordinary birds in their natural habitat (you can literally see them flying over our property), you first need to understand their history.
In 1854, the young Bristish Naturalist, Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, started his eight year adventure traveling Indo-Pacific islands and wrote “The Malay Archipelago” in 1860’s, as an account of his travels and investigations.
It was during these travels and investigations that inspired him to come up with his own discovery of the mechanisms of speciation. When Wallace revealed his finding to Charles Darwin, it gave Darwin the push needed to publish his findings he had been sitting on for many years, which in turn, gave the world one of the most famous books “On The Origin of the Species”.
The origin of the Red Bird of Paradise naming
There was much speculation as to what these strange and beautiful birds looked like that they received many names, as no one had seen them alive. The Malay traders gave them the name of Manuk dewata or Gods birds. The Portuguese called them Passaros de Col or Birds of the Sun. A learned Dutchmen, who wrote in Latin, called them Avis paradiseus, or Paradise Bird.
A description at the time by John van Linschoten gives an idea as to why these names were given. He says: “No one has seen these birds alive, for they live in the air, always turning towards the sun, and never lighting on the earth till they die; for they have neither feet nor wings, as –he adds– may be seen by the birds carried to India, and sometimes to Holland, but being very costly they were then rarely seen in Europe” [Source: Alfred Russel Wallace, “The Malay Archipelago,” published in London in 1869].
The ancient illegal market for this species
It was only when Alfred Russel Wallace took the historic journey through the Indonesian – Malay Archipielago, that he was among the first Europeans to see the Bird of Paradise alive in its natural environment.
Unfortunately the plume trade devastated the population of these birds as they were massacred for their feathers. People wished to have feather hats and of course the Red Bird of Paradise’s feathers were highly sought after.
Forward time to 2020, we are lucky that this has now been demolished and these endemic birds to Raja Ampat are protected by the local people and all the Indonesian resorts and business.
Raja Ampat Biodiversity, being a resort which focuses on Eco tourism, we organize the bird treks with local guides to encourage people to see them in their natural environment, thus educating them about the importance of keeping these species protected.
There is something eerie yet calming about being awake before the birds and the sun. The earth is still and the only sounds you hear are the night creature’s settling down to rest after a night of activity. With this sensation of calm and quiet you will make your way to our jetty for 5 am to meet Simon, your guide, with his long traditional wooden boat.
You will silently make your way across the calm, dark waters. The last of the night’s air gently hitting your face as the boat turns into a canal, surrounded by the hills of silent fauna and flora. As the dawn appears you will start to see the outlines of the hills above you while navigating your way, by boat, to the edge of the jungle. There you will begin your 30-40 min trek to the base camp.
Walking through the jungle as the dawn slowly turns to morning and the darkness fades to light the jungle will start to come alive around you. This beauty is hard to come by in a city and something magical to experience.
Slowly the insects will awaken with their morning chirps followed not long afterwards with the many species of bird singing their welcome songs to a new day, a sunrise worth getting up for!
Once you have reached base camp you will take a seat and use this time to listen to all the sounds and smells the jungle offers.
After a short while you will then be rewarded with one of the most elegant and exotic shows that the male Red Bird of paradise puts on for the female. He puts on an extravagant performance of dancing while hanging upside down from a tree branch. Or even jumping around strutting his beautiful and brightly colorful plumage to the on looking female. His vivid reds, yellows and blues stand out against the relentless green of the rain forest all in the hope of wooing the female. The females are very picky and will only choose mates based on certain appealing characteristics, thus increasing the odds that those traits will pass from one generation to the next.
This is where Alfred Russel Wallce compiled his study of the theory of Natural Selection and this can today be applied to the Red Bird of Paradise. His theory asks the question: “why do we find this animal in this place?”. Through this he realized that just as animals are shaped by where they live, regions can also be defined by the animals that live there. By choosing only the best male for mating, the species can survive or evolve in an every changing environment and world.
Wallace’s hut on Gam
After viewing the bird you will make your way back down and stop off at Alfred Russel Wallce’s hut. There he spent six weeks with his crew while observing and collecting specimens of the Bird of Paradise. In his book, mentioned above, he tells of his account of the Indonesian people during the nineteenth century where he speaks fondly of them as “honest villagers of Bessir“. This is now Yenbeser, just 5 minutes by boat from our resort. These villagers housed him in a stilted hut next to white sand, “a dwarfs house, just eight feet square”. What a treat to view this hut that has so much history behind it!
Once you have viewed the hut, you will make your way back by boat to the resort where a delicious breakfast and coffee will be waiting. To see these rare birds in their undisturbed natural habitat is a once in a life time experience and , as Alfred Russel Wallace mentioned, “one of the most beautiful and wonderful of living things”.
What conservation activities do we support through our tour and our wider operations?
The resort holds a high value towards eco-sustainability because the trek is directly behind our resort. It means we have a duty to focus on conservation and we need to take measures in limiting our activities on the environment.
We are solar generated, we recycle all trash, our cottages are built from locally sourced materials and in such a way that they do not impact the natural landscape. Continuous planting around the resort is ongoing to encourage the local bird & butterfly population. The local guides are from the village and do not go into the jungle except to maintain the pathways for the trek.
How does the bird trek support local people?
In order to support the local economy we outsource these walks and treks to local guides. They have walked the jungle trails since their childhood. Their depth of knowledge of the local plants, trees and animals inhabit these forests will astound you. They will also spot insects, wildlife and plants that our foreign eye would never see. By outsourcing the tour to the local guides we give them the option of preserving the beautiful Red Birds of Paradise instead of hunting them for souvenirs. Through this they also preserve the other jungle creatures that might be hunted for their rare beauty.
Additional conservation, community or educational benefits that we support through our Indonesian resort
Biodiversity Nature Resort Raja Ampat is a great believer in supporting the local community as much as we can. Our community programs range from education and conservation through to employment. Raja Ampat is luckier than other areas of Indonesia in that the local community is aware of the value of their environment and the need to look after it in order to support their way of life. With this in mind, we have undertaken several programs to support the future generations of Raja Ampat:
English is the international language of business, the language of the digital world, and of course, the tourist industry. Through providing an education in English we hope to open up opportunities both local and further afield for the young people of Raja Ampat. This additional learning will go a long way to improving thier ability to communicate clearly, thus enabling them to protect their families, the interests of the local community and their environment for generations to come.
We have finished building a Library for Yenbeser Primary School , and filling it with books and educational games! Everyone should have the opportunity to read, whatever their circumstances. We aim to provide quality books, which meet the needs of the children in Yenbeser. This will help them with English education and increase their learning capacity for a long-term impact.
Guests are encouraged to bring books for the kids when they travel here. To thank them and give back, we offer a free trip to the village for the guests, to see their donations in action.
We provide essential textbooks and resources for use in the classroom. It’s no surprise that resources are scarce in such a remote environment. Over the last few years, after consultation with the schools, to assess their needs, we have provided the following across all the schools in Yenbeser.
We help village school graduates complete their further education. Biodiversity is currently subsidizing the further education of 23 students from Yenbeser Village. Students become eligible for subsidized education upon entering their 4th semester in further education. That way, we ensure to sponsor only those who are serious about completing their studies. The students, who are aged between 20 and 23 years old, are all in further education collages and universities in Waisai, Sorong and Jayapura. We are very proud of them!
At Biodiversity, we organize Health Projects twice a year, with doctors from Sorong. They administer professional check ups for the children on Yenbesser and Frewin villages. We give them nutrition packs and explain the importance of good sanitation and cleanliness.
We continue to evolve our sustainability practices at Biodiversity Nature Resort. All in an effort to minimize our impact on the environment because we understand the vital importance of this.
Our future focus is educating and looking after our younger generation. Because through them we will be able to maintain sustainable eco-living, as they are our future.