So we’ve arrived in paradise. That’s our first impression when after another long journey by plane and two boat trips we reached the small island Arborek in Raja Ampat in the far east of Indonesia. The sun was shining from a blue sky, you could see colorful fish in the clear ocean beneath us and a small boat with children from the local village came towards us singing a song. One of our fellow travelers could not wait any longer and just jumped right in the water from the boat to enjoy the beautiful waters.
But the remote paradise comes with a price: We are living in a “camp” with a dozen other volunteers and staff of the project at the edge of the village right at the beach. Our live here on the island is very “simple”. Accommodation is in shared huts made of bamboo, it’s hard to get any privacy. You even have to defend the only private space you have (your bed under your mosquito net) against a cat and two dog puppies trying to sleep on it. Toilets are a hole in the ground with a seat (Don’t throw the paper in though!), and showers are a barrel with sea water. The lack of fresh water on the island might be the single most annoying thing. The government and the Barefoot Conservation group drilled a well a few years ago, but the water was taken out so quickly and wasted without too much thought. The well now only delivers brackish water as sea water was pulled in and ruined the efforts. Greed and ignorance will be the downfall of humans…
So now we have to bring in big plastic bottles of fresh water from other islands and try to collect rainwater, but you only realize how much you depend on fresh water when you don’t have it: washing your food, washing you dishes, taking a shower, flushing the toilet all have to be done with salty sea water. You can rinse your head, wash your dive computer and quench your thirst with the precious fresh water, but other things like washing your clothes and rinsing the scuba diving equipment to keep it functional have to be done with the brackish well water.
We only have electricity during night hours when a generator is running with fuel we also bring in from the main land. There is no air conditioning and the single most useful item – a fan for our room – broke on the first day. Luckily we could get a replacement, but the humidity and the 30 – 35 Degree heat means you are constantly sweating and all your clothes are damp and smelly. Never forget your sun screen and your mosquito repellent or you will suffer! We’re at the equator and the sun is merciless with us white people. This is a potential Malaria and Dengue Fever region and in the last few months most people in the local village and in the camp were struck down by a tropical virus similar to Dengue.
Unfortunately the very “relaxed” live style of some of the Indonesians had taken hold of the organization of the volunteers and the conservation projects as well and many things are not as promised. We’re still trying to get things moving so that we can make the most of our time here, but we’ll report about the projects themselves another time. We have however gotten back into our scuba gear and already had some amazing dives in the waters here that are possibly the most biodiverse in the whole world.