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Jon Helminiak
Raja Ampat - West Papua Adventure


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Raja Ampat Archipelago

In the waters of the Raja Ampat Archipelago, sharks don't swim.

They walk.

Using their fins like feet, they lumber across the sea floor. Until 2008, nobody knew they existed.

New discoveries happen daily in Raja Ampat. The archipelago is the last tropical frontier, with 1,500 islands, cays and shoals resting along the equator, 40 miles west of the island of Papua New Guinea.

The only European in the region, Dutchman Max Ammer told me, "I've lived here eighteen years and haven't scratched the surface of all there is to explore." He pointed to the charts and said, "I've never been here," or, "I'm not sure this has been explored yet."

In my foldable kayak I explored the area for several days, camping and paddling where few, if any, have ever been. The sun was dangerously hot, the waters were rich with sea life, and the villagers shy but welcoming.