Heaven on Earth

Sun­sets at Raja Am­pat are so beau­ti­ful that it al­most seems you are look­ing through the gates of heaven.

Maxx-M - - WHERE TO STAY - Text by A.J. |Pho­tos by Joni Iskan­dar

Trav­el­ling to me is a form of self-ex­pres­sion. It is highly per­sonal and al­lows me to ex­tract the feel­ings and thoughts that may be hid­den deep in my soul. Trav­el­ling also means to me run­ning to­wards some­thing, an ex­pe­ri­ence that helps me grow, recharge and dream. Af­ter trav­el­ling to so many places, so many is­lands, cities and re­sorts in the last two years, I found par­adise in Pa­pua, at Raja Am­pat, an area of nat­u­ral won­der that may be heaven on earth. It is peace­ful and tran­quil, the an­swer to the hus­tle and bus­tle of the world. I ar­rived at the air­port in Sorong, in West Pa­pua, on an early morn­ing flight from Manado, North Su­lawesi, and headed to the port for the two-hour boat ride to par­adise. I was stay­ing at Pa­pua Par­adise Eco Re­sort, lo­cated on Birie Is­land, off the north­east coast of Batanta, one of the four main is­lands in Raja Am­pat. This is not just a trop­i­cal is­land sur­rounded by pris­tine reefs and un­spoilt flora; it’s a slice of heaven for divers and non-divers like me, and of course for hon­ey­moon­ers and na­ture and adventure lovers. Pa­pua Par­adise of­fers 16 bun­ga­lows, all con­structed with an un­par­al­leled at­ten­tion to de­tail, from the rustic bath­rooms to the eco-friendly en­ergy and wa­ter sys­tem. The re­sort, man­aged by Justin and Ch­eryl Duer­den, was de­signed to be en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. All bun­ga­lows were built us­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, with tim­ber sourced only from strictly con­trolled des­ig­nated forests, un­der con­tract with lo­cal landown­ers, and not a sin­gle tree was cut down. The re­sort also uses eco-friendly soaps and clean­ing prod­ucts, and it pur­chases food and sup­plies from lo­cal ven­dors. Not only is Pa­pua Par­adise en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, but it’s also so­cially re­spon­si­ble. It em­ploys lo­cal Pa­puans and the bun­ga­lows and re­sort build­ings fea­ture nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als sourced lo­cally. All this sim­plic­ity comes to­gether to cre­ate so­phis­ti­cated bun­ga­lows that of­fer glo­ri­ous is­land views, from sun­sets on the ter­race watch­ing the baby sharks and st­ingrays swim­ming around the bun­ga­lows. Pa­pua Par­adise is not just for divers. If you are a snorkeler like me, you can still join the friendly staff of Pa­pua Par­adise to ex­plore the coral reefs and un­der­wa­ter life, in­clud­ing the ma­jes­tic manta rays. I slipped into the wa­ter and floated above ma­jes­tic manta rays as they som­er­saulted, glided and piv­oted through the light be­low. In a truly thrilling ex­pe­ri­ence, three big manta rays swam be­side me. Af­ter lunch on the jetty, I got back in the wa­ter for more snorkelling, drink­ing in the colour­ful fish and vi­brant coral. Pa­pua Par­adise of­fers a va­ri­ety of is­land ex­cur­sions in­clud­ing trips to Fam Is­lands. Th­ese is­lands are the very def­i­ni­tion of par­adise, white lime­stone cliffs plung­ing into the sea and ul­tra­ma­rine la­goons nes­tled next to mon­u­men­tal pin­na­cles and un­touched beaches. For bird lovers, Pa­pua Par­adise of­fers bird watch­ing ex­pe­di­tions. Visit a neigh­bour­ing vil­lage at sun­set and get ready to spot horn­bills and other bird species. Savour the lo­cal dishes pre­pared by the chefs at Pa­pua Par­adise restau­rant, ac­com­pa­nied by the rhythms of lo­cal mu­si­cians. The night skies here are bril­liantly lit by the moon and stars, a cool sea breeze lulling the senses. I for­got the last time I could count the stars. It is a rare op­por­tu­nity to es­cape the busy world and just dis­ap­pear for a spell. That is ex­actly what you get at Pa­pua Par­adise, an es­cape to par­adise. Would you get on a plane and fly for 20 hours to reach Pa­pua Par­adise? If your an­swer is no, then you will prob­a­bly never ex­pe­ri­ence heaven on earth. In­deed, peo­ple come from all over the world to Pa­pua Par­adise to ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty of na­ture and the peace and tran­quil­lity of Raja Am­pat. This is a place you can hear the sound of the ocean, swim with manta rays, watch horn­bills and drink in spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets. Pa­pua Par­adise is a place you must visit be­fore you die.

‘The night skies here are bril­liantly lit by the moon and stars, a cool sea breeze lulling the senses. I for­got the last time I could count the stars. It is a rare op­por­tu­nity to es­cape the busy world and just dis­ap­pear for a spell. That is ex­actly what you get at Pa­pua Par­adise, an es

cape to par­adise.’

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