Back from Papua

Ahe from the skyWe just got back from Ahe Island in Papua and have a lot to share with you. We were delighted to see that the local people see the need to develop more sustainable sources of income instead of  fishing which currently is their sole income source. We believe that with a joint effort step by step a situation can be achieved from which both people and marine life can benefit.

Let’s start by telling you a little bit more about Ahe and the Harlem Islands.

The Harlem Island are situated in the Geelvinkbaai in Papua. Many moons ago they where ‘discovered’ by the Dutch vessel the Harlem and thus got their name. These 7 islands are situated amongst crystal clear water and pristine reefs. Virtually no one has dived here and we are just touching first base when it comes to discover the diving possibilities of this unique place. We have dived many places around the world but even for us this is diving adventure ‘pur sang’.

Ahe is one of the smaller of the 7 islands. It measures 690 by 450 ft and if you are looking for the true bounty or Robinson experience… this is it. Ahe has a unique feeling to it and is inhabited by many special animals such as the mambruk, the goudvink (which is endemic to the islands) and the cuscus… an animal with a high cuddle factor and if I have to describe it I would say it is a sort of mix between a monkey a small bear and a koala. Sea eagles have their nests on the island and every evening hundreds of fregat birds return to Ahe to sleep in its lush vegetation. Turtles visit the islands to lay their eggs and you may get lucky to see the baby turtles running into the sea. Where ever you look there is white sand and the deep kobalt blue of the calm sea. Doesn’t sound bad huh

When you set foot on the island you can get rid of your shoes or flip flops for the rest of your stay. The first thing you see are two large airplane engines that where takenbungalow Ahe Harlem Islands Papua of the WWII plane wreck that sunk on top of one of Ahe’s reefs and that you can see snorkeling. On my first visit before entering the modest bungalow that was going to be my home for the week I immediately jumped into the water to check out the reef and besides the reef fish you would expect I saw bumphead parrot fish, mantis shrimp, several species of snake eels, many blue spotted rays, spade fish, a group of razor fish,  a turtle and even three cockatoo waspfish….this was at just 20 meters in front of the beach!

Ahe is run by a group of enthusiastic young people from the surrounding islands. They choose not to follow the path of their parents that have been fishermen whale shark approaching boatfor many generations, but to develop small scale tourism on Ahe with a focus on the adventurous diver. Ahe at the moment offers basic accommodation that will be developed further without loosing it’s charm or harm the wonderful nature and characteristic of the island. Ahe is truly of the beaten track and has been visited by only 20 tourists this year.

There are no specific diving sites at the moment. You can literally plunge in everywhere and have a great dive on beautiful reefs. In the next ahe divers papua harlem islandsmonths the group that got training by us last week will further ‘recon’ the area to map the best dive sites and spot a top 25 of things divers are keen to see. Some good dive news… one of the site offers year round guaranteed private encounters with whale sharks that literally swim up to the boat and Ahe has a residential group of dolphins.

Scubasigns is truly committed to help the people of Ahe to make their plans become reality and to let both people and marine life benefit from ecologic dive tourism. We will take the following steps:

1. Further dive training of local people to increase dive safety.
2. Set up a team of paid dive guides who will explore dive sites and clean and protect the reefs.
3. Enlarge the protected area and create no fishing zone’s… this has been achieved already for the waters directly surrounding ahe.dive guides ahe harlem islands papua
4. Together with knowledgeable NGO’s and the local community we will write a masterplan for the future of Ahe and the Harlem Islands.
5. Increase the knowledge of the eco system and marine life within the local community.
6. Improve the dive gear and dive facilities as well as knowledge on maintenance.
7. PR activities to put the Harlem Island on the map of exciting dive destinations.
8. Set up a protocol and ‘rules’ for diving in the Harlem Islands.
9. Appoint an island manager to locally help in the development of the island and implement the necessary action points.

Anyone with good ideas or the desire to help please let us know! If you are keen to protect marine life and want to assure that the beauty of coral reefs and marine life should be safeguarded for future generations then this is your chance to actually do something. Send us an e-mail at dave@scubasigns.com. If you would like to be one of the first divers to visit Ahe then please let us know as well and we will make sure you will have the trip of your live.

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6 Responses to Back from Papua

  1. Hi Dave,

    Wij, Fedhi, zijn heel blij met jullie in contact gekomen te zijn via jullie boek Scubasigns. Wat een geweldige stimulans voor Ahe en de jongeren van de Harlem Islands!
    Jullie hulp bij de verdere ontwikkeling van dit nieuwe duik-eldorado is onmisbaar.

    Fedhi gebruikt de slogan “Explore the Unexplored” en jij kunt daar nu uit eigen ervaring mee instemmen.

    Het snorkelen vanuit je bungalowtje op Ahe is al zo fantastisch dat wij ook absoluut meer van het prachtige onderwaterleven willen gaan zien. Speciaal daarvoor hebben wij ons duikbrevet gehaald. Fijn en geruststellend dat Scubasigns dan voor de opleiding en organisatie zorgt!
    Groet, Ingrid en Cea,
    namens het bestuur van FEDHI
    Foundation Economic Development Harlem Islands

  2. Pingback: Project Papua is underway « Scubasigns Blog

  3. sander says:

    Leuk om te lezen! Keep up the good work!

    groetjes,

    Sander

  4. Pingback: First staff employed on Ahe dive resort Papua « Scubasigns Blog

  5. Mick Chapman says:

    Dave,

    I just came across your blog and foundation and I think you are doing a great job. I will be following your blog and work closely. Where we are, in Baja, there are several towns that could benefit from your kind of endeavor – it has sparked my imagination.

    Good Luck
    Mick

  6. Mark Ronson says:

    Hi Dave,
    Great Blog. I am interested in helping and diving on Ahe. Currently, I have Rescue Status and I am getting started on PADI Dive Master. I volunteer as an Exhibit Diver at The Aquarium of The Pacific in Long Beach California where I feed the fish, maintain the exhibits and play with the kids.
    Have a Happy New Year. Let me know how I can help you.
    Warm Regards and Happy Diving,
    Mark

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