ICBE 2018

Fam Archipelago: Another Mesmerizing ‘Chip(s)’ from Raja Ampat

For those of you who’d already quite familiar with Raja Ampat, perhaps the name “Fam Archipelago” (Or “Pam” according to local dialect, ed.) wouldn’t ring a bell. But, if a friend of yours mentioned the name “Pianemo” (or “Pyai Nemo” according to local dialect, ed.), then perhaps some of you would say, “Oh, that place.” Yes, that beautiful, clusters of karst in Pianemo –some would refer it as the miniature of Wayag, is indeed; a part of the Archipelago.

There are only three villages inhabiting within the cluster of islets under the District of Waigeo Barat Kepulauan. The Village of Pam is located in an Islet called “Pam Kecil” (literally can be interpreted as “Little Pam,” ed.), while both Saukabu and Saupapir are located in the Islet of Pam Besar (“Besar” is the opposite of “Kecil, ed.) –or “Pam Bemuk” according to the local language. Apart from those two islets, there are at least eighteen more islets which, as far as its known, are uninhabited.

Pianemo from such height, taken from the observation deck. Within the past years, Pianemo has emerged as one of the ‘primary’ destinations in Raja Ampat. (Photo by: Nikka Amandra Gunadharma-CI Indonesia/2015)

Almost all members of the community in the Archipelago of Fam are descents of sailors orinigally came from the Biak-Serui; islands on the north-eastern part of the Bird’s Head –areas which are located under the Seireri’s customary jurisdiction. The descents of the brave sailors have lived within the Archipelago for hundreds of years, and their rights –though limited, have been acknowledged by the Maya Tribe. The latter Tribe, which had established Customary Council back in 2000, is Raja Ampat’s indigenous people; hence the entity that has customary rights over both land and sea in Raja Ampat.

The people in Raja Ampat –as is common with other coastal areas in Raja Ampat, naturally had more possibilities to interact with settlers from elsewhere, and in a particular context that organic interaction would eventually drive the process of acculturation and from which –and until certain point too, would generate some unique, cultural ‘synthesis’: and this is what exactly happened in Fam Archipelago.

A Manta Ray encountered in one of the dive sites in Fam Archipelago as it gracefully swam toward the camera. To date, there are at least twelve commonly-known dive sites among divers within the Archipelago. Could there be more? (Photo by: Ronald Mambrasar-CI Indonesia/2016)

In terms of biodiversity, just like in another parts of Raja Ampat, Fam Archipelago too is blessed with high ecological value. From the perspective of habitat’s representation this ‘mini’ Archipelago is, simply put, can be said as the representative of habitats and ecosystems of all Raja Ampat. From karst islets, lagoons, fringing reefs, patch reefs, mangrove forest, to seagrass beds: you name it, they have it. So, from that limited perspective, it is fair to say that Fam Archipelago could also be referred as the ‘miniature version’ of Raja Ampat.

Back in 2013, Dr. Gerry Allen and Dr. Mark Erdmann, inventoried as many as 707 species of fish below the water of Fam Archipelago; where in nearly all the sites visited on this occasion, Sharks and Napoleon Wrasse were encountered. While the highest intensity recorded reached quite a staggering number of 357 species during a single dive session.

Another peaceful, Sunday morning in the Village of Saukabu; one from three villages across the Fam Archipelago. (Photo by: Nikka Amandra Gunadharma-CI Indonesia/2016)

“Apart from reef fish, a research published by Benjamin Kahn back in 2007 suggests that Fam Archipelago is likely a migratory area for Indo-pacific Bottlenose, Bottlenose, and Spinner dolphins. Apart from those marine mammals, the Archipelago is factually an important habitat for the threatened, Coconut Crabs, and Manta Rays,” explained Nur Ismu Hidayat, Conservation International (CI) Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape Science & Monitoring Senior Coordinator.

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the abundance of natural resources in Fam Archipelago implicitly states its potentials from the tourism sector, which significantly vibrates over the past few years. And with Pianemo as the ‘stepping stone,’ it is expected that in no time more tourists would go beyond eager to explore the Fam Archipelago.

Author: Nikka Amandra Gunadharma & Rens R. Lewerissa/Conservation International Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Marine Program

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