Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans.

Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 


The Dutchman Max Ammer is the "pioneer" of diving in Raja Ampat. Quite a character. He is an eco-adventurer, an enthusiastic explorer and a fabulous storyteller.

Mini-seaplane and pocket helicopter pilot

I am delighted to have been able to meet Max Ammer during my stay on the island of Kri in Raja Ampat, Indonesian Papua, in March 2012. I did not know, before coming, if he would be there. It is he who holds the two resorts of Papua Diving on the island (the Kri Eco Resort and the Sorido Bay Resort).

By way of introduction, I invite you to watch the videos below...

Update, September 2020. The first publication of this article dates back to 2012... I am adding this video from 2020, in which Max Ammer recounts his career and the initiatives launched in recent years (electric catamarans, helicopters, aviation in Papua, in addition to environmental and social projects developed locally), all against a backdrop of sumptuous underwater images, which reflect the extraordinary richness of Raja Ampat. This video portrait (in English) gives a good idea of the character:

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I leave below, as a complement, another older video, which I had inserted when this article was first published in 2012.

We discover Max and his small yellow ULM plane of the time (the images are quite old) intended for the missions of conservation and protection of the Raja Ampat Natural Park (tracking illegal fishing boats and marine animals, scientific expeditions, reports, etc.).

You can see it in these images, the flight over the archipelago is spectacular! And you will surely have noticed this incredible "caravan" of manta rays,, whose dark triangles can be seen lining up under the surface ...

Max unfortunately managed to crash into the water with this pocket seaplane. He was incredibly lucky, he escaped unhurt. Not at all cooled down by the accident, he hopes to fly over Raja Ampat again in a new aircraft, he confided to me in 2012: "The project should soon become a reality..."

Update, December 2018. It took him several years, but Max managed to have his first helicopter built, on the island of Kri! A "pocket" helicopter of the Bell-47In December 2018, I even had the chance to board and fly over Kri and its surroundings during test flights! Maybe I'll tell it on the blog one of these days...

Alongside Max Ammer in a "pocket" Bell chopper he managed to have built on site, on Kri Island. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, December 2018)
Alongside Max Ammer in a "pocket" Bell chopper he managed to have built on site on Kri Island. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, December 2018)

A fabulous storyteller

Before leaving for this first stay in March 2012 at Raja Ampat on Kri Island, I had already read a lot on the internet about Max Ammer, the Dutchman who "pioneered" scuba diving among the Papuans. I love the picture he chose to put on his Facebook profile:

Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans.
Max Ammer. (Source : Facebook / Max Ammer)

And I was not disappointed by the meeting, during my stay at the Sorido Bay Resort!

Max Ammer is an extraordinary man, in the true sense of the word. As for her life, she could inspire several novels ...

Storytelling is something he excels at. At lunchtime, he is often in a talkative mood and likes nothing more than to amaze his audience with funny or tragic stories, whose fall he carefully guards. You can tell when he's preparing his little effect in the middle of a tasty anecdote: he has a smirk on his face and a curling eye.

Almost every evening, he joins us at the big table in the restaurant, sometimes with his two teenage daughters (as I said above, the article was first published in 2012, they are now adults). One of them is called Melissa. All the tourist-divers of Raja Ampat know his first name without necessarily having met it, because of the Melissa's Garden site, a magnificent coral garden (photo below).

It was Max who gave their names to almost all the dive sites in the area!

The wonderful coral garden at the site named Melissa's Garden by Max Ammer, after one of his daughters. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012)
The wonderful coral garden at the site named Melissa's Garden by Max Ammer, after one of his daughters. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012)

His innumerable stories about Raja Ampat showcased primitive tribes and unexplored jungles, biologists discovering new animal species and Christian missionaries ... But also a lot of anecdotes about the wild animals of the area, among which cassowaries killers and dangerous sea crocodiles - he told me this story attack against a diverwhere the guy got away with sticking his finger in the crocodile's eye!

History, diving and God

Born in the Netherlands in 1961, Max Ammer spent part of his childhood in Nigeria, and became an adult in Indonesia, a former Dutch colonyHe is a history buff, but he is also an enthusiast of mechanics, aeronautics and motorcycles, preferably Harley-Davidsons, which he once even traded in spare parts for the Harley-Davidsons.

In 1989, he landed for the first time in West Papua, on the edge of Oceania and Asia. He discovered the natural riches of the underwater world of the Raja Ampat, without losing his taste for the scrap metal that has been swallowed up since the Second World War - an unusual hobby, which remains his favourite pastime to this day.

In the following years, he followed underwater explorations with other adventurous divers. At the time, there was nothing: you had to camp on the beaches, bring a compressor and provisions. In 1993, he created his diving operation, which became Papua Diving.

Max is also a very believer. An Adventist Christian, he is carried by a deep faith - a faith capable, obviously, of raising mountains, in this area of Indonesian Papua where are mixed animistic, Christian and Muslim beliefs. At Papua Diving, we respect the Sabbath The weekly rest day for the staff is Saturday, and on this day the dive boats stay at the pontoon.

Preservation of nature

But Max Ammer is first and foremost an ardent defender of nature. He is involved in several large-scale environmental projects in Raja Ampat, involving the local Papuan population, notably with the non-governmental organization Conservation International, within the Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre (RARCC).

Max Ammer on the dock at Sorido Bay Resort. Kri Island, Raja Ampat.
Max Ammer on the dock at Sorido Bay Resort. Kri Island, Raja Ampat.

On the subject of the incredible biodiversity of this wild archipelago, it is inexhaustible. He continues to be fascinated as a kid by the wonders of nature that surround him, which makes him terribly friendly.

He has been living in Indonesian Papua for almost thirty years now, with his family, which was founded there. On Kri Island, all human activity revolves mainly around the two Papua Diving resorts he has created: first the Kri Eco Resort, in 1996, with its traditional wooden bungalows on stilts and dried palm leaves (photo below)then the most comfortable Sorido Bay Resort in 2004, where I had the chance to stay.

Everything is built with local materials, always in the concern to respect the environment.

The Kri Eco Resort. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
The Kri Eco Resort. (Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012)

On the spot, it employs a hundred people, mainly Papuans, for the two resorts and the organization of the dives, as well as for the various programs of conservation, development, construction, eco-tourism ...

Scientists and televisions

In Raja Ampat, Max Ammer regularly receives visits from scientists and biologists, photographers and documentalists, and television crews from around the world.

I'll put below an excerpt from an excellent documentary for Arte, The coral paradise of Raja Ampat (2009, directed by Rolf J. Möltgen), which presents the work of several scientific teams. Max Ammer and Kri Island can be seen from 9 min. 30 sec. onwards.

Direct links on YouTube:
The Coral Paradise of Raja Ampat - Part 1
The coral paradise of Raja Ampat - Part 2 (at first, Max Ammer explains the fight against dynamite fishing)
The Coral Paradise of Raja Ampat - Part 3

One night, Max tells me about the time when they hosted a TV guy's crew, many years ago, whose name he can't remember, but who I must surely know, he says to me: "A guy from the French TV..." Ah, ah, ah! I'm laughing: "Nicolas Hulot? For Ushuaïa? » Right in the target.

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I think I'm very lucky to have discovered Raja Ampat other than through the small screen. And to have met the amazing Max Ammer in the flesh. A man who is quite gifted, in his genre, for authentic "thrill" and "emotion" sequences.

Update 2020. TF1 devoted a report to Raja Ampat in its program 7 à 8. First broadcast in January 2020, it is still visible on the channel's website, at the end of the link below. We can see Max around the 18th minute:
These French people who live in Raja Ampat, the paradise for robinsons

Some links about Max Ammer

Papua Diving : about us
→ Max Ammer and Community-based Tourism at Papua Diving, Raja Ampat
Seeing Magnificent Raja Ampat from the Air

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

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  1. Hello !

    Your article is excellent, it allowed me to escape on a rainy Sunday morning.
    Thank you for sharing your underwater and terrestrial adventures as they allow us to wait until we can make our own bubbles next summer.
    Sincerely, N.

  2. Corinne, thank you for this presentation of a great man. Do not arrive on conquered land and develop the tourist activity in a reasoned way, to support local people and raise awareness of their environment, well done to Max Ammer. As for Arte's docu, I marveled at the manta rays, the adorable pygmy seahorses and then I was nauseated by the grip of the Asian market shark fining and other unscrupulous fishing ...
    You had the chance to discover this coral paradise still preserved but for how long.
    In this windy and gray Sunday, thank you for this colorful escape bubble.

    1. @LiseMet: yes, a great man, this Max Ammer, and a sacred character ...

      Tourism figures would be in the order of 5,000 visitors a year. It is still little, but the project of airport on Waigeo inspires many fears. I hope that the efforts of the various resorts on site to promote a real "eco-tourism" will bear fruit.

      As for illegal fishing and shark finning, the Asian countries, the first concerned, are obviously less affected than Westerners ... A lot of people, associations, NGOs, mobilize, but it is, as one said, a drop of water in the ocean ...

  3. I devoured this report!
    You're right, I loved it, 😀.
    I have already given the links to several friends biologists and I will post them on my site !!
    Thank you!!!! 🙂

    1. @Fabrice: an amazing guy, really ... The kind of character that you would have liked, I think.
      😉

  4. I'm a little more reserved than you on our friend Max
    Most :
    - mounted 2 ecological resorts, especially Kri, because Sorido with its clims ??
    - gave work to the local population (construction, resort staff and even dive master)
    - sensitized the local population and the authorities to the conservation of Raja Ampat biodiversity
    - introduced Raja Ampat to the world

    The "big" LESS:
    - a missionary of the sectarian sect of the twelfth day, who took advantage of his economic power to impose his religion on the entire local population

    On the other hand, when I was at the Kri Eco Resort in 2009, he only came to see us one evening out of 5 days, preferring to stay at Sorido and look after his VIP clients 😈
    Another funny fact, when Nicolas Hulot came to Palua Kri, a couple of friends were there (I have to find the picture). His team had come 1 month before with an impressive amount of equipment (including a seaplane in parts) to prepare the 10 minutes that passed on Ushuaïa. If his team was staying at Kri Eco*, Nicolas was staying at the Sorido 😆

    * : Eco means Ecological and not Economical 😆

    1. @Alimata: ah, but I did not do the apology of the guy, I drew rather a portrait of the character, because it is one, for sure! And I must admit that it is really fascinating, even for a miscreant like me.

      He told me a little about the passage of Nicolas Hulot and his team, obviously, it was epic ... Thank you for the photos !!!!

      He didn't convert me to Adventism (I had just escaped from a group of Mormon Americans who were on the Black Manta cruise), but Raja Ampat's funds totally conquered me. So, I'm going back... I'll be there tomorrow!!!! 😛
      (I am in Makassar, when I answer you ...)

      Just a little clarification - after my stay in July 2012: I notice, after my second stay (Max was absent this time) that only a small part of the staff is Adventist, the others do not care a bit, and are just happy to be on leave on Saturday. As far as I can tell, the population on the islands is predominantly Christian (mostly Protestant), which is a legacy of the Dutch settlers ...

  5. Wow, beautiful 🙂 Quite a character...It's nice to see people and places like that...Anyway it must have been a really good experience to meet him! I'll think about Papua New Guinea for my next holidays 😉

    1. @Eric: Just a little clarification, this is not Papua New Guinea, but West Papua, which is a region in Indonesia. The island is divided in two: to the west Indonesia, to the east Papua New Guinea (PNG). Max Ammer also knows PNG, but he lives in Raja Ampat most of the time, Indonesian side, so.

      A sacred character, anyway, yes ...

    2. Oops, so much for me :p my geography of this region of the world is to be reviewed 😉 Thanks for the small precision in any case 8)

    1. @Anne: thanks for leaving a little message! Yes, Max is quite a character... 😉

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