Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans.

Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

Dutchman Max Ammer is the “& #160; pioneer & #160;” of diving in Raja Ampat. A sacred character. He is a green adventurer, an enthusiastic explorer and a fabulous storyteller.

Mini-seaplane pilot

I am delighted to have been able to meet Max Ammer, during my stay on the island of Kri, in Raja Ampat, in 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).

As a presentation, I invite you to watch the video below. We discover Max and his small yellow ULM aircraft (images that date back several years), intended for the conservation and protection missions of the Raja Ampat natural park (location of illegal fishing boats and marine animals, scientific expeditions, reports, etc.).

The interview (in English) gives a good idea of the character ...

We 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 ...

Since then, Max has unfortunately managed to crash into the water with his flying seaplane. He had an incredible chance, he escaped unscathed.

Not at all cooled by the accident, he hopes to fly over Raja Ampat again in a new machine. The project should soon be realized, he told me. To be continued…

Updated: December 2018. It took him several years, but Max managed to build a first helicopter on the island of Kri! A "pocket" helicopter of the model Bell-47, all the pieces were transported and assembled on site ... In December 2018, I even had the chance to board and fly over Kri and its surroundings, during test flights ... I'll tell it in a post one of these days.

A fabulous storyteller

Before leaving for this first stay in March 2012 on the island of Kri, I had already read a lot on the Internet about Max Ammer, the Dutch "pioneer" of scuba diving among the Papuans. I love the photo he chose to put on his profile on Facebook:

Max Ammer, a Dutchman among the Papuans.

And I was not disappointed by the meeting, during my stay at Sorido Bay Resort & #160 ;!

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

Telling stories is an activity in which he excels. At dinner time, he is often in a talkative mood and likes nothing so much as to amaze his audience, with comical or tragic stories, which he carefully takes care of the fall. It shows, when he prepares his little effect, in the middle of a tasty anecdote: he has a smile and the curly eye.

Almost every evening, he joins us at the big table in the restaurant, sometimes with his two teenage daughters [the first publication of the article dates back to 2012, they are now adults, Editor's note]. 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).

Max has given their names to almost every dive site in the area!

Melissa's Garden. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia. March 2012.
Melissa's Garden. (Raja Ampat, 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 diver, where the guy escaped by pushing his finger into the eye of the crocodile!

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 colony, where he first came to find vestiges of the Second World War - jeeps abandoned in the jungle by the Americans, plane hulls, shipwrecks & #8230; Passionate about history, he is also fond of mechanics, aeronautics and motorcycles, preferably Harleys, which he even did, for a time, trading in spare parts.

In 1989, he landed for the first time in West Papua, on the edge of Oceania and Asia. He discovers the natural wealth of the Raja Ampat underwater world, without losing his taste for the scrap metal swept away since the Second World War - a foolish pastime, which remains, even today, his favorite pastime.

In the following years, he went on underwater explorations with other adventurous divers. At the time, there is nothing: you have to camp on the beaches, bring a compressor and supplies. 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 of the staff is Saturday, and that day, the dive boats remain at the dock.

Preservation of nature

But Max Ammer is first and foremost an ardent defender of nature. He participates in several large-scale environmental projects in Raja Ampat, involving the local Papuan population, particularly with the NGO Conservation International, within the Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Center (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 Papua, Indonesia for more than 20 years, with his family based there. On Kri Island, all the human activity revolves around the two resorts of Papua Diving, which he opened with his wife Anita Matahari-Ammer: 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), presenting the work of several scientific teams. We discover Max Ammer and Kri Island from 9 min. 30 sec.

→ Direct link on YouTube: The Coral Paradise of Raja Ampat - Part 1
Links to see more on YouTube:
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 the time they hosted the team of a guy on TV, he does not remember the name, but I must surely know, he said: "A guy from the french TV ..." Ah, ah, ah! I'm laughing : "Nicolas Hulot? For Ushuaia? " Right in the target.


I tell myself that I am very lucky to have discovered Raja Ampat other than through the small screen. And to have met the incredible Max Ammer in the flesh. A man quite gifted, in his genre, for authentic sequences "& #160; chills & #160;" and "& #160; emotion & #160;".

Some links about Max Ammer

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

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

  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!!! 🙂

  4. I'm a little more reserved than you on our friend Max
    Most :
    & #8211; has 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 night over 5 days, preferring to stay in Sorido and take care of his VIP clients 😈
    Another fun fact, when Nicolas Hulot came to Palua Kri, a couple of friends was there (must I find the photo). His team had come a month before with a quantity of impressive equipment (including a seaplane in spare parts) to prepare the 10 minutes that passed on Ushuaia. If his team was staying at Kri Eco *, Nicolas was staying at Sorido 😆

    *: Eco means Eco-friendly and not Economic 😆

    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 did not convert me to Adventism (already I had just escaped a group of Mormon Americans, who were on the Black Manta cruise), but Raja Ampat's funds have me, totally conquered. 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 🙂 All a character & #8230; It's nice to see people and places like these & #8230; In any case it must have been a good experience to meet him! I will 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, as much for me: p my geography of this region of the world is to review 😉 Thank you for the small precision in any case 8)

    1. @Anne: thank you for leaving a little message! Yes, Max is a real character ... 😉

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