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

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

Mini-seaplane pilot

I am delighted to have met Max Ammer during my stay on Kri Island in Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, 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 (Kri Eco Resort and Sorido Bay Resort).

As a presentation, I invite you to watch the video below. We discover Max and his small plane-ULM yellow, for the conservation and protection missions of the Raja Ampat Natural Park (tracking 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 !

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 night he joins us at the restaurant's big table, sometimes with his two big teenage daughters. One of them is Melissa. All of Raja Ampat's tourists-divers know her name without necessarily having met her, because of the site Melissa's Garden, a beautiful 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 remnants of the Second World War - jeeps abandoned in the jungle by Americans, carcasses of planes, wrecks of ships ... Passionate about history, he is also keen on mechanics, aeronautics and motorcycles, preferably Harleys, of which he even made, a time, trade of 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 Resortin 1996, with its traditional bungalows on wooden 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 in the flesh the incredible Max Ammer. A very talented guy, of its kind, for authentic sequences "thrills" and "emotion".

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