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 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, click on the French flag below to access the original text:

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 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, 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).

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

September 2020 update : The first publication of this post dates back to 2012... I would like to add this very recent video, in which Max Ammer retraces 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 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 I first published this post 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.).

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 ...

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 a first helicopter built on the island of Kri! A "pocket" helicopter of the model Bell-47In 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 [as I said before, first published in 2012, they're now adults, Ed]. 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 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), 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 about the time they hosted a TV guy's crew a few years ago, whose name he can't remember, but who I must surely know, he tells me: "A guy from the french TV ..." Ah, ah, ah! I'm laughing : "Nicolas Hulot? For Ushuaia? " Right in the target.

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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

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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!
    tu as raison j’ai adoré, 😀
    I have already given the links to several friends biologists and I will post them on my site !!
    Merci!!! 🙂

  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

    D’autre part quand j’étais au Kri Eco Resort en 2009, il n’est venu nous voir qu’un seul soir sur 5 jours, préférant séjourner à Sorido et soigner ses clients VIP 😈
    Un autre fait amusant, quand Nicolas Hulot est venu à Palua Kri, un couple d’amis était sur place (faut que je retrouve la photo). Son équipe était venu 1 mois avant avec une quantité de matériel impressionnante (dont un hydravion en pièces détachées) pour préparer les 10 mn qui sont passées sur Ushuaïa. Si son équipe était logée au Kri Eco*, Nicolas logeait au Sorido 😆

    * : Eco veut dire Écologique et non Économique 😆

    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 !!!!

      Il ne m’a pas converti à l’adventisme (déjà que je venais d’échapper à un groupe d’Américains mormons, qui étaient sur la croisière du Black Manta), mais les fonds de Raja Ampat m’ont, eux, totalement conquise. Du coup, j’y retourne… j’y serai demain !!! 😛
      (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. Ouah, magnifique 🙂 Tout un personnage…C’est bien de voir des gens et des endroits comme ceux là…En tout cas ca a dû vraiment être une bonne expérience de le rencontrer ! Je vais penser à la Papouasie Nouvelle Guinée pour mes prochaines vacances 😉

    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. Oups, autant pour moi :p ma géographie de cette région du monde est à revoir 😉 Merci pour la petite précision en tout cas 8)

    1. @Anne: merci d’avoir laissé un petit message ! Oui, Max est un sacré personnage… 😉

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