The Bird’s Head region of Indonesia and the Raja Ampat islands are surrounded by some of the most diverse reefs in the world, home to 600 types of coral and more than 1,700 species of fish. Just over a decade ago, the reef was almost lost, due mostly to over fishing and destructive fishing techniques. Today, the area is being touted as one of the most successful community-based ocean conservation programs in the world.

In 2004, the Bird’s Head Seascape Initiative was launched as a collaborative effort of more than 30 different partner organizations, including Conservation International, the people of West Papua, the government of Indonesia, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. In 2007, a network of marine protected areas was created by the local government, protecting nearly 50 percent of Raja Ampat’s coral reefs and mangroves. As a result, the reef has rebounded. Fish populations have recovered; sharks, whales and rays have returned; poaching by outside fishers has decreased by 90 percent; coral is coming back; and ecotourism has flourished.

Valen’s Reef is a virtual reality dive off the Raja Ampat islands. Follow along with local-fisherman-turned-reef-scientist Ronald Mambrasar as he dives the reefs and recounts the history and trials endured by to seascape to his young son, Valen. “Valen’s Reef” premiered at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2016.

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Photo by Shawn Heinrichs

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Derek Taylor is the managing editor of adventure-journal.com. He lives in Huntsville, Utah.
Derek Taylor is the managing editor of adventure-journal.com. He lives in Huntsville, Utah.