Our next stop is Waigeo, the largest of the islands of Raja Ampat.
Our first port of call is the village of Sapor Kren, first to announce our arrival to the chief of the area, and to pay the tourist fee required for our visit to his tribe’s territory. In addition, we will be picking up Frankie, a local guide and bird expert who will help us find things on our walks, and hopefully show us where the Birds of Paradise (BoP) are frolicking.
My roomie and I are around when the first tender goes out, so we take the opportunity to hop aboard. When we reach the shore, the village kids are splashing around in the shallows of the beach, jumping and somersaulting off the pier into the water.
The village looks prosperous; a straight fenced road runs through it bordered by the ornamental bushes and the gardens of the houses. The houses are well maintained, and there is a church and a school. We are invited to sit in a little shelter in the garden of one of the houses until Frankie arrives. Not sitting is not an option – we are the delegates and are accorded full respect. Since this process could take a while, and I have left my camera on board, I volunteer to take the tender back to the Putiraja and invite all the others to come and visit. The one request my on-shore companion makes is the one that I forget – her mobile phone so she can take photos.. Sigh.
When we arrive back at the shore again, my dear friend and I are so taken by the kids playing in the shallows, that we don’t even make it off the beach. Soon we have a dozen or so kids showing off for our cameras: cartwheeling into the water, reverse somersaults with pike off the pier on the count of three. One little one has sand on her face, which makes for a beautiful photo; after that they all have to roll in the sand, pile it on top of their heads, eat it, and generally do what they can to have their pictures taken. Once they are totally caked in sand, they race into the water, somersaulting over the waves to start all over again.
After only a short while the parents come along to watch and join in the general mayhem, instructing the kids on what feats to pull off next. A veritable cascade of kids goes off the pier, reminding me a bit of the shower of fireworks off the Harbour Bridge at New Year. As soon as they’ve jumped, they’re clambering back up the structure to launch themselves off again. I am so hot I have to join them in the water, so I scamper along and we all jump off together, much to the amusement of one and all: Crazy white woman entertaining the kids.
My final thought as I launch is “how deep is it here?” – and then I hit the water and the bottom. The answer is not very, and just enough.
Eventually our companions return after their wanderings through the village, and we reluctantly leave for the boat again, with a clutch of photos of kids with faces covered in sand, doing cartwheels, and jumping. What fun!
For more photos visit www.photodelmundo.net