We were extremely impressed with the Raja4Divers resort. Not only with the service and facilities but also with the commitment to the local economy, local villages and to keeping things as natural and environmentally friendly as possible.
The resort was built and opened in 2010 by a Swiss woman named Maya who had previously managed other dive resorts. An Indonesian man owns the island of Pulau Pef and they worked together to get approval from all the surrounding villages in order to build the resort.
A very talented craftsman was hired to head up the construction. He still works for the resort and his talent and imagination is evident throughout. A small sawmill and concrete plant looking area is located out of sight, not far from the bungalows and staff housing.
|The lumber yard and carving area.|
Pretty much everything, with the exception of some of the bathroom fixtures and the nails in the dock and walkways, is made from materials gathered from the island or other local communities. The massive amounts of “string” used to tie all the construction together is made from local plants but is a considerable amount of work to make. Maya said many local people spent many, many days sitting in a circle working on this. (Sorry, I didn’t get details of how it’s done or which plant it's made from.)
|The "string" that was used to tie everything together. This was on a light switch cover but the "string" was used|
throughout all buildings . . . rafters, walls, you name it!
She strives to have people from West Papua represent 50% of the employees. For many of these employees this is their first job so training staff to high standard is an ongoing concern. For example, one of the employees explained they use non-breakable plates because if they didn’t, they would be buying new plates regularly. He said they go through a lot of drinking glasses! If I remember numbers correctly, they presently employ 22 West Papuans, 18 from other parts of Indonesia and 6 from other countries (mostly Switzerland and Germany I think).
There are only eight bungalows so a maximum of 16 guests can be accommodated. There were 13 during our week there and it was a nice number for diving purposes. They try to keep three dive boats running but due to difficulty in getting parts, it’s a constant struggle. A new engine arrived in a shipment of supplies during the week we were there and the boat mechanics had it installed that same night.
For guest transportation and carrying supplies to and from Sorong, they use a locally made long boat (albeit with bigger engines).
|Supplies arrived by boat late in the afternoon and employees the better part of an hour|
ferrying supplies in from the dock.
|About 2 1/2 hours later the mechanics cruised by the dining hall to show off the newly installed engine.|
Not surprising in all this, they also buy as much local food produce as possible. Boats from neighboring villages were constantly arriving with fish, fruits, vegetables and other supplies. Surprisingly, the tofu they served us vegetarians is made in Sorong.
|One of the local villagers arriving with supplies.|
Speaking of the food . . . it was outstanding! All other dive resorts we’ve been to say they cater to vegetarians. But really they don’t. R4D went above and beyond in this regard. Andrew and I (plus one other lady who was vegetarian) were always provided with something “extra” and the buffet dishes that were vegetarian were always carefully pointed out to us.
Interestingly, the restaurant manager was trained in Canada. From Indonesia, Hariyo spent seven years in Ottawa, first getting a degree and working on a Masters in Communications, deciding that’s not really want he wanted to do, going to school to become a Chef and then apprenticing under the Chef at the Swiss Embassy. The things he and his staff could do with tofu, tempeh and eggs was absolutely delicious! And the baker he has working in the kitchen was also very talented! Fresh bread every day at breakfast, homemade cookies and squares always available in the dining room, home made cake for our snack between dives, and yummy desserts (such as dark chocolate layer cake and profiteroles) each evening.
|Hariyo (centre) and some of his dining room staff.|
So often, functional things are boring. But the some of the wood-carvings and items made of cement made the functional items so much more interesting!
These little gazebo-looking items, each with a different "head" on them, served as night lights along pathways. The wiring up to the lights was so well hidden, it again took me a couple days to figure out their purpose. (Note the "string" holding the cross section pieces together.)
New "totem poles" (which apparently appeared just prior to our arrival) will also be used as pathway lighting. The head craftsman/carver had disappeared into the woods for several days and came back with these. Each one was unique.
These turtles are not just decorative. Made of cement and rebar, these babies are HEAVY!!! and hold down the corner of the dock that used to sustain damage in high winds.
Whether to simply entertain by putting a smile on someone's face, or to serve a particular function, everything has a purpose. Sometimes things can do both.