Jonas - " It was like on tv, I put my hands on my face like in disbelief and it was a great moment"
We had been wanting to go to Raja Ampat ever since we heard it was the best place in the world for diving and we were lucky to get in touch with Jonas, who made the trip even better.
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you do for living?
My name is Jonas, I’m from Switzerland and I’ve been in Raja Ampat for a year. I came here initially for two months because I wanted to do volunteering where I could also dive. This was the perfect program because it was connected with the local community and the schools. I loved it here and wanted to stay but at the same time I also wanted to travel. So after travelling for a bit, I got back in contact with them and came back as a project manager. Now I focus on community projects, and I started a learning center to teach the children about modern education and English. The teachers can be people that want to join a volunteering project through Mandarin homestay or other homestays here in the village. I also teach there and help out with dives at the local dive shop.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived here?
Be aware that Raja Ampat is not cheap but I think that if you have already travelled so far to get here, you should bring enough cash to do some trips around here. Places like Pianemo or Waiag are super beautiful, or Bantata, to see the mantas and many other trips which you would regret not doing because you’re short on money. Don’t forget there are not ATMs here, only in Waisai. And definitely go diving.
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
Well I really like to eat grilled fish and good sambal, especially the trevallis. All the “mamas” here are excellent in cooking. But of course, sometimes I miss a good pasta or a fresh salad.
4. What's your favourite place here?
My favourite place is Pulau Sayam which is the last island here in Raja Ampat. No village, no boats, nobody just pure nature, many birds, turtles come up to the beach at night, it’s super peaceful and beautiful. It’s also an amazing place to dive.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
For me there’s really no difference between what is work and what is a day off or what is holiday, it’s all one. But I love to spend some time in the afternoons with the kids on the jetty, jumping into the water and having fun with them
6. What makes you happy?
It super hard to say. Here I have so many great moments that make me so happy. But one moment that I’ll never forget was when my best friend showed up here by surprise. He came by boat and I was on the jetty and I didn’t even realise he was standing in front of me for like 5 minutes. He was even surprised by my lack of excitement but I really didn’t expect it. Then when I realised it was like on tv, I put my hands on my face like in disbelief and it was a great moment!
7. Do you feel like you belong to Indonesia?
The locals will always say that it is Indonesia here because they’re scared to say something else. But when you know them better they say that they’re Papuan and all of them want to be independent. I think it’s mainly because Indonesia looks at Papuan people as inferior, and they realise that. So they come here and are quite arrogant, they treat them like animals, wanting to take pictures of them because they still live in the forrest. The organisation for “Free Papua” is still very strong and active but obviously the Indonesian government is even stronger. I personally already feel very integrated with the community, I’m now able to fluently speak Indonesian but I want to speak their aborigines language, Papuan. In the beginning it was different but it was also interesting to see how much you can communicate without speaking the same language. But still I wanted to learn the language fast to know even more about the culture or about them, that was my motivation. Also, I really think Indonesian is an easy language.
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
What do you think is the biggest challenge in your town?
Tips & Recommendations
Visit Sawinggrai and get to know the kids in the village. If you have time, give some classes at Jonas' learning centre.
Dive as much as you can, Raja Ampat is known to be one of the best diving places in the world
Go visit the different islands around. In Pianemo you'll get a great view of many islands, in Sawinggrai you can find the famous birds of Paradise. Try to gather more people to go with you, the trips are expensive but the prices are per boat so the more you are, the cheaper it is