Fascinating Wildlife on Land and Sea

The profusion, diversity, and visual wonder of wildlife in this region are astounding. A full three-quarters of the world's marine species live in the waters surrounding the 1,500 gem-like islands of Raja Ampat. Here 540 types of corals, more than 1,000 species of coral fish and 700 varieties of mollusks are part of the rich diversity of underwater life. Schools of tuna and Giant trevallies measuring five-and-a-half feet live in these waters with pygmy seahorses, wobbegongs (carpet sharks), and dugongs (cousins of the manatee). Manta rays and sea turtles might make appearances, and if you dive down to the sea floor it’s possible to spot giant clams that reach four feet.

On land, the dense jungle foliage is where a wide variety of birds live mostly untouched by human interference. The most noteworthy of these is the Cendrawasih or Bird of Paradise, only found in this region. Their elaborate and colorful feathers have long been in demand for ladies’ hats and other decorative purposes; now hunting is only allowed for tribal ceremonial use. Endemic to the island of Waigeo, the Waigeou cuscus is a white marsupial with dark spots that has a passing resemblance to an opossum.

However, the most famous creature on land in this part of the world is the rare lizard species the Komodo dragon. Approximately 2,500 Komodos live in Komodo National Park, which comprises three islands—Komodo, Rinca and Padar—and smaller islets, which together encompass 233 square miles. The largest lizards and reptiles on Earth, they can reach 10 feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds. Carnivores, they hunt prey like deer and water buffalo, and they can consume 80 percent of their weight in one feeding.

In addition to buffalo and deer, the park is also home to land mammals including horses, monkeys, and boars, as well as 40 species of birds, 12 snake species, and nine species of lizard.

The park’s colorful coral reefs and varied underwater terrains, from sheer cliff walls to caves and swim-throughs, are alive with 1,000 species of fish, 10 types of dolphins, six whale species, sharks, green turtles, dugongs, Manta rays, and stingrays.

The list of undersea discoveries is infinite: Each island will reveal new dazzling denizens in kaleidoscopic worlds full of surprises.

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