Raja Ampat: a week at Marandan Weser, Batanta

Marandan Weser was the only village we stayed at in Raja Ampat. We ended up having a fantastic week, perhaps our favorite of the six places we stayed. We got to meet some villagers and get a feel for the pace of life in a Raja Ampat village.

Bauni Merk was smiling on the beach when we arrived, smiling a week later when he dropped us at our next homestay, and always seemed genuinely happy to see us.

IMG_20230108_092031 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230113_120103 by bryandkeith on flickr

I snorkeled more with Bauni Merk than with any other local (of our entire time in Raja Ampat). Just off from the bungalow on the first afternoon we were there, Bauni Merk found an eel, a couple lionfish, a very tiny nudibranch, a lobster, a stonefish, and a tasselled wobbegong shark.

20230106_160324A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230106_154405A by bryandkeith on flickr
Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) by bryandkeith on flickr
tasselled wobbegong shark

On the second afternoon in the bay to the east Bauni Merk found more nudibranch, stonefish, lionfish, and lobster; also blue spotted rays, giant clams, an upside down jellyfish, and a spiny devilfish.

upside down jellyfish by bryandkeith on flickr
upside down jellyfish
spiny devilfish (aka bearded ghoul?), I think, rather than a sea moth which was my original guess.  It looks a lot like the photo of Inimicus didactylus that's in my book by bryandkeith on flickr
spiny devilfish

The only wobbegong, devilfish, and upside down jellyfish of our whole trip were the ones that Bauni Merk found for us. He seemed just as excited as we were about getting a chance to see these creatures.

Marandan Weser (aka Yennyar) is known as the “traditional village” because it’s one of the few villages in Raja Ampat where all the houses are still built in the traditional style.

IMG_20230110_162812 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230110_172306 by bryandkeith on flickr

The village is set just a bit inland, protected from wind, waves, and erosion from the sea. The single bungalow for tourists, however, has a sea view.

IMG_20230111_084131 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230106_174354 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230113_090028 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230113_084647 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ferda enjoyed spending time with the kids — all very polite.

IMG_20230108_183704 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230107_152414 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230107_163734 by bryandkeith on flickr

We got into a fun routine: every evening as the sun was setting we went to the school and watched the volleyball game. Anyone could participate, and most players were very good.

After spending a week as tourists in Marandan Weser, we aren’t expert coastal Papuan village sociologists. That said, a couple observations: no one raised their voice, and everyone showed and received respect. Everyone was treated equally: kids are also expected to be respectful and pull their own weight, often caring for younger kids. In that sense they don’t have much of a playful childhood. Could that be why everyone, adults included, seemed so good at playing and having fun? They’ve incorporated it as part of their entire lives, not just during childhood?

Pure speculation on my part. I’ll get back to the snorkeling. Have you ever seen so many Christmas tree worms on one rock?

Christmas tree worms by bryandkeith on flickr

Of course we still had fun with anemonefish.

20230106_163535A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230107_151950A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230108_111400A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230108_112236A by bryandkeith on flickr

For my birthday we arranged with Bauni Merk and Jery (a cousin?) to take us to Apyak. Communication wasn’t so easy with Bauni Merk. Jery spoke better English, but I still failed to understand just how far Apyak was from Marandan Weser. Visiting from Dayan would have made a lot more sense.

Here’s a photo of Jery, talented with a guitar and singing in three languages (bahasa Biak, bahasa Indonesia, English):

Jerry by bryandkeith on flickr

Two of those above anemonefish photos were from Apyak. These are also Apyak:

20230108_111934A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230108_112135A by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230108_122644 by bryandkeith on flickr

On the way back we stopped to snorkel at Dore Mangkway which Ferda thought was one of the best snorkeling sessions of the trip (again!). I’m guessing the camera battery was dead by then ’cause we don’t have any photos.

In addition to snorkeling from Marandan Weser, Bauni Merk and Jery took us to Masi, Ros Ros, and Marefi. There are so many incredible reefs in Raja Ampat it’s hard to believe really.

20230109_101758A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230109_111109A by bryandkeith on flickr
juvenile Javanese damselfish
20230110_152015A by bryandkeith on flickr
painted spiny lobster?
Crocodile flathead? by bryandkeith on flickr
20230111_093144A by bryandkeith on flickr
blue-spotted ribbontail ray
juvenile barramundi (grouper) by bryandkeith on flickr
juvenile barramundi
20230111_104406A by bryandkeith on flickr

The biggest surprise of the week was when Jery came over one evening while I was resting under the mosquito net reading. Chatting to Ferda, he sort of insisted on talking with me. Well, I got up, and suddenly it was my birthday party with music, singing, cake, and lots of smiles and hugs. What a wonderful surprise!

IMG_20230108_215018 by bryandkeith on flickr

That’s a bad picture of Neynane, Bauni Merk’s mother, who made us wonderful meals every day. Here she is with Bauni Merk and his father, Yannes.

Neynane, Ferda, Bauni Merk, Bryan, Bauni's father by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230109_131918 by bryandkeith on flickr

Running the homestay is definitely a family (or even village) effort. Thank you everyone for such a loving memorable week. Ferda was literally in tears the evening before we left, thinking about the wonderful hospitality and everything we learned during our week in Marandan Weser.

IMG_20230111_183139 by bryandkeith on flickr

I’ll end with more snorkeling photos.

20230113_100401A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230111_165819A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230113_095419A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230111_091530A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230113_110423A by bryandkeith on flickr
20230113_104440A by bryandkeith on flickr

Visiting notes: When Ferda and I stayed (January 2023), this homestay (Rissen) was the only place for tourists to stay in Marandan Weser. There will probably be two more soon: one just east of the village — Marwes run by Erwin — and another run by Jery at the west end of the village. There is no store in Marandan Weser, but I was able to buy a Telkomsel topup from a woman living just SE of the school.

IMG_20230110_081356 by bryandkeith on flickr
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2 Responses to Raja Ampat: a week at Marandan Weser, Batanta

  1. Jennie Werner says:

    Looks so wonderful! I’d love to spend time there someday!

  2. Thanks for the lovely article. Currently preparing for an RA trip next year.

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