Andi was seemingly restless upon realizing his job as an illegal logger in the forest. He was determined to change his destiny. His fortune got transformation following his encounter with Ottow Maker. Ottow was the Head of the XIX Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP) of Yapen Island Regency as mandated by the Ministerial Decree SK.481/MENHUT-II/2009. It was midday in 2015 when Ottow and his staffers paid a visit to Andi’s residence. They advised Andi not to cut trees in the forest. The 3 kilometer-square forest here is nearby his residence.
On that opportunity, Ottow explained an ecosystem service program and its benefits to the forest and community. He also enquired ecotourism potentials in Sarawandori Village while asking what Andi could do with them.
“I just told him that I love diving and snorkeling. And they also asked me what I need. Few months later, a complete set of snorkeling equipment was delivered to me. There were fins, goggles and Go Pro camera,” Andi said proudly.
The graduate of an air transportation management academy in Yogyakarta was enthusiastic. He reckoned that he has been keen on the sea since 2013 when he escorted a light craft pilot who paid a visit in his village. He became a tour guide for the foreign pilot. “I was born and grew up on the coastal areas. Swimming and diving are my innate skills,” he added.
The snorkeling equipment has actually completed the list of his previous belongings. Since then, he escorted local and international tourists for snorkeling in 2015. Started from 2017, there were many more tourist visits. In 2018, he could even claim to have 5-6 trips for snorkeling in Sarawandori. The equipment given by KPHP Unit XIX have made the list of his customers longer. “Ecotourism is very promising and source of income. So, why should I think over for another job? Nature and beaches have bestowed livelihood,” Andi acknowledged confidently.
To lure more visitors, Andi put large banners to promote snorkeling tourism nearby his residence. His promotions also reached social media channels like Facebook and WhatsApp. He asked his networks to upload and broadcast the promotion on their own personal social media.
The toil paid. The most prospective customers come from communities in Serui, particularly shop and office staffers. Andi charges IDR400,000 per person for a group of 1-5 and IDR600,000 per person for 5-10 package.
Yapen Island Regency’s KPHP Unit XIX keeps sneaking the other ecotourism prospects for the community so as to improve the local peoples’ welfare while protecting forests. Ottow and his staffers invited some peoples with fresh ideas for ecotourism development and sent them for a comparative study in Yogyakarta. Andi was one of them. He offered his idea of photo spot making in Sarawandori Bay.
He came up with this idea when he surfed on social media. He saw many attractive photo spots for tourists. For instance, Papua has Jayapura and Biak as the photo spots. As to Andi, Sarawandori Bay also bestows lucrative potentials for ecotourism development.
“I have a good scenery. It is not simply forest but also water. Then I worked it out with my colleagues with supports from the Forestry Office,” said Andi.
The photo spots in Sarawandori Bay was officially launched in August 2017 in commemoration of Idul Fitri. Visitors came from Serui, Manokwari, Sorong, Jayapura and some other places in Java. They could not only take pictures but also play water-duck game tool, canoeing and swimming.
As to Andi, some notable football players from Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung were among the visitors. For instance, Fabiano Beltratme, a Brazilian talent, who plays as the defender of Persib Bandung. Fabiano uploaded his photos on Instagram when he visited Karopai Bay on November 30, 2018.
“A few months later, there were many faraway visitors coming here. Some came from Jakarta and Bandung. Some others came from Timika who paid a visit just for a photo before heading back,” Andi recalled.
Being an ecotourism manager has changed Andi’s course of life. His current job is not as exhausting and daunting as that of when he was an illegal logger. His could earn relatively higher income. Andi could earn around IDR3 million net income from snorkeling and IDR2 million from photo spot every month. He formerly considered a tree as money but now a tree is a friend that needs protection. “Besides, by snorkeling I could keep coral reefs and the destructive illegal hunting,” said Andi.
Andi has special timetable to patrol the forests in prevention of illegal loggers from Sarawandori Village or other places. They usually come in a group. Andi once met the illegal loggers with 10 members of a group. Having explained the benefits of forests for the community, some of them could understand and promised not to come back for cutting trees. But some others remain pigheaded.
“There are many who come over and over again. I made a rule. They are not to trespass my territory. Currently, I tend to be quite stricter to them. They have come to realize in the past two years. At least, they did not act as they did formerly,” Andi stressed out.
As to Andi, the tourists visiting many ecotourism sites will not only get amusement and leisure but also help the community protect their forest as it will give economic benefits to the local community in Sarawandori. Andi’s story here is one of some inspiring stories on ecotourism-based forest management in the Land of Papua.
Editor: Andi Leo