Among professional divers, Melissa’s Garden has a reputation as one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat. Its name is very popular among foreign tourists who are really looking for the best underwater ‘surfing’ locations in Raja Ampat. In fact, Melissa’s Garden seems to be more popular with foreign professional divers than domestic.
Talking about Melissa’s Garden cannot be separated from the name Max Ammer, a man from the Netherlands who has been very instrumental in raising Raja Ampat tourism. Max Ammer, who came to Raja Ampat 21 years ago, decided to stay there and build Papua Diving, the pioneer dive center in Papua, especially in Raja Ampat. From Papua Diving, Raja Ampat tourism began to be managed well and its echoes were heard overseas.
Max Ammer, who is a conservationist and a pioneer in the Raja Ampat diving world, gave the name Melissa’s Garden. The name is taken from the name of his daughter, Melissa. Since then, the marine park located near Piaynemo, to be precise Fam Island, has been known as Melissa’s Garden.
After exploring the dive points around the Dampier Strait such as Kri, Mansuar, or Gam, tourists can go to Melissa’s Garden by boarding a fast boat. The trip from Dampier Strait to Melissa’s Garden is around 1-2 hours, depending on the boat and weather conditions. However, it should be noted that these locations are good locations for diving, not snorkeling because of the very strong currents. In addition, only certified divers are allowed to dive into the seabed in these areas.
Melissa’s Garden is known as a coral garden because divers can find various types of marine inhabitants from the Cnidaria phylum, especially soft corals which are rarely found in any waters in the world. Because of that, Melissa’s Garden is called the best marine park in Raja Ampat.
Soft corals , whose new scientific name Alcyonacea-formerly gorgonians-, are a type of coral that does not produce calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate in corals will make their structure hard. The absence of calcium carbonate as a constituent of their structure makes soft corals have flexible bodies that will move with the current.
Soft corals are amazing underwater attractions because of their rich colors. However, these corals are very vulnerable and cannot survive in places with low nutrient levels. Soft corals need a sea with high nutrient levels and low light to live properly.
Good visibility, various types of fish swimming around, and corals that are still very healthy, make Melissa’s Garden a place worth visiting at least once in a lifetime for underwater hobbyists. In this marine park, corals of various shapes and colors live in symbiosis with small marine life, making the atmosphere ‘lively’.
This colorful coral garden does not only consist of soft corals. There are also hard corals, sponges and crinoids. This collection of corals can be found at a depth of 8-12 meters with a surface of white sand. The depth of the sand surface can reach 25 meters, so divers must be reallycautious. For macro photography lovers, diving at Melissa’s Garden is an invaluable experience.
There is no specific recommended time to visit this coral garden. A tropical ocean’s sea water temperature tends to be constant at 29 degrees Celsius, so this park can be visited at any time of the year.
Down there, be prepared to encounter soft corals, sponges, crinoids, nudibranches and anemones, all of which come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. There are also mini seahorses, angelfish, lionfish, and in deeper waters divers will find rabbitfish, sea snakes and wobbegong sharks. Divers will find hard timedeciding which objects to take pictures of.