I signed up for this trip without much idea of where I was headed. In fact, until the day before, I thought I was going to Papua New Guinea instead of West Papua.
What caught my attention was the headline that read Raja Ampat, THE LAST PARADISE. In a world where borders are opening due to globalization, finding a place like this with specific guarantees—relatively accessible, organized in advance, and in the company of competent people—is a rarity. I now take this for granted after being part of the Breathless family for four years.
Our journey began in Makassar, serving as a transition to awaken the sense of adventure before reaching our final destination. Most of the group arrived from chaotic Bali, but Makassar introduced us to a different kind of chaos. It’s when you confront a shift in reality and the city becomes a mirror, showing you how privileged you are—where you come from and where your journey leads.
After spending a night in Makassar, we prepared ourselves for a full day of travel. First, we flew to Sorong, where a local ferry awaited us. On the boat, we were possibly the only foreigners, accompanied by a speedboat that took us into the heart of the Raja Ampat national park.
The transition from civilization to wilderness during this day trip is fascinating. Even though some might consider a full day of travel to be extensive, it’s essential to recognize that this very reason preserves the paradise almost untouched.
As we boarded the speedboat, the realisation that we were nearing our destination started to sink in. The water turned crystal clear, and rocky formations adorned with lush jungles emerged from the sea. The sight of this distinct landscape had a hypnotic effect on all of us.
An hour later, we arrived at our first island—a jetty with six cane bungalows on the beachfront and vibrant coral beneath the turquoise waters guiding us to the shore. It felt as though I had woken up to find my life transformed into a dream.
The island’s vegetation was dense, with trails leading to the mountaintop and the village. One of my most cherished experiences was the accessibility of the coral and the tranquility of the water. We could swim from the shore to reach the coral, and the path to the neighboring island was equally delightful, connected by a coral bridge.
Describing the incredible diving experience in Papua is challenging. The coral is massive, colorful, and thriving. With visibility exceeding 25 meters and the perfect temperature for not only snorkeling but also freediving training, many of us wore surf shorts for sun protection.
Turtles, vibrant fish, reef sharks, and even the fortunate sighting of large crabs, eagle rays, and manta rays filled the coral-rich environment. The coral formations I encountered were the most awe-inspiring of my life. It’s evident that being far from civilization has significantly contributed to the growth and preservation of the coral.
Engaging with the local life was a privilege, despite the language barrier. These friendly and curious individuals are adapting to tourism, a phenomenon that has likely emerged in recent years. While most didn’t speak English, communication was never an issue.
The meals were simple, consisting of fresh fish and chicken, accompanied by a variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits. As part of our Breathless experiences, we savored ceremonial Cacao and Matcha to rejuvenate our energy after spending so much time in the water.
Writing this text nearly two weeks after my arrival, I reflect on the numerous remarkable moments during this journey. Morning yoga and evening breathwork practices beautifully framed each day. Through the practice of Yoga with Light, I connected with a previously unknown land, my body, and its sensations—preparing myself to be more receptive and present. Conversely, the nightly breathwork sessions wrapped the day’s adventures in a blanket of gratitude, enabling us to not only reflect on the day but also on our life journey.
Beyond the remarkable location, two key factors stand out—the company of instructors Johannes and Luciana and the dynamics of the group as a whole. Jo and Lu form an exceptional team, complementing each other seamlessly. They are the kind of professionals who make you feel supported at all times. Lu’s coaching reignited my passion for freediving; under her guidance, I experienced the most comfortable dives I’ve ever had in Raja Ampat. Johannes’ unwavering support and belief in my potential have consistently motivated me to push myself to new heights, not only in freediving but also in my personal life.
Throughout the journey, we were surrounded by capable individuals, and the trip’s ambiance fostered a relaxed atmosphere that transformed us into a family. This sense of belonging increased our confidence and created a space where we could truly be ourselves—crucial during vulnerable practices like breathwork and freediving.
Being part of the Breathless family for four years, the bonds formed during experiences like this are indescribable. Twelve individuals with diverse backgrounds, personalities, objectives, and expectations awakened shared feelings of permanence and a deeper embrace of life. With each Breathless experience, a transformation occurs—a shift in the way I perceive both myself and the world. While it’s still too early to witness the physical impact of this trip on my life, one thing is certain: I return home with a heart overflowing with love, gratitude, and a profound sense of aliveness.
By Ana Balbuena
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