(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

Raja Ampat is world-famous for hosting the highest marine diversity on earth. But there’s a lot more to Raja Ampat than just coral reefs.

The area also comprises more than 600 stunningly beautiful islands (like the one in the photo above). Many of these are rugged, sharp karst limestone islands, which look like stone temples or mushrooms rising from the sea.

In Southeast Misool, there is a magnificent chain of karst islands called the Wagmab Chain. This island chain is over 10 miles long, and comprises a maze of narrow windy channels, sheltered inlets and bays, and luxuriant coral reefs.

The islands are covered in a tangle of vegetation, with orchids and pitcher plants cascading down their sides.

Did you know that pitcher plants are carnivorous — they eat insects? They are just one example of the extraordinary vegetation to be found on these islands.

In 2002, The Nature Conservancy conducted a rapid ecological assessment of Raja Ampat’s islands and reefs. Botanists found many endemic plant species on these islands, and concluded that they were of high conservation value.

(Image 1: Karst island and luxuriant coral reef, Wagmab Chain, South East Misool. Credit: Sangeeta Mangubhai. Image 2: Pitcher plants hanging down the side of a karst island, Wagmab Chain, South East Misool. Credit: Alison Green/TNC.)

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