President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is expected to launch the Mandeh tourist resort in South Pesisir regency, West Sumatra, as a sea park on May 8, a local top administration official has said.
"We are preparing for his arrival and are continuing to coordinate with Jakarta. Hopefully, there will be no change in the schedule," South Pesisir Deputy Regent Editiawarman told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, adding that a number of relevant ministers were also expected to attend the launch.
Situated 56 kilometers to the south of Padang, West Sumatra's provincial capital, the Mandeh Sea Park - also dubbed the "Raja Ampat of the West" and "The Paradise in the South" - is a bay covering an area of some 18,000 hectares.
The bay is located on the middle of Sumatra Island facing west. Although it directly borders the Indian Ocean, the bay is renowned for its calm seas, thanks to the nine small islands that surround it. It is so calm it looks like a blue lagoon.
"The area is still virgin. Many have expressed amazement at its beauty and potential. We are very optimistic the launch will help promote it as a new destination in West Sumatra and attract many tourists, especially foreign ones," Editiawarman said.
He said that the only tourist facility in the area that had been seriously developed was the Cubadak Paradiso Village on Cubadak Island. It has been managed by an Italian investor for 17 years and offers 14 cottage units for rent.
"We welcome other investors in the area," he said.
The Mandeh Sea Park is included in the national tourism development master plan (RIPPNAS) representing the western Indonesia region together with Biak and Bunaken from the eastern region.
Editiawarman expressed hope the central government could also provide aid for the development of supporting facilities, especially the development of the 38-kilometer road from Padang through the coastal area, as well as the construction of a number of small piers and floating docks.
He said the regency administration had trained 50 community figures and youths as a tourism awareness group expected to be the first group to disseminate information on the importance of the area and their involvement as good hosts.
Some of them were trained to operate boats. Some others were trained to run eateries offering special food or to sell souvenirs. "The impact of this area on the people's economy will be the key to its success," Editiawarman said.
Yulnofrins Napilus of the West Sumatra Tourism Caring Society (Mappas) said that Mandeh had competitive advantages because it offered various interesting tourist attractions in the sea, in the air and on the land.
Among the attractions are paragliding from Carocok hill, white sandy beaches, jet skiing, snorkeling and diving. It also offers a 20-meter dive from a cliff into waters off Sironjong Kecil Island and a site to enjoy dolphins swimming to the west of Cubadak Island.
"The beauty is incomparable," said Yulnofrins, mentioning the virgin mangrove forests and beautiful coral reefs that tourists could also enjoy in Mandeh.
The resort, he added, also offered a unique shipwreck of a luxurious Dutch commercial ship, the Boelongan Nederland, which was sunk by a Japanese fighter plane in January 1942 while hiding in the bay. The site is considered as the biggest for shipwreck diving in Indonesia.
Previously, National Development Planning Minister Andrinof Chaniago said that Mandeh would be turned into one of Indonesia's international level destinations.
"If it is seriously worked on, I am confident that in less than a year it will go international," he said in Padang.