HomeBlogs Raja Ampat: Ultimate Underwater Expedition
The roaring engines fixed to a large wooden boat are finally quiet.
Nothing can be heard but the rifting little waves, lapping against the
vibrant paint on the sides of the vessel that gracefully slows down.
Native birds hop on the tip of a small tree in one of the deserted
islands in the distance.
Raja Ampat or ‘Four Kings’, is the name
taken of these islands and comes from a local myth. The four major
islands found here are Waigeo, Misool (which is home to ancient rock
paintings), Salawati, and Batanta.
Underwater enthusiasts flock
to this region because it offers the world’s best marine sights. Two
days earlier, some of these travelers had been at a deafening corner of a
tourist trap in Bali. Once they took their flight to the bird head of
the island of Papua everything changed as they embarked on a diving tour
of a lifetime. In the Raja Ampat islands, divers can explore vertical
underwater walls. The thrill of drift diving is another great challenge.
These are the awesome experiences you will find in Raja Ampat
on this tour several divers were well equipped and looked advanced. The
territory within the islands of the Four Kings is enormous, covering
9.8 million acres of land and sea, home to 540 types of corrals, more
than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. This makes it
the most diverse living library for world’s coral reef and underwater
biota. According to a report developed by The Nature Conservancy and
Conservation International, around 75% of the world’s species live here.
When divers first arrive here their excitement is palpable. It’s common
to hear people praise God as they take in the remarkable scenery.
Others prefer to remain in silence taking in the overwhelming sight of
so many islands with crystal clear water that softly brushes over the
white sandy beaches.
“Disini bagus!”, says the friendly local
guide who had been appointed by the tour operator who runs an eco-lodge
in Raja Ampat, indicating that they have arrived at one of the most
fantastic diving sites. On other days, this guide is just a simple
fisherman. The local fishermen here are accustomed to foreigners and are
friendly, especially when offered pinang (betel nuts) or some sweet
candies. These are very popular and offering these sweets is considered
polite and a good way to win an instant smile. The fishermen usually eat
this snack during Para-para Pinang, or social chatting and exchanging
funny stories while chewing Pinang. In many respects, like nature,
culture, and history, these fishermen are closer to Moluccas.
doubt about it, Raja Ampat is definitely the richest place for fish
that I have ever been.” - -Dr G.R. Allen
”I was like a
five-year-old, seeing a reef for the very first time. I was awestruck,
held by the incredible power of this richest reef. We must, with all
available resources, preserve the beauty of Raja Ampat. This may be the
last frontier.” —Michael Aw
“I love the people, I love the
diving, it’s super! I’ve never been for a second time to the same dive
destination but now I’m thinking about going back for the third time!
Should I say more?” —Peter van Dalen
the landscape may look like a dream, this is not an illusion. As you
embark on your dive, the phrase ‘Attention to detail’ takes on new
meaning as pigmy seahorses swim around your fingers. Manta Rays and
wobbegongs will glide right by you. Tuna fish, giant trevallies,
snappers, and even barracudas are there to complete your underwater
‘meeting list’. Not to mention the friendly assistant of the dugong, and
a busy colleague, the turtle. Natural and untouched beauty is the main
attraction here. With no unnecessary adages, the sky, the lush islands,
the sea, and everything above and under it is genuinely saying ‘Welcome
to Raja Ampat Islands; your personal Disneyland of diving sites’.
facts about the Raja Ampat Conservation Area:*
This area is home
to 1,511 species of reef fish in the Bird’s Head Seascape; 1,320
species of reef fish in Raja Ampat; 75% of all known coral species in
the world; 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the
entire Caribbean; In the Birds Head Seascape there 600 species of
hard coral recorded; 5 species of endangered sea turtles; 57
species of Mantis Shrimp; 13 species of Marine Mammals; And 27
species of endemic reef fish found only in that area
There If you are flying from Jakarta, you can take a
six hour flight to Sorong with a stopover in Manado. Alternatively, you
can join a diving tour in Bali and fly from there. You will find Sorong
just like any other city where you can get almost everything, although
prices are higher due to its remote location. Usually only divers come
to Raja Ampat, so you will not find many other tourists around. Joining a
tour is the most common practice when visiting Raja Ampat. You do not
have to be a professional diver to join a tour, as tour operators sell
tours ranging for both for divers and non-divers.
Jakarta/ Bali to Sorong, With stopover in Makassar, Manado, or Ujung
Flights are offered by: 1. Merpati 2.
Express Air 3. Batavia Air 4. Lion Air 5. Wings Air 6.
Silk Air 7. Garuda Indonesia 8. Pelita Air
Around Commonly, divers will join a tour and live in a
diving resort during their stay in the Raja Ampat Islands. To access
diving spots, please contact and use the professional diving organizers,
who can be conveniently found in Sorong. Several tour operators also
offer the option of liveboard tours:
1. Raja Ampat Liveaboard 2.
Dive Raja Ampat 3. Raja Ampat
Before going to a dive spot,
you’ll need to obtain a permit from the local Papua police station. You
will need to bring your passport and three (3) copies of the passport
page with the Indonesian Visa. The diving organizers can help you with
From Sorong, there are two type of boats
available; Speed Boat (40 minutes - 1 hour boat trip, carries 15
passengers and costs Rp2 million/US$208.55); Long Boat (2-3 hour boat
trip and could carry 10 passengers for the cost of Rp1,2 million/
US$126). Please note that all rates are subject to change without notice
may rent a small boat if you wish to stop and make personal discoveries
along the line of the beaches. As the Raja Ampat Islands have four
mountainous main island and hundreds of small islands in their vicinity,
you may want to take this opportunity to explore. In addition, the
Karst area is a beautiful and original natural phenomenon, as it has
various unique flora and fauna as its attractions e.g., Bird of Paradise
(Cenderawasih) Botak, Red Cenderawasih, Maleo Waigeo, Kus-kus, orchids,
palm etc. You can also trek around the islands to find hidden beauties,
like waterfalls and ancient caves.
To Do The
Raja Ampat islands are a truly natural phenomenon with enormous
biological diversity. The amazing marine landscape means that underwater
photography should be on the top your list during your stay.
with Raja Ampat’s natural conditions, high endemic level of land, sea
biodiversity, coastal ecology, and local culture & tradition the
islands offer more than just amazing landscapes to photograph.
you may also consider: • Wreck diving • Sailing •
Kayaking • Exploring the islands by boat • Visiting the Red
Bird of Paradise • Enjoying the Karst islands around Wayag Island •
Exploring the bat caves (literally, not the Dark Knight variety) •
Make your own wood sculpture guided by an Asmat artisan • Fishing
using traditional Papuan techniques • Trekking to discover
waterfalls • Feeding couscous • Snorkeling • Watching
The Sea Ghost
On North and West Waigeo, you can see a traditional
bamboo flute (suling tambur) performance. This traditional performance
usually takes place during religious festival, on Independence Day,
(August 17th), and during visits from important officials or leaders. If
you are interested in anthropology, this is something to definitely
consider in your agenda.
In East Waigeo, particularly in front of
Urbinasopen and Yesner villages, there is a very interesting and unique
natural phenomenon, which can only be seen every year-end. A light
comes out from the ocean and wanders around on its surface for about 10 –
18 minutes. After that, it disappears and can only be seen again at the
following years-end. Local inhabitants in both villages call this
phenomenon the “Sea Ghost”. This is more than just a sunset view,
overlooking from your liveaboard.
In Tomolol, you’ll be amazed by
the caves in the area, where you can see paintings of huge human palms
and animals which were painted by ancient cave dwellers. While on North
Waigeo, you can also take in some history with a visit to the World War
II caves where the Dutch and the Japanese army built bunkers. The locals
will sometimes perform a war dance. There is also the ever-flowing
waterfall of Salawati, which is a sight you should not miss.
addition, there are also exotic locations such as the Ayau islands
consisting of small islands on a very large atoll. Many islands in this
archipelago have white sands with a large seabed connecting one island
to another. But there are also islands with unique sands that the local
community calls “zandplaat”, which are a unique habitat for local
vegetation. On these islands, mothers and children of local tribes
collectively catch sea-worms (insonem).
For diving enthusiasts
the favorite destination is usually South Waigeo. But while you are
here, why not take the chance to visit Kabui Bay with many karst
islands, goa tengkorak (cave of skulls), and the historical sites of
Raja Ampat in Kali Raja. You can see a variety of birds in Yenwaupnor
and Sawinggrai, the Salay dance in Saonek, and plaited handicrafts in
Arborek. In Arborek, visitors can dive and watch groups of stingrays. In
Sawandarek, there’s a white sand beach with sea ducks and beautiful
corals. In addition, there is a traditional village where you can walk
around in and enjoy the unique slow paced atmosphere.
also dive in West Waigeo, Batanta, and Kofiau. These potential
destinations are great places to visit by houseboats. The Karst islands
in Wayag, especially, have very interesting natural attractions to
To Stay Presently on Saonek Monde,
a Tourist Center and harbor are being constructed. In the near future
there are plans for three resorts to be built on Nyandebabo, and
Batbitiem, Waiwo, and Waigeo Selatan Islands. But in the meantime, you
can choose from the alternatives below:
• Sorido Bay Resort,
which is famous for the house reef • Kri Eco Resort, a
traditional resort built over the water • Island camp •
Boathouse (most diving agents provide this service)
though Raja Ampat islands have only few visitors, there are already
hotels and homestays on Saonek, Mansuar, and Yenwaupnor islands.
Eat Dining services are provided by the diving
organizer, and range from an international menu to fresh traditional
food made by the local people. Naturally, there will be a variety of
seafood dishes. Do try the fish soup. There’s a local specialty called
Sup Ikan Kuning (Yellow Fish Soup), served with local spices.
Buy Many divers say that the best souvenir ever after
visit Raja Ampat are the stories of your experiences that you will take
home to tell. Of course, photographs are the eye-popping pictures to
brag about. But to keep your friends or family entertained, try bringing
• Asmat sculptures • Traditional cloths •
Traditional music instruments • Suling (traditional flute) •
Tambur (traditional drum)
These are usually available in
giftshops in many cities in Papua. This will save you the hassle of
bringing too many things from Raja Ampat. Although, you may also
consider buying plaited handicrafts in Arborek if you happen to visit
the village while in Raja Ampat.
October or November is the best season for diving in Raja Ampat because
the ocean is typically flat and perfect for photography • Bring
your underwater camera AND underwater photography know-how. Because
taking underwater photos is not that easy • To organize your
travel you use travel agents with services in Indonesia. Just contact
the agents in any international gateways in Indonesia (Bali, Jakarta,
Medan, Batam, etc) • Sun blocks, sunscreens and hats are required •
Bring anti-mosquito repellants and anti-malarial medicines