Raja Ampat

4.5
(4 REVIEWS)

Country: Indonesia

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Raja Ampat in a Nutshell - Raja Ampat, which means "four kings" in the Indonesian language, encompasses a large area just west of the island of New Guinea, in an Indonesian province called West Papua. Raja Ampat is remote, exotic, beautiful, and literally pulsing with life. The fish life explodes in front of you. Is Raja worth the time & money? Yes it is. Don't do a short trip.

 Dive Overview -  The diving is usually done via liveaboard, although there are a few excellent land-based resort options. Raja Ampat boasts incredible numbers of medium to large size fish, good macro, and great hard and soft coral reefs, along with some muck and mangrove sites. The underwater diversity of this area is amazing, and the topside beauty is stunning.
Among hundreds of islands, Raja's warm waters offer the dive traveler some of the world's most spectacular scuba diving. Being so remote, reaching Raja Ampat is no easy task, as it requires three or more flights. But you should do it. In fact, Raja Ampat is one of the few dive travel destinations that many people say they would definitely go back to - the Bluewater Travel staff included!
 
Watch this 45 minute webinar to learn more about Raja Ampat, it's marine life, main diving destinations, and to see if this destination is right for you!

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Diving Information 

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Raja Ampat Marine Life & Photography Subjects

Raja Ampat has one of the highest number of fish species of any place on the planet. Wobbegong sharks and (skittish) reef sharks are commonly seen, especially once you learn where to look for the Wobbegongs. The rare walking shark is also found on certain night dives. The endemic Raja Ampat Epaulette shark (walking shark) is also found on certain night dives. This small, harmless carpet shark only comes out at night. While appearing to walk on the ocean floor with its fins, it can actually move surprisingly fast!

Jacks, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, trevally, and bumphead parrotfish are seen on many dives. Pygmy seahorses are found at most dive sites, along with a good variety of nudibranchs. Macro diving at the piers is excellent. You will also see lots of juvenile fish such as batfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, barramundi cod, parrotfish, etc.

If you look a little deeper when the current picks up, you can see reef sharks at most sites, especially at places like Blue Magic and Sardines. These are also prime locations for schooling fish, which tend to gather when the current is running. At such times, it’s not unusual to be surrounded by clouds of fusiliers and surgeonfish in mid-water, while legions of sweetlips completely obscure large coral heads below.

Although not a muck-diving location, you will see a large range of macro subjects such as shrimps, eels, squid, jawfish, blennies, gobies, etc. There are some muck diving sites in Raja, but we think it is better to plan a dedicated macro trip somewhere else.

The fortunate diver may encounter the remarkable golf-ball sized Blue Ringed octopus. These highly venomous cephalopods rank as one of the most deadly animals on earth. A single bite from this diminutive octopus means quick and almost certain death. However, these creatures are rarely aggressive and present no danger to divers as long as a respectful distance is observed.

This Raja Ampat video shows a turtle, manta, barracuda, sweelips, a very nice wobbegong at 2:27, and a walking shark at 3:45

Big Animals in Raja Ampat - Although Raja is not known as a big animal place, there are a couple of locations like Manta Sandy that are very reliable for mantas. Schools of large bumphead parrotfish are frequently encountered, especially at sites like Cape Kri and Boo Windows. Great barracuda and Napoleon wrasse can also be seen at several sites.
This video gives a pretty good idea of what diving in Raja Ampat is like. The manta ray action starts at 3:04

Diving Conditions

Water Temperature: Water temperatures are a consistent 80F~86F degrees year round

Visibility: Generally ranges between 30 to well over 70 feet.

Weather: Air temperatures are reliably constant with a daytime average maximum of 89F and a nightly minimum of 25C

Raja Ampat Typical Dive - A good dive in Raja Ampat will involve a large number of fish circling you, and a small or possibly large amount of current. Healthy reefs often extend much deeper than 100ft, and are also healthy in 10ft of water. A tender boat will often drop you at the dive site, and do a live pickup wherever you surface. Although there are around 40 liveaboards currently in Raja Ampat, they cover an enormous area and generally you will have dive sites to yourselves. Depending on tide movements, some dives can involve strong currents, and some divers will use reef hooks to tether in place. Otherwise, an open water ascent may be required. In such cases, tender crew need to be vigilant to ensure safe retrieval of every diver. A safety sausage is highly recommended, so crew can easily identify distant, drifting divers.

 

Diving Highlights -  Here are Raja Ampat's top dive sites:

DAMPIER STRAIT - This is "classic" Raja Ampat - Cape Kri, Manta Sandy, Mios Kon, Mike's Point and Arborek Jetty. Sites like Sardine's Reef, Mike's Point and Blue Magic are considered "epic". These world-class sites should be dived early and often. Currents can be strong, but the currents bring the fish out. Wobbegongs are more common in this area. There are also good mangroves with archerfish near Citrus Ridge that are worth a visit.

Cape Kri is known as perhaps the most diverse dive site in the world, with respect to fish life. Dr. Gerry Allen documented 374 species of fish at this one dive site in a single dive, a world record!

BATANTA ISLAND - Batanga has several muck diving sites that may produce weird critters, macro subjects and various cephalopods. These sites are fairly close to Sorong, and are often done on the first or last day of a Raja Ampat trip.

MISOOL ISLAND - Misool is known for its exceptional soft corals and forests of healthy mangroves. In some places, soft corals are actually growing on mangrove roots in very shallow water, which makes for some excellent wide-angle photography. There are also archerfish in the shallows, which look hunt for insects on low-hanging branches, then knock them into the water by spitting water at them! If you want great soft corals, make sure Misool is on your itinerary. There was a saltwater crocodile attack in the mangrove area of Misool in 2009, so please note that some boats are avoiding the mangrove area, check with your operator. The dive sites around Misool, such as Boo Windows, are full of fish, color and are simply outstanding.

WAIGEO ISLAND AND "THE PASSAGE" - On the south side of Waigeo island is a famous dive area called "The Passage", also known as Kabui passage, where mangroves and soft coral exist in very shallow water. Overhanging trees meet sea fans here, and it is considered heaven for shallow water video and wide-angle underwater photography. Not all trips stop here - check with your particular trip.

TRITON BAY - Triton Bay is actually several hundred miles southeast of Raja Ampat, and boats usually sail out of Kaimana, not Sorong. This area is quite remote, and not many boats go here. Visibility is usually only 15-30ft due to nutrients in the water, but the life here is fantastic, with a profusion of soft corals and fans along with incredible fish diversity. Fak fak and Kaimana are also in this area. In some years, dive boats have not been allowed into this area because of permission disputes.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There - Raja Ampat is a bit difficult to get to. The only direct flight is from Jakarta, though traveling from Manado is a good second choice. You'll fly into Sorong, West Papua, which is the departure point for most liveaboards. The current recommended route is to overnight in Jakarta, and then catch a direct flight to Sorong in the morning. Please note that baggage allowances on the flights to Sorong can be small, and excess baggage charges are strictly enforced. The Bluewater Travel staff can help you plan the best route for your trip.

How to Dive Raja Ampat - Dive resort and liveaboards are available in Raja Ampat. Bali, Manado, Bunaken or Lembeh would all be natural combinations with a Raja Ampat trip. You may also want to combine a Raja Ampat liveaboard with a few days at a land-based Raja Ampat resort. Most liveaboards will do one-way trips between Ambon or the Banda Sea to or from Raja Ampat, which is a great way to see a larger more diverse area, as the boat transitions from one region to another. 

Weather -  October to April is considered the best diving season - when you'll find less rain and better visibility. June 15th to September 15th can be very, very windy and rough - monsoon season.


Topside & Non-Diving Activities -  Hikes on some of the islands can offer outstanding vistas. The trek to the top of a small island can be sweaty and steep, but once you reach the top, the stunning panorama of sweeping ocean, dotted with picturesque islets, will make you forget your burning legs and lungs! Bring sturdy hiking shoes, not flip-flops for these hikes. There is not much to do in Sorong.


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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

Currency: Indonesian Rupiah

Language: Indonesian

Time Zone: UTC+9

Electricity: 220 volts, with 2 round pin plugs (European Standard)

Safety: Raja Ampat is fairly safe; just use common sense as you would in any remote area. 

Vaccines: None are essential for US visitors. It is recommended that you are up to date with Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Polio for any trip to the tropics. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended if you plan to go ashore around dawn or dusk, especially for land-based resorts. Check with your doctor for specific recommendations.

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Reviews (4)

5
5
5
4

I dived Raja Ampat on a liveboard, which the marine biodiversity was absolutely amazing! Very healthy corals, both hard and soft coral - very colourful and fishy! Offers stunning wide angle opportunities as well as great muck diving. Clearly with muck diving, if you are not diving the sites daily it may take a little bit of time to find the critters. Dived Aborek Jetty which has lovely soft coral growth on the jetty pylons and schooling fish next to the jetty - made for some great photo opportunities. There are many great dive sites that the liveaboards can get you to with ease.

Travel tips - fortunately from Australia it is not difficult or long to get to Indonesia. Generally flying into Sorong may require a stop at Manado (Lembeh) which I would recommend before flying over to Sorong, particularly if you are getting on a liveaboard. If your luggage goes missing, staying at Lembeh will give you time for your luggage to catchup!

Visited on 07/2013 - Submitted on 09/05/2014
3
4
5
4

Raja Ampat is truly a divers' paradise. It is picturesque both below and above the sea. It is not easy to get to and those that brave the journey will truly be rewarded. Most trips to Raja Ampat will start from Sorong in West Papua. The easiest way to get to Sorong is via Makassar in South Sulawesi or Jakarta. When I last traveled to Sorong in April 2013, I took a direct flight on Express Air from Jakarta at 1:10am.

To truly maximize your dive experience, I would suggest a liveaboard for at least 8 days. Raja Ampat covers nearly 50,000 kmsq and traveling from one island to the next is by sea. Misool in the South has some amazing coral life. You will find some very colorful dive sites here. Pygmy seahorses, whitetip reef sharks, trevallies, fusiliers, barracudas, jacks, glass sweepers, groupers, sweetlips, bumphead wrasses and snappers are common here. Some of my favorite dive sites are Boo Windows, Magic Mountain and Farondi Caves. Some of my most memorable dives are at Magic Mountain. When the time is right and the current picks up, you will find hunting whitetip sharks, bluefin and giant trevallies patrols the reef.

Balbulol is a great place for non-diving activities such as kayaking and speedboat tours. The limestone islands seem to be “floating” above water and there are secluded lagoons you can swim in.

To the North, some of the popular dive sites are the salt water mangroves of Yangeffo, Manta Sandy, Mioskon, Blue Magic, Cape Kri and Sardines. Blacktip reef sharks, large schools of sweetlips, fusiliers, trevallies, barracudas, jacks and turtles are common here. Some of the diving here is like diving in fish soup! So packed with fish you would not even know where to look. Wobbegongs and epaulette sharks are common in Yangeffo and Manta Sandy is a manta cleaning station. While waiting for the mantas to show up, explore the sands and you might find sea moths, upside down jellyfish and pipefish among others.

Papua has some beautiful birds of paradise. Some Raja Ampat liveaboards might offer guests an option to see them.

Water temp: 28 – 30C
Recommended for: Advanced divers
Dive conditions: Mild to strong currents
Note: Raja Ampat waters are rich with plankton that attracts fish so, visibility at some sites is not great. A reef hook is useful for many of the dives here.

Visited on 04/2013 - Submitted on 02/23/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Minneapolis, MN
United States
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5
5

For any serious diver, Raja Ampat should be the destination on the top of their list. No other spot in the world offers the variety of pristine coral reefs and reef fish that Raja offers. While liveaboards are the preferred way to see the region, several very nice and elegant dive resorts have popped up.

While not a part of the region per se, Triton Bay to the Southeast ranks as one of the most exotic dive areas of the world. Unfortunately, my attempt to make it there was foiled by sea pirates who try to extract money and gasoline from divers. While I understand the situation is better, it is still a risky spot to go (not for your life, but for your diving). Several people on my boat had been there and confirmed that it was very good, but visibility is limited and currents can be tricky. I still want to go there someday. One other note, Triton Bays boats leave from Kaimana instead of Sorong. A year before we were there a plane crashed on landing, so it is not without some risks.

The first area of south Raja Ampat of diving note is Daram Islands. Like the entire area, the seas are warm and the area is filled with schools of fish and clouds of antheas. It is very remote and rarely dived except by liveaboard, so it is outstanding.

Onward to the dive sites around Misool. This is the pinnacle of this area and therefore the pinnacle of the world's coral diving. The currents can be very strong here however. My teenage daughter got caught in a washing machine whirlpool current and had to be rescued by a divemaster. She is a good diver and was not in danger, but it scared me. One could easily spend a week here which is why the MIsool Eco Resort has been so successful. We stopped by there and had lunch and the place is heaven on earth. Even my non-diving wife would be blown away by the place I am sure. My favorite island was Boo and the Windows site is pictured on most picture books of the area. You get the idea.

We dove the Blue Mangroves which was great. A diver was bitten there once by a crocodile a few years earlier so our Indonesian guides refused to go into the water. We had one diver hang out as a lookout and we had a great time. My aforementioned daughter did stay in the boat here however.

The diving in the north part of Raja Ampat is not quite as good (by a small amount) as the diving in the Misool area. The center of this area is Cape Kri which is a point out into the Dampier Straight with very very good diving. You can easily spend a day here. About a 30 minute boat ride away is Manta Sandy which is supposed to be the most reliable place in the world to see mantas. I have been there 4 times and the only mantas showed up on the dive I skipped. Oh well. I did see the largest octopus that I have ever seen though and it kept us entertained for 30 minutes.

The Aboratek peer is also a very good site and I took an award winning photo there of a large school of fish that frequents the peer. The peer poles are covered with multi-colored soft corals which go all the way to the surface.

All in all you will see just about everything imaginable here. We saw 4 kinds of pygmy seahorses. We saw mandarin fish in several locations. We saw an enormous clam that was big enough to hold a small human. You see everything here except for sharks which hopefully will return some day. We did see a couple of black tips and there is hope, but not a lot to be seen right now.

We were there once in March and the weather was beautiful. We were there a second time in early July and the weather was perfect then as well although that is classified as off-season. I do know that the Misool area is not so good in our summer months.

Visited on 07/2012 - Submitted on 02/10/2014
4
5
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4

We went there on a live-aboard in December and in most places the visibility was good, a few had limited visibility. Sea was flat. All places were covered with stunningly beautiful corals and many had large schools of fish: barrakudas, jackfish and others. Some places were so beatiful that it resembled a dream which unfortunately ended when the bottles were empty. We saw big schools of bumpfhead parrotfish that came very close, lots of critters as well. Manta Sandy was spectacular with a dozen Mantas performing a ballet during the whole dive and so curious that sometimes we felt they would hit us, which they of course never did. We felt that the places around Kri Island were the best. On the trip we saw a few grey reef sharks, black tip reef sharks and some white tips (most of the sharks at Boo Rocks). Generelly I had expected to see more sharks. The explanation came at the airport, I think it was Jakarta, where we found shops full of shark fins in all sizes. We also did some land excursions: one to a pearl farm (soso) and then we went with a little boat through the islands which is very similar to Palau. We saw burial sites with old human bones and went into a large flooded cave which was huge with beautiful stalactites (and mites). Worst part of that trip was for sure the flight from Jakarta to Sorong with a stop in-between, but it was worth it and we will for sure return.

Visited on 02/2011 - Submitted on 02/05/2014