Raja Ampat Trip Report 2024 - Bluewater Dive Travel
Raja Ampat Trip Report 2024

Raja Ampat Trip Report 2024

Raja Ampat Trip Report 2024

Bluewater Travel's 2024 Group Trip Aboard the Emperor Harmoni

Words and Pictures by Tim Yeo

Underwater Camera Equipment Used: Sony a6400Ikelite Housing; Sony 10-18mm lens and 50mm macro lens; dual Kraken KR-S02 strobes

A wobbegong shark blends in among stunning corals in Raja Ampat


Day 1: Dec 30, 2023 - Sorong to Misool

Between the early arrivals at 6 a.m. and the hotel pickups in Sorong at 8:30 a.m., everyone was aboard the Emperor Harmoni by 9:30 a.m., and we set sail for Pulau Matan for the first dive on our Bluewater Travel group trip. Although not a traditional diving location, Pulau Matan served as a convenient location for our checkout dive since it was en route to Misool, where our authentic Raja Ampat adventure would begin the following morning. This initial dive proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to get reacquainted with our dive and camera equipment. We saw four mobula rays, two juvenile cuttlefish, a bamboo shark, a crocodilefish, and flying gurnards. 


A vibrant coral reef in Raja Ampat A moray eel in a coral reef in Raja Ampat A school of snappers on a reef in Raja Ampat


Post-dive, we took the opportunity to tweak our diving and photography gear, addressing any minor issues, while our boat made its way toward the southwest corner of Misool. The daily post-dive happy hour commenced immediately after the dive, featuring a charcuterie board paired with our drinks. Dinner was served at 7 p.m., and given that most of us had only managed two hours of sleep the previous night, we retired early.

Discover why Raja Ampat holds a spot on our list of the best scuba diving in the world.


A school of barracuda spotted while diving in Raja Ampat A batfish on a coral reef in Raja Ampat Stunning corals in Raja Ampat


Day 2: Dec 31, 2023 - New Year's Eve in Misool

A light breakfast was served at 6 a.m., and by 7 a.m., we were submerged for our day's first dive. Despite visibility being restricted to around 30 feet, we ventured over to a pinnacle adorned with soft coral. We had planned to visit Jellyfish Lake today but the overcast sky prompted us to postpone our visit to another day, opting for an additional morning dive instead. Without bright sunlight, the jellyfish remain in deeper waters, avoiding the surface.


A wobbegong shark camouflages in Raja Ampat A vibrant coral reef in Raja Ampat Gorgonian sea fans on a reef in Raja Ampat


Following the second dive, we enjoyed lunch and then embarked on a third dive before proceeding to our night's mooring location. Happy hour and New Year’s Eve celebrations kicked off immediately after the final dive, extending beyond a delicious dinner featuring Japanese yakitori and shabu-shabu.

As the clock struck midnight, all the liveaboards blew their horns, and the night sky was illuminated by a spectacular display of fireworks and flares.


Fish swim in the blue through an opening in a coral reef in Raja Ampat A crocodile fish in Raja Ampat Fish swim under a pier in Raja Ampat


Day 3: Jan 1, 2024 - Misool

After the previous night's festivities, we embraced a more leisurely start this morning. Our first dive saw each of the five dive groups embarking on distinct dive plans, ensuring minimal encounters with one another underwater. Today's schedule was deliberately spaced out, with the second dive planned for noon and the third at 4 p.m., affording ample time for naps between dives. Following dinner, many of us opted for an early night, a common decision after a significant celebration the night before.


A school of sweetlips in Raja Ampat Anemone fish hover above their anemone under a pier in Raja Ampat Vibrant corals in Raja Ampat


Day 4: Jan 2, 2024 - Misool & Jellyfish Lake

Today's itinerary included a morning dive with a potential visit to Jellyfish Lake, weather permitting. Following an exceptional dive at Nudi Island, we navigated from the southern part of Misool to the eastern side, where Jellyfish Lake resides. Blessed with bright sunshine upon our arrival, a challenging 20-minute bouldering hike led us to the lake, brimming with jellyfish.

A snorkeler with jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake Raja Ampat A free diver among jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake Raja Ampat A free diver among jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake Raja Ampat


Isolated from the ocean, the saltwater lake has seen its jellyfish population evolve to lose their stingers, rendering them harmless due to the absence of natural predators. We spent over an hour immersed in the lake, surrounded by thousands of these stingless jellyfish in a truly surreal experience.


Jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake Raja Ampat A split shot of Jellyfish Lake in Raja Ampat A split shot of Jellyfish Lake in Raja Ampat


Energized by our encounter, we returned to the boat, eager for the second dive of the day. We plunged into a 50-foot-wide swim-through that began at 15 feet and shot us out at 100 feet. The dive continued along a wall, captivating both macro and wide-angle photographers. Toward the dive's end, we explored two cave systems with areas to surface. Exiting the caves, we were welcomed by a vast school of blue and yellow fusiliers, alongside a half dozen batfish and two bumphead parrotfish.


Colorful coral reef in Raja Ampat Fish on a reef in Raja Ampat A spectacular coral reef in Raja Ampat


The day marked a memorable farewell to Misool, as we embarked on a 10-hour journey to central Raja Ampat immediately after the dive.

Day 5: Jan 3, 2024 - Central Raja Ampat

This morning, we awoke to find 15 boats crowding the area we had planned to dive in, leading us to navigate an additional hour to Yanggle Island to commence our diving in central Raja Ampat. Our primary objective was to spot wobbegong sharks, and to our delight, all dive groups encountered multiple individuals during the first dive. The day's second dive took us to a seamount known as Mayhem, a name that proved fitting given the substantial currents we faced. These currents were so strong that some divers decided to cut their dive short.


A wobbegong shark camouflages with the reef in Raja Ampat Sweetlips on a reef in Raja Ampat Sunlight pierces the water where a batfish swims along a reef in Raja Ampat


A night dive, marking our fourth dive of the day, was on the agenda. One of Raja Ampat's unique aquatic animals is the epaulette shark, commonly known as the walking shark. This species typically uses its pectoral fins to "walk" across land, moving from one tide pool to another during the day. However, at night, the walking shark ventures into the water in search of food, offering divers a rare opportunity to observe this extraordinary shark. We were fortunate once more, as several dive groups successfully spotted an epaulette shark this night.


An epaulette shark, known as a walking shark, in Raja Ampat A bobtail squid in Raja Ampat A squid in Raja Ampat


Day 6: Jan 4, 2024 - Central Raja Ampat

The day's first dive was dedicated to manta rays, and it did not disappoint. We were graced by the presence of several oceanic and reef mantas, with some even putting on a display for us. Our second dive took us to Melissa’s Garden, one of Raja Ampat’s most renowned dive sites. Despite the presence of a few other boats upon our arrival, the site’s expansive area meant our encounters with other groups were minimal. Melissa’s Garden lived up to its reputation as a world-class dive location, boasting vibrant and diverse coral ecosystems teeming with a vast array of fish species. Following our third dive, we visited the iconic Piaynemo viewpoint, to absorb the breathtaking scenery of the archipelago and capture some photographs.


A tassled wobbegong shark in Raja Ampat A healthy coral reef in Raja Ampat Healthy corals in Raja Ampat


Day 7: Jan 5, 2024 - Dampier Strait

Today marked another day of four dives as we ventured into the Dampier Strait, continuing the exceptional diving experiences from the previous day. Among the highlights were dives at renowned sites like Chicken Reef. Following our third dive, we were greeted by numerous jellyfish in the water, and as we navigated towards a bay to anchor for the night, we found ourselves amidst a sea teeming with jellyfish, reminiscent of the Jellyfish Lake experience. The spectacle was truly memorable.

The night dive took place over a sandy bottom, characterized as a muck dive, where leaffish were found in abundance. The dive was further complemented by sightings of multiple nudibranchs, octopuses, and cuttlefish, making for an unforgettable end to the day's underwater adventures.


An octopus in Raja Ampat A flamboyant cuttlefish in Raja Ampat Underwater macro life in Raja Ampat


Day 8: Jan 6, 2024 - Dampier Strait

What was originally scheduled as a three-dive day joyfully extended into four dives. Our second dive took place at the renowned Cape Kri, marking it as one of the most fish-abundant dives of our journey. We were mesmerized throughout the entire dive by the myriad schools of various fish species, including fusiliers, bigeye jacks, giant trevallies, and barracudas. The dive was so spectacular that we collectively persuaded the cruise director to schedule an additional night dive, to which he graciously consented. After a brief surface interval following the third dive, we returned to Sapokren to revisit the night dive site. Highlights for the group included sightings of flamboyant cuttlefish out hunting for dinner.


A cuttlefish in Raja Ampat A squid in Raja Ampat A cuttlefish hunts its prey in Raja Ampat


Day 9: Jan 7, 2024 - Dampier Strait

Today marked the final day of our diving adventure, beginning with an early dive at Cape Kri. Not a single other boat was in sight, and we were immediately enveloped in the chaos of massive fish schools swirling around us. This incredible spectacle accompanied us throughout the entire 60-minute dive, leaving us wishing we could stay submerged forever.

For our last dive, we enjoyed a serene drift over an expansive hard coral garden in just 15 feet of water. It provided a peaceful and fitting conclusion to our unforgettable journey in Raja Ampat.


A colorful reef in Raja Ampat A coral reef in Raja Ampat Reef life in Raja Ampat


Raja Ampat is a true epicenter of marine biodiversity, featuring a stunning array of fish species, from diminutive glass fish to large bigeye jacks, swimming amidst its vibrant reefs. The reefs themselves boast an impressive variety of both hard and soft corals. Beyond its underwater marvels, Raja Ampat's scenic islands offer a picturesque topside view, with ample activities for non-divers including bird-watching and excursions to Jellyfish Lake. Divers should be aware that visibility underwater might not be as good as some destinations like the Caribbean, yet the overall health and richness of the marine environment continually attract seasoned divers, who find themselves drawn back to Raja Ampat's unique diving experiences time after time.


A group of people at the Piaynemo viewpoint in Raja Ampat A group of people enjoy snacks and drinks on the Emperor Harmoni in Raja Ampat People observe a beautiful sunset aboard the Emperor Harmoni Liveaboard in Raja Ampat


Want to learn more about diving in Raja Ampat? Read our 2023 Trip Report.


Join us on our Next Trips to Raja Ampat! 

December 9 - December 20, 2024


11 Nights was $6,300 NOW ONLY $4,995  per person, double occupancy*

Trip Leader: Dan Bishop

Learn More

February 16 - February 27, 2025

11 Nights for $7,645  per person, double occupancy*

Trip Leader: Mark Strickland

Learn More

February 2 - February 13, 2026

11 Nights for $7,040  per person, double occupancy*

Trip Leader: TBA

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