Dreaming Of Raja Ampat?
Raja Ampat: Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s West Papua province, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau. The Raja Ampat archipelago straddles the Equator and forms part of the Coral Triangle which contains the richest marine biodiversity on earth.
Administratively, the archipelago is part of the province of West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya). Most of the islands constitute the Raja Ampat Regency, which was separated out from Sorong Regency in 2004. The regency encompasses around 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 sq mi) of land and sea and has a population of about 50,000 (as of 2017).
Raja Ampat Islands
The sparsely populated Raja Ampat Islands comprise more than 1500 islands just off Sorong. With their sublime scenery of steep, jungle-covered islands, fine white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons, spooky caves, weird mushroom-shaped islets, and pellucid turquoise waters, Raja Ampat is without question one of the most beautiful island chains in the world.
Raja Ampat is a group of islands on the western tip of Papua in Indonesia, famous for its diving experience. Most of the world’s coral reefs biodiversity and rare species of marine life can easily be found in an archipelago about the size of Switzerland. While there are 612 islands, there are four major islands (“Raja Ampat” means “Four Kings”) that have a population center: Waigeo, Misool (which is home to ancient rock paintings), Salawati, and Batanta.
Its location in Papua, one of the furthest places you can get to in Indonesia, may give you a head shake. But it’s a diver’s mecca that relatively advanced divers should not miss. The location of the islands, most of which are remote from the nearest towns, makes the reef pure and seemingly untouched. The wide area of pristine blue water contains millions of reefs and fishes, many that you will never find anywhere else. Above the ground, small but soaring islands invite you to climb their peaks, while in between your excursions the friendly locals or your crew will have fun with you. The area is much more popular with foreign tourists who seek adrenaline and natural tranquility than with domestic ones.
Raja Ampat district’s capital is Waisai on Waigeo Island. This town is the starting point for exploration in the area, as it contains the district’s airport and seaport. The best time to visit Raja Ampat is during the dry October-April period, which is, by contrast, the rainiest period in western and central Indonesia. Because of Raja Ampat’s tropical climate, rain can unpredictably fall, although much less frequently during the dry season. It is still feasible to travel in other seasons, but the weather is often a toss-up: you can be under the sunshine while it is raining just past the horizon. Temperatures remain consistent throughout the year, averaging 25-32° C, but humidity may make it feel hotter. The nearest major airport is Dominique Edward Osok Airport(SOQ IATA) in the mainland at the city of Sorong. There are direct flights from Jakarta, Makassar, and Manado, all of which are transfer points for international flights. Multiple daily flights also come from Jayapura, the largest city in the Papua province.
Raja Ampat Diving
Surfers and divers always discover places first. Follow the bubbles to far-flung Raja Ampat in Indonesia, this year’s biggest adventure splash
The fish around here know how special they are. They shimmer and glow and sparkle like stars in their own biopic, performing in the spotlight of crepuscular sun rays. There’s the arresting electric-blue giti damselfish with its flash yellowtail, the alluring doe-eyed, deep-reef cardinalfish, and the jamal’s dottyback with aqua-rimmed eyes as startling as Daniel Craig’s. Mandarinfish goes about their flirty courtship dance at dusk – part tango, part samba – rising up, cheek-to-cheek, locked in a triumphant embrace of pectoral fins. And there’s the shy Denise’s pygmy seahorse hiding among gorgonian coral, a specimen so endearing you might just quit your job to study marine biology.
The Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat lies in the Coral Triangle, which stretches from The Philippines to Timor to Papua New Guinea, known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth. There are many species here you won’t find anywhere else. It has three-quarters of the world’s coral varieties, 10 times that of the Caribbean. The high-definition visibility means that in one glance, without having to swim a stroke, you will see a multitude of corals resembling Murano vases or bunches of baby corn, marbled plumbing fittings, peanut brittle, cobwebs, and an oversized cabbage patch.
Some say the scientist Alfred Russel Wallace, whose studies focused on these islands, should be considered Charles Darwin’s equal for his work on the theory of evolution by natural selection. ‘Situated upon the Equator, and bathed by the tepid water of the great tropical oceans, this region… teems with natural productions which are elsewhere unknown,’ he wrote in 1869.
Raja Ampat Indonesia
Raja Ampat is comprised of four big islands and hundreds of dots and specks off the fragmented western corner of New Guinea, the world’s second-largest island. (Named in the 16th century by a Spaniard who thought the people here resembled those in Guinea, West Africa.) The eastern half of the island is given over to the independent state of Papua New Guinea; the western half belongs to Indonesia, evidently reluctantly, and is known as Papua. Locals are culturally Melanesian – more like Fijians than Javanese – and they’re keen on independence. The morning I arrive in the province had been preceded by overnight political demonstrations. ‘Drunks,’ said one man, playing it down. ‘There’s a revolution going on,’ said another, playing it up. The streets were crawling with Indonesian soldiers and military police. If you want edgy, this is it.
Yet this part of the world also serves as a reminder that there are still relatively unexplored places, serene and pristine. It has stayed this way because of the simple fact that for many years there was nowhere for travelers to stay. Committed divers, often the most pioneering of explorers, traveled around the region on liveaboard boats. But now homestays are opening up and word is beginning to spread.
Most visitors get to Raja Ampat by way of Sorong, a city on the far west coast of Papua, where there is an airport, army barracks and a karaoke bar called Happy Puppy. Life for many here revolves around the nation’s three main sources of revenue: fishing, mining, and logging, which also happen to be destroying the country’s natural habitats. The port is busier than it should be for a far-flung provincial town. The gigantic arms of cranes unload shipping containers. Oil tankers fill up at oversized vats on the water’s edge. Down the coast are the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine on the planet. They say that if Papua was an independent state, it would have one of the world’s richest incomes per capita. But Sorong does have a go-slow mode too. Kids walk to school across the airport runway. A column of smoke wisps out from between hillside homes where the call to prayer punctures the day. At night, 10-foot- high crucifixes light up in flashing neon.
Less than two hours from here by boat is a clutch of hotels and homestays, most of which have opened in the last few years. At Papua Paradise, there are 16 overwater villas and two incredible house reefs, home to the fantastically named wobbegong sharks and flamboyant cuttlefish. I sit on my stilted deck and watch a family of radjah shelducks swim past, delivering intermittent quacks. A foot-long needlefish flies out of the water, avoiding a predator. A manta ray somersaults, cleaning its back, and the ripples of the splash extend to the shore. There is even a near-resident dugong (I had always thought they were imaginary beings, like unicorns).
Raja Ampat Divers
Far from the view-blocking skyscrapers, dense and hectic concrete jungles, congested traffics, flickering electric billboards, endless annoying noises, and all the nuisances of modern cities, you will find a pristine paradise where Mother Nature and warm friendly people welcome you with all the exceptional wonders in Raja Ampat, the islands-regency in West Papua Province. With all the spectacular wonders above and beyond its waters, as well as on land and amidst the thick jungles, this is truly the place where words such as beautiful, enchanting, magnificent, and fascinating get its true physical meaning.
Situated off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on Papua, the most eastern island of the Indonesian Archipelago, Raja Ampat or literally meaning ‘The Four Kings’ is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. The name Raja Ampat itself is believed to derive from a legend where a woman found seven eggs, with four of them hatch and become the kings of the four main islands, while the other three became a woman, a ghost, and a stone.
For underwater enthusiasts, Raja Ampat definitely offers some of the world’s ultimate experience. 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 corals, more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. This makes it the most diverse living library for the 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! Raja Ampat’s sheer numbers and diversity of marine life and its huge pristine coral reef systems are a scuba dream come true – and a fantastic site for snorkelers too.
Raja Ampat Dive
As you embark on your dive here, 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. Schools of Tuna fish, giant trevallies, snappers, batfish, 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. Down at the sea floors, giant sea clams measuring to over one meter in length truly offers one of kind close encounter sensation.
Obviously, there are a lot of diving and snorkeling spots to choose from in these vast waters. Among these are at the Kabui Passage (the very narrow passage between Waigeo and Gam Island crossed by the renowned British explorer, Alfred Russell Wallace in 1860), around the Arborek Island’s Dock, Sawandarek, Yenbuba, Friwen Wall, and many-many more.
While its underwater splendors are beyond exceptional, the landscape above the surface is equally breathtaking. As if it was carefully designed and placed with such aesthetic, the rock islets amidst the clear blue water and bright blue sky in Piaynemo offers some of the most spectacular sceneries on the face of the earth. Looking down from the top of the hill, it almost seems that Mother Nature painted her finest artwork and offers a glimpse of paradise. Further at Wayag Island, you will also find an amazing rock islets formation on an even bigger scale.
Raja Ampat Resort
Aside from its endless fascinating natural attractions, Raja Ampat also offers the distinct hospitality of the Papuan. At the Arborek Tourism Village, you can stay at a number of homestays and mingle with the locals whilst observing their daily life and unique traditions. When a group of tourists arrived, they usually perform a traditional welcome dance right at the dock and entertained the ‘guests’ with various Papuan folk songs.
With all its spectacular wonders inland, on the shore, and beyond the waters, and distinct serene ambiance that you rarely find anywhere else on earth, Raja Ampat truly offers the ultimate experience ones can only dream of.
So, whether you are an avid diver, occasional snorkeler, or just someone who appreciated the beauty in every sense, Raja Ampat welcomes you to the Heaven on Earth.
To get to Raja Ampat you should first take a flight from Jakarta or Makassar to Sorong. There are small aircraft to take you to Waisai, the capital of the district of Raja Ampat, or alternatively, you can take a ferry from the port of Sorong to the islands.
Established in 2012, the Marinda Airport in Waisai, the capital town of Raja Ampat Regency served flights to and from the city of Sorong. Wings Air served daily flight between Sorong and Raja Ampat, while Susi Air flight twice a week on Monday and Saturday. Please be advised that Marinda Airport is still under development and expansion and located relatively far from any facilities. So be sure to pack some snacks and drinks as you await your return flights to Sorong.
Alternatively, there are ferries available to get you from Sorong and Waisai and vice versa. The ferry trip will take about 2 to three hours.
As the main hub to Raja Ampat, the Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong serves flights to a number of major cities in Papua and Indonesia including Manokwari, Jayapura, Ambon, Makassar, Manado, and Jakarta.
Garuda Indonesia operates daily flights between Jakarta-Sorong. As do Sriwijaya Air and Nam Air, Whereas Batik Air flies twice daily between Jakarta and Sorong.
How much does it cost to go to Raja Ampat?
Traveling with others is one of the best ways to make Raja Ampat affordable. Boat transfers to home-stays or charters for activities are expensive but made to be shared between five to six people, bringing the cost as low as $5 a person at times.
When should I go to Raja Ampat?
The best time to visit Raja Ampat is during the dry October-April period, which is, by contrast, the rainiest period in western and central Indonesia. Because of Raja Ampat’s tropical climate, rain can unpredictably fall, although much less frequently during the dry season.