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Raja Ampat is a snorkeling and diving paradise.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Indonesia > Papua > Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat Travel Guide

  
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    Raja Ampat is a chain of islands on the west coast of Papua, Indonesia's most eastern island. The name given to these islands comes from a local myth.

    The four major islands found here are Waigeo, Misool (which is home to ancient rock paintings), Salawati and Batanta.

    Getting to Raja Ampat

    It takes a six hours flight from Jakarta to Sorong, the gateway city to Raja Ampat. From Sorong, you need to take a boat to Raja Ampat.

    Transportation is by boat only in Raja Ampat. And that's expensive.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    Flights from Jakarta or Bali to Sorong go via connecting flights in Makassar or Manado on Sulewasi. Such flights are offered by many airlines, and it is worth to shop around. Check Sriwijaya Air, Merpati, Express Air, Batavia Air, Lion Air/Wings Air, Garuda Indonesia and Pelita Air.

    Commonly, divers will join a dive tour and live in a diving resort during their stay in the Raja Ampat Islands. These trips usually start directly in Sorong, where most dive operators also have an office. Several tour operators offer the option of liveaboard trips, including Raja Ampat Liveaboard and Dive 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 these formalities.

    Alternatively, there are public boats from Sorong to Tanjung Makoi on Waigeo Island. If you stay in a homestay, the best option is to take a public boat and arrange for a pickup in Tanjung Makoi. A small boat will bring you you directly to your homestay.

    Finally, you can also charter a private boat. 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).

    Transport between islands is by chartered boat only. Prices are calculated by the amount of petrol required. Distances are far, petrol is expensive - all of this and the lack of people to share make getting from one island to another very costly.

    Sunset in Raja Ampat.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    Diving, Snorkeling & Other Activities

    In Raja Ampat, you can see different types of fish and corals. Raja Ampat is the place where coral species reach 75% of all known species and fish nearly 1,300 species. The Raja Ampat islands are a truly natural phenomenon with enormous biological diversity and top our list of the best places to dive and snorkel in Southeast Asia.

    However 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 diving and snorkeling.

    Consider the following activities:

    Looking for Birds of Paradise in Raja Ampat.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    • Wreck diving
    • Sailing
    • Kayaking
    • Exploring the islands by boat
    • Visiting the Red Bird of Paradise
    • Enjoying the Karst islands around Wayag Island (a must-do!)
    • 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.

    Raja Ampat: Beautiful photo spots between dives.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    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.

    You 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 islands 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.

    In 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 village, 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.

    A view to die for: The Wayag Islands in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    You can 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 enjoy. The scenery here is so amazingly beautiful, that despite being far off the beaten track and difficult to reach, the Wayag islands make a prominent appearance on our list of the most beautiful islands in Southeast Asia.

    Eating

    Dining services are provided by your homestay or dive operator, 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.

    In some of the cheaper homestays (still expensive for Indonesian standards), you will get to eat a lot of eggs.

    Hotels in Raja Ampat

    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 resorts 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)

    Raja4Divers (Dive Resort Raja Ampat), Pulau Pef, (info@raja4divers.com). Raja4Divers dive resort has opened to the public in June 2011 and is located on the remot island Pef. The 7 spacious guest bungalows are built in authentic Papuan style and are situated directly on the west facing beach. There are three dive boats to bring the guest to the several dive spots around the island. The famous dive site 'The Passage' is only 15 minutes from the resort.

    Another resort is Doberai Eco Resort, Urai island, Telephone 0811192237.

    Mambefor Homestay offers a basic place to stay in Raja Ampat.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

    There are hotels and homestays on Saonek, Mansuar, and Yenwaupnor islands. Note that homestays are very expensive for Indonesian standards. They offer full-board accomodation and a simple place to sleep.

    Mambefor Homestay is basic, but comes recommended as one of the cheapest accomodation options in Raja Ampat. Mambefor Homestay is located opposite a dive resort (10-30 minutes by boat), where you can join the dive trips. The manager can also organize snorkel trips with almost garantueed spottings of Manta Rays, and there is an area to watch Birds of Paradise just a short trek away.

    




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