Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia
The archipelago of Raja Ampat (four kings) includes four main islands as well as 1500 small islands and cays. The area is a Marine National Park and offers the highest biodiversity in world.
What to see: Everything! The best coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, huge schools of fish, pelagics like sharks and mantas, incredible macro from pygmy seahorses to nudibranchs and other rare small critters
Diving: Either from a liveaboard or from small boats when staying at a resort/homestay. Shore entry at house reefs possible
Level: Experienced divers with good buoyancy control to ensure nothing (coral) is destroyed with the fins, the currents can get strong
Who should go there: Every passionate diver who loves marine life, underwater photographers and even snorklers as many reefs are shallow
How to get there: Flight from Manado or Makassar to Sorong (around USD 120) and transfer to liveaboard/resort or ferry to Waisai (2 hours, around USD 10) when staying at a homestay, speedboat from Waisai to the accommodation.
Where to dive: With the place you are staying at. Diving in the north is possible from either liveaboard, resort or homestay. Only one resort is located in the south and not cheaper than exploring the region by liveaboard. Everything else can only be reached by liveaboard, the whale sharks at Cenderawasih bay for example.
Rates: The cheapest option is to stay at a homestay starting at USD 600 for one week including accommodation, full board and diving. The rates in resorts for one week start at USD 1700 in the north, the one in the south costs USD 3000. Liveaboard rates differ and many special offers can be found early and late in the season. The price ranges between USD 2000 and 5000 per week.
The marine park fee is an additional USD 70.
Climate: 31°C average maximum and 25°C minimum all year round, dry season May to September
Water temperature: Around 29°C
Visibility: 10 to 30 m, the visibility does not depend on the weather/season much, but can get bad when nutrient-rich water comes in
Season: Best season is dry season from October to April. However, it can get busy during this time. The liveaboards leave Raja Ampat during rainy season. Manta season December to April, the rest of the marine life don’t change much throughout the year
Favorite dive sites: Cape Kri and Blue Magic both are teeming with marine life and covered in healthy coral. I have not seen such huge coral structures with that many fish anywhere else.
I flew from Makassar to Sorong, took the ferry to Waisai where I was picked up by the staff from the homestay. I was staying at Yenkoranum on Kri island and diving with them too. The rooms are basic but right at a beach with a housereef. The staff was mostly friendly, the food good and the dive guides found all the critters. The dive schedule is flexible and all the guests can ask to visit specific sites.
As I don’t like busy dive sites I decided to visit outside of the season in May. The weather was mostly good, the liveaboards already left (so did the mantas, unfortunately) and the resort was not fully booked. In my opinion a great time to visit.
One thing has to be mentioned here which was bothering many of the guests – there are rats. We did not have them in our room but everyone else seemed to. This is not actually a real problem as long as there is no food around, right?