Raja Ampat: Journey to Indonesia’s Secret Paradise

Raja Ampat is home to some of the most beautiful islands on earth. There’s spectacular snorkeling and diving spots. So forget Bali. Let’s go on an adventure to Indonesia’s secret paradise: Raja Ampat.

Picture a tropical archipelago of steep, jungle-covered islands, glittering white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons and luminous turquoise waters. Raja Ampat isn’t like anywhere else on the planet. The collection of 1500-odd islands and islets scattered off the northwest tip of Indonesian Papua that comprise Raja Ampat is truly one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful archipelagos.

Below sea level, majestic lion fish prowl through the waters past tropical fish, purple pufferfish, turtles, dolphins and sharks. Described by scientists as a ‘species factory’, this region nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle is home to more than 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the Caribbean.

Along with stunning landscapes, incredible snorkeling, diving and endless sunshine, there’s a heart and soul to this region of Indonesia. The people with smiles on their faces. They were open, welcoming, and made our experience extra special.

Getting There

The journey to Raja Ampat isn’t simple, so you do have to work for your paradise adventure. From Jakarta, fly to Sorong, about 4 hours. Some flights will go via Makassar. From Sorong, take a taxi to the harbour, about 15 mins. From here, you have two choices. Misool in south, or Wayag in the north. If you want to go Misool, take Bahari Express ferry to Yelu, it takes 4 hours. Going north, take Bahari Express ferry to Waisai, which is located on the island of Waigeo. The express ferry takes 2 hours.

Alternatively, there are small aircrafts to take you to Waisai, capital of the district of Raja Ampat. 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 the Marinda Airport is still under development and expansion and located relatively far from any facilities.

Things To Do In Raja Ampat: Diving, Snorkeling, Trekking

The diving and snorkeling in Raja Ampat is said to be among the best in the world with over 1,400 species of fish enjoying its reef. It’s often top of peoples scuba bucket lists.

While staying at Nut Tonton Homestay in Misool, I snorkeled from the end of the pier and saw a plethora of tropical fish including angelfish, needlefish, several lionfish, batfish, and even a purple pufferfish. In the evenings we spotted walking sharks close to the shore. Also in the incredibly diverse waters are bluefin jacks, grey reef sharks, blacktips and whitetips along with the elusive wobbegong, a type of shark that’s only found in this region.

After a long day in the water, there’s no better way to unwind than by watching one of Raja Ampat’s incredible sunsets. One of the best sunset I’ve experienced while staying in Prajas Homestay in Salio, Waigeo.

Snorkeling in Wayag, Raja Ampat. (@8elapantrip)

When you are in Wayag, a visit to Arborek really is a must! The island is open to tourism with kids greeting visitors with smiles. It’s a tiny place with around 200 residents, a school, church, a few homestays and basic stores. It’s a picture-perfect paradise island with no cars, a few colourful boats, and bright yellow and blue fencing.

This is the famous view of Raja Ampat, Pianemo. I’d seen photos before visiting and assumed they must have been photoshopped, haha! But no. It really was as magical as I’d hoped! From our homestay in Salio, it was around one hour 30 minutes by boat, then a hot and sweaty trek up to the viewpoint. We couldn’t wait to dive into the greeny-turquoise water after to cool down!

With all its spectacular wonders inland, on the shore, and beyond the waters, and distinct serene ambience that you rarely find anywhere else on earth, Raja Ampat truly offers the ultimate experience ones can only dream of. Whether you are an avid divers, occasional snorkeler, or just someone who appreciated beauty in every sense, Raja Ampat welcomes you to the “piece of heaven on earth”.

Another beautiful corals in Raja Ampat. (@chiquitapurnomo)

Where To Stay

While in Misool, I stayed at Nut Tonton Homestay which was wonderful. In Wayag, I stayed at Praja Homestay Salio, as beautiful as Misool’s. The small wooden bungalows on the beachfront were cute, cosy and located seconds from the sand. The restaurant -floating cottage on the sea- served a decent buffet breakfast and serving grilled fish and lobsters at the evening. For divers, they also offer special diving packages.

Snorkeling in Misool homestay

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Raja Ampat is between November and April, with the best conditions towards the end of the year. It’s pretty much bang on the equator with average highs of 31 Celsius and lows of 25. June and July are the wettest months.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit

Prices will vary, but here’s a rough guide:

  1. Return flights from Jakarta to Sorong: USD 275
  2. Taxi from Sorong Airport to Sorong Harbour: IDR 100,000 (USD 7)
  3. Raja Ampat visitor permit fee for international visitors: IDR 1,000,000 (USD 70)
  4. Express ferry tickets: IDR 130,000 (USD 9) for economy class or IDR 220,000 (USD 15) for a VIP ticket
  5. Travel costs (excluding food & extra activities) around IDR 6,000,000 (USD 428)

Useful Information For Visiting Raja Ampat

  • As the islands are pretty cut off, it’s important to organise currency before you take the trip. Some hotels will accept credit cards but it’s not something to rely on.
  • Cover up. It’s important to show respect when visiting villages and you’ll see signs reminding you not to wander around in bikinis.
  • Sunday is considered family day for a lot of people for religious reasons so avoid this for travelling or taking part in activities.
  • Remember, Raja Ampat isn’t a tourist destination like Bali, so expect the experience to be a little more rough and ready. It’s all part of the adventure.

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