The Raja Ampat archipelago, according to an advertising poster, is the “last paradise in the world”.
Rocky mountains, overgrown with tropical jungles, stand out on the surface of the emerald sea; typical poster about life in paradise.
As usual, these reserved islands are hardly accessible. It took us two flights from Jakarta to get Sorong, then we boarded a ferry going to Waigeo, the biggest island of the Raja Ampat archipelago.
And our adventure began.
Raja Ampat is a group of islands on the western tip of Papua in Indonesia, famous for its snorkeling and diving experience. Most of the world’s coral reefs biodiversity and rare species of marine life can easily be found in Raja Ampat.
While there are 612 islands, there are four major islands (“Raja Ampat” means Four Kings) that have a population center: 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.
If you are not diving, you can still have fun. Walk the island, visit the villages, admire the nature, or snorkel and see the natural wonders.
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.
Best time to visit
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.
The nearest major airport is Dominique Edward Osok Airport (SOQ) 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.
Wings Air also flies from Waisai’s airport to Sorong’s airport and Manado daily.
There are daily ferry sailings between 3 Sorong’s harbor ferry port and 4 Waisai’s harbor in Raja Ampat. Two types of ferries, an express or slow ferry, will get you there in 2 and 4 hours, respectively. As delays may sometimes occur, allow at least 2 hours to connect between the seaport and the airport. Tickets for both sailings can be bought at the wharf and the tourism office.
Speedboats can also be rented at a wharf about 200 meters west of the ferry terminal. While it’s expensive and less comfortable than a ferry, it can get you there faster.
As Raja Ampat is a designated marine biodiversity park, a permit must be purchased, so as to fund the park’s conservation and to discourage mass tourism. The permit is valid for one year from the date of purchase.
If you are joining a diving tour, most likely this permit will have been included in the price. But if it isn’t, the permit can be purchased at the tourism office across the airport access road or at the Waisai Ferry port (open up to half an hour after ferry arrival). The fee is Rp 500,000 for Indonesian citizens and Rp 1,000,000 for foreigners, you only need a passport as proof of identification, children ages 12 and under are exempt.
More photos from Raja Ampat.