Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is in Papua in Indonesia, famous for its diving site. 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.

Understand

Its location in Papua, one of the furthest places you can get in Indonesia, may give you a head shake. But it's a diver's mecca anyone must not miss! The location of the archipelago, far from the big cities and villages, makes the reef still pure as it was. The wide area of pristine blue water contains millions of reefs and fishes, many that you will never see anywhere else. If you are not diving, there are islands up above you can climb, or blend in with the locals. Amazingly, the area is actually much more popular with foreign tourists who seek adrenaline and beauty, rather than domestic.

Politically, Raja Ampat is a regency (equivalent to US counties), with the capital Wasai at Waigeo Island. This town is the starting point for your exploration in the area.

Climate

The best time to visit Raja Ampat is during the dry October-April timeframe, in contrast to the western and central Indonesia that is often soaked by rain at this time. Despite that, because of its tropical climate, rain can unpredictably fall, although much less frequent during the dry season. It is still feasible to travel other than the dry season, but the weather is often a toss-up: you can be under the sunshine while it is raining in the immediate horizon.

Temperatures remain consistent throughout the year, averaging 25 to 32 degrees Centigrade, but its humidity may make it feel hotter.

Get in

By plane

The primary means of getting here is by plane from the nearest city, Sorong's Domine Edouard Osok Airport. Connect to this city from either Jakarta or Makassar. Sriwijaya Air, Garuda Indonesia, and Express Air flies you to at least one of these cities.

The nearest airport is actually at Wasai, you can connect to Sorong by Susi Air twice weekly for Rp250,000.

By boat

From both Sorong and Waisai, you can travel by boat from the respective harbors. Between Sorong and Waisai, you can transfer by boat for Rp140,000. Remember there are two types of ferries, an express or slow ferry, both hoist anchor at 14:00 (2PM).

By PELNI Ship

Starting on or around 29 October 2015, a PELNI ship will cruise from Sorong. The ship can carry 1,000 passengers, including 150 cruise tourists. With meals, Class I package costs Rp 6.9 million, Class II package costs Rp 5.5 million and Economy Class costs Rp 4.4 million.

Get around

Pay a permit before you enter

If you wish to dive at the area, you must pay a permit of Rp1,000,000 per person for foreigners, Rp500,000 per person for Indonesian citizens,valid for one calendar year. Purchase at Sorong's Raja Ampat Tourism Center opposite the airport or Waisai's Tourist Information Center by the ferry dock. Only purchase from these offices to avoid scam.

As the area consists of islands, the only meaningful way of travel is by boat. While there are no public boat services to the islands, your homestay or resort will usually arrange it for you for a fee. A general fee for Waisai - Arborek Village is about Rp 2,000,000.If you prefer to go on your own, hop on a Transwisata ship, charter a fisherman's boat, or seek a space in a boat bound for somewhere near the one you want, from the boat harbour at Jalan Abdul Samad Mayor at east of town. But even when you travel close, the price can range from reasonable to exorbitant, all depending on the supply of fuel at the area.

Commonly, divers will join a tour and live in a diving resort during their stay in the Raja Ampat Islands. To access diving spots, please contact and use the professional diving organizers, who can be conveniently found in Sorong. Several tour operators also offer the option of liveboard tours:

See

Raja Ampat offers attractions for both divers and non divers.

Diving

As mentioned above, Raja Ampat is a diver's mecca! Travelers from around the world spend time entering this area of Indonesia to explore what nature has to offer. Millions of fishes and reefs are under the blue waters, many species that you cannot find anywhere else. One of the most prominent dive sites is near the village of Arborek where manta Rays are available in abundance.

Non diving

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!

Do

The Raja Ampat islands are a truly natural phenomenon with enormous biological diversity. The amazing marine landscape means that underwater photography should be on the top your list during your stay.

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 landscapes to photograph.

So you may also consider:

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.

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. You can also trek around the islands to find hidden beauties, like waterfalls and ancient caves.

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. No Visit is complete without visiting Arborek,where visitors can dive and watch groups of Mantas & 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.

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.

Buy

US dollar is usually the form of payment at upscale resorts and liveaboards, but you usually can pay online if you are reserving a spot. Outside these areas, Rupiah is the legal tender. Banking facilities are very limited in the islands. It's easier to obtain cash in Sorong through ATMs, but you are much better off to estimate your expense and draw your money before your flight. Waisai has ATMs of Bank Mandiri, Bank Papua & Bank BRI.

Eat

Dining services are provided by the diving organizer, 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. The local Home stays provide 3 meals a day which is included in the price. It includes but not limited to fresh vegetables and fruits, tea, coffee etc.

Sleep

There are three general ways to stay here: liveaboard, resorts, and homestay.

Liveaboard

As the Raja Ampat Reef Complex is enormous, the liveaboard (live aboard a boat) is one of the best solutions. When your pinisi boat rests above a diving site, just splash down under. When you are done, the chefs will cook above the boat and you will rest at its cabins as you await your next plunge. Excursions generally lasts about a week or two. Schedules are often limited, you have to book months or even a year before!

Resorts

Resorts are the most expensive place to stay at Raja Ampat. A one week stay can cost from Rp20 million ($2,000) to Rp50 million ($4,500).

Homestay

And even though Raja Ampat islands have only few visitors, there are already hotels and homestays on Arborek, Saonek, Mansuar, and Yenwaupnor islands.

Stay safe

Raja Ampat is generally not recommended for beginner or inexperienced divers because of its strong currents, it is much helpful if you have a PADI diving certificate. If you dive, do the standard procedures, listen to your guide, and most likely you will be fine. Stick and stay along during the tour, do not stray especially if the current is strong. If you get hurt or get lost, help is usually very slow to arrive!

Electricity outside the mainland is if any, limited. Generators are on from sunset until midnight, much less so if fuel supply is limited. Internet and phone connectivity is generally reliable at the mainland, although slow compared to world's standards. Elsewhere, mobile signal may be OK, but Internet connection depends on where you are staying at.

It is highly suggested to apply the leave no trace policy. Dispose of trash at the provided bins only. Do not take the fish or any natural items from the area.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, January 30, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.