Welcome to the Raja Ampat islands. The fame of this Indonesian archipelago is well deserved as it is almost impossible to be disappointed by the fascinating topography and unparalleled biodiversity, which is some of the best protected not only in Indonesia but also worldwide. The archipelago between Maluku and West Papua off Sorong is home to over 1,500 islands covered in jungle, caves, pristine beaches and clear blue waters. To properly explore Raja Ampat, it is best to select a small part and get to know its beauty in detail.
With wildlife and nature in abundance, it’s not hard to find activities to lose yourself in the Raja Ampat islands. It’s estimated that three-quarters of the world’s species live here among these islands - a nature-lover’s dream come true! Here are just a few things to get up to in this incredible area of Indonesia.
Diving in Raja Ampat
Diving is the main activity, and moving by boat is the best (if not the only) way to get around, due to the distance between the islands. Wildlife is in abundance both underwater and above ground, so snorkelling and diving are excellent ways to enjoy the absolute best of what the islands have to offer. Spot some 500 species of corals, and hundreds of mollusc variations, brushing past thousands of types of coral fish.
Exploring By Boat
Combine a cruise with an in-depth exploration of the area by sea kayak or canoe to discover some of the beautiful hidden bays. Wildlife is plentifulabundant both in the water and on land, where you can swim with the manta rays or spot beautiful birds of paradise and tiny tarsiers in the jungles. Head north to witness Raja Ampat’s iconic landscape and explore the gateway to the Pacific Ocean, home to lesser-known diving and snorkelling spots abundant in coral and marine life, providing a memorable and more personalised experience.
Hidden within the thick jungles of Raja Ampat are endemic species of birds, marsupials, and reptiles. The iconic crimson bird of paradise can be found on the island of Waigeo, alongside plumed herons, honeyeaters, tortoises, snakes and more across all of the areas of dense trees. Homestays with local people are the best way to get right into this fairly untouched area of nature, a colourful and totally immersive method of exploring the islands.
Islands of Raja Ampat
While some 1500 islands and caves are included within the archipelago, there are four main islands. An old legend about the creation of these islands initially brought about the name “Raja Ampat”, meaning “The Four Kings”. Each island is worth exploring on its own, but here’s a breakdown of its characteristics.
Of the 4 largest Raja Ampat islands, Waigeo is notably the biggest and is home to the capital of the regency, a town called Wasai to the west. With an interior difficult to penetrate due to the intense jungle, Waigeo is the easiest to reach via public transport from the rest of the world. Divers, bird-watchers, and lovers of scenic views will find Waigeo a stunning centre for their Indonesian adventure.
In the southern and most remote tip of the archipelago, you will find Misool island, characterised by huge karst formations dotting the ocean and where you could easily spend several days. Enjoy an eco-friendly, luxury resort between one amazing dive andafter the next and be prepared to spot new species every day! If you are interested in anthropology, Raja Ampat will offer you the Australasian side of Indonesia, providing an insight into traditional cultures beyond the Wallace line.
Salawati is another incredible birdwatching location, with acres of untouched incredible dense wildlife at its centre, featuring sago forest. The beaches and bays on offer at this third-largest island are fantastic places to start your snorkelling or diving careers, full of curious and iconic underwater treasures from the rainbow fish to real sunken WW2 planes and ships.
Finally, Batanta is the smallest of the four islands, immediately north of Salawati - but don’t let that fool you! Its 60 kilometres of dense jungle and stunning range of hills at its centre create views that are not to be missed. Batanta, like its island siblings, boasts gorgeous coral reefs and seascapes, but also waterfalls to discover in its hidden depths. Smaller and more remote, with only more remote villages, the decreased boat traffic means that Dugongs can be spotted in the quieter bays around the island.
To access the beauty of Raja Ampat, you’ll need to start in Indonesia - from larger hubs like Jakarte or Makassar, you can fly to nearby Sarong. From Sarong, there are a few routes to get to this more remote group of islands. Smaller aircraft will be able to take visitors to Waisai on Waigeo island, from which you can get boats and ferries to the other islands. Alternatively, there are ferries running from Sorong’s port to the main 4 islands.
On an ETG bespoke holiday, you won’t need to worry about travel. Your trip will be expertly planned so that the normal bumps in the road are ironed out, with support at every step of the way - that means you can get busy with the important stuff: Relaxing, exploring, and really experiencing your destination.
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