Raja Ampat has earned its reputation as one of the world’s top scuba diving destination. Here are five reasons why you can’t miss out on visiting and diving this natural wonder.
#1: Raja Ampat Should Officially be the Best Dive Destination in the World
Determining the #1 diving destination is impossible because what you may consider the best dive sites in the world another would not; it’s a subjective matter. But I think we can all agree that the main reason, and certainly the most obvious reason, why people scuba dive is to observe marine life. So if we judge a diving destination based on the marine life it boasts there, Raja Ampat is an easy pick for the top slot.
The Raja Ampat Archipelago is part of the Bird’s Head Seascape, an area of 225,000 square kilometers (86,873 square miles) in West Papua, Indonesia. Cenderawasih Bay, Kaimana Regency and Triton Bay also make up the BHS. There are more than 200 internationally renown scuba diving sites there. The Coral Triangle is the heart of the planet’s richest coral reefs, and the BHS is the heart of the Coral Triangle. If that doesn’t explain it all, I’ll continue…
The Bird’s Head Seascape has the Highest Coral Reef Biodiversity in the World. You can find more corals, fish and other marine life in Raja Ampat and other areas in the BHS than anywhere else in the world its size. In fact, Cape Kri, a dive site just off the coast of where we are staying on Kri Island, is credited as the dive site with the richest biodiversity in the world and holds a world record for most fish species (374 to be exact) spotted during a single dive. Here’s a few figures about the lifeforms you can encounter there to further blow your mind:
More than 600 species of coral
1,711 fish species
17 species of whales and dolphins
Largest area of nesting beaches for the Pacific leatherback Turtle
The variety and the sheer abundance of creatures you’ll see while scuba diving in Raja Ampat is amazing. Seeing reef sharks and turtles every dive is not uncommon. You can also see the rare wobbegong shark, epaulette (walking) shark, manta rays, the infamous blue ring octopus and the rare but adorable dugong, which is a relative to the manatee. You also see large schools of fish such as barracudas, red snapper, surgeonfish and sweet lips. You also frequently encounter massive fish such as the giant trevally, napoleon wrasse and humphead parrotfish.
#2: Accessibility and Variety of Dive Sites
Regardless of which island you stay on in Raja Ampat, there will be a dive site within reach. A lot of amazing snorkeling and diving spots will be just off the beach of your resort or homestay. We chose to set up Soul Scuba Divers on Kri Island because there are nearly 30 amazing dive sites within a 5-25 minute boat ride away.
The underwater topography of Raja Ampat is extremely varied. You can dive along reefs located on slopes, walls, ridges, overhangs, underwater sea mounts and pinnacles. Mike's Point is a favorite dive site thanks to its explosive history; the small island was partially blown up during WWII, causing large boulders to break off and settle on the ocean floor beside the island. There are also really interesting caves and overhangs that are fun to explore before finishing the dive on a shallow coral garden that is one of the healthiest and stunning in Raja Ampat. There are also multiple cleaning stations that attract manta rays year round, though the ones closest to Kri consistently attract mantas from November to May.
Macro diving is accessible everywhere in Raja Ampat due to the immense biodiversity of the coral reefs. Night diving is one of the best ways to locate and observe some of the rare and beautiful small creatures.
Drift diving is common in Raja Ampat due to the strong currents that are found there. But if you want to avoid strong currents it’s also possible. This all depends on timing when to get in the water, which depends on how much expertise and experience your dive guide has.
Admittedly, f you’re obsessed with wreck diving or are a technical diver, Raja Ampat is probably not going to be #1 on your list. There are a few wrecks to check out but they are not especially notable. And the average depths for the dive sites are between 5-40 meters, but our maximum depth is 18 meters for open water divers and usually between 25-30 for advanced open water divers.
#3: Consistency of Dive Conditions
The temperature of the ocean in Raja Ampat is a consistent 27-30 degrees Celsius (81-86 degrees Fahrenheit) year round. Visibility can change on a daily basis but stays at 15-30 meters. If you experience bad vis in one dive site it’s best to try a dive site in a different area for the next dive of the day. In general, visibility is very good from mid April until the main manta season starts in mid November.
Raja Ampat is one of those rare tropical locations that isn’t heavily affected by a monsoon season. Rainy season is technically between April and October, but rather than having months of heavy rain like other areas in Indonesia, it stays dry and sunny year-round with random showers that last only a few hours at most. Raja Ampat is actually made up of tiny microclimates that vary from island to island, making rainfall unpredictable. The island you’re staying on could be experiencing a shower while the neighboring island only a few hundred meters away could be dry and sunny.
There is, however, a windy season that occurs from the middle of June to the middle of September. It is normally strongest in the morning, making the water choppier. The winds calm down in the afternoon, and it’s during this time of year that visibility is actually the best. And no matter what it’s possible to find a dive site that is more than suitable to dive.
Therefore, although the optimal diving season is between October and May, if you stay at least a few days on Raja Ampat you’re almost guaranteed to find dive sites with ideal conditions. And even if you deal with less than perfect vis or weather, the reasons above will certainly balance out your experience and make your dive trip in Raja Ampat unforgettable.
#4: Lower Stress about Your Environmental Impact on Raja Ampat
We applaud you if you’re one of those travelers who think about what your environmental impact will be on the place you plan to visit. Too many tourists and boats are the culprits for damaging dive sites that were once pristine. As it stands, Raja Ampat is extremely remote and therefore still one of the relatively untouched areas of the world. Of course, more tourists in Raja Ampat would mean a greater threat to the health of its coral and marine life, and you should always do your part in not contributing to bringing inorganic waste on the island.
However, there are a lot of people making sure that tourism is growing without sacrificing the reason people are drawn to Raja Ampat in the first place. There is a miraculous emphasis on protecting the natural resources in this area of the world thanks to a truly incredible collaboration between local communities, conservation and academic groups and government agencies,
Raja Ampat is home to the Coral Triangle’s first shark and ray sanctuary. Furthermore, turtles, dugongs, and endemic fishes are fiercely protected. The BHS is home to 12 Marine Protected Areas, including the largest one in Indonesia. So you can travel to Raja Ampat guilt-free, knowing that this place is under the watch of people and groups who want to see its ecological health and beauty sustained.
We are dedicated to preserving Raja Ampat's paradise. Take a look at our Community Projects page to see what we're doing to educate the local kids about plastic pollution and more. And please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any ideas or would like to join in some efforts to keep Raja Ampat's environment clean and healthy.
#5: Incredible Sightseeing On land
When planning a dive trip your main focus is, naturally, the diving. However, we can only spend so many hours underwater each day. So what do you do during the time in between? Raja Ampat is where incredible underwater ecosystems meet breathtakingly beautiful terrestrial environments.
You can walk along white sand beaches and look for plentiful shells lining the beaches while Cockatoos and other exotic birds fly overhead, or just relax in your hammock and gaze out at the mountainous islands across the stretch ocean in front of your overwater bungalow. Or you can be a bit more adventurous and trek up to see giant waterfalls on Batanta or wake up at sunrise to see the birds of paradise that are endemic to West Papua.
During the surface interval we like to take our divers to beautiful islands and secret beaches for coffee and snack break. It's those little surprises that make our divers so happy and so grateful to be traveling in Raja Ampat. We also organize adventure trips to combine the experience of diving with some sightseeing. Our most popular trip is to Piaynemo where, along with diving at two amazing dive sites nearby the Fam Islands, we also take you to hike up to the iconic Piaynemo viewpoint. Afterward we stop by a nearby island that's entire interior is an emerald green lagoon and has a stunning viewpoint also. To look at the other adventure trips we offer check out this page.
The bottom line is Raja Ampat is a must for divers who appreciate healthy coral reefs and an abundance of large and small marine life. This is a destination for those who love nature on land and underwater. If you'd like to book your trip to Raja Ampat please contact us. Paradise awaits!