Planning your trip to Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is the bucket-list destination for travelers who love to go to places with few tourists and plenty of pristine nature to explore. If you’re snorkeler or diver you must visit this place because it has the richest marine biodiversity on the planet.
Raja Ampat is so remote that it can be daunting to plan a trip there. But have no fear: we’ve created the perfect guide for you, including all of the important and no-so-obvious information you need. In this guide we suggest coming to Kri Island. It’s the most visited island in Raja Ampat because of its great location. It’s not too far from Waisai, less than an hour, and close to to other nice islands like Gam and Arborek so transportation to and from the island is affordable. Also, Kri is the best island to stay on if you're a diver and snorkeler.
Some tourists enjoy spending their Raja Ampat vacation on a live aboard. We admit cruising around from one island to the next sounds pretty fun--but doing so is really expensive; usually around $250 (USD) per day. This guide proposes a low budget trip to Raja Ampat, where you can spend as low as $766 for one week. Here’s a detailed list of an estimated budget to visit Kri, the most popular island where we are currently living:
$400 round trip tickets from Jakarta
$14 round trip tickets for ferry from Sorong to Waisai
$30 round trip shared boat ride from Waisai to Kri
$250 accommodation and meals for one week
$72 for marine park entry fee
*This blog post was updated in September 2019. Please keep in mind that flight ticket prices tend to change frequently and the exchange rate also fluctuates. This total only includes the basics. You can enjoy snorkeling and hiking on the island you’re staying for free if you bring your own snorkel gear. However, you’ll probably want to scuba dive or take a boat tour to a different island, which will add to the overall cost of your trip. We detail the different activities you can do below.
Keep in mind that nearly all homestays in Raja Ampat only accept IDR cash. This is also true for Yenbuba Homestay , the one we partner with that's just next door to us. There are ATMs in Waisai and Sorong, but there aren’t any on the remote islands where you’ll be spending most of your time in Raja Ampat. The issue some travelers run into with ATMs in Sorong or Waisai is a daily withdrawal limit--whether that's the total you try to withdraw or the number of times you can withdraw per day. Most ATMs in Indonesia only dispense 6.000.000 IDR, and it’s true that most commonly people complain about only being able to withdraw 3.000.000 twice per day.
You should be able to exchange money at BNI or BRI banks in Waisai or Sorong. Just be aware of the bank’s hours, public holidays, that most banks are closed during lunch hour 12-1 p.m. and sometimes the banks run out of currencies or you never know what else. This is why we recommend getting quite a bit of money changed before you arrive in Indonesia (Jakarta Airport has money changers--the rate will be higher though). You may feel uneasy carrying so much cash on you but Kri is a very quiet island and we’ve never had any problems arise for any guests staying at Yenbuba Homestay or diving with us.
Our dive center does accept IDR cash of course. We also accept USD cash, Euro cash, PayPal payments and bank transfers (we have bank accounts in the US and Europe)--but we ask a 3% charge for those forms of payment.
If you're thinking about what time of year you’d like to visit, it's important to understand there is no true “off-season” in Raja Ampat. You can enjoy amazing conditions on land and underwater all year. However, if you plan on doing a lot of boating around to see different sights, avoid windy season from June through mid September. If you’re a scuba diver, the optimal diving season is between October and May, as the wind has died down and manta rays are around. Unlike other areas in Indonesia, you don’t experience months of heavy rainfall but random showers that only last a few hours.
We suggest booking your homestay and dives in advance. Yenbuba Homestay and our boat fill up quickly. The homestay doesn't ask for a deposit, but we do for the dives. During manta season (mid November through April) it's especially important to book ahead.
If you can travel to Raja Ampat with friends you will save money. Traveling from one island to the next is one of the most expensive parts of your trip. As most captains charge a set price per boat, if you're traveling with friends you can split the cost amongst yourselves. Also, planning far away trips to places like Piaynemo is very expensive unless you have a group of about six people to go there. We organize Piaynemo trips every week usually and require a minimum of five divers to conduct the trip.
Flying to Raja Ampat
The airport all travelers need to fly into is Sorong (SOQ), which is not an international airport. The airport in Waisai is not yet fully operational. Below we list out various airports in Indonesia with connecting flights to Raja Ampat. These flights are one ways.
From Bali: One-stop flights from DPS to Sorong (layover in Makassar, Sulawesi); 12-hour trip with Sriwijaya Air or12-hour trip with Garuda Indonesia.
From Jakarta: Direct flight from CGK to Sorong; ; 4-hour flights with Nam Air, Garuda Indonesia or Batik Air
From Manado, Sulawesi: Direct flights from MDC to Sorong; one hour and 15-minute flights with Nam Air, Lion Air, or Garuda Indonesia
From Makassar, Sulawesi: Direct flights from UPG to Sorong; starting; two hour and 10-minute flights with Sriwijaya Air, Batik Air or Garuda Indonesia
From Ambon: Direct flights from AMQ to Sorong 50-minute flights with Nam Air, Wings Air, Garuda Indonesia (there aren’t flights offered every day, but almost)
Lion Air only offers a 15-kilo (33-pound) baggage allowance included with the ticket. You get 20 kilos (44 pounds) of luggage included with your ticket with Sriwijaya Air, Garuda Indonesia and Batik Air. Nam Air gives you 25 kilos (55 pounds) of luggage. Also, Garuda Airlines, Nam Air and Sriwijaya Air offer 10 extra kilos (22 pounds) for diving equipment.
Ferry and Speed Boat Rides
Keep in mind that in order to get from Sorong to Waisai, you have to take a ferry that leaves at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day. You may have to spend a night in Sorong to catch a ferry or your flight out. For a low budget hotel that's still quite nice we recommend Griya Ringo Hotel. Our mid-range hotel choice is Favehotel.
From the airport in Sorong you have two options to get to the harbor ( tell the driver to take you to 'pelabuhan Raja Ampat'): hire a taxi just outside of the airport for 100.000 IDR ($7), or walk to the main road to get get a yellow bus taxi for 5.000-10.000 IDR (about $0.75).
To travel from Sorong to Waisai, the capital of Waiego, go on the 'kapal ferry' for 100.000 IDR ($7) that takes about an hour and a half. Whether you’re trying to go to Waisai, or heading back from Waisai to Sorong, you can always catch a ferry at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m.
Once you arrive in Waisai, you will be directed to the Tourist Information desk where you will be asked to pay the 1.000.000 IDR Marine Park Entrance Fee. Than you will meet the captain from the homestay you booked who will take you to the homestay.
Perhaps the hardest decision you’ll have to make when planning your trip to Raja Ampat is what activities to do. Renting snorkel gear costs between 50.000-100.000 IDR per day, so bring your own to save a bit of cash--though we give our divers free snorkel gear to use during their stay on Kri. For those only snorkeling, we recommend bringing fins as the currents can be strong (but are not reason to stay away from Raja Ampat!).
Scuba diving at most locally owned dive centers costs between 500,000-800,000 IDR ($35-$56) per dive, depending on the location of the site. The best deal you can get with us is to dive three times per day for 1.600.000 IDR, which works out to 533.00 IDR or $38 per dive. We give a 100.000 IDR discount per dive for divers who have their own diving gear. We also offer the 12th and 20th dives for free. Check out this page on our website for pricing and more information about diving with us.
As we mentioned before, Kri Island is the best island to visit in Raja Ampat if you want to dive or snorkel. You can snorkel right off the beach at multiple places on the island. You can also walk to the Yenbuba village at low tide or take a five minute boat ride at high tide to visit the village and catch a glimpse of local culture.
There’s a 45 minute hike from Yenbuba Homestay to a stunning spot that looks out over the west end of Kri, Ransiwor and Mansuar. There's also a short hike five minutes from Yenbuba Homestay that looks over the sand bank on the west end of Kri as well as Ransiwor. Surrounding Kri Island are two great locations to see two massive and beautiful pasir timbul, which means sand bar in Indonesian. Kri is a 15-minute ride from Gam island, which is famous for its birds of paradise trips. We offer many other adventure trips that explore Raja Ampat's most beautiful sights on land as well as underwater.
We hope that the traveling required to get to Raja Ampat, and how remote it is, doesn’t keep anyone from visiting. You will never regret having planned this trip once you arrive and see how genuinely pristine and magical this place is.
We’d love to explore the underwater world of Raja Ampat with you so consider staying at Yenbuba Homestay and diving with us! If you have any questions or would like to book diving or accommodation please feel free to contact us.