Until Raja Ampat’s shopping mall opens up next year, you’d better listen up… Just kidding! There are no plans of building a shopping mall in Waisai, the closest town to Kri, Gam and the other islands of Central Raja Ampat. In Waisai and Sorong, the city you have to fly into to get to Raja Ampat, you can find basic products you’ll use while traveling like shampoo, cell phone sim cards and even decent waterproof bags. But planning ahead and packing certain items will help you enjoy Raja Ampat’s remote islands even more, and also help to protect them.
There are two things to remember while packing for Raja Ampat: outdoor adventures and remote locations. You will be in nature doing adventure activities in the ocean and jungle, and there is very limited access to stores, hospitals and even electricity.
What to Wear
If you’re like 99% of the tourists who come to Raja Ampat, you’ll be spending most of your time in the ocean. There are also bird watching, trekking and other on-land activities that you’ll want to be prepared for. Here’s the clothes you’ll need to protect yourself from the elements and comfortably explore wild Raja Ampat.
• Quick-dry or 100% cotton clothes. It’s hot, it’s humid, you’ll thank yourself later for bringing along breathable clothing.
• Rash guard. Like what surfers wear or divers wear under their wetsuits. The light, stretchy fabric is perfect to throw on when snorkeling or taking a walk on the beach to protect yourself from the sun or potential stingers like plankton or fire coral.
• A hat will protect your face and neck while on long boat rides or walks on the beach.
• Tank tops and shorts for trekking around the islands or layering on top of your swimsuits. Keep in mind that in remote cities like Waisai and Sorong it may be best to dress more conservatively, so save the short shorts for the beach on Kri or other small islands where tourists have more privacy.
• Sarong or beach cover up. This is perfect for wearing between dips in the sea. It’s also useful when staying in beachy areas where there are more locals like Arborek Island, where tourists are asked to cover up while walking around.
• Long sleeves and pants. It’s certainly not chilly during the day as Raja Ampat skims the equator. However, if you do multiple dives a day you might be grateful for a light sweater and a pair of joggers to change into after your shower. Also, malaria is prevalent in Raja Ampat so protect your skin from mosquito bites by covering up, especially in the early morning and around dusk.
• Flip flops will be your go-to shoes. But consider packing sturdy sandals or sneakers for hiking up to view points or waterfalls. Unless you are planning on trekking a lot you shouldn’t need hiking shoes.
As we mentioned, Sorong and Waisai will have basic supplies. However, listed below are some products you won’t be able to find and other things we suggest to pack for your Raja Ampat trip.
• Reef safe sunscreen. You won’t be able to find any sunscreen in Sorong or Waisai. When it comes to protecting the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs, we can’t stress enough how important is to wear reef safe sunscreen while in Raja Ampat. Check out this website to learn more about the harmful effects of non reef safe sunscreen on coral reefs. We have small bottles of reef safe sunscreen for sale, but please remember that our resources are limited.
• Other biodegradable and reef safe products. We advocate for using products that don’t harm the environment no matter where we are in the world. But we have to believe this is especially important in a place like Raja Ampat. Please try to bring shampoos, soaps and other products that are biodegradable. We love Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap because you can use it in so many different ways. You can also make homemade products--there are plenty of blogs and websites online that offer effective recipes for environmentally friendly products you can make at home.
• Mosquito repellent. There is malaria in Raja Ampat, so make sure to take the proper steps to protect yourself! Natural repellent works well for some people but not for others. Before arriving, consider talking to your doctor about taking anti malarial medication.
• First aid kit. There are pharmacies in Sorong and Waisai but they won’t have all of the supplies you’re used to buying back home. And it’s not always convenient or cheap to arrange a boat transfer to Waisai from one of the small islands of Raja Ampat if you suddenly need first aid supplies.
• FYI for women: there are no tampons available for purchase in Waisai, Sorong, or Makassar (where you might have a layover). You can only buy sanitary pads.
Electronics and other gear
We have a hunch that you'll find Raja Ampat one of the most stunning places you've ever been. So we imagine you'll be out and exploring and taking plenty of photos and videos while you're there. Make sure to come prepared with all of the gear--and the gadgets to keep them charged--to totally enjoy Raja Ampat's nature, capture beautiful moments and be safe while doing so.
• Travel Adapter. Unless you're from Europe (apart from Great Britain), you'll need to bring a travel adapter. The power sockets in Raja Ampat are compatible with the round 2-prong plugs most common in Europe.
• Rechargeable flashlight. Avoid the possibility of throwing away batteries in Raja Ampat because they won’t be disposed of properly. Either bring rechargeable batteries or bring a flashlight that you can charge mechanically by winding its handle. A flashlight will come in handy in a power outage or during certain activities, such as when a sunset hike takes longer than planned!
• Headlamp. You’ll be grateful to have this when you’re wandering to the outdoor bathroom at your homestay at 3 a.m. after the generator has shut off, or when you’re hiking up to see birds-of-paradise before the sun has come up. Just make sure to bring any used batteries back home with you to dispose of.
• Solar charger. Might as well put the super powerful sun in Raja Ampat to use. This is our favorite solar charger.
• Power bank. Another handy electronic to have around when you can only charge phones for six hours a day.
• GoPro or underwater camera gear. The health and variety of the coral reef is astounding! Not to mention the abundance of reef fish and pelagic species like reef sharks. Capturing such encounters are priceless. Just don’t forget to pack your gear in waterproof bags and bring extra SD cards to store your photos and videos.
• Snorkel gear. You can rent snorkel gear from us and other homestays. But it’s more affordable and comfortable to bring your own gear! Bring fins as the current can be strong in Raja Ampat (though beginners shouldn’t be scared off from visiting). And we recommend buying good quality gear. It will last you many years and make your experience in the water so much better.
• Dive gear. We offer 100.000 IDR discount on each dive for divers who pack their own gear (minimum BCD and regulator). Having your own gear makes diving all the more enjoyable. Most airlines within Indonesia offer travelers a free extra 10 kilos for sporting gear--make sure to check this on the airline’s website before booking. We do have high quality dive equipment available for rent for those who need it!
Environmentally Friendly Items to Pack
If you plan properly and bring the necessary supplies, you can greatly reduce the amount of waste you generate in Indonesia and prevent toxic substances to leech into the environment. Here are some things we highly suggest you gather at home (since they may be expensive or impossible to buy in Indonesia) and bring with you.
• Reusable water bottle. You shouldn’t drink from the tap in most places in Indonesia. However, many hotels provide you with large water dispensers and all of the homestays in Raja Ampat have water dispensers in the dining rooms. You can buy reusable water bottles in West Papua and other parts of Indonesia but we find them to be expensive and often made with plastic material we’re almost certain contains BPA, so we suggest bringing a high quality one from home.
• Reusable straw. If you’re a big fan of drinking from a straw, but not of the dismal impact plastic ones have on wildlife and the environment, bring your own reusable straw with you. You’ll have to ask for no straw when ordering a drink in every local warung in Indonesia or else they will bring you a plastic one. Here’s how you say “I don’t want a straw” in Indonesian: “Saya tidak mau sedotan.” The homestays don’t give out plastic straws, but if you buy a young coconut to drink at the famous Piaynemo viewpoint they will offer you one.
• Reusable bags. Even when you buy one single item in any store in Indonesia, the clerk’s first impulse is to stuff it in a plastic bag. Bring your own bag when shopping and make sure to smile and show the clerk how happy you are to not use plastic. We always say something like “I don’t use plastic bags. There is already so much plastic everywhere,” with a smile. If you want to say the same thing in Indonesian you can say: “Saya tidak pakai plastik. Sudah ada banyak plastik dimana mana.”
• Reusable containers. One of the best things about traveling in Indonesia is the cheap and delicious street food. Unfortunately, most of it comes in environmentally toxic disposable packaging. Don’t be fooled by the brown paper they often use for holding food like nasi campur; they are lined in plastic. Bring along containers with you so that you can take away your street food and leftover food from restaurants. You can also use them to hold snacks like fruits, nuts and other healthy local foods so you can avoid buying packaged and preserved snacks from the store. Putting any snacks you have in this reusable container will also keep rats away from your bungalow at night.
Snacks and Drinks
If you’re someone who needs certain snacks or drinks everyday bring them with you to the islands. In the local villages you should be able to find some cookies, chips, soda and sometimes beer. We recommend going to a store in Sorong if you want to buy some beer and bring it back to the island with you as it’s much cheaper (check out Saga market or a store called Drinks). Most homestays leave out cakes or fruit during the day for their guests to snack on. Normally one type of fruit is served with each meal, usually bananas, papaya or watermelon. If you’d like to buy more fruit to bring to the homestay, go to the “pasar” in Waisai before you leave for the islands. Just ask the captain from the homestay to wait for you in the harbor and you can take an “ojek” motorbike taxi to the pasar for around 20.000 IDR.
One of the beautiful things about traveling in Raja Ampat is how remote it is and how far away you are from the comfort and convenience most people have access to in Western countries. It disconnects you from television and other technology and teaches you how little you really need to be happy. If you’re only spending a few weeks in Raja Ampat, we highly recommend bringing books, a deck of cards and maybe a sketch pad if you’re artistic, to keep you occupied between activities. Netflix will be there waiting for you when you return home, right?
If you have any other questions about what to bring with you to Raja Ampat ask us! If you’d like to help us with the projects we do at the Yenbuba Elementary School, you could bring over some supplies for us. We particularly need garbage bags and gloves for beach cleanups as they are very expensive and hard to find in Waisai and Sorong. We also give out prizes for certain activities we do and love to hand out reusable items such as water bottles, metal or glass straws and canvas or cloth bags. Other school items such as pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, colored pencils and notebooks are also appreciated.