A scuba diver's paradise
Photo by John Haskew
Raja Ampat Overview
Raja Ampat is an archipelago made up of 1,500 islands in Eastern Indonesia, and is called " the last paradise" for a reason. It's extremely remote and therefore one of those almost secret places where not many tourists go and nature on land and underwater thrives. Raja Ampat is literally the heart of the Coral Triangle (which is the heart of the world's richest coral reefs). It offers the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, with more than 600 species of coral and 1,437 species of fish. It was the first area in the Coral Triangle to create a sanctuary for its sharks and rays, and has more than 12 Marine Protected Areas. It has truly unprecedented collaboration between its local communities, government agencies, scientific and academic groups and conservation organizations that are working to preserve such a gem of a location.
Raja Ampat is basically synonymous with nature. The diverse species of marine plants and animals is how it gained its reputation, but the wildlife on land that you can encounter, such as the cuscus and multiple birds-of paradise, are spectacular too. Hire a local guide to take you trekking and even camping through the lush jungles to ancient cultural sites. And did we mention that the white sand beaches and picture-worthy sand bars you can splash around in during low tide are all part of the experience?
Many people choose to stay on liveaboards to explore around the islands, which are expensive but fantastic. Any of the homestays will give you simple but authentically beautiful accommodation. Many of the bungalows are set above the water, so you can fall asleep the sound of gentle waves lapping beneath you. Visit a local village to see traditional Papuan culture or check out a local pearl farm or weaving center. No matter what you do during your Raja Ampat vacation you'll leave much more relaxed, and probably a little bit more bronzed, than you were before arriving.
Mostly sunny all year with an average daily maximum of 31°C (89°F) and an average nightly minimum of 25°C (78°F) and 83% humidity. Windy season is June to September. There is no true rainy season; only random showers that usually last a few hours.
best time to visit
There is no “off-season." You can enjoy amazing conditions on land and in the water all year. However, if you plan on doing a lot of boating around to see different sights, avoid windy season. Manta season is generally December through March.
Scuba diving in Raja Ampat
If you're a scuba fanatic you've probably already heard of Raja Ampat. This dive destination is truly unique, offering the highest coral reef biodiversity in the world. It's most famous dive site is Cape Kri, where scientists have counted 374 fish species in one dive--higher than any other dive site in the world.
Dive season is year-round in Raja Ampat, but the best time to dive is during the dry season and when it's not windy from October May. Rain isn't much of an issue in Raja Ampat since showers are inconsistent and usually only last a few hours. Windy season can be make the surface quite choppy, especially during the morning. However, you can usually always find a dive site relatively nearby to your homestay with good conditions. In Raja Ampat, the sea temperature is between 28-30°C, so usually a 3mm shorty wetsuit is all you need.
In Raja Ampat you can find all sorts of sea life from reef fish, various sea turtles and all sorts of macro life. The more unique creatures include the pygmy seahorse, blue-ring octopus, wobbegong shark, walking shark, manta rays and, if you're really lucky, the shy sea grass eating dugong.
Calm surf, except during windy season
Can be very strong and fast-changing currents
Epicenter of Coral Triangle; more than 600 species of coral and 1,426 species of fish
Great dive location for pelagic creatures like Manta Rays and Blacktip Reef Shark
Amazing macro life
Not a deep diving location; most dives are above 25 meters
Most dive sites are in Central and South Raja Ampat