Raja Ampat diving
Raja Ampat (or the Four Kings) is an archipelago consisting of the islands of Misoool, Salawati, Batanta, and Wiageo which are surrounded by over 1,500 small islands and cays. Formerly known as Irian Jaya, this area is now part of the newly named West Papua province of Indonesia and is located on the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula, on the island of New Guinea.
Put simply, Raja Ampat could quite possibly be the best diving in the world. It certainly is the world’s most bio diverse marine region with more recorded fish, coral and mollusc species than anywhere else on Earth. The variety of marine life can be staggering. Some areas boast enormous schools of fish and regular sightings of sharks, such as wobbegongs. In Mansuar, you may encounter large groups of manta rays and turtles. From the boat and often close to shore you may get the chance to don your snorkelling gear for some unforgettable interaction with resident pods of dolphins or even some passing whales. Other highlights include the innumerable war wrecks, both ships and planes (with new wrecks being discovered constantly).
The reefs of Raja Ampat are just as varied as the marine life. There are vertical walls, reef flats, slopes, sea mounts, mucky mangroves, lagoons and pinnacles. The reefs are in pristine condition with miles of perfect hard corals and many varied colourful species of soft corals. The diving is predominantly drift dives due to the moderate prevalent currents in the area which provide nutrients for the myriad fish and coral. Currents are average to moderate and vary from none to very strong. Visibility is normally very good but can vary and is normally at its best earlier in the day so your pre-breakfast dives are not to be slept through!
This is truly “Frontier Diving”. Topside the beautiful islands stretch as far as you can see and are largely uninhabited. At night the lights of local fishing boats twinkle in the dark along the few inhabited shorelines while in more remote areas you may only see a distant spec of light over the entire horizon.
Not many liveaboards dive the Raja Ampat area, making this adventure even more unique and special.
Raja Ampat has a high season from October to May and weirdly enough it is during their rainy season due to the winds in the dry season making parts of the park inaccessable. The rainy season should not be mis-construed though. It is generally mostly a shower in the late afternoon and evening and most of the time the days are nice, wind is minimal and the skys are generally clear or slightly over cast. The seas are calmer at this time of the year as the oppposite season has winds that kick up waves and make it very difficult to dive the more exposed sites in the Southern part of Raja Ampat. The water temperature stays around the 27-30 degrees celcius mark all year round.
Recently due to the popularity of Raja Ampat a lot of boats have been running trips in the so called low season but this is also the dry season and so promotes nicer weather and better visibility but the trade of is that only the northern more sheltered part of the park is accessable but as the area is so vast and there are so many quality dive sites the reports from these northern trips have been glowing so far.
How to get to Raja Ampat
Sorong is the harbour town in West Papua and the normal departure point to dive Raja Ampat. If you are unsure of how to get to Sorong to start your trip it will depend on where your international flight into Indonesia is landing. We recommend Jakarta or Bali to make your entry point into Indonesia amnd each has it’s pros and cons.
From Jakarta to Sorong most flights route through Makassar (UPG) in South Sulawesi and are over night flights arriving in the morning perfect for a pick up by your liveaboard crew at the airport. The downside of this is that you may be awake most of the night before your board the liveaboard but most boats cruise only on the first day so you can catch up on your sleep during the day.
Flights from Bali are not quite so simple and cannot be done in one day, you will need to fly from Bali to UPG the day before your liveaboard and over night in Makassar and the continue on with the UPG to Sorong flight the following morning, the day of your liveaboard departure, and this ends up being perfect tining to be picked up on your arrival in Sorong at the airport to then be taken to the boat. This takes longer but you will arrive more refreshed than the Jakarta rooute and of course you could always factor in a stay in Bali before or after your trip.
In the past it has not been possible for someone outside of Indonesia to purchase domestic flights in Indonesia so these can be purchased for you by us, if you would like, and added to your invoice. It will be about $650 return dependant on exchange rates, availability and where your entry airport is in Indonesia. The cost of the domestic flights are not included in the trip price.
Recently Garuda, our recommended airline, has made it possible to purchase their tickets online and we recommend you take this approach as it is often cheaper than the set price we have to charge. Other airlines are cheaper but are not so trustworthy or have such good luggage allowances. Again, we highly recommend trip as well as diving insurance just in case something were to go wrong with your flights.
Premier liveaboard diving and its local flight agent can purchase the tickets on your behalf, however, in doing so, Premier liveaboard diving is only acting as an agent for the airline and is not responsible for, and can accept no responsibility for, cancellations, delays, schedule changes, or problems caused by the air carrier. We highly recommend trip interruption and cancellation insurance.