Miyo, fascinated by the life of the coral reef. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Miyo, fascinated by the life of the coral reef. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Papua, diving into another world


  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Papua, Papua in Indonesian. A name full of jungles and beaches, exuberant coral and giant fish. Another world... that filled me with wonder. Welcome to Raja Ampat!

Head to Raja Ampat

March 2012. The Raja Ampat archipelago, the "Four Kings" is a dream I had for a long time. A wild paradise. Unique, still preserved.

UPDATE: as a reminder, this article dates back to 2012... A lot has changed in Raja Ampat since then. Tourism has developed considerably, and some islands are no longer as wild and unspoilt as they once were...

Raja Ampat is an archipelago dotted with verdant islands, some of them unexplored. I spent a dozen days there. Half on a boat, half on land.

The region captivated me. As I said in my previous postI think it is one of my most beautiful trips. I have only one desire, only one idea in my head, since I came back: go back!

The karst islets dot the turquoise water. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.)
Karst islands dot the turquoise water (Raja Ampat. West Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.)

UPDATE : this first trip to Raja Ampat date of March 2012 so, and since then I've been back... several times!!!! 🤗 I'll put the links to my other trips below :

→ 2012 - July: Alor + Raja Ampat
→ 2015 - January: Raja Ampat - stay on Kri Island
→ 2015 - October: Banda - Raja Ampat cruise aboard the Waow
→ 2016 - July: Komodo + Raja Ampat


But West Papua is far away. A long way. It's deep in Indonesia, in the very east of the archipelago. And in 2012, it takes several flights to reach Sorong, the "capital"...

Upon arrival at the tiny Sorong Airport [UPDATE: there is now a new, larger and more modern airport]It's already hot. It's only 7am, but it's a mad rush. I find the air more sticky than in Sulawesi, moister than in Bali. Papua is very tropical, very humid. We're practically on the equator.

Sorong Airport. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Porters in blue and red shirts rush over the luggage as it is deposited. Men whose physical appearance is anything but Asian... This is West Papua: Melanesia, Oceania. Although the region came under the authority of Indonesia in the 1960s, it's not Asia at all...

A little historical-political reminder: the western half of the island of New Guinea, once colonized by the Dutch, was annexed by Indonesia in 1963. The Indonesians acted as invaders and the army committed massacres. A Papuan separatist movement continues to take action and the Indonesian authorities do not hesitate to brutally repress any demonstration, even peaceful ones. Just recently, in 2017, almost twenty years after the Biak massacre (1998), the Indonesian military and police have carried out mass arrests in Nabire and Sentani, whilea petition for West Papua is trying to make the voice of Papuans heard on the international scene. I close the parenthesis, but when you go there as a tourist, you must be aware that the region is unstable and not quite a "paradise" for everyone...

When the Sriwijaya Air plane starts its descent, after having passed the clouds, we see some islets surrounded by turquoise water.

Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Then comes the coast and the shacks on stilts of Sorong. Seen from above, a heap of rusty sheet metal roofs. In the harbor, many cargo ships, some abandoned, also rusting.

Sorong, Papua, Indonesia. March 2012.
The port of Sorong. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

I didn't see much of Sorong, which I only passed through on the way there and back, like most tourists who come here.

A shapeless town, criss-crossed by more or less vague roads, alternating miserable shacks and concrete buildings. There's nothing really attractive about it, apart from the smiles on the faces of the kids playing and the passers-by watching you sail out to sea. It's an industrial and mining port in full development. And the gateway to Raja Ampat.


The wonderment comes a little later...

First on the bridge of the Black MantaI was transferred to the diving boat with other pale faces from the plane.

Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Then under the sea, where we will make bubbles with the fish in water at 29 ° C.

Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Then, a few days later, from the pontoon of the magnificent Sorido Bay Resortwhere I will have the chance to extend my stay...

On the dock of Sorido Bay Resort. Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Operation "I am a princess

That's right! When I travel to Indonesia, I metamorphose into a princess... 😅 I'd already been lucky enough to enjoy a dive cruise boat all to myself back in 2011, the Pascha, in Komodo. Once again, for this stay in Raja Ampat, I had a huge stroke of luck...

I had booked a bungalow at the Kri Eco Resortto extend my stay after my cruise. And it's on the Black MantaBetween two dives, I learn the good news: the Kri Eco is under maintenance, I will be upgraded, free of charge, to the much more elegant Sorido Bay Resort neighboring Papua Diving.

A princess, I tell you! ☺️ But I'll tell you more in a future post...

The article is online! Read here → Live my life as a princess in Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat on a cruise

Let's go back on the boat, for the first part of this trip to Raja Ampat ...

On the Black MantaWe are 16 divers. A group of 14 Americans, who already know each other. And then my new friend, Miyo, a Japanese woman who lives in Bangkok, a flight attendant by profession, and who is like me a diving fanatic.

Miyo. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

I am delighted to learn that I share my cabin with her. We met at the airport in Makassar, at 4am. With our boarding passes in hand, we were looking for the right gate for our flight, a little confused by the number on the board, the number on the boarding-pass and the number of the sound announcement which were not the same... We engaged the conversation and quickly sympathized, by discovering that we were both going diving, and on the same boat!

The "cruise-leader" of the Black Manta is a Frenchman, Cédric Lesenéchal. Adorable, calm and patient, all smiles, he takes care to put everyone at ease. At the time of the diving briefings, we forget the traditional white board. His thing is to make 3D models of the sites!

On the table, he lays bottles of ketchup and soya, places a jar, spreads a towel on it to create a relief, decorates the landscape with some accessories: felt pens, toothpicks, salt shaker... And that's it, work!

On the Black Manta. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

His greatest success: the briefing for the dives at "Manta Spa", the site where dozens of mantas come to swirl in the divers' bubbles.

See the video and photos here → Manta Spa

Cedric makes mini-mantas in triangle-folded paper towels, with a toothpick piqued in it. Americans love it. Me too.

We will love even more when we will see the real mantas... Not at all format "paper napkin", even that they do not hold in the frame of the photos!

Manta ray. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

In short, the atmosphere is good. The groups are small (4 people). Miyo takes pictures underwater, like me. We drink Bintang, the Indonesian beer, in the evening. The staff of the boat is very careful. Everything is perfect.

And most importantly, the dives are great. Raja Ampat now ranks number 1 in my top 3 Asian sites, ahead of Komodo and Sipadan ...

The pictures!

The proof in pictures... I had already posted a first series of sub pictures, here :

Rajat Ampat, the wild archipelago

Here's another sample, taken from the 2,383 photos and videos I brought back from Raja Ampat. As usual, a click on the image displays it in a larger format, and you can then navigate from one to the other using the keyboard arrows.

I knew, having read about it, that the underwater "biodiversity" was exceptional in Raja Ampat. Seeing it with your own eyes is something else. Another world, really...

Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Bamboo shark. Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Nudibranch. Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Barracudas. Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Diving in Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.
Manta rays. Raja Ampat. Papua, Indonesia. March 2012.

To see all the articles about my dives at Raja Ampat : one click here !

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

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    1. Yes, not only is it far (and long, to get there), but I think it's not really the kind of place to take young children. If you have a health problem, there are no medical facilities close by... Better wait until your little one is a little older!

  1. I love your last picture with the ray. You had already made us drool by telling us that you were going there, your discovery of a "less" explored paradise is confirmed.
    I'm writing it down! Don't you have a top 10 dive spots? 😉

    1. Wait until you see the other pictures and especially the videos of the stingrays at "Manta Spa"... Spectacular!!!

      My top 10 dive sites in Asia? Feeling, quick, that's what it would give:
      1. Raja Ampat
      2. Komodo
      3. Sipadan + Mabul
      4. North Sulawesi (Bunaken + Bangka + Lembeh)
      5. Pulau Weh
      6. Bali (Tulamben / Amed + Nusa Penisa / Lembongan + Pemuteran / Menjangan)
      7. Derawan + Sangalaki + Kakaban (not seen Maratua)
      8. Similan Islands + Richelieu Rock + Koh Bon
      9. Perhentian + Redang
      10. Ko Phi Phi Island + Hin Dong / Hin Muang

      I'll have to do a post on that some day... 😉

      I also notice that this "top" that I give you just like that, at the beginning, corresponds more or less to my progressive discovery of the sites (from 10 to 1) : so, in fact, I am getting more and more powerful as the years go by, or I am each year even more amazed by the new discovered sites...

      Oh, and I realize that I forgot the Togian Islands (Sulawesi), but the sites where I had dived did not leave me as strong an impression as others, with hindsight (a lot of dead coral and damage due to dynamite fishing in the area). Maybe it has been better since then?

      As for Koh Tao, where I used to dive a lot in my early days, I would still add it somewhere, for Chumphon + Southwest Pinnacle + Sail Rock... But it's been a while since I went there, so I don't really know in what state the sites are today.

    2. it's funny I did it in the same order:
      10 PhiPhi
      9 Perhentian
      6 Bali
      4 North Sulawesi to follow this summer
      and the desire to do Komodo and Sipadan for the next stays in Indonesia


    3. Oh, there ...

      I stop you right now ...

      On the Top 10 in Asia...you forget among the most beautiful spots. Go to the east of Sulawesia (tukangbesi). Much more impressive than Raja.

      But, Corinne, when you go as far as Papua (Paris-Singapore-Makassar and Sorong), is it really still Asia? For me we are in Oceania and then, we have to count with New Caledonia, Vanuatu Fiji, Polynesia and there believe me, you will totally question this top 10!

    4. @Ben:
      Ah, there there... You give me well envy, I do not know yet this corner off Sulawesi... I note on the "to-do-list"!!! 😉

      And you are right, we are not in Asia anymore, even if this part of Papua is "Indonesian"... And as I tend to go more and more to the East, it shouldn't take long before I end up discovering another kind of "mega top diving"...

    5. Damn right Raja Ampat is queen pawn to Komodo in your rankings!? You could put the top ten on the edge of the 😉 website.

      From your ranking I saw Komodo, Sipadan, Mabul, Bali (Nusa Lembongan) more or less in detail, although in a more ephemeral way than you who really travel to dive. Champhon and Sail Rock had left me an excellent impression, largely at the level of the other sites, although very different!

    6. Yes totally !!! Raja Ampat in front of Komodo !!!
      I think I'll do a little article one of these days, about my personal and subjective ranking of dive sites in Asia... 😉

    7. about the top 10
      for Thailand, I found a lot of dead corals in the whole (the water is warm between 30 and 31°C) 😥 , on the Hin it is especially very beautiful thanks to the red alcyons.....
      No place in the Visayas in your top ??
      I want to try Sipadan next year... 🙂

    8. @Laurence: yes, I've heard that the sites in Thailand have deteriorated quite a bit, but it's been a while since I've been there... Some sites are still beautiful, fortunately.
      For this "top", I did it in a hurry, there are some things missing, including the Philippines, of course !!! I'll do a real post on my favorite dive sites one of these days... As for Sipadan, yes, it's absolutely a must see!!! 🙂

    9. Mmmm... I don't know enough about the sites in the Philippines, to tell the truth. I have only been there once, in 2008. I had been enchanted during my trip there, especially by the sites around Dumaguete. A lot of new nudibranchs, for me, at that time. But as far as macro is concerned, sites like Lembeh exceed, in my eyes, what can be observed in the Philippines.

      And since then, I discovered other bottoms that surpass in my memory the impression left by the Philippines... I would have to go back and discover other dive sites, especially Tubbataha Reef and Moalboal / Pescador Island...

    1. I have to sort and edit all this... I'll have to wait a bit. But I have some nice little rushes, I think...

    1. Yes, that's exactly it: we're in for a treat!
      I can't believe it either, to have seen all this... The sites are extraordinary, beyond what I expected.

  2. Hello,

    It is always with great interest that I read your articles. Having dived in Raja Ampat last year (northern area - Dampier Strait), I would like if it is possible to have more information about your stay. With the cruise, did you dive in the south (Misool, Daram, Boo, ...) and if so, what are the differences between the north and the south? Still in the south, did you test the "blue mangrove" dives? It would be a singularity of the area, the coral grows on the feet of the mangrove, but I have never been able to get a more complete information on the difference between blue and green mangrove.

    Considering the difficult access (many flights, few connections) and the high budget, I hesitate to go back to Raja Ampat or to discover Komodo. Especially since I have a preference for stays rather than cruises. Even if your preference is for Raja Ampat, could you mention some notable differences between the two regions? Wildlife biodiversity and quantity? Current?

    To complete your information on Raja Ampat, I found in Lembeh (when I was looking for it in Europe, this book was not distributed) a small guide on the diving sites of Raja Ampat, authors: Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock, Diving Indonesia's Raja ampat, 2009, Saritaksu editions, 145 pages in English, with description of the sites, photos and some diagrams).

    thank you for your reply

    1. Hi Myriam,

      The cruise I did with the Black Manta was a short one, and therefore only in the north. So I don't know the southern part of the archipelago (Misool, etc.) and I can't give you a comparison... After the cruise, I stayed one week at the Sorido Bay Resort (Kri Island, located in the north near Pantar Island, in the middle of the most interesting sites). Like you, I prefer to be based on land rather than on a boat. To enjoy the northern sites of Raja Ampat, I think that the cruise is not essential, that it is more pleasant to be in a resort.

      Both during the cruise and with the resort, I was able to discover sites that probably correspond to what you call "blue mangrove" (I didn't know the expression). I will post an article about it soon (and I will send you one or two pictures by email to show you). It is really amazing, indeed: coral grows at the foot of trees, whose roots can be seen underwater or the reflection of the foliage on the surface. We snorkeled in a mangrove whose name I did not remember with the Black Manta, and I also dived at the site called "The Passage" with the resort. I think that the "green mangrove" corresponds to a more traditional type of mangrove (as we can also see in Raja Ampat), with these species of large grass-algae covering the bottom, scattered with vegetal debris which shelter a whole small friendly fauna.

      - Contrary to North Raja Ampat, to enjoy the sites of Komodo, it seems preferable to be on a cruise (as far as I can tell). The interesting sites of Komodo are quite far from Labuan Bajo and the islands close to Labuan Bajo where there are some resorts.
      - Komodo made a strong impression on me regarding the density of fish on the sites. The profusion of life is really spectacular (like in Batu Bolong, for example). Raja Ampat offers spectacular sites too (like Blue Magic). However, I have the feeling that in Raja Ampat the biodiversity and the variety of species represented is superior: in addition to the usual rich tropical fauna, I saw nudibranchs never seen before, the famous spotted carpet shark (wobbegong, never seen elsewhere, and encountered on several dives), bamboo sharks, mantas, including on sites not called "Manta Point", white tip sharks, turtles, etc. It is not for nothing that so many scientific expeditions come to Raja Ampat. They continue, even today, to discover new species... The coral also seemed to me more beautiful in Raja Ampat than in Komodo.
      - I found the sites of Komodo more "sportive" to dive, overall, than those of Raja Ampat. The currents are really impressive, even a little bit scary for my taste (and when you are encumbered with a camera box like me, you are even more sensitive to the violence of the current). I found the current more "manageable" in Raja Ampat, where I used my hook less often than in Komodo. But well, all that depends on a lot of factors (Moon, tide, seasons, choice of sites, etc.).
      - Komodo is also a bit more frequented by dive boats than Raja Ampat, it seems to me (although it is very quiet, compared to Thailand or other very touristy dive sites). It happens sometimes that we are not alone on the sites (which never happened to me in Raja Ampat).
      - As far as landscapes and land visits are concerned, the islands of Komodo are less "beautiful" in my eyes (but this is obviously very subjective) than those of Raja Ampat: the first ones are very dry, the second ones are covered with jungle. In Komodo, of course, you can see the impressive dragons of the same name (giant lizards). In Raja Ampat, nature lovers will be able to observe a lot of unusual creatures: birds of paradise, couscous, varans, etc.
      - Price: Komodo is expensive too, but still more affordable than Raja Ampat, I think. It takes a lot of money to dive in Papua... I must admit that it is one of the most expensive trips I have ever done.

      — J’ai celui que vous citez, “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat : The Planet’s Most Bio-diverse Reefs”, par Jones & Simlock, ainsi qu’un autre qui fait référence, par les mêmes auteurs : “Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape”.
      - Both are on sale at the bookstore in the airport of Bali. I bought them on my way back home and I haven't even found the time to dive into them seriously yet...

      - If you have never dived in Komodo before, I would recommend you to go there, without hesitation. It is really worth it! The sites are exceptional. And possibly to come back later, during a next trip, to Raja Ampat...
      - I will gradually complete my impressions of Raja Ampat with new articles, in the coming weeks, which will be gathered at the end of this link:
      - On Komodo, if you have not already read them, you will find my articles, with photos and videos, gathered here:

      Here ! So, Komodo or Raja Ampat? Hard to choose, I know ...

  3. Hey there ... 😮 ... You finally did it! 😉
    So it's REALLY worth it, I mean really, really worth it... all things considered with the added bonus of the trip? The local experience and not just the cruise? I'm still looking for the resort that will be enough for everyone and not too expensive, of course Sorido would have been number 1 on my list (lucky girl!). Have you heard good or bad things about the new inexpensive Waiwo dive resort and other reasonably priced challengers?

    Otherwise on your list... I pretty much agree (except for Raja Ampat obviously... 🙄 ). Maybe I'll meander on Weh which I think is too high up and not worth half a Bali, according to my own references.
    But me, I have my secret boot in number 1...hehehe... 😛 (your next discovery?)...I came back in February, even better than last year, minimum one rhinopias per dive!!! 😆
    (PS: and Maumere, you forgot Maumere in your rankings? 7th place no?)

    1. @ Wet & Sea / Ludovic: Yes, yes, yes... I did it!!! Yes, yes, yes, it is REALLY worth it!!! 😀

      So, yes, it's true, Raja Ampat is expensive if you want both a little comfort and a correct diving structure... And yes, I studied the case of the other resorts, including those you mention, before leaving, but I didn't find much feedback or reports... (considering the number of questions I also receive by email, I think I'll make a post later which will compile all what I found during my research before leaving)

      And no, it's a bit of a pity, I didn't have so much time to really enjoy the earthly pleasures of the trip (but I'm going to make up for it one day very soon, believe me, I'm not going to stop here)...

      So, all things considered? All things considered, I think I have to go back. It's already been planned. Hey, hey... 😛

      As for my "top of Asia" list, it needs to be refined, of course. It was just a first draft, like this... And it's true that I forgot Maumere, which would be good where you say. (It will end up in the top 15, this case, or even in the top 20...) As for Weh, I don't quite agree with you... The sites are great. But less "easy" without doubt (depth, current). But well... We won't go overboard, since I can't help myself, at each of my trips or almost, to go back to Bali to make a little splash on the way... (Eh, why deprive yourself, if it's on the road? 😆 )

      As for your secret boot full of rhinopias, count me in to hang out there one of these days. Next year, most likely... Ambon and Moluccas, if I'm not mistaken 😉

  4. 2383 pictures and videos!
    But I'm a masochist coming to your site... it only makes me want to change my non-itinerary again and stay in the water for a month to pass my Dive Master. One day, one day.

    Thank you for sharing your discoveries.


    1. @Laurence: Don't be fooled, the water was not so "clear"... A lot of plankton in suspension, which restricts a little the visibility. But who says plankton, says fish in abundance! Afterwards, for the pictures, it is the quality of the lenses and the settings that make the difference...

  5. Hi Princess,
    You're the one telling us: you have a monster bowl!...
    Luck comes to those who go to get it, so congratulations!
    Thank you again for these stories and photos that make you dream. We are waiting for the videos ...

    1. @Patrice: that's right, I was like a real princess! Patience for the rest, the videos are in progress... 😉

  6. Good evening Corinne. Thank you for this great post... I also stayed at the Kri Eco resort (and not at the Sorido Bay resort, I didn't have your chance ;-)) and just reading your post gives me goosebumps so much this place has deeply marked me... I have dived a lot in Asia but Raja Ampat is just (with Komodo) really special and exceptional. We feel like pioneers, privileged to be able to admire this nature still in its virgin state. I only dream to go back there and this time in Liveboard if possible to go to Wayag Island. Let's hope that Raja Ampat remains for a long time this timeless island of communion with Nature. I still see myself at Manta Sandy lying on the sand with the Manta rays flying all around... "The Passage" is also fantastic!

  7. Hello Corinne,

    I'm back from a few days in Murex Bangka, following your (and Luko/Ludo's) precious advice. Thank you again for your messages that allowed us to take the Murex option. Really, it was super TOP! From the point of view of the dives as well as from the point of view of the change of scenery and the kindness of the staff.

    Then, a few days in Lembeh with a guide who gave us news of another guide, Gayus, who works on the Black Manta. Did you dive with him? We had him in Lembeh 6 years ago, he must have weighed 50kgs all wet. And now, according to the information, he is a bit thicker 😛 ... Anyway, he is still as good as a guide?

    1. @Fred: ah, yes! What good memories at Murex Bangka. My posts on this subject are here:

      I don't remember a "Gayus" on the Black Manta... At the same time, crews rotate, on cruises, between the Raja Ampat period and the Komodo period, and then there are also vacation periods. Or else he was called something else...

  8. Ah there, Raja Ampat ...
    Now that you did that, what's left? The Galapagos?
    Otherwise I'm happy I made 4 sites of your top 10! Ultra fan of Komodo! I dream of going there in February (when there are hundreds of mantas coming).

  9. Hello Corinne.
    I just found and read your story about Raja, and I am still amazed.
    In fact, I will be on Kri Eco next February, and I think I do not regret the destination.
    For comparison with the Philippines, I'll see, after doing Moalboal, Apo and Negros
    For the entry visa to Papua and the "Rajat pass", did you take them at your arrival at Sorong airport, or was it included in your diving package?
    If you have any information or advice on things to see or to avoid on Kri, don't hesitate.
    Bravo for your stories, and good bubbles to you

    1. @Claude: I'm sure you'll come back delighted! It has nothing to do with the Philippines, diving is really above...

      For the Raja Ampat pass (valid for one year) and the travel permit, it is the resort that takes care of that. Be careful, the price of the pass has or will double, it will be around 1 million rupiah from now on. It was not included in my cruise with the Black Manta, I paid the corresponding amount in addition. The travel permit is not paid, it's just paperwork.

      The best thing to do is to send an email to Papua Diving to get more information...

      I will continue to tell about Raja Ampat in the coming weeks, as I went back there in July 2012... To be continued soon at the end of this link :