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 made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Papua, Papua in Indonesian. A name full of jungles and beaches, exuberant coral and giant fish. Another world ... which amazed me.

Head to Raja Ampat

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

How do I get to Raja Ampat? I explain everything and I have compiled all the useful information in the article whose link I put below. I have updated and enriched it over the years and my various trips to Raja Ampat (it's official, it's now my favorite diving spot in the Indo-Pacific zone):
→ Raja Ampat: practical information to organize your trip

Raja Ampat is an archipelago strewn with verdant islands, unexplored for some. I spent about ten days there. Half on one boat, the other half on the ground.

The place overwhelmed me. As I said in my previous post...I think it's one of my best trips ever. I have only one desire, only one idea in mind, since I came back: to go back!

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

UPDATE : this first trip to Raja Ampat date of March 2012 and, since then, I've been back there... many times!!!! 🤗 I 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 Papua is a long way away. Very far away. It's deep in Indonesia, just east of the archipelago. And we have to investigate several flights to reach Sorong, the "capital"...

→ Read also: practical information to organize your trip to Raja Ampat

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 the hustle and bustle. I think the air is milder than Sulawesi, sweatier than Bali. It is very tropical, very humid, Papua. We are almost on the equator.

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

The porters in blue and red shirts rush to the luggage as it is deposited. Men with very dark skin and frizzy hair. The "natives" really have nothing Asian about them. Their physical appearance reminds me more of the aborigines of Australia, the peoples of the Pacific islands... Yes, here we are in West Papua: it's Melanesia, Oceania. The region may have come under the authority of Indonesia in the 1960s, but 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. Just recently, in 2017, almost twenty years later 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 Papuans' voice heard on the international stage. I'm closing the parenthesis, but when you go there as a tourist, you have to be aware that the region is unstable and not quite a "paradise" for everyone...

When the plane of Sriwijaya Air begins its descent, after passing the clouds, we see some islands surrounded by turquoise water.

Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

Then comes the coast and the stilted huts of Sorong. Seen from above, a pile of roofs of rusted sheets. In the harbor, many freighters, some abandoned, that rust too.

Sorong, Papua, Indonesia. March 2012.

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

I did not see much of Sorong, which I only went through on the way back and forth, like most tourists who come here.

A formless city, crossed by more or less vague roads, alternating miserable huts and rather ugly concrete buildings. Nothing very attractive, except the smiles of kids playing and passers-by watching you go to the sea. It is an industrial and mining port in full development. And the front door for Raja Ampat.


The wonder comes a little later ...

First on the bridge of Black Manta, the divers boat where I was transferred, with other pale faces disembarked 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 Resort, where I will have the chance to extend my stay ...

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

Operation I'm a Princess.

That's right! When I travel to Indonesia, I now metamorphose into a princess. Remember that time I had a boat all to myself, the Pascha, in Komodo ? Once again, for this trip to Raja Ampat, I've had a huge stroke of luck...

I booked a bungalow at Kri Eco Resort, to extend the stay after the cruise. And it's on the Black Mantabetween two dives, that I learn the good news: the Kri Eco is under maintenance, I'm going to be "upgraded", free of charge, to a much more stylish one. Sorido Bay Resort neighbor, who has the same owner.

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

He's on the line! 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 stewardess by profession, and who is like me a dive lover.

Miyo. Papua, Indonesia, March 2012.

I'm glad to hear that I share my cabin with her. We met at Makassar airport at 4am. Our boarding passes in hand, we were looking for the right door for our flight, a little troubled by the number of the table, the number on the boarding-pass and the number of the sound announcement which were not the same... We started the conversation and quickly became friendly, 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 makes sure everyone is at ease. During the diving briefings, we forget the traditional white board. His trick 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.

Its biggest 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'll love it even more when we see the real mantas... Not at all "paper napkin" size, even they don't fit in the picture frame !!!

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

In short, the atmosphere is good. The palanquées are small groups of four. Miyo is shooting underwater like me. We drink at the Bintang, the Indonesian beer, in the evening. The staff of the boat is very caring. 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, drawn from the 2383 photos and videos I brought back from Raja Ampat. As usual, a click on the image can display it in large and you can then navigate from one to another with the arrow keys.

I knew from reading it that the underwater "biodiversity" at Raja Ampat was exceptional. 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 go), but I think it's not really the kind of place to bring young kids. If you have a health concern, especially, there are no medical facilities worthy of the name nearby ... Better wait until your little end is a little bigger!

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

    1. Wait to see the other pictures and especially the videos of the rays 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 note that this "top" that I deliver to you like that, the debottled, corresponds to little to my progressive discovery of the sites (10 to 1): so, in fact, I rise in power over the years , or I am even more amazed by the new sites discovered ...

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

      As for Koh Tao, where I dive a lot in my debut, I would add it anyway somewhere, for Chumphon + Southwest Pinnacle + Sail Rock ... But it's been a while since I went there, so I do not know not too much in what state are the sites today.

    2. it's funny I made 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 east to Sulawesie (tukangbesi). Much more impressive than Raja.

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

    4. @Ben:
      Ah, there... You make me feel like it, I don't know this area off Sulawesi yet... I note on the "to-do-list" !!! 😉

      And you're right, we're not in Asia anymore, even if this part of Papua is "Indonesian" ... And as I tend to go further and further east, it should not be. spend a lot of time before I end up discovering another kind of "mega dive top" ...

    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 rankings I have seen Komodo, Sipadan, Mabul, Bali (Nusa Lembongan) more or less in detail, anyway more ephemeral than you who really travel to dive. Champhon and Sail Rock had left me an excellent impression, largely of 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 on 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 heard that the sites of Thailand had deteriorated a lot, overall, but it's been a while since I did not go back there ... Sites are beautiful, thankfully.
      For this "top", I did it in a hurry, some things are missing, including the Philippines, of course !!! I'll make a real post on my favorite dive sites one of these days... As for Sipadan, yes, it's absolutely to discover !!! 🙂

    9. Mmmm ... I do not know enough about the sites in the Philippines, to be honest. I only went once in 2008. I was delighted during my trip there, especially the sites around Dumaguete. Many new nudibranchs, for me, at the time. But macro question, sites like Lembeh exceed, in my eyes, what can be observed in the Philippines.

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

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

    1. Yes, that's exactly it: we take full mirettes !!!
      I can not believe it either, having 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 dive in Raja Ampat last year (north 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, have you tested dives in "blue mangrove"? It would be a singularity of the corner, the coral grows on the feet of the mangrove, but I have never been able to obtain more complete information on the difference between blue and green mangrove.

    Given the lack of access (many flights, few connections) and high budgets, I hesitate to return to Raja Ampat or discover Komodo. Especially since I have a preference for stays rather than cruises. Even if your preference goes to Raja Ampat, could you mention some notable differences between the two regions? Fauna biodiversity and quantity? Current?

    To complete your information on Raja Ampat, I found in Lembeh (when I was looking for a Europe, this book was not distributed) a small guide to the dive 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 sites, photos and some diagrams).

    thank you for your reply

    1. Hi Myriam,

      The cruise I made with the Black Manta was a short cruise, and therefore only in the north. So I do not know the south of the archipelago (Misool, etc.) and I can not give you a comparison ... After the cruise, I stayed a week at Sorido Bay Resort (Kri Island, located in the north near Pantar Island, right 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 North Raja Ampat sites, I think that the cruise is not essential, it is more pleasant to be in a resort.

      Both during the cruise and with the resort, I was able to discover sites corresponding probably to what you call "blue mangrove" (I did not know the expression). I will post an article about it soon (and I will send you one or two photos by email to show you). This is really amazing, indeed: the coral grows at the foot of trees, whose roots are seen under water or the reflection of foliage on the surface. We did some snorkeling in a mangrove, which I did not remember the name with the Black Manta, and I also dived to the site called "The Passage" with the resort. I think that the "green mangrove" is a more traditional type of mangrove (as we also see in Raja Ampat), with these species of large strands of grass-seaweed lining the bottom, dotted with plant debris that shelter a whole nice little fauna.

      - Unlike Raja Ampat North, to take advantage of the Komodo sites, it seems better to be on a cruise (as far as I can judge). The interesting sites of Komodo are quite far from Labuan Bajo and the islands near Labuan Bajo where there are some resorts.
      - Komodo made me feel good about the density of pigeon on the sites. The profusion of life is really spectacular (as in Batu Bolong, for example). Raja Ampat also offers spectacular sites (like Blue Magic). However, I have the feeling that in Raja Ampat the biodiversity and variety of species represented is superior: besides the usual tropical fauna, very rich, I saw nudibranchs never met before, the famous shark carpet spotted (wobbegong, never seen elsewhere, and encountered on several dives), bamboo sharks, mantas including on sites that are 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, still today, to discover new species ... The coral too, seemed to me more beautiful to Raja Ampat than to Komodo.
      - I found the sites of Komodo more "sporty" to dive, globally, than those of Raja Ampat. The currents are really impressive, even a little scary for my taste (and when we are congested with a photo-box like me, we are even more sensitive to the violence of the current). I found the stream generally more "manageable" at Raja Ampat, where I used my hook less often than at Komodo. But, all that depends on a lot of factors (Moon, tide, seasons, choice of sites, etc.).
      - Komodo is also a little more frequented by the diving boats than Raja Ampat, it seems to me (although it is very quiet, compared to Thailand or other places of diving very tourist). Sometimes we are not alone on the sites (which has never happened to Raja Ampat).
      - Side landscapes and land tours, the islands of Komodo are less "beautiful" in my eyes (but it is obviously very subjective) that those of Raja Ampat: the first are very dry, the second 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 various and varied, etc.
      - Price: Komodo, it's expensive too, but still more affordable than Raja Ampat, I think. It takes a great budget to dive in Papua ... I must admit that this is one of the most expensive trips I have ever made.

      - I have the one you quote, "Diving Indonesia 's Raja Ampat: The Planet' s Most Bio - diverse Reefs," by Jones & Simlock, as well as another that refers, by the same authors: "Diving Indonesia 's Bird's Head Seascape" .
      - Both are on sale at the Bali Airport Bookstore. I bought them back and not even found the time to dive seriously in ...

      - If you have never been to Komodo before, I would recommend you to go there without hesitation. It's really worth it! The sites are exceptional. And possibly come back later, on a future 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. Heeeeee... 😮 ...You finally did it! 😉
    Well then it's REALLY worth it, I mean really, really? ... all well weighed with the besides the trip and more? The local experience and not just the cruise? I'm still looking for the resort that will be enough to everyone's taste and not too expensive, of course Sorido would have been number 1 on my list (what lucky!). Have you heard about the new resort not too expensive Waiwo dive resort and other challengers at reasonable prices?

    Otherwise on your list... I'm pretty much in agreement (except for Raja Ampat of course... 🙄 ). Maybe I'll skimp on Weh that I find 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's REALLY worth it!!! 😀

      So, yes, it's true, Raja Ampat, it's expensive if you want both a little comfort and a proper diving structure ... And yes, I've studied the case of other resorts, including those which you speak, before leaving, but I did not find so many returns or reports ... (considering the number of questions that I also receive by email, I think I will make a post later which will compile all that I found during my research before departure).

      And no, it's a shame, I did not have so much time to really enjoy the pleasures and earthly sides of the trip (but I intend to catch up with you very soon, believe me, I'm not going to not stop there) ...

      So, all things considered? All things considered, I figure I got to get back out there. It's already been arranged. Hey, hey... 😛

      As for my list of the "top of the top in Asia", it needs to be fine-tuned, of course. It was just a first draft, just like that... And it's true that I forgot Maumere, who would be nice where you say. (It's going to end up in the top 15, this case, even in the top 20...) As for Weh, I don't quite agree with you... The sites are top. But less "easy" probably (depth, current). But hey... We're not going to skimp, since I can't help, at each of my trips or almost, to go back to Bali for a little splash on the way... (Well, why deprive yourself, if it's on the road? 😆 )

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

  4. 2383 pictures and videos!
    But I'm maso coming to your site ... it gives me only one desire, upset again my non-itinerary and stay a month in the water to spend my Dive Master. One day, one day.

    Thank you for sharing your discoveries.


    1. @Laurence: Think again, the water was not so "clear" ... A lot of plankton in suspension, which restricts visibility a little. But who says plankton, says fish in abundance !!! After, for the photos, it's the quality of the lenses and the settings that make the difference ...

  5. Hi Princess,
    It's you who tells 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: Yes, I was like a real princess! Patience for the continuation, the videos are in progress... 😉

  6. Good evening Corinne. Thank you for this wonderful post ... I also stayed at the Kri Eco Resort (and not the Sorido Bay resort I did not have a chance ;-)) and just read your post I have the goosebumps so much this place has deeply marked me ... I dived a lot in Asia but Raja Ampat is just (with Komodo) really special and exceptional. One has the impression of being pioneers, privileged to be able to admire this nature still in the virgin state. I only dream of going back 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 in Manta Sandy lying on the sand with the Manta Rays flying around ... "The Passage" is also fantastic!

  7. Hello Corinne,

    I come back from a few days to Murex Bangka, following your valuable advice (and those of Luko / Ludo). Thanks 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 from the point of view of the expatriation 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 at Lembeh 6 years ago, he must have weighed 50kg when wet. And now, according to the news, he's a little thicker 😛 ... Anyway, is he still good as a guide??

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

      I do not remember a "Gayus" on the Black Manta ... At the same time, the teams turn on cruises between the Raja Ampat period and the Komodo period, and then there are also periods of leave . Or else he was called otherwise ...

  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 up).

  9. Hello Corinne.
    I just found and read your story about Raja, and I'm 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 papua entry visa and the "Rajat pass", did you pick them up when you arrived at Sorong airport, or was it included in your diving package?
    If you have any information or advice on things to see or avoid on Kri, do not 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 question, it's really above ...

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

      The best thing is that you send an email to Papua Diving to find out exactly ...

      I will continue to tell Raja Ampat in the weeks to come, since I returned in July 2012 ... To follow soon after this link: