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... that amazed me.
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.
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 from my different trips to Raja Ampat (it is official, it is now my favorite diving spot in the Indo-Pacific area): → Raja Ampat: practical information to organize your trip
Raja Ampat is an archipelago full of green islands, some of them unexplored. I spent about ten days there. Half on a boat, the other half on land.
I was overwhelmed by the place. 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!
UPDATE : this first trip to Raja Ampat date of March 2012 And, since then, I've been back... several times!!! 🤗 I'll put the links to my other trips below:
Upon arrival at the tiny Sorong Airport [UPDATE: there is now a new, larger and more modern airport]It is already hot. It is only 7am, but it is the rush. I find that the air is more sticky than in Sulawesi, more humid than in Bali. It is very tropical, very humid, Papua. We are almost on the equator.
The porters in blue and red shirts rush over the luggage as it is deposited. Men with very dark skin and frizzy hair. The "natives" have really nothing Asian. Their physical appearance reminds me more of the aborigines of Australia, of the people of the Pacific islands... Yes, here we are in West Papua: it is Melanesia, Oceania. Although the region has been under the authority of Indonesia in the 1960s, it is not at all Asia...
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.
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.
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 town without form, crossed by more or less vague roads, where miserable shacks and ugly concrete buildings alternate. Nothing very attractive, except the smiles of the kids playing and the passers-by who watch you going towards the sea. It is 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.
Then under the sea, where we will make bubbles with the fish in water at 29 ° C.
Then, a few days later, from the pontoon of the magnificent Sorido Bay Resortwhere I will have the chance to extend my stay...
Operation "I am a princess
That's right! When I travel to Indonesia, I now metamorphose into a princess. Do you remember the time I had a boat all to myself, the Pascha, in Komodo ? 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 the stay after the cruise. And it is 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 neighbor, who has the same owner.
A princess, I tell you! ☺️ But I'll tell you more about that in a future post...
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.
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!
His greatest success: the briefing for the dives at "Manta Spa", the site where dozens of mantas come to swirl in the divers' bubbles.
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!
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 proof in pictures... I had already posted a first series of sub pictures, here :
Here is another sample, taken from the 2383 photos and videos I brought back from Raja Ampat. As usual, a click on the image displays it in large size and you can then navigate from one to the other with the arrows of the keyboard.
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...