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:
Raja Ampat is one of the most beautiful dives of my life. But beware, a trip to Raja Ampat requires to behave as a responsible visitor. Tourism is booming in these Indonesian islands and is endangering one of the most magnificent reservoirs of biodiversity on the planet.
Do you dream of going to Raja Ampat? Of diving in its turquoise and fishy waters? I summarize below in 16 points the things to know before leaving, and the useful information to plan your trip...
COVID-19. Can we travel to Indonesia from France? At the time of writing (1er April 2022), foreign travelers are allowed to enter Indonesia. The quarantine is removed for arrivals at all airports: Denpasar (Bali), Jakarta, Manado, etc. The Visa on Arrival (VoA) The 30-day tourist pass has been reinstated at Denpasar airport (Bali) and will soon be reinstated at the other (500 000 IDR, about 35 €, renewable once). You can also present a B211A-tourism visa obtained beforehand. Are also required: an insurance covering Covid-19 (for an amount of at least 13 400 €), the vaccination 2 doses or 3 doses for at least 14 days, a PCR test less than 48 hours before departure and a new test on arrival. For regularly updated information on the health situation and tourism in Indonesia, I invite you to visit this page of BaliAutrement agency.
Raja Ampat means "the Four Kings". Located in the far east of Indonesia, it is a vast archipelago composed of four main islands (Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, Misool) and a multitude of jungle-covered karst islets plunging into turquoise water. An extraordinary and splendid environment.
Admire below, at 360°, the view from the island of Piaynemo, emblematic of the region...
Above, the spectacular viewpoint of Piaynemo on the islets of Fam, emblematic of Raja Ampat's landscapes... You can see Otto, my great Papuan dive guide, and my partner Sarah.
Raja Ampat is an exceptional archipelago, for its beauty and biodiversity, both on land and underwater. This beautiful piece of the world is right in the middle of the famous Coral Trianglebetween the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Nature is relatively preserved there, because these islands are remote and isolated, still not too well known (even if this is less and less true).
Tourism development in the region has indeed accelerated in recent years.with disastrous consequences for the environment. Presented as a "dream destination" or "the last paradise" to the privileged tourists that we are, Raja Ampat is first and foremost a natural treasure, which must be preserved and protected. However, we must be aware that each of our visits and dives has an impact on this unique and fragile ecosystem...
Read this worrying assessment of the situation in 2020. by the Franco-Indonesian association The Sea People - Orang Laut. It details the damage caused in particular to the coral reefs by a too fast and non-viable tourist development in Raja Ampat : ➜ Raja Ampat: Reefs under threat
Since March 2020, "thanks" to Covid, the tourist flow has dried upThis is the only way to protect the fabulous coral reefs of the archipelago. The 20 Hours of France 2 broadcasted, on Wednesday January 12, 2022, a report on Raja Ampat, visible in replay here : Raja Ampat, an Indonesian archipelago in a coral paradise. We follow Arno Brival of the association The Sea Peopleand Dolvinus Awom, one of the dive guides of Papua Diving. I put you the video player below :
Update . The fears I expressed above as early as 2013 were sadly illustrated by an accident that occurred on 4 March 2017 in the waters of Raja Ampat: a large British tourist cruise ship, a "floating building" type of vessel, the Caledonian SkyThe ship, which had been on the island of Kri, devastated a small portion of a spot known to divers as the Cross Over, off the northeast coast of the island of Kri... 😡 This kind of ship has no business being here! For more information, I refer you to the links below:
I went back to Raja Ampat in July 2017 and dived on the site in question. The damage, just in front of the beach (how can one dare to come so close to the coast with such a big boat?) fortunately concerns only a very small area. But underwater, the spot where the boat scraped and smashed the reef, a few metres down, was all grey and littered with dead corals. It was a stark contrast to the reefs that were alive and kicking with life all around.
You have trouble locating Raja Ampat? As I said above, they are islands located in the far east of Indonesia. The archipelago, off the island of New Guinea, is part of the province or region called West Papua (Papua Barat in Indonesian). Here it is:
A little historical-political reminder: the western half of the huge New Guinea Island (formerly colonized by the Dutch) has been annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s (the eastern half became the independent state of Papua New Guinea). At that time, the Indonesian army committed massacres. Today, a Papuan separatist movement continues to take action and the Indonesian authorities do not hesitate to brutally repress any opposition.
I close this 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...
Most travellers reach Raja Ampat via Sorong airportin front of the islands. Sorong is an unattractive mining and industrial port with a population of about 220,000, where one of the plagues affecting Indonesian waters is clearly visible: plastic pollution.
Sorong is located on the "beak" of the tip of West Papua, nicknamed the "Bird's Head Peninsula". (Bird's Head Peninsula in English) because of its form.
When you fly to Sorong, it looks like this:
In Wasai, on Waigeo, the large island in the heart of the Raja Ampat archipelago, off the coast of Sorong, a second airport was inaugurated in May 2012 (read also here : Raja Ampat gets a new airport). From 2014, it was apparently possible to make the Sorong-Wasai crossing by air, via small cuckoos with propellers chartered by the local company Susi Air. But in 2016, I was told that the Marinda airport in Wasai was not really operational and was used only rarely, during official visits…
Wings Air (a subsidiary of Lion Air) attempted to launch a Manado-Wasai flight. But Sorong airport having been enlarged and modernized, Wasai airport does not seem to be destined to become the new air gateway to Raja Ampat. announced by President Joko Widodo after his visit in 2016. The Wings Air route called "Manado - Raja Ampat" that I have already seen on the information screens at the airport has accumulated delays and/or cancellations since its launch, and it even seems (info from 2018) that it is more or less suspended...
On the other hand, Sorong airport has undergone a metamorphosis: it has been completely rebuilt and enlarged! As a result, the archipelago, which for a long time had remained away from so-called "mass tourism", is seeing the number of foreign and Indonesian visitors increase year after year. For example, in the diving tourism sector: from a dozen diving operators in the liveaboards (dive cruises) in the early 2010's, we've grown to more than a hundred in 2019... 😱
As for tourism in general, since the visit of President Jokowi (Joko Widodo) in 2016.the way in which the Indonesian authorities have started to develop and promote the destination (especially on social networks with the keyword #lastparadise) kind of scares me. For example, on the island of Piaynemo that I was talking about above, lots of signs, platforms and new stairs have been installed everywhere. Big white letters Hollywood style, claiming P I A Y N E M Owere even hung on a karst cliff at the entrance to the bay... A horror especially dedicated to instagrammers, I suppose.
Anyway, I'm afraid this is the beginning of the end. Paradoxically, I'm almost happy that the Covid-19 health crisis has (temporarily) halted the burgeoning tourist flow in the region. I realize with a twinge of sadness that the relative tranquillity of Raja Ampat I once knew and its protective isolation are now a thing of the past... 😢
Below, some peaceful pictures of landscapes and people, dating from the years 2010...
I'll allow myself a friendly warningbefore going any further: I receive a lot of messages from people who mistakenly think I am a travel agency or the agent of a tour operator... Some even send me reservation requests !!! 😂 It's crazy...
I have nothing to sell and I don't organize trips. To clear up any misunderstanding, I blog here about my travels and my dives for fun, without any commercial motivation, and nobody pays me to do it. (click here to find out more about me).
Concerning hotels, tour operators, diving centers I mention: I absolutely can't give you their prices or availability... If you need information about their prices, services, etc. ask them directly! All of them have a contact page on their websites.
Be aware as well that everything is changing very fast in this region of West Papua.Raja Ampat, which is in full tourist development. The first publication of this article dates back to 2013, but I continue to update it with the passing years and my new diving trips to Raja Ampat (I updated it again in January 2022).
Finally, take the time to do your own research. The laziness of some aspiring travelers amazes me a little, sometimes... We live in a great time, where everyone now has access to a free, highly efficient tool, updated in real time, which is called Google. 😜
So I don't pretend to offer here the "ultimate" guide to Raja Ampat nor to sell you the destination as "the last paradise"... As I said before, things are changing so fast over there! In a short time, with the increasing influx of divers and tourists, both local and international, nothing will be quite the same anymore.
I have already observed some notable changes, between my first diving trips in 2012 to Raja Ampat and the latest ones (December 2018 and July 2019)... And I have already published quite a few articles that you can refer to on this blog. You can always find them here, at the end of these links :
Good news: you can dive all year round in the North of Raja Ampat. (the islands around the Dampier Strait, off Sorong). But to make the most of your stay, there are subtleties to know about the climate and weather in this region, West Papua, which differ from the rest of Indonesia.
Well, it's not really Asia anymore, but Oceania...
October to April: this is the period considered optimal for diving. Corresponding to the northwest monsoon, this season is often described as "dry" by tour operators. In reality, it can still rain quite a lot (especially in December and January). No, the real difference with the so-called "wet" season of May-September (that of the south-eastern monsoon) is that there is almost no wind or swell. The conditions are therefore ideal for sailing and this is the high tourist season for diving cruises. It is also a period when plankton proliferates: visibility underwater is then less good (sometimes rotten), but we are more likely to encounter manta rayss, especially the huge oceanic rays, and to see them form a spectacular ballet at the site. Manta Sandy (unfortunately, since 2015, we see them less often, the too large number of boats and divers has made them swim away).
Good to know for May-June: it's a bit the tourist off-peak period.It is therefore a good plan for divers to go there at this time, as the resorts regularly offer interesting discounts on their "accommodation + diving" packages.
From May to September: you can still dive in the north of Raja Ampat but not in the south. We are at this period under the influence of the south-eastern monsoon, known as "wet", but in terms of rainfall, the difference is not very marked with the so-called "dry" season from October to April. In fact, what distinguishes the two seasons, as I said earlier, is the wind. Between mid-May and mid-September, it can blow quite a bit, with very rough seas... If you are based on land on an island in the Northern Archipelago, don't worry about diving on nearby sites, but the more distant trips will depend on the weather and the swell. That's why there are few or no cruises organized during this period, which therefore rather deserves the name of "windy" season. The southern archipelago of Raja Ampat (Misool and its surroundings) is much more exposed to the winds than the north: it is therefore difficult or even impossible to sail and dive there during this period (the Misool Eco Resort closes during our summer holidays). Manta rays are also becoming rarer, as there is not as much plankton near the surface, but the visibility underwater seemed to me to be generally better (go and see the video I made there in July 2016).
So, when's the weather? Whatever the season, the sky is highly versatile at Raja Ampat. It alternates between bright sunshine, grey skies and rain in a more or less equal way, as far as I have been able to judge during my various stays (in December, January, March, July), whether you are under the influence of one or the other monsoon. The showers are often very localized. It is not rare to observe a big cloud pouring down rain curtains on an island opposite only a few kilometres away, while it is very sunny on the island where you are, for instance...
The air temperature is stable (25°C at night, 30°C during the day), the water temperature is constant, around 28°C. We're at the equator, so it's basically still hot and humid. The climate is really "equatorial" all year round, with no big seasonal variations, except for the wind I was talking about earlier. After that, the weather is not an exact science either... Besides, the climate is going downhill. So we can end up with a rotten week. Or several days in a row of good weather. Or not. Or have both seasons in the same day...
To go to Raja Ampat, you will first need to organize your trip to Indonesia, or to a neighboring country with convenient connections to Indonesia (Bangkok in Thailand, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, or Singapore, for instance).
PRICE. Count 450 € to 900 € (according to promotions, airlines and seasons) for a dry flight from Paris to Jakarta and back. (at least this was the range of rates before Covid-19). In addition, the fare for the return flight from Jakarta to Sorong, from 150 € to 300 €.
In Indonesia, Raja Ampat is part of the province now called Papua Barat (West Papua)as I explained above, formerly Irian Jaya (the name first given by the Indonesians).
TRAVEL TIME. Therefore, count at least two days (flights Paris-Jakarta, then Jakarta-Sorong, then the boat crossing) to reach the archipelago from France. This represents, counting the outward journey and the return journey, four cumulative days! A very long trip... To make it worth it, plan to stay long enough in Raja Ampat and/or combine the stay with other destinations in Indonesia.
STEP 2: Organize the trip to Sorong
SorongSorong, in West Papua, is the gateway to the Raja Ampat archipelago. To reach Sorong from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, there are several possibilities (I updated the information in August 2019, but take the time to check directly with the companies, many things must have changed since 2020 with the Covid) :
DIRECT FLIGHTS. The duration of a Jakarta-Sorong flight is approximately 4 hours. Before Covid-19, there were three airlines with direct flights: Batik Air (subsidiary of Lion Air), Garuda Indonesia, and, since September 2019, AirAsia (Malaysian lowcost which has branches throughout South East Asia). Xpress Air, which was the pioneer on this route, no longer operates. Direct flights from Nam Air (a subsidiary of Sriwijaya), launched in 2015, have not existed since the end of 2018 (Garuda bought Sriwijaya / Nam Air via its subsidiary Citilink and is gradually resuming their connections). I have already flown several times without worry with all the companies I mention (reservations made on their websites from my home in Brittany with my French bank card without problem). Make sure when you book that you choose a direct flight (the list also includes flights with a stopover).
FLIGHTS WITH STOPOVER.Lion Air, Batik Air, Sriwijaya Air and Garuda do the domestic connection Jakarta-Sorong with stopovers, most often on the island of Sulawesi, either at Manado (the large northern city), or at Makassar (the large southern city, also called Ujung Pandang).
Makassar and Manado on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are indeed the two main airline "hubs" to travel to Sorong. These airports are easily reached in Indonesia by domestic flights, from either the capital Jakarta or Bali (Denpasar airport).
Makassar and Manado can also be reached by international flights from the air hubs of neighbouring countries: for example Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, or Singapore.
How do I find domestic flights?
Very practical to do your little research: the site Nusatrip.com (it is a bit like Skyscanner for domestic flights in Indonesia). You can also book your tickets there, but for my part, whether in Indonesia or in France, I always prefer to go on the website of the company I found and book directly at the source rather than going through an intermediary.
Below are links to the websites of the various airlines, where you can check schedules, availability and book your ticket online with a credit card, including from France (which was not always possible a few years ago). I have tested them all at least once successfully.
Flight Jakarta-Sorong with stopover: the Garuda and Lion Air / Batik offer connections, there is a stop at Manado or Makassar generally, sometimes Ambon or other… Sriwijaya Air also offers flights with stopover.
Manado-Sorong flights: the Garuda now has a link, which adds to those of Lion Air (or its subsidiary Wings or the associated company Batik).
Makassar-Sorong flights: I have already flown with Sriwijaya Air and with Garuda... Check now the existing offers at Lion / Batik too ... People who keep hotels and resorts in Raja Ampat are generally well aware of changes in air links, inquire with them.
⚠️ Be careful, there are often changes in schedules and connections domestic flights. At the time I published this post, Batavia Air went bankrupt (I had to sit on my ticket and find another flight) and Xpress Air cancelled its flights (before resuming them, then cancelling them again)... Always check the day before departure if you can that the schedule has stayed the same (I once had a takeoff one hour earlier than expected, without being warned!). You should also know that delays from one to two hours are often the norm in Indonesia.
⚠️ Confusing for many travellers: Makassar is often referred to by his other name, Ujung Pandang, on the online booking sites. Think about it when you do your research ...
⚠️ Note that you may need plan a night in Makassar or Manado. Good to know: there is an Ibis Budget in Makassar airport, to grab a few hours of sleep, before take-off at dawn for most flights to Sorong. I've slept there several times...
⚠️ If you don't feel like booking the domestic flights yourself, or if the website of the airline you are interested in is not accessible for a mysterious reason, or if there is no way to pay online by bank card from France - there are sometimes bugs or security issues on Indonesian sites - you can always ask the hotel or the diving facility that will be hosting you to arrange domestic flights for you or contact a local agent. Otherwise, you can book your Indonesian flights on the site Nusatrip.comwhich I mentioned above (I have not tested it myself). Below you will find links to Raja Ampat's diving resorts. They all have an explanatory page "How to get there indicating flights to Sorong and possible routes to organize your trip. Finally, if you don't feel like taking care of all this, the easiest thing to do is to turn to a diving tour operator, who will organise the whole trip and stay according to your wishes.
There is an entrance fee to be paid to visit the Raja Ampat Natural Marine Park, which is 700 000 Indonesian rupees (about 42 €) for foreign visitors since 20 December 2019. See the page Entry Permits on the new official website Raja Ampat Marine Parkpage, or the Raja Ampat Marine Park entry permit on the excellent site Stay Raja Ampat, which is a valuable source of regularly updated tourist information on the region.
If you find different price indications while searching on the internet, it is normal, there have been several price changes in recent years. At the time of my very first visit in 2012, this entry fee was initially IDR 500,000, then it was raised to IDR 1 million on February 1, 2015, before being revised downwards in December 2019 to IDR 700,000 for foreign visitors, so ...
This permit is valid for one year from date to date. You are given a plastic card indicating this period of validity, with your name and passport number on the back and, for divers, a plastic badge to hang on the stab.
If you have organized your trip to Raja Ampat with an official diving structure (a resort, a cruise), no need to worry about it. The resorts and tour operators buy it in advance for their clients (the homestays are not allowed to do so and cannot provide this service). The amount is then added or included in your bill and the permit is given to you by the hotel or boat staff at check-in.
If you are an independent traveller planning to stay in a homestay: it is up to you to obtain this permit. There have been several changes in the last few years. There are now two official offices for revoking one's license: one in Sorongat the port (Bintang Marina), and one in Wasai (where the ferry docks on Waigeo Island). I give you below the link of the website Stay Raja Ampat which compiles all this information, and which is regularly updated, as well as the link to the official website of the marine park of Raja Ampat...
⚠️ Tip: Make sure you pick up your license at an official office.Do not buy it online or from people who might approach you and offer it to you when you get off the ferry. You risk paying more and/or being given an invalid permit... In short, beware of scammers!
This entrance fee is intended to finance conservation actions in the maritime protected area, to feed a local community fund (70%) and to support the development of the region (30%). Below is a small graph (dating from before 2020, when the fee was $1 million) indicating where the money is going:
NO NEED TO SURAT JALAN.Finally, I specify it here because I am often asked the question (valid information to date, to my knowledge): no, you do not need another license called Surat Jalan, to just go to Sorong or Wasai and go sightseeing in the Raja Ampat archipelago. The Surat Jalan is only required to circulate elsewhere in the provinces of the immense Papua, especially in areas deemed "sensitive" by the government, which does not want journalists, in particular, to take too close an interest in the region. Read about it in this article (from 2015) by Human Rights Watch : → Indonesia: removing barriers to access to Papua
Clarification: when I use the word "diving" here, I mean scuba diving with bottleno swimming with flippers, no snorkeling (called PMT in French or snorkeling in English) which can be practiced almost everywhere according to your desires. Be careful before getting into the water, be aware of the local currents, which can be treacherous in Indonesia...
For diving in good conditions of comfort and safety at Raja Ampat, being based on land......I think it's best to go to one of the local dive resorts. I found that the term "resort" (a tourist complex providing services other than just accommodation) was not very familiar to Francophones. In short, here they are simply hotels (often bungalows facing the sea) which are also diving centers.
Compared to dive cruises, this is the option I prefer. Why? On the one hand, guides from diving resorts often know the sites of Raja Ampat much better than those on cruise ships. On the other hand, the structures based in the resorts are often more involved in local environmental programs, and much more concerned with the protection of the marine park than the cruise operators, who are only spending the high season...
Beware, diving resorts in Raja Ampat are not cheap. and generally speaking, the prices charged in the archipelago for tourist services are nothing like those in the rest of Indonesia.
As a result, many tourists on a limited budget choose to dive with the " homestays "these simple and cheap accommodations run by Papuan families... (often simple mattresses with a mattress and mosquito net). Be vigilant: more and more of them offer bottle diving in their activities, but without necessarily having the required authorizations to do so, nor the skills nor the equipment in good condition... Diving resorts, on the other hand, have in principle maintained equipment and compressors, trained guides, adapted boats and certified instructors for training (PADI, CMAS, SSI, etc.).
So I can't recommend you highly enough cautionif you decide to dive with a homestay. Better to come with your own equipment, check the condition of the compressor and above all be an autonomous diver, even experienced, with experience of currents. If you read English, I invite you to read the warnings about it on the site StayRajaAmpat, who go in the same direction → Diving with Raja Ampat homestays
As an alternative to the resorts, there is theArborek Dive Shopsmall local diving center located on the island of Arborek.. It allows you to dive for less and works for accommodation with the island's homestays (see page on StayRajaAmpat). The Arborek Dive Shop has a very good reputation. I haven't tested it myself, but everyone told me about it, both the diving tourists and the staff of different resorts in Raja Ampat... It is run by two enthusiasts, Githa (whom I met) and Marsel, who are very involved in environmental programs to preserve the reefs and fight against pollution. To contact them : the Facebook page Arborek Dive Shopthe e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org WhatsApp at (+62) 822 3873 4552.
For my part, as a diver photographer traveling with the bulky equipmentI loved the comfort, the service and the setting of the magnificent Sorido Bay Resort. Really the great luxury in these parts. I went there twice in 2012 when I discovered Raja Ampat, and I went back several times afterwards. Like the Kri Eco Resort Nearby (more affordable), the Sorido is ideally located on the island of Kri, in the Dampier Strait, where the most famous dive sites are concentrated.
These two resorts are managed by the company Papua Diving. They were created by the pioneer of diving in Raja Ampat, the Dutchman Max Ammera hell of a character !
Other experiments... My sister, who is not a diver, tested Raja4Divers a few years ago and she loved it. Marc and Isa, a couple of adventurous divers, previewed Raja Ampat Dive Lodge in 2009 and they liked it very much. Anne-Sophie and Marco, another couple of diving travellers, were delighted with their stay at Papua Explorers in 2014and then of the one they did in Papua Paradise in 2016 (their only regret for this resortment, as divers, was its remote location in relation to the Dampier Strait where the most famous spots are located, but in compensation Emma the dugong visited them, and afterwards they even worked for this resort for a year).
Here is the list of diving resorts that exist, to my knowledge and to this day (I keep this list pretty much up to date over the years):
Dive cruises are an interesting option to discover a wider variety of sites and islands in Raja Ampat, over greater distances. But the quality of the dives can be affected: the guides on the boats don't always know the sites as well as those who are year-round in the resorts ...
Short or long cruises, North and/or South... There are more and more operators, more and more choices. Don't necessarily go for the most attractive rate and find out beforehand on the divers forums, to know a little bit about what to expect and if you will get your money's worth. "You get what you pay for..." There are generally "short" cruises (5 to 7 days, itinerary in the north of the archipelago only, departing from Sorong or Wasai) and "long" cruises (10 to 20 days, including an itinerary to the south around Misool, or as far as Kaimana and Triton Bay).
It is also important to be aware that the increasing number of diving cruises in Raja Ampat has a big impact on the coral and reef fauna. This has started to become problematic in recent years, with the influx of boats and divers on the same sites... When I visited Raja Ampat in July 2016, a draft quota system to limit the number of vessels present at the same time in the different protected areas was under consideration. The installation of buoys for moorings (to prevent boats from massacring the coral reef by dropping anchor) is underway.
Dive cruises are organized between October and April.This is the best time to sail in the area, as I explained above.
In March 2012, I had taken a short cruise to the Northern Archipelago with the boat Black Manta, which belonged to the company at the time White Manta Diving(But this ship has since been sold and is now chartered by another operator who no longer offers the same services...)
On my cruise, it was a Frenchman, the adorable and very competent Cédric Lesénéchal, who was the cruise leader (He then officiated several years on the boat Blue Manta, more recent, from the same company). Below some pictures of this cruise…
To locate dive cruises at Raja Ampat (and elsewhere), you may use the site First Liveaboard Diving. He is bound by Jez Trynera sub photographer based in Bali, who plays the intermediary with the operators. I don't know him personally, but I used his services in 2012 and I was very happy with it. We exchanged e-mails to sort out a whole bunch of details, he was very responsive, very nice. Otherwise, in the same style, there's this site that's also pretty bad at finding out about availability: Liveaboard.com
If you are not at ease in English and prefer to speak to a French intermediaryThere are cruise offers on the site. Equilibrelaunched in early 2020 by a friend, Carol, long based in Asia, as well as on the Asiaquamanaged by Olivier, a Frenchman also living in Asia. Otherwise, most of the big French-speaking diving tour operators have cruises in Raja Ampat in their catalogues, I'll let you find it by yourself. And finally, Wallacea Dive, a long-established French operator in Indonesia, now also organises cruises in Raja Ampat.
Update. In the "dream" category, there was the beautiful and luxurious Waowthe aptly named boat... In November-October 2015, I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy of a fabulous dive cruise aboard the Waowfrom the Moluccas of the Centre to Raja Ampat (departure from Ambon, arrival in Sorong). But this boat designed by and for divers no longer exists: it burned and sank at the end of January 2018. The owners temporarily chartered another sailing boat, the Mutiara Laut, to continue to provide cruises, and have considered launching a Waow 2… To be continued.
In Sorong itself, there aren't many hotels. The best known has long been the I Meridien that has nothing to do with the chain with almost the same name. This is where people used to come to get their "tag" for the entrance fee (see above).
Since the first edition of this article, hosting options in Sorong have expanded. There is no insane choice, but most travellers only spend one night there, on arrival and/or return.Among the most comfortable I can recommend for having tested them all: the Belagri, Swiss-Belhotel, Royal Mamberamo.
11. Cheap accommodation on the islands of Raja Ampat: the homestays
In the islands of the archipelago, there are now many "homestays"... as I mentioned earlier. These are not exactly homestay accommodation as the expression suggests, but accommodation for tourists built by locals.
Most often, they are simple huts made of wood and palm leaves, in the local fashion, with very rustic comfort: a mattress on the floor, a mosquito net, shared bathroom facilities. It is also possible to stay in homestays in the heart of a village, such as that of the island of Arborek (near the mantas-rays site).
For these very simple accommodations, the rates are in the order of 500 000 to 800 000 IDR per day (about 30 to 50 €). in "fullboard"that is to say with three meals included per person.
It's quite complicated to book in advance or to contact people via the internet. (Connections to Raja Ampat outside the resorts are rare, and there is no mobile signal everywhere). But once in Sorong or Wasai, it is easy to get information and to contact people on the spot, via the small tourist office and the homestay office in Wasai or by SMS. It's a nice option for low budget travellers, which allows to favour the local Papuan population and to meet the inhabitants of Raja Ampat.
I put below some useful links (I regularly edit the list, as I find new information on the web):
Budget accommodation in Raja Ampat on the excellent site Stay Raja Ampat who is stuffed with useful info for low-budget independent travelers. The site is updated very regularly ... We see bungalows on the islands of Kri, Mansuar and Arborek in particular. Take the time to browse the comments below, to get fresh info from travelers on the welcome and the dress of homestays, it can be very variable, some have deteriorated a lot from one year to the next and Travelers return disappointed (presence of rats, monotonous and insufficient food, dilapidated diving gear, etc.).
Raja Ampat on the site East Indonesia (which dates a little but very complete) by Laszlo Wagner, a Hungarian very connoisseur of the region, and author among others of a phrasebook Indonesian for Lonely Planet (on its website, click on the tabs on the side for detailed information on each island).
You rent a resin kayak (made on site) and paddle, with a local guide, to beaches where you can camp, or homestays installed for some in fabulous places in the heart of the archipelago, far from everything. Different itineraries, pre-established on a map, are possible.
There are no regular connections between the various islands of Raja Ampat, except the Sorong-Waisai ferry. which leads to the big island of Waigeo. Circulating in the archipelago is therefore a little complicated. I imagine that you can, from Sorong or Wasai, charter your own boat for a day or more. But you have to be a bit resourceful, good at negotiating and know exactly what you want...
Diesel is expensive, renting a boat with a guy to sail is very expensive. and the rates are sometimes a bit "customer-driven". Independent travellers, group up!
Otherwise, most homestays offer day boat trips.Rates vary according to distance and services.
The islands look close together on a map, but in reality, navigation takes time. The local boats are slow, and even the speed-boats of the resorts are not always that "fast". All it takes is a bit of rough seas or a broken engine to double the travel time. Thus, the crossing between Sorong and Kri Island (where the Kri Eco and Sorido resorts of Papua-Diving are located), can vary from 1 hour and a half to more than 3 hours...
Raja Ampat is home to 75 % species of hard corals known worldwide, more than 1,600 species of fish, 6 of the 7 species of sea turtles, 16 species of marine mammals and 699 species of molluscs. Here, nutrient-rich currents promote an explosion of marine life, and the word "biodiversity" really means something.
As a result, all the sites are full of surprises for Raja Ampat.even those considered the least spectacular. There is always a carpet shark (wobbegong) stashed in a corner, a Pygmy seahorse, huddled in a gorgon, a bench of humpback parrots an ocean manta which tumbles in the blue, a whirlwind of barracudas or a school of jacks that emerges in the current ...
And then there is this permanent, hallucinating, unique profusion of incredibly varied "poiscaille", which I refer to as lazy under the expression "usual tropical fauna" in my notebooks. The coral is just like it: exuberant, splendid, spectacular. Impossible to get tired in a place like this.
We are at heart of the Coral Triangleis the epicentre of marine biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific zone. These are, by far, the most beautiful, the most extraordinary seabed I have ever seen in my entire diving life.
Really. I'm not just saying that out of the blue, and I'm placing Raja Ampat at the top of my personal Indo-Pacific site top., in front of Komodo and Sipadan !!!
The Raja Ampat islands represent a turning point in my life as a traveler diver. In March 2012, I was so enthusiastic after my very first stay there, that I returned the same year, in July. Then I did it again in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019... Each time, the same enthusiasm and the same dazzle!
Yet things are (alas) beginning to change: Manta rays, disturbed by boats and divers, are now becoming rarer at the Manta Sandy site. Previously pristine beaches are now littered with cut coconut palms to make way for new homestays and resorts. Dogs and cats brought to some isolated beaches by homestay owners are a disaster for the surrounding wildlife. And we now see speed-boats daily dropping off groups of tourists on the sandbank at the tip of the island opposite Kri for picnics or sunset .
The splendid ecosystem of Raja Ampat rests on a subtle balance, which is weakened by our tourist visits.among other things. Through my underwater images, I try to show the splendour of these exceptional coral reefs. To share my amazement at this incredible natural wealth. In this way, I hope to sensitize and empower travelling divers who dream of exploring Raja Ampat, but who may not really realize how vulnerable this beautiful region is. I'm a bit afraid that my images will one day be nothing more than a testimony of a bygone era, documents that we will look at to remember everything that existed and disappeared...
Environmental protection organisations and local associations are working to support the development of Raja Ampat.by supporting eco-tourism through responsible choices both ecologically and socially, involving the local Papuan population... I invite you to visit the links below to discover and support them:
Take the time to find out about the structure you choose to discover Raja Ampat, to ask yourself questions about the impact of your visit, to ask yourself who will benefit from the money you spend there, and, of course, once you are there, make sure that you act as a responsible visitor and diver, both towards the inhabitants and the environment.
Indonesian Diving Indonesia's Bird's Head Seascape. By Burt Jones & Maurine Shimlock. The Bible on the subject. I found copies at the airport bookstore in Bali. Otherwise, the resorts are selling it. Very complete, not only for the central part of Raja Ampat North (Dampier Strait), but also for all the other islands, less visited further north, which one does rather on a cruise, as well as for Misool in the south, Cenderawasih Bay and Triton Bay.
Diving Indonesia's Raja Ampat. By Burt Jones & Maurine Shimlock. This is the short and lightened version of the first.
Underwater Paradise: A Diving Guide to Raja Ampat.By Ricard Buxo. A light version there too, for a first approach of Raja Ampat.
The Raja Ampat - Through The Lens Of ... Beautiful book illustrated by 17 renowned underwater photographers, including David Doubilet, Gerry Allen, Tim Laman, Burt Jones, Maurine Shimlock...
So I don't have a recommendation for "cheap addresses", I don't have a "good plan" for staying on a desert island or a dream beach, nor a "recipe" for not spending a dime at Raja Ampat. There are a lot of deserted islands, but really deserted, with just birds, birds of prey, birds of prey, birds of prey, birds of prey. couscous, the jungle and mosquitoes, everywhere in the archipelago. Consider rather preserving this extraordinary nature ...
I live in Rennes, Brittany, So I don't know the Indonesian airplane schedules by heart, nor those of the Sorong-Wasai ferry, and I'm not affiliated with the Indonesian tourist office. I also don't know exactly how much it costs to stay in this or that place. The best thing to do is to contact the hotels and resorts in Raja Ampat directly, they are always quite knowledgeable about these things... Otherwise, you'll have to advise on the spot.
Climate forecast side, I am unable to know if it will be sunny precisely from February 28 to March 12. Or if it will rain a lot or just a little from December 10 to 22. I have a fairly good grasp of the humid climate (Breton or tropical), but I am neither a meteorologist nor Madame Irma.
Yes, there are mosquitoes in Raja Ampat - no more than elsewhere in these latitudes - and they can transmit malaria. But I cannot decide for you whether or not you should take preventive treatment. I am not a doctor and it is up to everyone to take responsibility for their health. I invite you to read this excellent article published by François from the blog Tourdumondiste, which explains everything very well, with serious information (sourced) and advice → Should I take malaria medication when travelling?
If after that, you still feel like discovering Raja Ampat, because you like the rather wild and preserved nature, the rather slow and distant trips, the rather lost and isolated islands, the rather tropical and abundant underwater fauna, and that you can afford a piggy bank break, don't hesitate: you will come back dazzled.