View of the Fam archipelago from the viewpoint of Piaynemo. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)
View of the Fam archipelago from the Piaynemo viewpoint. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)

Raja Ampat: Practical Information And Tips To Organize Your Trip

#Indonesia #Western Papua

  Indonesia: Bangka [Sulawesi] + Rao [Halmahera] + Raja Ampat [Papouasie] - July 2019

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? To dive in its turquoise and fishy waters? I summarize below in 16 points the things to know before leaving, and the useful information to prepare your trip...

COVID-19. Can we finally travel to Indonesia from France? At the time of writing (November 21, 2021), the measures are being relaxed. International tourists from 19 countries including France are again allowed to enter Indonesia. The visa exemption (called visa on arrival) is still suspended, so it is necessary to obtain a tourist visa before leaving, through an Indonesian travel agency that will vouch for you. The following are required: insurance, complete vaccination against Covid-19 for at least 14 days, a PCR test less than 72 hours old, a 3-day quarantine upon arrival. For recent and regularly updated information on the health situation and tourism in Indonesia, I invite you to visit this page of BaliAutrement agency.

1. Raja Ampat, a natural paradise to be preserved

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

Snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Raja Ampat, in front of the Kri Eco Resort. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
Snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Raja Ampat, in front of the Kri Eco Resort. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
View of the Fam archipelago from the viewpoint of Piaynemo. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)
View of the Fam archipelago, from the viewpoint of Piaynemo. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)

Update [2017]. 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:

→ Indonesia: a ship damages exceptional reefs [fr]

→ Cruise Ship hits Crossover Reef: The Impact on the Reef [en]

→ Saving Raja Ampat waters with tourism [en]

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.

2. Where's Raja Ampat?

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:

Where is Raja Ampat?

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.

In April 2021, military reprisals were launched in Puncak province after the death of the intelligence chief in a gun battle with Papuan independence fighters.
In August 2019, riots broke out in Manokwari, Sorong and Fakfak, after the arrest of Papuan independence students in Java, against a backdrop of racist tensions: the government then cut off the internet in Papua and sent a thousand soldiers there as backup.
In July 2017almost 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 was attempting to bring the Papuan voice to the international stage that same year.

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.

(On this theme, I invite you to read this article, published by the Tara Foundation after a stopover there by the scientific schooner in late December 2017 → Indonesia: the ocean suffocates under plastic)

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:

Sorong Bay, seen from the porthole of the plane. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
Sorong Bay, seen through the plane's window. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
Above the mangrove water of Sorong Bay, there are many houses on stilts. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
Above the mangrove water of Sorong Bay, many houses on stilts. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)

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.

To read (in English) → Infrastructure Development to Boost Tourism in Raja Ampat

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...

3. I am not a travel agency

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 November 2021).

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. 😜

Divers meet a barracudas bench at the Blue Magic site in Raja Ampat. (West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016.)
Divers meet a barracuda school at the Blue Magic site in Raja Ampat. (West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016.)

4. My previous trips to Raja Ampat

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 :

→ Travel Raja Ampat + Bali: March 2012

→ Travel Alor + Raja Ampat: July 2012

→ Raja Ampat trip: January 2015

→ Banda Cruise + Raja Ampat: October-November 2015

→ Travel Komodo + Raja Ampat: July 2016 

→ Travel Sulawesi + Raja Ampat: July 2017

→ Raja Ampat Trip: December 2018

A manta ray passes right over my head at the Blue Magic site ... (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)
A manta ray passes just above my head, at the Blue Magic dive site... (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)

5. When to go to Raja Ampat for diving?

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...
Panorama from the beach of Sorido Bay Resort on Kri Island. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016)
July 2016. On Kri Island, a great blue sky... Opposite, big clouds swollen with rain... (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia)
Great weather on Kri Island! Raja Ampat, Indonesia, March 2012.
Great weather on the island of Kri! (Raja Ampat, Indonesia, March 2012.)
A sudden downpour comes to fog up ... Raja Ampat, Indonesia, March 2012.
Another day, a sudden downpour fogs everything up... (Raja Ampat, Indonesia, March 2012.)

6. How do I get to Raja Ampat?

STEP 1: Fly to Indonesia

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).

It is far, very far away, in the far east of the country, opposite the capital Jakarta. Think of Indonesia stretching across three time zones, it's huge... When you take off from Europe, the journey to Sorong can hardly be done in one go....

  • 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.
Long live the porthole to admire Papua from above! Flight Lion Air, July 2012.
Long live the porthole to admire Papua from above! Lion Air flight, July 2012.

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.

I put you above a map retrieved from the site of the resort Papua Paradise, which summarizes the possible routes to Sorong via Manado or Makassar (click to enlarge).
I give you above a map retrieved from Papua Paradise Resort website, which shows you the various routes to Sorong via Manado or Makassar (click to enlarge it).
I like companies that are nice with the scuba gear ... Above screenshot of Sriwijaya Air website.
I like airlines that are friendly with the divers and their gear... Above is a screenshot of the Nam Air / Sriwijaya Air website.

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.

  • Jakarta-Sorong flight direct: the only non-stop connections are operated by Batik Air, Garuda Indonesia and AirAsia.
  • 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.
  • Flights to Makassar or Manado: from Jakarta, Bali-Denpasar, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore: there are plenty of possibilities on the sites of the companies Air Asia, Garuda, Sriwijaya Air, Lion Air, Silk Air (affiliate Singapore Airlines), etc.
  • 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.
A Garuda plane, on the tarmac of Makassar airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 2015)
A Garuda plane, on the tarmac of Makassar airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 2015)

⚠️ 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.

7. Don't forget the permit

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.

Raja Ampat fee entrance tag (2012).
Raja Ampat fee entrance tag (2012).

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...

Raja Ampat Marine Park Entry Permit

Where to buy your Marine Park Entry Card

⚠️ 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:

Permit for Raja Ampat: where the money goes (Source: Raja Ampat / StayRajaAmpat Kabupaten)
Permit for Raja Ampat: where the money goes (Source: Kabupaten Raja Ampat / StayRajaAmpat)

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

8. Diving resorts

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...

It's time to equip yourself to go diving! (Raja Ampat, July 2012.)
It's time to equip yourself to go diving! (Raja Ampat, July 2012.)
Diving guides in gold. (Raja Ampat, July 2012)
Lius and Nathan, golden papuan dive guides. (Raja Ampat, July 2012)
The same, Lius and Nathan, six years after the previous picture! I asked them to resume almost the same pose ... (Raja Ampat, December 2018)
The same ones, Lius and Nathan, six years after the previous picture! I asked them to take almost the same pose again... (Raja Ampat, December 2018)
Otto knows all the sites like his pocket. It is undoubtedly the most experienced dive guides in the region. (Raja Ampat, July 2017)
Otto knows all the sites like his pocket. It is undoubtedly the most experienced dive guides in the region. (Raja Ampat, July 2017)

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 arborekdiveshop@gmail.comor WhatsApp at (+62) 822 3873 4552.

To help you discover the wonders of the underwater world around Arborek, you can count on Githa and Marsel. (Photo: Arborek Dive Shop)
To help you discover the wonders of the underwater world around Arborek, you can count on Githa and Marsel. (Photo: Arborek Dive Shop)

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 !

Surface interval in front of Kri Island, green triangle on azure water. (Raja Ampat, July 2017)
Surface interval in front of Kri Island, green triangle on azure water. (Raja Ampat, July 2017)

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):

Deluxe Water Cottages at Kri Eco Resort. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
Deluxe Water Cottages at Kri Eco Resort. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
The interior of one of the spacious and luxurious bungalows of Sorido Bay Resort. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
The interior of one of the spacious and luxurious bungalows of Sorido Bay Resort. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
When it comes time to unwrap or repack all my underwater photography gear, I am happy to have a work plan designed specifically for that in my room .. (Sorido Bay Resort, Kri Island, Raja Ampat, July 2017)
I admit, I no longer travel in backpack mode... When it's time to unpack or repack all my underwater photography gear, for me, the luxury is to have a specially designed work surface in my room... (Sorido Bay Resort, Kri Island, Raja Ampat, July 2017)

9. Diving cruises in Raja Ampat

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.

Raja Ampat dive cruise with the Black Manta in March 2012.
Raja Ampat dive cruise with the Black Manta in March 2012.

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.
Sunset on the Waow, all sails out. (Raja Ampat, November 2015.)
Sunset on the Waow, all sails out. (Raja Ampat, November 2015.)

10. Sorong Hotels

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):

12. Kayaking and nature

Looking for a real adventure in the wilderness? For the sporty paddlers, who are not afraid to paddle, I invite you to discover the very nice project Kayak4Conservation.

(Photo: Kayak For Conservation)
(Photo: Kayak4Conservation / RARCC)
(Photo: Kayak4Conservation / RARCC)
(Photo: Kayak4Conservation / RARCC)
Kayak for Conservation, to discover the beauties of Raja Ampat while paddling. (Kri, July 2017)
Kayak for Conservation, to discover the beauties of Raja Ampat while paddling. (Kri, July 2017)

Supported by Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Center (RARCC), this program aims to help the local population, by organizing kayak tours for tourists a bit adventurous.

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.

13. Getting around the archipelago

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...

Even more, perhaps, than in the rest of Indonesia, here you have to tame the notion of "jam karet" (bungee time)!

Ferries to Sorong... Immediate boarding for the islands! (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, July 2019)
The ferries to Sorong... Now boarding for the islands! (Raja Ampat, July 2019)
Near the island of Mioskon. Raja Ampat, July 2012.
Surface interval near the island of Mioskon. (Raja Ampat, July 2012)
The Papua Diving boat is approaching the island of Kri. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
An hour and a half after leaving Sorong, the Papua Diving speed-boat approaches the island of Kri. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)

14. Dives not to be missed

My top 5 dive sites in Raja Ampat North : Blue Magic, Sardines, Cape Kri, Otdima, The Passage... 😍

Other spots I like very much: Manta Sandy (when there were manta rays), Sorido Wall, Five Rocks, Mike's Point, Mioskon, Citrus Ridge, Sawandarek... 👌

But there are plenty of other great dive spots! And I don't know very well the area of Misoolin the south, but the little that I saw is sumptuous

All the articles about my dives at Raja Ampat: one click here!

Exuberance of life and colors at Sardine Reef. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)
Exuberance of life and colors at Sardine Reef. (Raja Ampat, July 2016)

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 !!!

A huge scoop of gumdrops at Cape Kri. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, December 2018)
A huge scoop of gumdrops at Cape Kri. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, December 2018)
School of snappers at the Mioskon site in Raja Ampat. (West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016.)
School of snappers at the Mioskon site in Raja Ampat. (West Papua, Indonesia, July 2016.)
Sweetlips. Otdima, Raja Ampat. Indonesia, July 2012.
Gaterins at the Otdima site. Raja Ampat, Indonesia, July 2012.

15. A threatened nature

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.

The reefs of Raja Ampat are teeming with life. (Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)
The reefs of Raja Ampat are teeming with life. (Papua, Indonesia, January 2015)
Hump parrot. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.
Hump parrot. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015)
Manta to Blue Magic. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. January 2015.
Blue manta ray. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015.)

16. Books on Raja Ampat

For divers, four books to recommend, in English:

  • 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...

For all, in French:

Available in English only :

Three books on diving in Raja Ampat.
Three books on diving in Raja Ampat.

Conclusion

  • 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.

The pontoon of Sorido Bay Resort and its blue hole in the middle of the coral. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, January 2015.
The pontoon of Sorido Bay Resort and its blue hole in the middle of the coral. (Kri, Raja Ampat, January 2015)

  Indonesia: Bangka [Sulawesi] + Rao [Halmahera] + Raja Ampat [Papouasie] - July 2019

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat - December 2018

  Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017

  Indonesia : Komodo + Raja Ampat - July 2016

  Indonesia: Banda + Raja Ampat - Oct-Nov 2015

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat - January 2015

  Indonesia: Alor + Raja Ampat - July 2012

  Indonesia: Raja Ampat + Bali - March 2012

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