When people ask us for our ultimate diving destination, our answer is inevitably Raja Ampat in Indonesia . The name refers to an archipelago (the four ‘kings’ along with thousands of smaller islands) to the north west of West Papua with the highest tropical underwater biodiversity in the world. It is extremely remote, tough to get to, and it’s possible to go for hours without seeing any sign of another boat (not even fishermen).
Our trip consisted of 7 nights on a liveaboard and 3 nights in a homestay on Waigeo island along with a night on either side in the port town of Sorong to facilitate travel arrangements (basically the only reason to stay there).
We love the White Manta fleet (https://www.whitemanta.com/), and this was our first stay on their flagship Blue Manta boat. It’s definitely the best liveaboard we’ve ever been on, with huge rooms, a roomy sun deck, great dive facilities and awesome service from both the boat and dive crew. Special thanks to Darmin, our dive guide, for taking good care of us and showing us all the small (and occasionally very big) things. Our itinerary took us north to Waigeo and Kri and then south into the spectacular Misool area.
You run out of superlatives when describing the diving in this area, the level of diversity is outstanding, with incredible small things like shrimps and nudibranchs, plentiful big things like sharks, rays and turtles, and everything in between; all on the same dive. Particularly impressive are the game fish, at this time of year Misool is teeming with little anchovies which attract masses of tuna, trevally, barracuda and other hunting game fish. The scenery is also stunning, with thousands of karst islands, turquoise waters and sunsets for days.
The Raja Ampat area has a network of awesome home stays which are great for land based activities like birding (although we couldn’t help ourselves from squeezing in a few extra dives). They are very reasonable (ours was around USD30 pppn including all meals) and offer simple but comfortable accommodation, generally with shared ablutions and cold showers, and tasty meals on the fish/chicken with rice and fruit variety (https://www.stayrajaampat.com/accommodation/yenkangkanes-homestay/). We were very lucky to see two different birds of paradise species on an early morning bird expedition with Benny, our excellent bird guide (https://www.stayrajaampat.com/ultimate-raja-ampat-guide/guides/benny-mambrasar/)
Additional photo credits to Liz and Elke