Raja Ampat Islands have been widely known around the world for its underwater beauty, not to mention its small islands and its richest marine biodiversity on earth in Coral Triangle due to its beneficial position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Located at the Bird’s Head Peninsular of New Guinea Island, Raja Ampat is located in the West Papua province of Indonesia, which can be reached by flying from Jakarta or Bali to Sorong.
The origin of its name, Raja Ampat meaning Four Kings, comes from a local mythology about a woman who finds seven eggs. Four of them hatched and become kings of the four biggest islands (Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo), while the other three become a ghost, a woman, and a stone.
Raja Ampat archipelago consists of over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals surrounding the four main islands, with 1,508 fish species and 537 coral species, 699 mollusc species. Some data shows the marine life biodiversity in Raja Ampat is the highest recorded on earth, with massive coral colonies under its high sea surface temperatures. Besides, the remote location of the archipelago is relatively undisturbed by human, although recently the tourism activities in Raja Ampat is starting to increase despite of limited infrastructure.
However, this modern tourist attraction does not impact on the traditional conservation system by the people in Raja Ampat. Sasi, a traditional way in some Maluku and Papua regions in Indonesia, is a prohibition on taking certain natural resources as a conservation effort to maintain the quality and population of fauna, including underwater. This long tradition of "closing" and "opening" areas for fishing gives fishes a chance to reproduce and grow before being harvested, ensuring a sustainable fishing practice.
Raja Ampat diving consists of two areas, the north that centres around Waigeo Island area, and the south that centres around Misool Island area.
Misool Island Area
Misool island is known for its soft corals, shallow mangrove areas (be aware of some saltwater crocodile in this area), reef fish, mantas and pelagic species, which will make for some excellent wide-angle photography. Some sloping walls with colourful soft coral carpet also become houses for some small critters, from ghost pipefish to harlequin shrimp and pygmy seahorses. Misool also has at least three ponds with unpoisoned jellyfish, all in Misool area. There is also No-Take-Zone which expanded to a total 465 square miles in 2010, initiated by the owners of Misool Eco Resort in 2005.
Notable Dive Sites
Misool area has approximately 20 dive sites, which include Lonely Rock, Gampi, Yilliet, Boo Island, Fiabacet, Blue Hole and Killer Cape, Kaliq Channel, Sepele Rock, Three Sisters Rock, Nampele and Warokaraket, etc. However, some notable dive sites are Boo Island, Fabiacet, Farondi, Gamfi, and Kaleidoscope.
Boo Rock (Boo Island)
With depth of 3-30 meter, Boo Rock is located between two small rock east of Boo, and Boo Point East is located in Eastern point of Boo Island. This dive site is also known as Boo Angel Window, with slope and steep slope contour. Here you can see some Snapper, Fussilier, Barracuda, Sweetlips, Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Grouper, Damselfish, Anthias, Batfish, Wrasse, Parrotfish, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Boxfish, Pufferfish, Porcupinefish, Gobies, Moray eels, Eels, Scorpionfish, Flathead, Blennies, Dragonet, Gorgoniands, Barrel Sponges, Commensal Shrimps, wide variety of Nudibranchs, Unicornfish, Surgeonfish, some Octopus and Green Turtles.
Around this island, there are 4 islets which you can dive and become home to large variety of marine creatures, located about 25 kilometers southeast of Misool Island. Sometimes, great hammerhead sharks can be found here, coming up to shallower water to check out what divers are doing in the water. With depth of 20-40 meters, the visibility can be up to 20 meters. Bottom contour consists of drop off, slope, and mixed contour with coral reef as bottom composition. You can see some Snapper, Fussilier, Sweetlips, Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Grouper, Damselfish, Anthias, Batfish, Wrasse, Parrotfish, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Boxfish, Pufferfish, Porcupinefish, Gobies, Moray eels, Scorpionfish, Flathead, Blennies, Dragonet here.
Located 20 kilometers from Misool Island, this islet of Farondi is one of the favourite dive sites in Raja Ampat due to its unique and distinctive landscape: tunnels, caverns, and colourful walls. It highlights two famous dive spots, which are Goa Besar and Verena’s Garden.
The current on this island can be strong, which also means pelagic fishes around, such as schools of jacks, giant trevallies and yellow-tail barracuda, while some sea snakes, octopus, and wide variety of nudibranchs can also be spotted here. In short, this dive site has healthy reefs, lots of fish life, and more macro than you know.
This dive site shows that Raja Ampat does not only have big stuff, as you can encounter a sloping wall covered in a blanket of soft corals with vibrant colours. Some critters in this area are ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, and flatworms. Sometimes, a night dive here can also be stunning.
Waigeo Island Area
Around Waigeo, there are tons of dive sites, such as Equator Cave, Eagle Rock, White Wall Waigeo, Passage, Batu Lima, Sonek Jetty, Mioskon Reef, Sardine Reef, Mark Point, Barracuda Point, Yanngelo Channel, Manta Point, Lalosi, Channel Kruo, Melissa Garden, Fam Vellage 2, Cape Kri, Mansuar Corner, and Jarief Island. Some fusiliers, jacks, snappers, anthias can be seen at Sardine Reef, Mike’s Point, The Passage, Cape Kri and Mansuar Reef.
Notable Dive Sites
However, some notable dive sites are: Cape Kri, Saonek Island, and Manta Point near Arborek Island.
Cape Kri is one of the place in Northern Raja Ampat with big concentration of big fish, including large school of giant trevally, barracuda, bannerfish, sweetlips, emperors, snappers, dogtooth tuna, fusiliers, giant travellies, large Napoleon wrasse, giant groupers, whitetip reef sharks, and grey reef sharks. It has 16-20 meters average depth, with visibility up to 20 meters.
Manta Point near Arborek Island
This dive site is located to the south of Waigeo Island, close to Arborek and Mansuar Island. In one dive, you can see 5 to 20 manta rays which circle back again and again for cleaning and feeding on plankton at the cleaning station, which is located under 6 meters deep in the water. Manta rays will shop up mostly when there is current, and visibility can range from 5-15 meters most of the time.
Located on the south of Waigeo, Saonek is actually a village where the dive site is located. It has a sandy slope with 5-20 meters depth and popular for muck diving. In this dive site, you can expect to see mimic octopus, ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp, crocodilefish, flamboyant cuttlefish, frogfish and scorpionfishes.