Raja Ampat is a world renowned diving hotspot. This ecologically diverse paradise is a hub of life. Raja Ampat’s vegetation covered rock islands sit like emeralds in warm, azure coral filled seas. Whether you’re looking to retreat into simple backpacker lodgings or home stays, or relax in beautiful dive resorts, there are a variety of accommodation options available. Wherever you decide to stay expect a high level of adventure and remoteness, a true escape from the ordinary.
Biodiversity is mirrored on land and sea. Discover islands full of endemic species of flora and fauna, providing a home to rare orchids, birds of paradise and native marsupials such as tree kangaroos and possums. Beneath the surface you will find 75% of the world’s species of corals! This supports a huge array of marine creatures, and the area has become famous for it’s healthy population of apex predators, such as sharks, whales and dolphins.
Temperature is fairly constant year round, being between 24-31°C. With Raja Ampat being an equatorial region it has fairly regular, heavy, short bursts of rain year-round. The heaviest rainfall occurs between mid-June and mid-September. It’s worth noting that the islands experience microclimates, meaning weather can vary greatly across the region.
If you had to describe diving here in just one word, it would be ‘diversity’! Raja Ampat is home to a huge amount of marine species, including 540 types of corals, over 1,000 species of fish and 700 types of molluscs.
The sheer volume of life here is why most divers put Raja Ampat at the very top of their dive destination Bucket List. And with over 200 dive sites and counting, you will be spoilt for choice with where to dive from one day to the next! Sites range from lazy drift dives past rainbows of healthy reefs, coral gardens with underwater forests of large fan corals towering above the rest, seagrass beds and mangroves sheltering juvenile fish, plunging drop offs and mysterious caves.
This spectacularly healthy marine ecosystem attracts a huge amount of pelagics, including manta rays, numerous species of sharks, turtles and larger reef fish, such as parrotfish. If you’re into critters you won’t be disappointed either, a closer inspection of these thriving habitats will reveal tiny pygmy seahorses, colourful little crustaceans and weird and wonderful nudibranchs.
27-30°C – 3mm or rashie
The diving season is year-round. Most liveaboards avoid Raja Ampat from mid July – mid September due to the likelihood of experiencing both strong winds / surface swells and rain. Water temperatures range from 27-30°C and visibility can be from 10-30 metres with December to March having the best overall visibility.
Northern Raja Ampat
Here you will find some excellent drift dives where white and black tip reef sharks can be regularly seen at depth and you may also spot the odd wobbegong. Sloping soft coral walls are adorned with sea fans. Macro photographers will enjoy the large variety of beautiful nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, blue-stripe flagtail pipefish and sea dragons. Indian lionfish can also be found here.
Sel Pele Bay
This wide bay located to the west of Waigeo is considered to be the best place in Raja Ampat to search for critters. At Dinding Seletan you will spot many fire urchins some containing zebra crabs, sea cucumbers with pearl fish, several species of cephalopods such as the blue-ringed, mimic and baby red octopus, cuttlefish and the tiny, rare, iridescent bobtail squid. At Kebung Kerang there are big mushroom leather corals, purple soft corals and huge gorgonians covered in schools of colourful fusiliers and surgeonfish.
Wofoh Island has one of the best wall dives in Raja Ampat. Blue Wall drops 30-40 metres into the clear, blue water. The reef wall is a fascinating, colourful mix of hard corals, soft corals and barrel sponges. Schools of yellow-fin barracuda and surgeonfish will encompass your frame while black tip and grey reef sharks swim below you. Around the corner is Black Forest hosting black corals with pygmy seahorses.
Located in the Dampier Strait, which flows between Waigeo and Batanta islands, lies the area best known for its large concentration of fish life. At Sardines you will see massive schools of wahoo, trevally and tuna as bumphead parrotfish feed on the coral in the current. At Cape Kri you will be surrounded by dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, chevron barracuda, snapper, giant grouper, napoleon wrasse and white tip reef sharks.
Central Raja Ampat
This scenic group of often photographed limestone islands and islets lies to the west of Batanta Island. Here you will find beautiful turquoise bays, lagoons and small coves lined with pretty beaches and cliffs. Some of the best diving can also be enjoyed here. You will be rewarded with sightings of the rare tasselled wobbegong, great barracuda and perhaps manta rays at Batu Burung. This site also attracts several species of the colourful angelfish. Hard coral gardens abound in the shallows where titan triggerfish feed and giant clams have grown to enormous proportions. White and black banded sea snakes may also be spotted hunting over the cabbage patch corals. The area also has its share of critters.
Located to the south west of Waigeo, between the islands of Mansuar and Airborei, this cleaning station is the most reliable spot in Raja Ampat to see manta rays in large numbers. Between 5-30 mantas regularly come to this shallow site to circle gracefully in the strong current and be cleaned of parasites by the attendant moon wrasse, leopard wrasse, black eye thicklips and cleaner wrasse. Some of the mantas have wing spans of 5 metres and some are completely black on both their top and lower sides. This dive is for advanced divers able to hook into the reef in the strong current.
Southern Raja Ampat
You will be amazed by the variety of dive sites and some of the most beautiful underwater scenery in the southern region of Raja Ampat. To the north west of Misool Island lies the famous Blue Water Mangroves where a maze of channels cuts through the mangrove islets surrounding Nampale Island. Here, soft corals are nourished by the oceanic currents and critters hide amongst the tree roots. The reefs around the small islands to the south east of Misool are sure to excite the most seasoned divers.
20km to the east of Misool, is one of the favourite dive areas for its distinctive seascapes of tunnels, caves and brightly coloured coral encrusted walls. Under the overhangs and ledges you will find gardens of soft corals in an array of colours, gorgonian fans hosting various species of pygmy seahorses and whip corals with coral gobies and camouflaged shrimp. Tube sponges and tunicates round off the scenery. Midnight snapper and sweetlips lurk in the tunnels and caves while hundreds of fusiliers cover the walls. You will also be able to find ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish, hawkfish, the mimic octopus and nudibranchs. Highlights include Goa Besar and Verona’s Garden.
The waters surrounding the pinnacles and islands of Fabiacet offers some of the best visibility in Raja Ampat - up to 40 metres - and some excellent fish life. The current running between the islands and islets provides a good place to sit and watch the fish action. Hammerheads have been seen here as well as Napoleon wrasse. Several types of snapper congregate here with big grouper, great and yellow tail barracuda and mackerel. The area is also known for the masses of large pink, red, lilac and purple gorgonian fans and sea fans covering the walls.
Diving with the Whale Sharks
Cenderawasih Bay is one of the few places in the world where encounters with whale sharks in large groups can be found with such regularity. The whale sharks regularly visit the local fisherman's Fish Platforms to feed off the 'ikan puri' or anchovies that the fishermen catch in their nets. Multiple hour sessions with groups of whale sharks can be expected with an average encounter of 5 whale sharks in one outing. Up to 15 whale sharks have been seen at the one time under the platforms.
The behaviour of the whale sharks is quite unique in that not only will they stay with you for a long time (often many hours) but they are far from shy and not scared of flash photography or bubbles from divers. Often you will be approached face to face by the whale shark with only centimetres between you and the shark, making this a truly magnificent experience.
Encounters with the whale sharks can be done both on scuba or by snorkel. There is a strict no touch and no chase policy and the number of people allowed in the water with the whale sharks at any one time is limited.
The whale sharks reside in Cenderwasih Bay year round. However, around the time of full moon (+/- 4 days) and at times of festivals and celebrations when the local fishermen do not engage in fishing activities, it is unlikely to see the whale sharks under the Fish Platform area.
Triton Bay is part of the Bird’s Head Seascape which also encompasses Raja Ampat and Cenderwasih Bay. Wild and remote, Triton Bay sits within a 6,000 sq km Marine Protected Area in the Kaimana Regency offering frontier diving at its best. Stunningly beautiful soft coral gardens, forests of black coral trees and a year round population of whale sharks attracted by the anchovies and baitfish caught by the local fishermen at the bagans (floating fish platforms) is what the area is becoming renowned for. Along with masses of schooling fish from colourful reef fish to hunting pelagics, turtles and feeding bumphead parrotfish. Critters also abound including pygmy seahorses, frogfish, wonderpus and many varieties of nudibranch. Photographers will need to bring a wide array of lenses!
Island hopping around the stunning landscape of Raja Ampat is a great past-time, whether you’re on a liveaboard or joining a tour from a hotel, exploring these beautiful rock islands is not to be missed. Make sure you pack your snorkel gear as you’re sure to be tempted to jump in the ocean and enjoy the flourishing marine life.
Raja Ampat's maze of islets, peninsulas, bays and inlets provides amazing sea kayaking opportunities for all skill and fitness levels. Glide silently amongst the spectacular islands and experience nature at its beautiful best.
Join a tour and explore local culture. Heritage sites range from World War II bunkers to stone relics of bygone kingdoms to ancient burial caves and galleries of neolithic cave paintings and shell middens.
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