A Trip To Raja Ampat

December 1, 2011 West Papua 22 Comments 60,661 Views

A Trip To Raja Ampat In West Papua.

Raja Ampat – a place that not only sounds magical, but most people don’t even know of. Raja Ampat is situated on our beautiful planet and was on our travel list a few years ago.

After diving trips to Komodo Islands and Alor (both in Indonesia), it almost seemed that our list could not be topped with a better (dive) vacation. We got curious after reading an article about the discovery of unknown species and the hidden skulls on the islands around Raja Ampat. After getting together all available information, we finally bought the tickets to Sorong in West Papua (also known as Irian Jaya). You have to know, flying in Indonesia is not always the smoothest (plus I’m a little scaredy-cat when it comes to planes) and getting to Sorong needed a change of planes in Makassar. We stayed in Makassar in Sulawesi for a two day stop-over until we continued our journey.

Arriving with Merpati arlines in Makassar.
Arriving with Merpati Nusantara Airlines in Makassar.

The Merpati flight to Sorong was quite bumpy and you couldn’t see much because the sky was covered with thick clouds. No land could be seen during the descent, therefore the landing approach was going to be difficult (I might add at this point that Sorong Airport does not have landing lights, so if the pilot can’t see he even won’t be guided by those lights). After circling for half an hour, the pilot braced himself and went down through an air pocket that opened up – it was one hell of a hard landing!

Sorong is a prospering jungle town focusing on upcoming oil findings. We booked into the hotel opposite of the airport (because it was first of all the “nicest” place and we would be picked up from there the next day) and started to explore the area.
We were lucky because on this day, the town hosted a national motorbike event … a little bit like the local Formula 1. It was a 125ccm motorbike competition and everybody (male) between the ages of 8 to 80 was there to cheer for their favourite racers. It really was a great thing to watch these guys dressed in full gear, racing on their tuned and chipped up scooters. Quite entertaining.

Getting ready for the race...
Getting ready for the race in Sorong…
The crowd is watching the race carefully.
The crowd is watching the race carefully.
Who will be the winner?
Who will be the winner?
Even with these "little" bikes, a crash can happen.
Even with these “little” bikes, a crash can happen.

After that we (of course) walked around the local market and I think that we must have been one of he few white people there to do so (ever). The market was as colourful as elsewhere and the busiest place in town. The minute we arrive, we were the talk of the day and we were followed by a huge crowd.

On the next day our boat was ready to leave. It took about one hour to get to Pulau Kri. Back then, there were not that many resorts in Raja Ampat but we booked ourselves into a very beautiful resort, which was run by a Dutch, called “Kri Eco Resort“. It really turned out to be a great choice; everything was organized, all the dive gear (I only brought my own Octopus & BCD) and dive boats were in order, the staff was fantastic because they looked after everyone’s well being all the time and the food was delicious. The bungalows where also very nice – simple, but nice. They were built right above the water as you can see in the picture. It was wonderful!

The resort on Pulau Kri in Raja Ampat.
The resort on Pulau Kri in Raja Ampat.

Diving around the islands of Raja Ampat is … how can I describe it … simply breathtaking! Literally, after the first dive you want to immediately do the next one or never even leave the water at all. I was busy diving 3-4 times a day, always with one dive guide and group of maximum 4 people (nice!). I did cave dives, current dives (where you get sucked through small waterways between islands) & night dives. It was simply an unforgettable experience to dive with great Manta rays, sharks, or turtles. The reef is untouched and I couldn’t explain what kind of colour explosion happened down at 40 meters. Truly fantastic!

Diving with a school of Baracudas in Raja Ampat.
Diving with a school of Baracudas in Raja Ampat.
Diving in these "lake-like" surroundings was fantastic.
Diving in these “lake-like” surroundings was fantastic.

But not only the underwater scene of Raja Ampat was magical; we went on boat tours to uninhabited islets, walked along untouched beaches, ate freshly picked coconuts by our dive guides and we visited villages hardly ever seen by western people. If you know hard-core divers you’ll know that they are usually not very interested in things above water but we wanted to get to know the paradise we stayed in for three full weeks. The villages were surrounded by virgin jungle and the locals were more than friendly. Everyone greeted us with open arm, smiled and especially the kids were so excited that we were there with our video- & photo equipment. They had a blast when we showed them their pictures. But, even at these remote places we met one Chinese man who traded for coffee, exotic birds, sea cucumbers, and other strange or protected animals (that have a high price and are used as Chinese medicine). He was definitely not happy to see us wandering around there…

Uninhabitated islands can still be found in Raja Ampat.
Uninhabitated islands can still be found in Raja Ampat.
The kids got so excited when we showed them their own video.
The kids got so excited when we showed them their own video.
This is just one of the many fantastic beaches in Raja Ampat.
This is just one of the many fantastic beaches in Raja Ampat.
Me with a bunch of kids in tow.
Me with a bunch of kids in tow.

With the boat we also passed strange looking rock formations with little caves where human skulls were places … nobody really knows how and by whom they were brought there. The people of Raja Ampat are afraid of the dead and therefore cemeteries are far away from the villages. The graves are usually covered with a little house and these constructions really did look a bit spooky even to us…

Human skulls in Raja Ampat.
Human skulls in Raja Ampat.
A typical graveyard in Raja Ampat.
A typical graveyard in Raja Ampat.

All in all, the trip there was one of the most memorable ever. Whether you’re a diver or not, Raja Ampat will take your breath away.

If you want to see more photos of Raja Ampat, check out our set on flickr.

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“A Trip To Raja Ampat In West Papua.”

  1. Beautiful photos (as always!) I love the look on the kids faces as they watch the video. I did some diving around this area too and it was by far the best diving ever! I went from Luban Bajo in Flores and we were surrounded by manta rays for the whole dive. The currents were strong so it wasn’t exactly relaxing but it was an amazing experience.

  2. Nisa

    Hey Monica! Thanks for your comment. I also went to Luban Bajo for diving a couple of years back and I can totally relate to your experiences. Diving with Manta Rays is really awesome and I will always feel the same way about that (no matter how often I’ll see one).
    In Indonesia it’s hard to name “the best” dive spots because it’s pretty much amazing everywhere ;)
    Are you still diving? Know any good spots I should check out? :D

  3. Agung

    Wow…very impressive. There are still many beautiful places in Indonesia. If you like something exotic traditions and cultures you can also find it in Indonesia. I am from Indonesia by the way :)

  4. Nisa

    Thanks Agung! Yeah, Indonesia really has many many beautiful places…that’s why we love going there every year over and over again ;)

  5. William

    I happened to be visiting Rajaampat a few weeks ago and it is really breathtaking! This place really deserved the mention “the last paradise on earth” hahahaa. Did u happen to visit the Wayag Islands and the Kabui Bay? The scenery at Wayag is heavenly. Unfortunately my timing was bad as August had the roughest currents and weather and I happen to know this as I arrived there :( .So I only had snorkling and shallow dives on various beautiful islands and the underwater scenes were also breathtaking. By the way I’m Indonesian and Rajaampat is my favourite spot now,although it requires more budget :)

  6. Nisa

    Hi William!
    Definitely true, Raja Ampat requires a good budget and a lot of time to really enjoy it. But it will definitely be worth the trip. I really want to return again in the near future. The Wayag Islands are a definite must and yes, we did visit them. We were there in July and the water was amazing. Bummer that you didn’t have the chance to scuba dive there. You would have love it for sure!
    Best, Nisa

  7. Very proud many foreigners has been visiting Raja Ampat until right now. You all will never be disappointed with the Islands :)

  8. Meidy

    I love to read story of foreign people enjoy my country. Your story is amazing, and touching :) Thank you for write about my country :)

  9. Nisa

    Hi Meidy! Thanks so much for your lovely words. I’m glad you like our stories :) I really think that your country is one of the best in the world!

  10. Beautiful photos and stories! Inspirational Mum And Daughter tales. Great you are doing such beautiful thing together :)

  11. Nisa

    Thanks a lot Carlotta. I really appreciate your lovely feedback. I have to say that the longer my mum and I travel together, the better it gets. I totally love it :)

  12. wisata

    Raja Ampat is a beautiful travel destination, but the cost is too expensive :(

  13. It’s true wisata that Raja Ampat is not the cheapest place, but there are several home-stays too and they’re much cheaper than those resorts…

  14. Stellar photos! Love all of the little smiling kids following along with ya, and it looks like an amazing place for a dive!

  15. Nisa

    Thanks Ryan! The diving in Raja Ampat is definitely the best I’ve ever experienced.

  16. Nisa, I’ve never heard of this place, but your photos are amazing. I would love to go. Thanks.

  17. Nisa

    Thanks Corinne! Raja Ampat is one of the most amazing places we’ve been to & I hope to return again some day – not only for the scuba diving :)

  18. For some reason I was always inspired and amazed by poor areas! It’s a real challenge to go out there and speak to locals. Amazing experience, though!

  19. Hi Nisa,
    Thanks for this complete and interesting article. What great pictures.
    Raja Ampat is so amazing and big, that i think the best way to visit the area is the liveaboard boat. I know a cruise company in Raja Ampat that organize Trip from Sorong, and its not only dive cruise, they do trekking snorkeling kayaking, and adventure cruise… Reasonable price with nice wooden sailing boat. My i share there contact here : for more informations visit there Website http://cruising-raja-ampat.com/

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