Apart from outstanding eco-tourism hotspots and exceptional fauna and flora, the underwater world of West Papua amplifies its popularity. Being home to the world`s top diving location, the waters of Raja Ampat features the highest marine life diversity recorded on earth.
The ancient legend has it that there was a woman who found seven eggs. While three of these eggs turned into ghosts, the remaining four eggs became kings ruling the four main islands of Raja Ampat: WAIGEO, SALAWATI, MISOOL and BATANTA.
10 THINGS TO DO IN RAJA AMPAT
1.Swim with Whale Sharks in the CENDRAWASIH BAY – the largest marine conservation area in Indonesia, also called the “Galapagos of the East”. They might be the biggest creatures of the sea, yet completely harmless. Join a diving cruise and interact with these fascinating ocean beings. Absolutely unique experience!
2.Cruise across the waters of the outlying MISOOL ISLAND and discover its secluded coves. This is a popular location for yachting and sailing, and if you have your own transport you might well happen to discover bays and beaches never seen before.
Drop anchor at Yapap, snorkel in its shallow waters and enjoy the absolute serenity of this paradise with staggering rock formations coming out of the sea and panorama not to be found anywhere else on Earth.
3.Kayak and snorkel in the lagoons around the largest island of Raja Ampat – WAIGEO ISLAND, and reveal its pristine beaches. Stroll through the capital of Raja Ampat – Waisai, and arrange a boat tour according to your budget.
Appreciate softness of the sands while walking. Remember to visit the pre-historic Cave of Skulls (Goa Tengkorak) and learn more about the local tribal culture.
4.Trek in the jungles of the largely unexplored, primaeval rainforest on SALAWATI and BATANTA. Come across tropical waterfalls and ancient caves and experience the vibe of one of the least spoilt places in the world. Bird lovers can feast their eyes on the bird carnival of more than 200 hundred species coming to sight on every corner.
Chirping exotic birdlife and other rare species, such as the beautiful Bird of Paradise, Northern Cassowary, Emerald Dove, White-faced Heron, Royal Spoonbill and a wide variety of exotic flowers can be found on both islands.
5. Dive in at least one of the following sites:
The coastal city of Sorong is the gateway to Raja Ampat. The town has slowly developing tourism and it is a good place where to plan the trip. There are numerous cruise and diving operators or a public ferry to the Waigeo Island ideal for the independent travellers.
While getting ready for the journey have a walk around exploring Sarong`s lovely art, craft and pearl shops and Batik markets selling traditional Indonesian fabric.
On the eastern side of the Bird`s Head peninsula, there lies Manokwari, the biggest city of West Papua and it is home to a large Christian community. Dutch heritage from the colonial era will come to sight right at arrival: churches and Dutch colonial architecture.
The nearby Mansiman Island offers relaxed beaches and Makabori Lake is ideal for the fishing. Manokwari has great surfing beaches (Maruni & Amban) as well as snorkelling sites, but more importantly, it is the gateway to the Cendrawasih Marine Park.
8.CENDRAWASIH MARINE RESERVE
The main highlights are swimming with the Whale sharks at Kwatisore/Bagan Point, exploring Japanese sunken shipwrecks from the World War II, out of which Shinwa Maru near Manokwari is the most important one and diving in the world`s top sites which provide breathtaking underwater scenery around Biak & Yapen Islands.
Pulau Biak is the ultimate beach destination. Parai, Yendidori, Adoki beach and Wardo Beaches are worth of visiting (good swimming, snorkelling and diving).
If you like sightseeing the World War II Monument and Museum with a small cave that used to serve as a hiding place for the Japanese soldiers.
Nature lovers might want to see the bird park with a good collection of native birds, e.g. the Bird of Paradise, Kasuari and Mambruk.
Fak Fak is the city of Nutmeg, is a place of a long tradition. Due to the good relationships with the ancient Sultanate of Ternate, most of the residents are Muslims.
Its greatly remote location (south-east of Raja Ampat) makes it be even more attractive for the native fauna and flora and sea life. The fact that most of the area is still to be discovered works like a magnet for adventurous nature and ocean lovers and off the beaten track travellers, of course.
Patawana Beach is known amongst surfers, albeit tourism infrastructure here is fairly undeveloped.
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
Waigeo Island (Waisai) is the only one that can be reached by local ferry from Sorong. All the other islands need to be accessed either by the visitor`s own vessel, organised tour or a private speedboat arranged in Sorong.
You must hold a valid visa to be able to enter West Papua. The cost and conditions depend on your nationality, so be advised to check the details in advance. Besides, you will need to purchase a Marine Park Entry Tag ($100 USD per person).
You should always carry enough cash with you if travelling independently as ATMs in West Papua are quite limited. Sorong will be pretty much your only option. Remember to test your credit card prior arrival at any other ATM in Indonesia as the Western cards often don`t work in Indonesian ATMs. Try to withdraw as much cash as possible at the airport in Sorong (the single withdrawal limit is IDR 2.500,00 but you can do multiple withdrawals).
It is always advisable to inquire about the safety situation in West Papua or in any location you intend to visit before travelling due to the presence of violence and tribal conflicts.
Malaria pills and vaccination against the Yellow Fever is strongly recommended and some countries such as even request all visitors get immunised prior the entry to.
Raja Ampat is not a cheap destination. Quite on contrary; luxurious eco-resorts typically offer all inclusive holiday and diving packages that can be booked in advance for the traveller`s comfort. They are built far from the local amenities and you will be totally dependent on their service (that is 5x more expensive). However, with good planning it is possible to reduce the travel cost to the minimum:
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Since Raja Ampat is almost exclusively destination for scuba divers it is essential that the underwater visibility is good. Therefore, the best time to travel is during the dry season, between May and September.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Jakarta/Java or Denpasar/Bali first.
Then catch a domestic flight to Sorong or Manokwari, using one of the local airlines. There are 3 main domestic airlines operating within Indonesia – Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia and Sriwijaya Air.
There are frequent local Pelni ships departing from Jakarta to Sorong (5-day odyssey). This means of transport is mainly used by the locals, it is cheap but very basic (suitable for budget travellers and adventurers).
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