Raja Ampat in Pictures
Remote Raja Ampat is one of the places to dive in the incredible Indonesian region, and one of the most beautiful island chains in the world. Dive into paradise and see manta rays, shark action, and big schools of both pelagic and tropical fish and some of the most colorful coral reefs in existence. One of the world’s top underwater photography destinations.
Marine Life in Raja Ampat
Marine life in Raja Ampat is abundant and diverse. Located at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the strong currents, known as the Indonesian Throughflow, bring nutrients that feed the pristine reefs, which in turn attract an astounding variety of fish, critters and their predators. Raja Ampat is known as a biological mecca and photographers, in particular, will find plenty of photo opportunities. Thousands of species of fish and reef-building corals inhabit these diverse waters that restock and populate reefs throughout the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Snorkelers will also find plenty to explore.
It’s easy to spot a variety of large pelagic fish, mantas, cetaceans, large schools of fish, manta rays, reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, reef sharks, the rare walking shark, turtles, Spanish mackerel, tuna, barracuda, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, cuttlefish, and all sorts of crustaceans.
Dive Conditions in Raja Ampat
The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago in West Papua. The 1500 or so jungle-sheathed islands offer much to explore. Diving in Raja Ampat is challenging because of the strong currents and is recommended for experienced divers, although there are some sites for beginners too.
Liveaboards are popular for avid divers and the best way to see all that the region has to offer. There are some dive resorts too, mostly in the Northern regions.
Best Time to Dive in Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat has a tropical climate. Diving is possible all year round but October to May is considered the best diving season. There is less rain, calmer conditions, and great visibility.
Monsoon season hits around mid-June to mid-September and most liveaboards do not operate during this period. The southern Raja Ampat area is inaccessible due to rough and windy weather.
The northern and central Raja Ampat areas are accessible throughout the year via the dive resorts or some liveaboards.
Water Temperature is a steady 27 °C – 30 °C (80 °F – 86 °F) degrees year-round and visibility ranges from 10 to 25m (30 to 80 ft.) Air temperatures are usually constant with a daytime average maximum of 32 °C (89 °F)
Best Dive Sites in Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat meaning the ‘Four Kings’, are the islands Misool, Batanta, Waigeo, and Salawati but the area is actually made up of hundreds of islands, covering around 40,000 ㎡ with countless dive sites, too many for one trip. Here are my top picks.
There are many beautiful sites to dive around this island including a coral column drops down to 25 meters and is a good site for less experienced divers diving in current for the first time. Yellow snappers are abundant here and at the deeper part of this site, you might just spot a wobbegong shark or five. Trevallies, fusiliers, groupers, giant clams, morays and all sorts of hard and soft coral abound here too.
One of Raja Ampat’s most accessible wrecks, it’s a Japanese navy patrol boat sunk during WWII. The wreck lays upright and has been completely colonized by coral which attracts an abundance of life. Lionfish, moray eels, Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, nudibranch species and more populate the wreck.
Sardines are just one of the many fish species you’ll see here on this big underwater pinnacle. It’s about 200m long and slopes to the sandy bottom at about 25 m (ft.) The currents are strong here and flow on both sides of the pinnacle and over the top. You’ll see large schools of fusiliers, damsels, bannerfish, butterflyfish, sweetlips, and snappers. Triggerfish and predators such as barracuda, Spanish mackerel, jacks, and giant trevallies also make an appearance, as well as black-tipped reef sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and even grey reef sharks.
This underwater mountain is indeed magical. Located in the southern Misool region of Raja Ampat, this extended ridge teems with fish. It’s also a cleaning station for manta rays as well as Napoleon wrasse, schools of snappers, jacks, trevallies, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and reef sharks.
This iconic site is definitely worth a stop. In the middle of the Dampier strait, its topography is awe-inspiring with crevices, swim-throughs, and walls covered in multicolored hard and soft coral. Regularly spotted here are Spanish mackerel or white-tipped and black-tipped sharks on the hunt. Look out, too, for wobbegong and epaulette sharks, turtles, and the occasional sea snake.
Boo Island has a large, impressive swim-through at this unique site, usually done at the end of the dive after you have immersed yourself in a plethora of marine life. The wall slightly deeper is home to gorgonians, barrel sponges, soft corals, nudibranchs. Schools of unicornfish, surgeonfish and blue dash fusiliers in large numbers will keep you entertained too.
If it’s the wobbegong shark you after, this is where you’ll find it. Located in the Jet Fam Islands, a group of islets and limestone islands on the west side of Batanta Island, it’s definitely one of Raja Ampat’s best dive sites. Manta rays, great barracudas and an astounding range of tropical fish and coral are all found here too.
The sheer numbers of fish species found at one time here are what makes this a top spot. Great schools of trevallies and tuna darken the water vying for your attention with bump headed parrotfish, all kinds of sharks, tropical fish and incredible coral. The crossroads of different currents here has created the ideal grounds for some amazing fauna and flora.
A stunning pinnacle reef hidden in the Damper Strait, Blue Magic is also an exhilarating must-dive in Raja Ampat. It’s located out in the open ocean between the island of Kri and the main island of Waisai in the Dampier Strait. Famous for strong currents, after a quick descent you’ll be surrounded by massive schools of jacks, barracuda and other fish. You might even see a wobbegong shark drifting around and there are plenty of bright corals and numerous critters to spot.
How to Get to Raja Ampat
Being so remote, reaching Raja Ampat is difficult, requiring about three or more flights from most parts of the world. Sorong Airport (SOQ) is the common access point and most liveaboards and dive resorts offer airport pickups and transfers. It is also possible to fly into Waisai. Some Komodo liveaboards also sail to Raja Ampat from Labuan Bajo.
Good to Know
Ancient rock paintings and caves are on Misool Island, while the crimson bird of paradise lives on Waigeo Island. Batanta and Salawati are the archipelago’s other main islands and offer stunning beaches, jungle hikes, cliff jumping into lagoons and more.
The entire region is also home to many endemic species of birds and other wildlife and is also a popular trekking destination.