This place has been seizing the world’s attention in the past few years, acquiring the title of “Hidden Paradise” in Indonesia. Raja Ampat, located nearly 29,000 square miles off the west coast of West Papua, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Indonesia. Crystal clear waters with azure blue skies and the world’s richest marine biodiversity are all here to witness at Raja Ampat.
With the name roughly translated into “four kings,” Raja Ampat indeed has amazing four main islands: Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta, and Misool. This place has become a dream destination for nature enthusiasts, divers, travelers, or those who want to escape from the busy city life. They’re attracted by Raja Ampat’s terrestrial beauty and marine life, which is said to be among the most diverse on earth. Prepare to be amazed with about 1,300 species of every beautiful, colorful, and unique coral dwelling fish you can imagine. Once you dive into the water, don’t be surprised if you bump into some Mantarays or Wobbegongs sharks swimming with you. Or a school of little fishes swimming around you, gracefully in one form.
The Nature Conservancy once conducted a scientific survey of the Raja Ampat Islands to collect information on its marine ecosystems, mangroves, and forests. The result was unbelievable- Raja Ampat’s total number of confirmed corals are 537 species, which is an incredible 75 percent of all known coral species. One international media even stated if Raja Ampat sometimes feels like the setting for Jurassic Park above water, below it is pure Finding Nemo.
Being called the hidden paradise, Raja Ampat isn’t one of the easiest places to reach in Southeast Asia. It has remained relatively off the radar and the most direct route involves a flight from Jakarta to Sorong. However, the more hidden it is, the more attracted tourists are to Raja Ampat. All of these islands-very few of them inhabited-provide an endless bounty of amazing shorelines with shimmering beaches to discover, riding kayak, floating in the blue-ish bays and climbing those marvelous black volcanic peaks. Nowadays, there are luxurious boats that cater tourists who are still emphasizing comfort. One of them is called Alila Purnama, which has a notable cuisine, a wine cellar, turndown service, and massage therapists. Their boats have the most proficient captains and dive masters (usually locals or long-time residents who are deeply familiar with the area).
Visitors can choose their own accommodation such as staying in a liveaboard, in a diving resort, or in a homestay. The homestays are eco-resorts built using traditional materials and are owned by the local people. They have basic rooms and affordable prices. All of them usually offer the food, tea/coffee and drinking water. Some of the homestays have a diving center as well. Most of the Homestays are in North Raja Ampat (around Waigeo Island), but there’s a few in Batanta and Misool Islands. The diving resorts are usually owned by Indonesian businessmen or foreigners. They offer Bungalows or rooms at higher prices than the homestays. Most of the resorts are around Waigeo Island (North Raja Ampat). A couple of them (Misool Eco Resort and Papua Paradise) are in Misool and Batanta Islands. Liveaboards leave from Sorong, and take guests around Raja Ampat. To access the diving spots, they use small rubber boats with a few divers.
Before going to a dive spot, divers need to obtain a permit from the local Papua police station. Guests need to bring their passport and three copies of the passport page with the Indonesian Visa. The diving organizers can help them with these formalities.
So, are you ready to explore the hidden paradise in Indonesia?
By Ivana Monica Bing Sarah, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia