Indonesia Snorkel+Dive

10 best dive sites in Raja Ampat: The Coral Triangle Bullseye!

It’s the one you’ve all been waiting for! After almost 6 months of underwater adventures in West Papua, we bring you our detailed report of the very best dive sites in Raja Ampat. This world-class destination offers monumental diving in an unforgettable setting.

Our guide to the best dive sites in Raja Ampat

Over the past two years we’ve discovered some of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat. It is without a doubt, one of our favourite destinations for scuba diving.

To put that in perspective, we’ve been back 4 times and we’re already planning our next trip! Here is our guide to some of the best dive sites within the Dampier Strait, and what you can expect from the worlds most marine-diverse paradise.

Our 10 best dive sites in Raja Ampat

(1) Lao Lao

 Dive Site Lao Lao sweet lips in Raja Ampat

Lao Lao is a relatively new discovery for dive operators in Raja Ampat, and we dove it for the first time this year (2019). It is situated on the opposite side of Mioskun, at the edge of ‘bat island’ – a regular Raja Ampat surface interval stop off point.

Lao Lao is a pretty deep dive, so don’t expect to be down for too long. We battled the current during our descent so probably used up more air than we’d have liked. Despite the dive being a little on the shorter side, Lao Lao really has to be one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat.

The slope down is covered in clusters of pinnacles and coral bommies which you may find as respite from the current. It’s an impressive dive site on all levels, with interesting coral formations and a ton of schooling fish. There are elements of Lao Lao that are really reminiscent of Blue Magic, such as the swirling barracuda, the crowds of jacks and the numerous bat fish.

However its signature (and highlight) is the huge school of brightly coloured ribbon sweet lips which fight the current in unison at the bottom of the reef. This breathtaking sight is a wide angle photographers dream!

Depth: 10-36m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Very good
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(2) Manta Ridge

Manta Ridge Dive Site with oceanic mantas

Manta Ridge is a firm favourite for both Raja Ampat liveaboard safaris and the local resort and homestay dive operators in Raja Ampat. Therefore don’t expect to have this site to yourselves, its usually pretty busy.

The crowds come here for a reason, as the name implies. Manta Ridge has to be one of the most exhilarating and by far one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat! If you’ve ever dreamt of having a close encounter with a manta, then this is it!

During the months of November-January the mantas come to feed at this famous cleaning station. All you need to do is hook in, and watch your head!! We were lucky to experience 11 of these stunning creatures including the all-black mantas often seen here, hovering literally millimetres above us. They were so close we could feel the full force of their gigantic flapping wings.

Manta Ridge is for experienced divers only, since the current rips across the wall in all directions. Down currents are common – particularly on ascent, so it is highly advised to use a rope especially for your safety stop. A reef hook and confidence are an absolute must. Despite its challenges (and a couple of hairy moments) Manta Ridge left us speechless it was so good.

Depth: 10-40m
Visibility: Good
Macro: Moderate
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Very strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(3) Saporkren

Dive site Saporkren bobtail squid

After spending 3 months diving in Tulamben, Bali, we discovered a new love for muck diving but never really considered Raja Ampat as a great place for this.

The region is so well recognised for its wide angle and pristine reefs, meaning muck dives are often overlooked. However, Saporken Jetty has changed that!

The village of Saporken is located on the island of Waigeo, close to the capital town of Waisai. This site is typically dived at night, however day diving is good too. Saporkren is your typical sandy bottom muck dive site, which is a little grubby since its just off of the village jetty.

Making your way down a gentle slope (with little or no current) past a few coral bommies, the best bit of Saporkren is generally around 12-20 metres.

We found full-size seahorses, cute bobtail squid, flying flatworms, clownfish anemones, colemani shrimp plus many unusual crabs species such as the boxer, xeno and porcelain.

Diving Saporken has probably been one of the biggest surprises for us. We never imagined Raja Ampat to be a muck diving destination, but the array of macro spotted during one session was nothing short of epic.

It’s nice to know that its possible to get your critter-fix here too! Without a doubt, this has to be one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat for macro and muck diving.

Depth: 6-30m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Excellent
Wide Angle: Fair
Current: Mild to Moderate
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(4) Cape Kri

Barracudas in Cape Kri Dive Site

Many consider Cape Kri in Raja Ampat as the best diving in the world, since it holds a record for the most fish species found in one single dive.

The site is situated in the channel of water between the Western tip of Pulau Kri and the tiny islet of Koh. Most divers choose Raja Ampat accommodation on the islands surrounding Cape Kri, so they can be close to this popular dive site.

Entry is only possible by boat, where you will soon be swept along a stunning underwater wall. The current runs fast (and sometimes up and down) so be prepared for an exhilarating drift.

Black tips and grey sharks are regular visitors here, as they patrol the reefs outer edges. Meanwhile huge schools of sweet lips, groupers, giant trevally and snappers can be found in shallower areas.

If you hang around long enough, the pygmy seahorses love the corals at Cape Kri. Exploring the reefs many nooks and crannies (which are covered in dense schools of tiny fish) adds an entirely new dimension to the dive.

We generally find the visibility at Cape Kri good, which is possibly why mantas are rarely spotted here, however this doesn’t deter the impressive schools of fish which make diving Cape Kri in Raja Ampat such a signature site.

Depth: 5-25m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Very good
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Strong to Very Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(5) Sardine Reef

Dive Site Sardine Reef bumphead parrotfish group

Oval-shaped Sardine Reef offers a dazzling array of fish in all shapes and sizes. Hundreds of snappers, damselfish, butterflyfish, fusiliers and surgeonfish attract the bigger guys on the hunt for food.

Pelagic predators such as grey reef sharks, barracuda, spanish mackerel and giant trevallies gather here on the look out for a snack. Although Sardine Reef isn’t known for mantas, sitings are possible. We’ve been lucky on a couple of occasions!

The current is more prevalent on the reefs topside, so its recommended to have a hook for your surface interval. There’s also a very good chance you may spot 30 or so bumphead parrotfish who live around these ends, just to make your dive that bit more memorable!

Depth: 5-30m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Very good
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Moderate to Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(6) Otdima

Diving Otdima in raja ampat

This reef is one of our favourite snorkel spots but it also has to be one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat. Otdima is slap bang in the middle of the Dampier Strait, sandwiched between the islands of Gam and Kri.

Fondly nicknamed ‘where’s my guide?’ this reef has a reputation for being a bit more challenging due to its unpredictable currents and tidal movements. The current has a habit of running in different directions, creating an impressive haven for all types of schooling fish.

The reefs vast hard coral garden is one of the healthiest we’ve ever seen, and the sheer numbers of anthias fish within it are mind boggling.

Expect the unexpected at Otdima, its the kind of place where anything could happen. From sharks to eagle rays, mantas and dolphins, you better keep your eyes peeled on this diverse dive site as you never know what may be passing by!

Depth: 4-25m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Very good
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Moderate to Very Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(7) Mioskun

Best dive at mioskun raja ampat

Mioskun is regarded as one of the ‘easier’ sites so Raja Ampat dive operators often come here for a check dive or with beginners. However, this doesn’t mean that Mioskun is any less impressive than some of the other reefs, which is why we’ve enlisted it as one of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat.

This sunken reef begins on the outskirts of the island of Mioskun, but it is still only possible to access by boat. Although renowned for its milder conditions, Mioskun does have its moments where strong current is concerned (mainly on descent) but once you get past this, the site is easy to navigate.

One of Mioskun’s defining features is its large schools of yellow snapper and fusiliers. We generally spend most of the dive relaxing on our backs looking up at the mind-boggling walls of fish that remind us of an art installation. Wobbegong sharks are almost a guaranteed siting, as are pygmy seahorse.

Depth: 5-25m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Very good
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Mild to Moderate
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(8) Chicken Reef

Chicken Reef dive site in raja ampat

Chicken Reef in Raja Ampat is a submerged pinnacle on the outskirts of Pulau Kri. This fantastic dive site is a photographers dream, with both wide angle and macro opportunities, meaning you should probably do it more than once, or twice… we certainly have!

Chicken Reef is best dived when the current is just right – our preference is the first morning dive, around 8am, when its particularly fishy.

As the current splits, you will experience the full force of those famous Raja Ampat conditions and find yourself zipping along the reef. However, drifts don’t last long and you’ll be greeted by more sheltered areas offering a slower pace of exploration, which makes Chicken Reef quite an exhilarating dive.

Chicken Reefs slope is dotted with large coral bommies (which you could easily spend the majority of your dive exploring) as plenty of critters can be found hiding within the gorgonian fans, anemones and soft coral formations.

If you peel your eyes away from the macro for the moment, you will notice the waters surrounding Chicken Reef are very fishy indeed. Clusters of sweet lips, bluefin jacks, giant trevally, fusiliers and batfish in their hundreds fill the air.

In the midst of all of this are some seriously shark infested waters – full size grey, black and white tip sharks. Chicken Reef is by far one the ‘sharkier’ dives, which is why we class it as one of the very best dive sites in Raja Ampat.

Depth: 5-20m
Visibility: Very good
Macro: Excellent
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Moderate to Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(9) Mikes Point

Diving Mikes Point

Many of our most memorable dives have been at Mikes Point. This site probably offers some of the best diving in Raja Ampat, and the world!

During WWII the tiny island that is Mikes Point (which is conveniently situated in the centre of the Dampier Strait) was bombed by the US Army, as its size and shape were similar to a Japanese warship.

This has been fortuitous for the dive site, since the impacts have created unusual rock formations which now provide a safe haven for a variety of critters hiding within their dark crevices.

The reason we enjoy Mikes Point so much, is because every dive is different. This unpredictable site offers an unusual topology, fantastic corals, a swim-through cave at 9 metres and some seriously strong currents. Admittedly, this means its not for everyone, but if you’re a thrill seeking diver then this one could be your cup of tea.

While the macro is excellent, due to its central location, there is always big stuff passing by such as sharks and eagle rays, turtles, sea snakes. The famous wobbegong and walking shark can also be found here.

Depth: 3-30m
Visibility: Good
Macro: Excellent
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Very Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

(10) Blue Magic

Oceanic Manta Ray in Blue Magic

It is hard to know where to start when describing Blue Magic… Let’s just say its been emotional!! This is undoubtably one of the very best dive sites in Raja Ampat.

A fast descent must be made onto this deep pinnacle reef, located in the heart of Raja Ampat. If you’re not quick enough, the strong current can sweep you off this site with ease. Luckily this is a boat dive, so if you don’t make it down in time its always possible to try again.

Blue Magic is a renowned cleaning station for Oceanic Mantas – one of the few places in the world you can see these giant swimming birds. When descending into the eery blue it is often thick with plankton, making it tricky to figure out exactly what you’re aiming for. But, if you’re really lucky the mantas will already be there dancing on top of the pinnacle. If that isn’t enough for you to feast your eyes on, this spectacular dive site offers so much more.

While half a dozen mantas swoop majestically overhead, hundreds of schooling jacks, swirling barracuda and full sized reef sharks grace you with their presence. If we weren’t holding onto regs with clenched teeth, our jaws would literally drop at this heart-stopping sight. More often than not we just hook in (rather than fighting the strong current) and enjoy the show.

Observing the reef more closely the diverse marine life, macro and small critters on offer at Blue Magic are also excellent. Expect nothing less than giant groupers, harlequin shrimp, honeycomb eels, wobbegong sharks, octopus, cuttlefish, pretty anthias and reef fish, nudibranch, pygmy seahorses, porcelain crabs, colourful clams and stunning soft corals! This healthy ecosystem gives us much hope for the future of coral reefs in the Raja Ampat region, despite the threats they face.

If you want guaranteed manta-sitings then the best time to dive Raja Ampat and Blue Magic is between the months of November and January. However this does mean that vis is pretty low (the sea is full of plankton, which the mantas feed on). We feel this is a very small price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime diving experience! Has Blue Magic spoilt us for life? Probably!!

Depth: 10-30m
Visibility: Good
Macro: Excellent
Wide Angle: Excellent
Current: Strong
Access: Boat

View in Google Maps

Dive experience level for Raja Ampat

There are resorts and homestays which offer PADI/SSI courses in Raja Ampat, however we feel that in order for you to fully appreciate and experience this awesome place it is better to build up some dive experience first – especially if you choose to dive with a homestay.

Raja Ampat is well known for its challenging conditions and unpredictable currents. It is an incredibly remote destination – the nearest hospital is 3 hours away in Sorong, and the closest decompression chamber is in either Bali or Australia.

Dive Centres in Raja Ampat

Up until fairly recently, dive sites were only really accessible by liveaboard. However, there are now a number of Raja Ampat diving resorts and operators from other parts of Indonesia such as Scuba Republic who have set up small centres across the islands.

The most affordable and widely available Raja Ampat accommodation for divers are simple Papuan homestays. This is our personal preference since we travel and dive on a strict budget. We also love the experience of staying on land and going right back to basics. With its idyllic beaches and karst islands covered in jungle, Raja Ampat is equally spectacular above water as it is below!

For more information on Raja Ampat homestays, read our in depth homestay reviews.

Diving with a Homestay

A number homestays have their own dive centres, but it is important to understand that its not like diving with a professional PADI centre or a resort. Often local guides don’t speak english and are not professionally trained. Equipment can be a bit sketchy (its not easy to maintain and get hold of new gear in West Papua) and boats do not carry oxygen. We highly recommend bringing a dive watch and as much of your own equipment as possible when diving in Raja Ampat.

The cost of diving with a homestay in Raja Ampat is significantly cheaper than staying with a resort. We dive with either Corepen or Daroyen Village homestay on Gam. The price is negotiable depending on how many dives you choose do, however this is a general outline of what you will expect to pay:

Single dive – Starting at 475k IDR
Equipment hire – Starting at 100k IDR

The best time to dive Raja Ampat

It is possible to dive Raja Ampat year round. However the months of October to April are generally more favourable since the seas are calmer and there is a lot less rain.

The winds come from June to September, meaning more challenging boat journeys and diving conditions.

The current rarely changes, but water visibility does depending on the season. From November until January, the vis is at its lowest due to an influx of plankton – but this is what brings the mantas! Generally the water temperature is always warm (around 29 degrees) which is perfect for diving.

Plan your trip

Start planning your trip now by checking out our complete Raja Ampat Travel Guide for more advise and budget tips.

Diving in Raja Ampat has been nothing short of exceptional for us. We truly believe that every diver should experience this awesome place at least once in their life!

2 comments

  1. Thanks for this fantastic video !
    For non-divers, some views appear impossible to experience ( like the close-up under the manta rays) but it can, at least, deeply makes us dream, ! 🙂

    1. Thanks Marine, glad you enjoyed the new video! Even as snorkelers in Raja Ampat, we have experienced many close encounters with the creatures featured such as barracuda, bumpheads and even mantas. It may not be possible to experience being underneath them, however you can swim side by side, which is equally as amazing 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *