Indonesia Snorkel+Dive

Best Snorkelling in Raja Ampat: Our favourite spots!

When it comes to a good snorkel, it’s fair to say that we have some pretty high standards. We’ve been fortunate enough to have sampled some of the world’s finest reefs from the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Philippines and Indonesia, but snorkelling in Raja Ampat was always number one on our bucket list.

Our guide to the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat

At the end of 2017, our intrepid travels took us on a snorkel expedition to West Papua. Known as the most biodiverse place on the planet for sealife, we couldn’t wait to see what the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat would be like!

After spending three months in the region (yep, we loved it so much we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave!) exploring many great snorkel spots throughout the Dampier Strait, we now have a fair few favourites. Here’s our run down of the top 8.

Snorkelling spots: Sauwandarek Village, Friwen Wall, Arborek, Beser Bay, Tamaku Reef, Yenbuba Jetty, Cape Kri and Batu Lima.

Sauwandarek Village

sauwandarek village snorkelling

Sauwandarek Village is located on the Southern coast of Pulau Mansuar, nestled in a picture perfect cove. Sauwandarek has something for everyone, and easily offers some of the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat.

There are a number of famous jetty’s in Raja Ampat, but we feel Sauwandarek’s is totally underrated! It’s beautiful underside is covered in colourful sea fans and soft corals amongst a mixing pot of friendly Angel Fish, Groupers and the resident Napoleon Wrasse.

Around 100 metres from the shore, in front of the jetty is Sauwandareks ‘sweet spot’. Out here in the blue there is a cleaning station where the big fish like to hang out. Colourful Sweet Lips, Giant Groupers, Trigger Fish, Reef Sharks and a school of bright blue and yellow Fusiliers easily make this one of the most scenic spots for snorkelling in Raja Ampat.

The house reef runs the entire length of the beach. Follow this along and discover a mind-blowing variety of marine life such as the giant sleeping Turtle, even more Reef Sharks, Groupers and swirling schools of Barracuda.

The warm clear shallows have a lot to offer too. There are healthy soft corals, pretty anemones, baby Black Tips and hungry Turtles, so don’t forget to check out this area as well. Once you’re wrinkly from all the snorkelling, dry off on the jetty or wander around the tiny village and play with the local children.

Coral: Excellent
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Excellent
Current: Mild to Medium
Experience: Beginner
Entry: From the jetty at high tide or the shore at low time

Friwen Wall

friwen wall snorkelling

Friwen Wall, a sliver of limestone next door to the tropical island of Friwen Bonda can be found near the Eastern tip of Pulau Gam… And the snorkelling here is sublime.

Depending on the current, work your way slowly along Friwens rocky under-hang. The wall itself drops off abruptly, but concentrate on the clear shallow waters and you will soon discover an alien underwater world.

The unusual coral infrastructure at Friwen Wall is kaleidoscopic. Its huge gorgonian fans in yellows, pinks and reds, black coral, purple pipe corals, swaying soft coral and iridescent sponges make this spot a feast for the eyes!

This pristine reef and healthy topography is home to an array of strange critters and heaps of impressive macro life such as Boxfish, Puffer and Porcupine Fish, Pygmy Seahorses, Nudis, Crustaceans and more.

Friwen Wall can be reached by boat, where it is possible to access a jetty and a small beach on the opposite side of the island.

Coral: Excellent
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Good
Current: Mild to Medium
Experience: Beginner
Entry: Make your entry depending on way the current is running and start or end your snorkel at the jetty.

Arborek

arborek snorkelling

The tiny island of Arborek, reminiscent of a Maldivian Atoll, is famed for its jetty and the schools of fish spinning around it.

It is true that on a good day, the jetty is impressive. However in our humble opinion this site has been somewhat spoilt by the number of day tripping boats which moor here. Sometimes the volume of boats vs people far outweighs the fish.

Avoid the hoards by snorkelling out to the right of the main jetty to a special spot between the 2nd jetty and Barefoot Conservation. Around 100 metres from the shore, during the hours of 3 and 6pm there is a fish feeding frenzy!

Snorkelling Arborek around this time could honestly rival a dive. Shoals of glistening Mackerel open their wide mouths in unison as hunting Tuna and Giant Trevally chase them over mounds of pretty coral heads. If you’re lucky you may even spot a Shark, or a passing Manta or two!

Keep following the reef around past the Barefoot Conservation jetty and be greeted by a beautiful shallow reef of hard and soft corals, big fish and small. Before long you’ll reach an outcrop of hard coral where a huge family of Bumphead Parrotfish like to feed.

For us, we found some of the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat on Arborek. It’s a great place to stay and to visit on an excursion.

Coral: Very Good
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Good
Current: Mild to Strong
Experience: Beginner
Entry: From the main village jetty

Beser Bay

beser bay snorkelling

There are several different spots to explore here which make this super special homestay an excellent choice for serious snorkel enthusiasts.

The main house reef runs along the opening to the bay. Keeping the mangroves to your left, follow this healthy reef for as long as you can. If you’re a strong swimmer its possible to reach the first village.

This stretch is full of life and constant surprises. We’ve spotted Octopus, Mantas, Eagle Rays, Cuttlefish, Reef Sharks, Boxfish, Puffers, Seasnakes, Turtles, Dolphins and Dugongs! Be aware of entering and exiting the bay at low tide – this can be challenging, especially if there is a current.

To the rear of the homestay, karst limestone islets dotted in the turquoise waters offer plenty more to explore. Their interesting rocky under-hangs are not dissimilar to Friwen Wall.

The lagoon surrounding Beser Bay also has a lot to offer. These warm shallows act as a nursing home for baby Black Tip Reef Sharks, Sting Rays, Squid, Clownfish and Cuttlefish. At night, its possible to see the rare and beautiful Walking Shark.

After spending a grand total of 27 nights exploring these waters we consider Beser Bay and its surrounding reefs as one of the top homestays for the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat

Coral: Excellent
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Excellent
Current: Medium to Strong
Experience: Beginner to Advanced
Entry: Best during high tide

Tamaku Reef

tamaku reef snorkelling

Hidden in the depths of Manyaifun, en route to Wayag, is Tamaku Reef. You might have trouble finding it, but trust us, it is well worth the wild goose chase. This long, thin atoll rises within one metre of the surface and it really is what coral reef dreams are made of!

Warm, clear waters lap around the outskirts of a pristine reef, offering a variety of eye-popping hard and soft corals and a wide array of fish species. We were particularly impressed by the volume of colourful Anthias and hunting Black Tip Reef Sharks. When you picture the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat, this is it!

Coral: Excellent
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Very Good
Current: Mild to Medium
Experience: Beginner
Entry: By boat

Yenbuba Jetty

yenbuba jetty snorkelling

Probably the 2nd most famous jetty in Raja Ampat is Yenbuba, on the tip of Pulau Mansuar. But there is more to this place than just stilts in the water as a healthy reef runs either side and is home to many wonderful fish, in all shapes and sizes. The jetty offers pretty fans and soft corals, plus the local kids who love to dive-bomb in from the top!

From here, snorkel across to the island of Kri past the tiny islet of Raniswor. This exciting and adventurous crossing is advised for the more confident snorkeller, since the current running between the two islands can be strong. But if you make it, expect to see lots of big stuff like Sharks, Puffers, Triggerfish and Turtles.

Coral: Very Good
Small Fish: Excellent
Big Fish: Excelllent
Current: Medium to Strong
Experience: Beginner to Advanced
Entry: Via the jetty

Cape Kri

One of the most loved sites for diving and snorkelling in Raja Ampat, but it is not for the faint hearted! This vast cape reaches across from the Eastern tip of of Kri to the island and sandbank of Pasir Timbul.

For snorkellers, it is important to get the timing right with Cape Kri. If the current is too strong, it is easy to get blown off course. Fins are a necessity at this site.

The reef itself is deep, so be prepared to spend a lot of time looking down into the blue. However, your efforts will be compensated by big pelagics and vast schools of fish. This thrilling snorkel will set pulses racing.

Further along from the cape, just off to the left of the small island of Pasir Timbul, there is some excellent snorkelling to be had. We don’t know the official name of this site (maybe its just an extension of Cape Kri?) But, if you can get your boat to moor at the island we highly recommend checking this spot out. The reef here is much shallower and easier for the less experienced.

Coral: Very Good
Small Fish: Very Good
Big Fish: Excelllent
Current: Medium to Strong
Experience: Intermediate to Advanced
Entry: By boat

Batu Lima

Batu Lima Snorkelling

Batu Lima or ‘5 Rocks’ is a small outcrop of, well, rocks located 300 metres or so from Yenanas Beach on Pulau Gam.

This unusual formation of nooks and crannies is a fun place to explore as the resident schooling fish glisten and swoop in and out of its dark spaces offering plenty of hiding places from prying snorkellers and divers.

Around the rocks, there are many coral bommies covered in beautiful gorgonian fans. Making your way across the channel and back to the beach, there is more reef to explore but be careful of passing boats and an occasional current.

Yenanas’s house reef is a stunning coral garden with next to no current, so perfect for inexperienced snorkellers.

Coral: Very Good
Small Fish: Very Good
Big Fish: Good
Current: Medium
Experience: Intermediate
Entry: From Yenanas Beach

Tips for snorkelling in Raja Ampat

Some of the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat was more wild and free than anywhere else we’ve experienced! However the wilderness doesn’t come without its challenges, so we have a few first-hand tips to share with you.

Currents and safety guidelines

Raja Ampat is renowned for its strong currents. It is important to know when it is safe to swim, as a strong current could lead to unpredictable situations. In a place as remote as Raja Ampat, this is potentially very dangerous.

Currents are generally felt more so during a snorkel, as they run closer to the surface of the water. But it is possible to evaluate the situation from above. Look for tell-tale signs such as areas that are flat and glassy mixed with swirling choppy water.

If you think you can feel a strong current building, stay as close to the reef or rocks as possible and turn the snorkel around or head back to the shore if you don’t feel safe.

Be sure to avoid contact with all marine life, including the reef. Coral stings for example, can be incredibly painful and hard to heal in hot and humid places such as Raja Ampat.

If you’re heading out alone, tell someone where you’re going and give them a rough direction. Whether this is a friend, fellow guest or homestay owner its important for people to know where you are, especially when snorkelling in such a remote location.

Clothing

The waters in Raja Ampat are alive and brimming with life! There is rather a lot of plankton, swaying fire coral and little stinging jellyfish so cover up with full length rash guards (tops and bottoms) to protect your skin.

Although the sea is warm here, after hours of snorkelling you will start to feel cold. These extra protective layers will come in handy. It is also more respectful to the local people.

Ear care and cleaning

Ear infections are rife in Raja Ampat. If you are unfortunate enough to get one, they will put a stop to all of your underwater activities.

Take preventative measures and flush out your ears with freshwater after snorkelling. We also recommend administering disinfectant drops to dry and clean them using a mix of alcohol and white vinegar.

Snorkel Gear

We highly recommend wearing fins while snorkelling in Raja Ampat. Not only will they help you glide through the water, but if you get caught in a current, fins make a huge difference. They really are for your own safety.

We prefer to use open back fins which allow for reef shoes or booties to be worn. These are a bit of a necessity in Raja Ampat! Navigating your way out to a reef over sharp dead coral at low tide is painful.

Rental equipment is very hard to come by here, especially if you’re staying in a traditional Papuan homestay so it is best to bring your own mask, snorkel, fins and reef shoes.

Lastly with all these insanely beautiful reefs to explore, an underwater camera is a must! For more information don’t forget to check out our essential packing list for snorkelers.

Discovering the best snorkelling in Raja Ampat

Best of Raja Ampat Snorkelling

Snorkelling in Raja Ampat truly blew our socks / fins off!! The sheer diversity of this pristine habitat is outstanding. The longer we spent in the region, the more apparent this became as each site we visited offered up a new and exciting environment to explore.

We soon learnt that whether you are a lover of the big stuff, colourful coral reefs or tiny macro, there is never a lack of life. The only downside is, that snorkelling in Raja Ampat may be impossible to beat…

Have we been spoilt for life? Quite possibly! But thats ok, we’re already planning our next trip 😉 Want to go? Check out our Raja Ampat Travel Guide.

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