Indonesia Travel Guides

Raja Ampat: Travel Guide

Welcome to our complete Raja Ampat Travel Guide. The Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat lies in the province of Papua, the western half of New Guinea. Many describe this untouched land as one of the worlds last wild places, as thousands of jungle-clad islands scatter the surface of a dazzling aquamarine sea. As the most biodiverse marine habitat on the planet, Raja Ampat is the epitome of paradise for snorkellers, divers, and nature lovers alike.

A complete Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Our complete Raja Ampat travel guide will help you find things to do, the best places to dive + snorkel, the best time to go, where to sleep, how to get there and how to save money.

The best things to do in Raja Ampat

  1. Things to do diving with mantas in Raja Ampat

    Dive – Imagine descending down to a pristine pinnacle surrounded by 5 or 6 oceanic mantas swirling amongst huge schools of jacks and barracuda, while big grey and white tip sharks stalk the area. Look more closely and you’ll spot a Wobbegong, then a turtle, a scornpionfish, and a pygmy seahorse. Yep. Diving in Raja Ampat is probably going to be the best of your life.

  2. Things to do snorkelling at Friwen Wall, Raja Ampat

    SnorkelSnorkelling in Raja Ampat rivals the diving. Expect to see anything from sharks, mantas, eagle rays, turtles, barracuda, sea snakes, and dugongs. Plus mind boggling macro and amazing colourful coral. We recommend picking a homestay or resort with an excellent housereef. The more time you spend on the reef, the more you realise how unbelievably diverse it is.

  3. Things to do explore islands by longtail boat in Raja Ampat

    Boat trip excursions – Take boat trips to snorkel and explore different parts of Raja Ampat. Stop off at local villages, discover hidden lagoons, hike through the jungle and enjoy many of the amazing snorkel sites that the Dampier Strait has to offer. We like venturing further afield to Batanta or Manyaifun to see an even less populated side of Raja Ampat, and have the reef all to ourselves ;)

Other things to do in Raja Ampat

  • RELAX – With no distractions from the outside world, enjoy a complete digital detox and chill out like a castaway. Beaches in Raja Ampat are picture perfect – Enjoy sipping on a coconut, watching the sunset, swinging in a hammock. Paradise found!
  • Jungle trekking to see the Red Bird of Paradise – Raja Ampat is the only place in the world to see the elusive Red Bird of Paradise. The best chance of spotting them is on Gam or Waigeo. There are many local guides who know where to find the birds, and will take you for a fair price. Expect to pay around IDR 100-200k per person.
  • Kayaking – Renting a kayak is a great way to explore hidden parts of Raja Ampat. There are many little islands, mangrove inlets and lagoons to see. Occasionally homestays and resorts provide their own kayaks, but if you are looking for more of an expedition check out Kayak for Conservation
  • Piaynemo / Wayag day trip – Take a boat trip to see the emerald dotted karst islets, which Raja Ampat is so famous for. Hike up through the jungle to view this spectacle at height. It is a photographers dream.

Top 5 Dive Spots in Raja Ampat

Diving underneath Oceanic Mantas in Raja Ampat
Diving Blue Magic cannot be done just once
  1. Blue Magic – Make a quick descent to this pinnacle reef for an oceanic manta overload! Possibly one of the most abundant cleaning stations you’ll ever encounter. Blue Magic lives up to its name, you won’t know where to look first.
  2. Cape Kri – Drift Cape Kri’s sloping wall to see pygmy seahorses in ornate fan corals as turtles and reef sharks pass by in the blue, then enjoy the schooling sweet lips on your safety stop.
  3. Sardine Reef – Soft coral and black coral bushes populate the entire Sardine Reef area. While barracuda, jacks and giant trevallies swirl overhead, schools of fusiliers, butterfly fish and snappers follow you along with the current.
  4. Chicken Reef – You won’t see any chickens, but we can guarantee a lot of sharks! White tip reef sharks are a common sight here. There is marine life in all shapes and sizes, you’ll see anything from pygmy seahorses to turtles to schools of bumpheads chomping their way through the reef.
  5. Mioskun – Mioskun is a good reef for beginners, as the currents here are relatively light in comparison to other sites. Expect abundant yellow snappers, wobbegong sharks, octopus, morays, and walls of schooling fusiliers.

Top 5 Snorkel Spots in Raja Ampat

Above and below shallow coral reef in Raja Ampat
Some of the healthiest corals we have seen
  1. Tamaku Reef – If you think you’ve experienced ‘off the beaten track’ then think again. Tamaku is a picture perfect coral reef hidden in the heart of the Manyaifun.
  2. Sauwandarek Village – Jump in at the jetty and see schools of friendly angelfish, and the resident Napoleon Wrasse. A reef runs the length of the beach and is full of life. You could snorkel away a day here easily.
  3. Friwen Wall – This is not your average wall. Friwen is an alien underwater world. The overhang is home to all kinds of critters, bizarre and brightly colored corals, fans and fishes. It is like nothing you’ve seen before.
  4. Cape Kri – Possibly for more adventurous snorkellers, Cape Kri has a strong current. But for those willing to fight it, you will be rewarded with black and white tip sharks, huge schooling groupers and lots of sweetlips.
  5. Arborek – Famed for its jetty, which is undoubtedly good. But swim 100m past it and you will find the sweet spot. There is a fish frenzy just before sunset.

See our snorkel guide for all 15 of our favourite spots.

Where to stay in Raja Ampat

There are only two types of accommodation available: Homestays run by local Papuan families, and a handful of relatively expensive resorts.  The local Melanesian people are not that familiar with Western-style living conditions so staying here will take you back to basics.

Due to its remote location, all supplies have to be imported over very long distances, and fuel costs in the Papua region are twice that of the Indonesian average so staying here is more expensive than in other parts of Indonesia or SE Asia. Expect standards of accommodation (even at resorts) to be considerably primitive.

Worried about the facilities on offer, or not sure if staying in a Raja Ampat homestay is for you? Read this.

Homestays vs Resorts

inside a basic homestay water bungalow vs resort
Misool Eco Resort and Beser Bay Homestay

Opting to stay in a traditional homestay is a wonderful experience, giving you an authentic taste of Papuan life. It is also the most affordable accommodation. We recommend homestays which are part of the Raja Ampat Homestay Association – this promotes sustainable ecotourism and protects local families from overdevelopment of their land.

Each homestay member must comply to a set of basic rules by offering 3 meals per day, unlimited tea, coffee and drinking water, plus sleeping arrangements in a traditional Papuan bungalow which include pillows and a mattress on the floor. The average cost pp per night is IDR 350,000. All homestays within the HSA can be found on Stay Raja Ampat which is by far the best place to book your homestay.

Resorts in Raja Ampat are mostly tailored towards the lucrative dive community, and standards of accommodation are significantly higher than that of a homestay. However do not expect poolside bars and cocktails. Even at top-end prices, you may still struggle to find simple luxuries such as AC, WiFi, an en suite bathroom. Prices start at IDR 1.5 mil per person per night.

Our Recommended homestays for snorkelers

Beser Bay Homestay, Gam Island

Beser Bay offers an abundant house reef plus excellent standards of comfort and accommodation, in an unforgettable setting. You’ll feel so at home that you won’t want to leave.

Kayafyof Homestay, Arborek Island

There are many homestays to choose from on Arborek, but Kayafyof offers large overwater bungalows in a secluded spot, with stunning views over the Dampier Strait. The snorkeling here is some of the best in Raja Ampat.

Warahnus Homestay, Kri Island

If you opt for one of the newer bungalows at Warahnus you may get to sleep in an actual bed! Apart from that (and the food) the reason to stay here is the awesome house reef at your front door, and Yenbuba Jetty just a stones throw away.

Recommended homestays for divers

Corepen Homestay, Gam

Corepen run a small dive operation from their homestay on Gam. Both the diving and the homestay are fantastic. The guides here are highly experienced, safety conscious, passionate and knowledgeable of the surrounding area.

Yenanas Paradise, Gam

If you wish to stay at a homestay, but feel more comfortable diving with a resort, then Yenanas Paradise could be a good option. Their neighbors, the Raja Ampat Biodiversity Eco Resort are happy to take non-guests diving.

Read more about what it’s like staying in a Raja Ampat homestay, and which ones are our personal favorites.

Recommended Resorts

Papua Paradise Eco Resort, Birie Island

Papua Paradise is located on beautiful Birie Island in the heart of Batanta. They are a rustic resort offering PADI diving courses.

Misool Eco Resort, Misool

If money were not object, I think we’d all stay at the Misool Eco Resort

Amenities in Raja Ampat

Wide angle view of Beser Bay Island
Raja Ampat is gorgeous, but remote!

Amenities beyond Waisai are few and far between.

Electricity – There is no national grid in Raja Ampat, meaning no source of electricity. Homestays, Resorts and local villages run off of generators which are typically only available from sunset until midnight.

Internet & Mobile – Internet and phone signal is very limited. And wifi is extremely rare. It is possible to buy a local SIM card with data, but most parts of Raja Ampat have no service.

Getting around – The only form of transport is by boat. There are no road networks within the islands.

Top tip – If you plan on staying in more than one homestay, we strongly advise arranging onward boat transfers with your current accommodation. It’s quicker, easier and far more reliable. Unfortunately we’ve witnessed countless guests lose an entire day or more waiting to be picked up by their next homestay.

Shopping – Some villages have tiny shop windows selling basic supplies, but it is advisable to bring all that you think you might need.

ATMs – ATMs can only be found in Waisai or Sorong, so bring enough money to last the duration of your stay. Most homestays require cash payments.

Hospitals – The closest hospital is in Waisai, but as far as we know, it only administers First Aid. For anything serious you would need to get back to Sorong. Either way, do not expect Western standards of healthcare.

How to get to Raja Ampat

Travel Guide Map of Raja Ampat islands
Admittedly Raja Ampat isn’t the easiest place to get to, but this is one of the reasons why it’s so special!

Raja Ampat (or four kings) comprises of four scarcely populated islands: Misool, Batanta, Waigeo and Salawati. To access the islands you must travel via the city of Sorong, in the province of West Papua. There are no direct international flights into Sorong, however you can fly via Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon or Manado with most Indonesian airlines.

Flights to Sorong

From Jakarta to Sorong, fly via Manado (MDC), Ambon (AMQ) or Makassar (UPG).
From Bali to Sorong, fly via Manado (MDC) or Makassar (UPG).

Arriving into Sorong airport, you will be bombarded by taxi drivers wanting your business. The general asking price for a taxi to the harbour is IDR 100,000 but you shouldn’t really have to pay more than IDR 50,000. Negotiate hard.

If you don’t have a lot of luggage, get a lift on the back of an Ojek (motorbike) for IDR 20,000. Or if you are on a strict budget, walk a couple of hundred meters outside to the main road and catch a yellow public minibus. This shouldn’t cost more than IDR 5,000 to anywhere in Sorong.

Sorong to Waisai

To get out to the islands, you will first need to reach the capital town of Raja Ampat which is Waisai, on Waigeo. You will be collected from Port Waisai by your homestay or resort. There are several ways of getting to Waisai from Sorong.

Option 1: Public Ferry

Taking the public ferry is by far the most cost-effective and direct route to Port Waisai. The journey takes approx 2 hours and tickets can be purchased on the day of travel at offices in both Waisai and Sorong.

There are 3 companies operating ferries, and departures are from Sorong’s public harbour (Pelabuhan Rakyat):

The Bahari Express – Has a daily service that is both reliable and frequent. Sorong to Waisai 9am and 2pm daily, Waisai to Sorong 9am and 2pm daily.

The Bahari Express offers two different class options. Tickets are IDR 100,000 for economy class, or IDR 150,000 for VIP.

Top tip – Most tourists take the more expensive (and slightly chaotic) Bahari Express. The ticket office will not willingly explain that there is more than one ferry to Waisai but ask what ferries are available. In our experience, The Marina Express is cheaper and more comfortable.

The Marina Express – operates two routes with two different boats. 1. Between Sorong and Misool, stopping at Misool’s 35, Foley, Yellu & Fafanlap. 2. Between Waisai and Misool (which requires a change of boat at Sorong.)

The boat is spacious and air conditioned, and tickets are a very reasonable IDR 50,000 per person. Check at Sorong harbor for the most up-to-date ferry schedule.

The Sumber Bangka 7 by PT Fajar also runs between Sorong and Waisai, but check at the harbour ticket offices for the latest schedules and prices.

You may be greeted at Sorong harbour by a friendly local man who goes by the name of ‘Mr John’ (John Urbon). John is a guide working closely with the homestay network in Raja Ampat, and is on hand at Sorong harbour to offer assistance. He speaks excellent English, and has all the latest ferry information. He might even be expecting you!

Top tip – Ferry departures can be delayed and cancelled without prior notice, therefore we strongly advise returning to Sorong the day before your flight leaves.

Option 2: Plane

It is now possible to take a 30 minute flight from Sorong to Waisai. Wings Air flies daily from Sorong (SOQ) to Waisai’s Marinda Airport (RJM). Be advised that homestays and resorts collect guests from Port Waisai, so you’ll need to get a taxi from the airport to meet your pickup at the harbour.

Cost is approximately IDR 300,000 (one way)

Option 3: Speedboat

It is possible to charter a speedboat to take you directly to your accommodation, but this is not something we recommend unless it’s completely necessary. Speedboats are ridiculously expensive (we are talking hundreds of dollars) and a lot less comfortable than the public ferries or flying.

To reach homestays and resorts in the main Dampier Strait area generally takes just under an hour from Port Waisai. Read about our personal journey to Raja Ampat here!

Best time to travel Raja Ampat

Local West Papuan at a parade celebrating New Years day
New Years can be a fun time especially if you attend a local village parade!

The best time of year to visit is from October to April, though the months with the best temperatures and fewest rains are from October to December.

Given the tropical climate of Raja Ampat, it might rain briefly but intensely at any time, but the significant windy and rainy season comes from June to September. During this time it is likely to experience problematic boat journeys.

Best time to dive Raja Ampat

It is possible to dive Raja Ampat year round. Currents are consistently the same but visibility can change from one day to the next. Manta season is typically October-May, but not always guaranteed.

Money Saving Tips

  1. Share boat trips with other people – Due to the extortionate fuel prices in Raja Ampat, boat trips are overly expensive. Whether it’s your transfer to and from Waisai, or an excursion, share with others where possible.
  2. Take day trips and excursions to multiple locations – Make the most of your excursion and the cost of the boat by visiting multiple places in close proximity to one another.
  3. Negotiate the price of your excursions – Homestays set prices for excursions, but we know from experience that these are negotiable. If you can get a bigger group together then there’s more room to maneuver.
  4. Bring some snacks and alcohol – You may find homestays or village shops selling the odd pack of biscuits or lukewarm Bintang. But they’ll set you back a few bob! So bring treats with you.
  5. Opt for the least expensive ferry – There is no need to take the Bahari Express if one of the other ferries is departing at the same time.
  6. Take a minibus in Sorong – Don’t bother with the hassle of negotiating a taxi, take a local yellow minibus and enjoy the sights and sounds of Sorong.
  7. Dive with homestays – Diving with homestays is well over half the price of diving with a resort in Raja Ampat (you all end up at the same sites anyway!)
  8. Use a freelance dive guide – If you are an experienced diver with your own gear it could be worth hiring a guide and boat. We know a freelance guide who can take you on personal dives across the Dampier Strait for a very reasonable price.
  9. As a snorkeller, join dive boats – And get to go to awesome dive spots at a fraction of the price!
  10. Make the most of your permit – It lasts for 12 months! We’ve used ours three times already. (And there’s a high possibility we might use it again before it runs out…fingers crossed)

Need help preparing for your trip to Raja Ampat? Click here for our essential packing list for snorkellers.

Did you find our Raja Ampat Travel Guide helpful?

Let us know if you found our Raja Ampat travel guide helpful in some way. We will be updating and adding to this guide on a regular basis as things will likely change. If you have any suggestions on how we can improve our Raja Ampat Travel Guide then please leave a comment in the section below.


  1. Hi Clair,
    Really enjoy reading your Raja Ampat blog and have already booked 2 Homestay for our January / February trip based on your recommendation! We went to Raja Ampat over 8 years ago and haven’t stopped talked about it since so so excited that we are finally returning! Wanted to ask you with regards to the freelance dive guide you mentioned. We have all our own equipment and are experienced divers so this could be great for us. Really appreciate your help.
    All the best

    1. Hi Janne,

      Thank you for your message! So pleased that you’ve enjoyed reading our blog and found it useful! How fantastic, I bet you can’t wait! I will send you an email regarding the freelance dive guide.

      Will be in touch soon – Claire.

  2. Thank you so much. This is by far the best i found on the internet. A lot of usefull info and great tips. Please continue this because you’re doing a great job!

    1. Hi Sammy!

      So pleased to hear that you have found our Raja Ampat Travel Guide helpful. We are here in Raja Ampat again for the next couple of months, so expect more information coming soon :)

      Warm regards,
      Claire & Nick

  3. this is so helpful. thank you
    we are planning to ho to Raja next DEC. (2019).
    can i please e mail you a few questions.
    thank you very much
    ornit atia

    1. Hello Ornit,

      Many thanks for your comment! We are really pleased to hear that you have found our blog helpful. Please feel free to ask us any questions that you may have in the comments section below – Nick

  4. What do you think about spending 4/5 days on Kri and 4/5 days on Gam, would it be better to stay put just on the one island instead?


    1. Hi John, Transferring to other islands can eat into both your time and budget. Since you’ll only be in Raja Ampat for 10 days we’d personally recommend choosing a homestay that is right for you and then staying in one place. You can use the money you’ll save on transfers for day trips and excursions to other islands. Our homestay reviews and recommendations may help you decide which one to go for. Thanks for your comment – Nick

  5. Your post has been one of the most helpful I’ve seen of Raja Ampat.

    Wife and I will be going there for about 10 days this coming January.

    We are just snorkeler. Would you be able to advise us on how to split up our trip? How many days should we stay per homestay? Which islands would you recommend us staying in?

    I read the packing list for snorkeling, but do you have a more general packing list for Raja Ampat? Such as toiletries and food. Would we need a filtered water bottle? Was sunblock widely available?

    Also, do you recommend heading back to Sorong the day before our flight departs? We are scheduled for 14:30 flight.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Thank you Sam! Transfers between islands can be quite expensive and time consuming therefore we would ideally recommend keeping this to a minimum, so you can maximise your time in Raja Ampat. With 10 days, we would suggest perhaps no more than 2-3 homestays. In terms of island choice, it really depends on what you like. Our preference is more quiet and secluded homestays on Gam and Mansuar, but if you are looking for islands with a little more going on then perhaps somewhere like Kri or Arborek would be better suited for you. Either way, all the islands offer fantastic snorkelling. We particularly like the reefs towards western Gam and west/southern Mansuar. Please refer to our snorkel spot recommendations for more details.

      Have you read our toiletries packing list yet? Everything on this list applies to Raja Ampat. We do recommend taking some extra snacks along with you, however be careful about storing food in your bungalow as this can attract rats. We usually bring nuts which are a handy snack. Drinking water is provided by all homestays so a filtered water bottle is not necessary.

      Once you leave Sorong/Waisai, the availability of specific amenities such as toiletries and sunblock are pretty much non-existent. There are no shops in the villages, only small local tokos selling mostly biscuits and sweets.

      Other items you should definitely pack for Raja Ampat include; A head torch, a power bank to charge electrical items, ear drops, a hat, mosquito repellant, afterbite/antiseptic cream, a good medical kit, binoculars if you plan to see the Birds of Paradise, if you feel the heat a small USB fan can come in handy, some small gifts for the homestay children, and if you are snorkelers, pretty much everything on our snorkel packing list!

      It is possible to catch the 14:30 flight and the ferry is normally quite prompt, but you don’t leave yourself much time for incidentals. Probably not worth the risk if you have international flight connections.

      Hope this answers all of your questions, but please feel free to comment below if anything else comes to mind. Have a great trip – Nick

      1. Thank you for your response.

        I still haven’t booked a stay yet for our january trip. Soooo many options. Most likely, we will just stay at one place for our 10 day trip.

        I do have question regarding money. I’m guessing most places prefer cash, but I don’t feel so comfortable carrying around large amounts of cash and leaving it in our room while we are out all day.

        Do you have any advice on this issue?

        How much cash should we have per person per day?

        Is there a way to settle up with the home stay providers at the end of the stay at a ATM in town?


        1. Hi Sam, Cash is preferable, however it is now possible to book via and pay online.

          Some homestays also accept payment by card, but we’d recommend checking this with them first to make sure it’s possible (it depends on internet connection)

          Generally we would say that Raja Ampat is incredibly safe, and crime levels seem very low. We’ve never had an issue with leaving cash (or any other valuables) in our room, and don’t know of anyone that has.

          Yes you can definitely settle up at the end of your stay, and visit an ATM in Waisai. Just be sure to leave yourselves plenty of time to catch the ferry, as town is a little further from the port.

          It is very difficult for us to say how much cash you will need for your trip per day, as this really depends on how many excursions/transfers you plan on doing and where to, as these can range vastly in price.

          Good luck with the rest of your trip planning, and enjoy your time in Raja – Nick

  6. Hi Claire and Nick,

    Many thanks for all the information you have provided, I especially appreciate having your list of top snorkel spots!
    My husband and I are planning a trip in March (2-3 weeks). We snorkel rather than dive and I can’t make up my mind whether it’s worth going on a liveaboard or make our way around on our own (following a similar itinerary to the above). Have you had any experience of doing a liveaboard please (or had feedback from other people)?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Anna, thanks so much for commenting! If money is no option, then a snorkel liveaboard would be a great way of exploring Raja Ampat, especially for more hard to reach areas such as Misool or Wayag.

      The main Dampier Strait snorkel spots we have listed above are all really accessible from the islands of Gam, Kri, Mansuar and Arborek (all of which offer ample homestays) so you wouldn’t necessarily need to do a liveaboard to explore these sites.

      For us, since we travel on a budget and stay for a long time, we really enjoy the homestay experience. We like having our own space, we can go out when we please and don’t have to stick to a given itinerary. It’s also a really lovely way of spending time with the local people and soaking in all the beauty on land.

      If you have 3 weeks, perhaps you could split your stay between a 7 night liveaboard in the north or southern regions, and then spend the rest of your time at some of the islands / homestays around the main Dampier Strait. Hope this helps with your decision, either way you will love it here! All the best – Claire & Nick

  7. Thanks Nick, that’s really helpful advice! I think a combination would be a good option in that case.

    Yes, we’re super excited to come and discover it!
    Thanks again,

  8. These guys are amazing. Real travellers in heart and soul. They want all the best for Raja Ampat and the local communities. The kind of people that we need more in this world. The fact that they share their knowledge helped us out a great deal. We were happy to meet them in Raja Ampat after contacting them. The information provided is very trustworthy as are they.

    1. Jaap & Imke – It was such a pleasure meeting you both in Raja Ampat, we cannot thank you enough for your continued support and kind words. Hope to see you on the road again some day!

  9. Hi there! My husband and I are currently in Bali and I have been researching Raja Ampat.. We plan to head there in about a week. Do you have any recommendations for reputable Liveaboard boats (for snorkling) by chance?

  10. Hi. Jessica and Nick,
    Your blog is invaluable. I think I have read everything and am starting to get a feel for the way things work. We are hoping to go when things open up (have had our 1st dose of vaccine).
    Can’t thank you enough for writing this!

  11. Hello

    Thank you so much for all the helpful snorkel advice! i have a practical question.. I want to stay 2 months in R4. I see you guys were also there longer. Is there a way get a visa extension in Waisai? Or do you know what other options I have? Thankyou

  12. Hi,

    What’s the situation with alcohol? Will I have trouble getting a beer on an evening? Additionally I will probably visit during Ramadam next month, will that make a difference?

    1. No it won’t make a difference in Raja Ampat, beer is expensive but bottle can be purchased at small village convenience stores scattered around the islands. Sorong may prove more difficult during this time but the higher-end hotels should have stock.

  13. Hi Claire,
    Some of homestays you recommend are closed, such as Beser Bay. If one pays attention many guests suffer food poisoning so I am taking care in choosing accommodation. The transfers between places are ridiculously high. Have you found a way to bypass this?

    I am almost at the point of booking at one place for 7 days since the transfer and snorkel sessions are included. Raja Ampat Dive Lodge, Biodiversity and Kri Eco Lodge fall in my budget (barely) – which house reef do you prefer? Papua Paradise is unfortunately super expensive. Thank you

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