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.

Raja Ampat (or four kings) comprises of four scarcely populated islands: Misool, Batanta, Waigeo and Salawati. It tops the ultimate bucket list destination for most divers, and pioneering liveaboards have been venturing to its rich waters for some years. We have created a complete Raja Ampat travel guide to 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. 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. Snorkel – Snorkelling 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. 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

  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

  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.

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

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. Read our homestay reviews and recommendations on the ones we have stayed in. We also 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 snorkelling 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 here.

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

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

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

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 visit Raja Ampat

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 section below.

2 comments

  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
    Janne

    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.

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