Raja Ampat means ‘Four Kings,’ and is the name for a number of islands that lie off the coast of West Papua.
Over the years Raja Ampat has gained popularity thanks to its diving opportunities, which many enthusiasts claim are some of the best in the world.
Raja Ampat is known for having one of the most diverse marine life in the planet. So diving or even just snorkeling here you will give you the opportunity to see a huge rage of species including fishes, turtles, small sharks, and rare forms of corals. Raja Ampat is technically made up of hundreds of small islands and the four main islands (the four kings) of Misool, Waigeo, Batanta, and Salawati. These four islands are the most visited and each one offers diving activities, caves and karst formations. This area in Indonesia is far less visited than almost any other part, and you will discover that most other travelers here are hard core dive enthusiasts.
Raja Ampat’s big tourist draw is the diving, and you can stay in a resort that can organize dive trips for you. Aside from diving and snorkeling, you can also check out some of the caves around Raja Ampat that have ancient cave paintings, which tell the area’s story. Much of the terrain here is made up of craggy karst formations that are also well worth visiting and you can also explore the area by boat or kayak.
To get to Raja Ampat you will first need to fly to Sorong, which is a city in West Papua. There are currently no international flights to Sorong and depending on where you are coming from, you will usually have to transit somewhere along the way like the island of Sulawesi. You can fly from both Jakarta and Bali to Sulawesi and then on to Sorong. From Sorong, you can then take a boat going to your preferred island.
You can find ATMs and money changers in central areas and hubs such as Sorong, but once you travel to the islands and particularly the dive resorts, access to ATMs may prove to be difficult. As such, it pays to bring some cash with you to cover the costs of your stay. Money changers may be available in the main areas but may not offer a good exchange rate, so it would be better to shop around.
Raja Ampat has a monsoonal climate and a rainy season. The most amount of rain falls in the months of December and January, so diving may prove to be difficult during this time. The best time to visit for diving is from September to December, when you can expect good visibility and little chance of rain. The monsoon season also lightens up from February onwards so March and April are also considered good times to dive.
The only real option when it comes to getting around Raja Ampat is to take a boat everywhere. Depending on the island you choose and the resort you stay in, there may be opportunities to explore on foot, motorbike, or bicycle, but for the most part, travel in this part of the world is done in small rubber boats operated by dive resorts or local fishermen.
Dive resorts offer catered food, while you can find a mix of local Indonesian and Western restaurants in the larger islands. Seafood and fish are one of the main offerings on the menu and this part of Indonesia is famous for its fish curry.
Raja Ampat is well worth the trip if you are looking to go off the beaten track in Indonesia. It is also worthy to note that you should be a keen diver if you do intend to visit, as there is not much to do on the island aside from diving and snorkeling. Of course, you can also visit other interesting sights such as the famous caves and cliffs, but the real beauty of Raja Ampat lies beneath the waves.