The Raja Ampat Islands, An Astonishing Gem of the Pacific
When you look for Raja Ampat on the map, you may have a little trouble finding it, not only because it’s in a very remote location, but because it is an archipelago made up of approximately 1,500 little islands, and that can be confusing. The first step in getting your bearings is to familiarize yourself with the four largest islands of Raja Ampat: Misool, Waigeo, Salawati and Batanta.
Of the more than 40,000 km2 that make up the archipelago, these four islands account for less than a fourth of the surface area of Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat means ‘the Four Kings,’ according to local mythology, which tells about a woman who found seven eggs, four of which joined together to form the four kings. But there are many more Raja Ampat Islands than these, and though they are mostly uninhabited, they are true paradises, well worth discovering and visiting.
As part of the Coral Triangle made up of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, the Raja Ampat Islands boast a tropical climate with constant mild temperatures, allowing activities like diving year-round.
One of the main attractions of Raja Ampat, in addition to its extraordinary ocean floor, is its craggy landscape, with deep rain forests forming a stunning contrast with its white-sand beaches.
Waigeo, the Largest of the Raja Ampat Islands
Known as Pulau Waigeo in Indonesian, this is the largest island in the archipelago. With a surface area of 3.155 km,2 it is also home to the city of Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat. Waigeo is separated from Batanta by Dampier Strait, and it is separated from the Kawe Islands (to the northwest) by Bougainville Strait.
Also known as Amberi or Waigiu, Waigeo is the closest to Sorong (gateway to the archipelago) of all the Raja Ampat Islands. Despite being the best connected, because of its proximity to West New Guinea, exploring this entire island presents a challenge, since it contains remote places that can only be reached by a boat crewed by locals or expert guides from the area.
Among the outstanding features of this largest of the Raja Ampat Islands is its lush, wild interior, with inaccessible, unexplored rain forests. This virgin landscape is also the home to many unique species, such as the Crimson Bird, an autochthonous Bird of Paradise. Other species you can find on Waigeo include giant tortoises and lizards, Indonesian cranes, and the Honeyeaters or Meliphagidea, beautiful birds only found in Asia.
Misool, A Refuge with Crystal-Clear Waters
Situated off the west coast of Papua, Misool is the second largest island in the archipelago of Raja Ampat. It borders on the Seram Sea, so through its waters swim the vast majority of marine species inhabiting the Pacific. This make Misool an underwater paradise, along with the other Raja Ampat Islands.
Covered by a thick layer of rain forest and mangrove swamps, Misool is one of the Raja Ampat Islands with the most stunning landscape above water. Also, this second largest island in the archipelago is surrounded by enormous limestone rocks that emerge from the water to dominate the horizon. Definitely an image that you won’t forget! Despite being a large island, its lush vegetation covers most of its territory, not leaving much room for beaches. Those that it does have are filled with white sand and studded with coconut palm trees, making them the ideal spot for admiring the deep blue of the ocean and imagining the dizzying array of underwater flora and fauna within it.
Besides its spectacular landscape and unspoiled nature, Misool is one of the Raja Ampat Islands that has the most cultural attractions. In its caves you can see petroglyphs that are more than 5,000 years old.
Salawati, An Oasis of Peace and Nature
Situated to the northwest of the island of New Guinea, Salawati is the third largest island in the archipelago, with a square footage of 1.623 km2. The only way to reach it is by boat, since it is one of the least developed of the Raja Ampat Islands. In route to Salawati you can observe the numerous little uninhabited islands or islets, adding to your sense of being in a remote corner of the planet.
The tranquility of Salawati, as in the rest of the islands in the archipelago, makes it an ideal destination for unplugging and kicking back. Also, in its waters, very near the island, there are true submarine treasures, like sunken ships from the Second World War, making for a fascinating visit.
Salawati is a paradise not only for divers and adventurers, but also for those who love exploring and learning about nature. Since it has not been developed for tourism or industry, this is one of the best Raja Ampat Islands for seeing and discovering new species, as the scientists who visit the island can corroborate.
Little, Craggy Batanta
This is the smallest of the four most populous islands of Raja Ampat; but Batanta stands out from the others for its craggier, more rugged geography. With a surface area of only 453 km2 and separated from Waigeo by Dampier Strait, this little island is the ideal place for watching the unique birds native to the region. Check the Raja Ampat activities we offer here at Raja Ampat Biodiversity.
Due to its small size, Batanta is the least visited of the four main Raja Ampat Islands. Yet this makes it all the more appealing to those wanting to travel the less travelled roads, far removed from conventional tourism.
It was one of the first places in Raja Ampat that was designated a natural reserve, because the landscape formed by its huge sculpted rocks, sticking out over the lush tropical forest, makes a powerful impression. Since the island is so narrow, the mountains nearly reach the sea, providing easy access for hikers seeking some truly magnificent views of the Pacific, along with trails leading you to flora and fauna that are unique in all the world.
For lovers of nature in its pure state, for diving aficionados, and for those seeking to unplug in a marvelous, remote setting, the Raja Ampat Islands offer not only stunning landscapes and an ocean floor brimming with biodiversity, but also the chance to plunge into a place far from society, where the natural paradise has been respected and conserved.
¿Have you been to one of these islands? ¿Do you know any other island worth to mention? Our resort is located in the Dampier Strait, in Waigeo, one of the main Raja Ampat islands. From our resort you, our guest, would be able to reach deserted islands, stunning landscapes and the best dive sites in Raja Ampat. For further information about this paradise check our article about Raja Ampat. ¡Do not hesitate in contacting us for further information! 😉