Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia is most famously known as a divers’ paradise, which is true. However it’s often over looked as to how amazing the snorkeling opportunities here really are. One of the delights that Raja Ampat has to offer is its shallow reefs systems, great for dives to have long bottom times but also great to be easily visible and accessible for snorkeling.
The variety of reef systems here in Raja Ampat boast a different variety of corals and reef fish making for great snorkeling on a number of different sites.
Here you will find the most relevant information to have into account about Raja Ampat snorkeling.
Snorkeling in Raja Ampat. Safety
Snorkeling as with many in/on water activities carries a small degree of risk. By sticking to safety recommendations and a few basic guide lines it is possible to be safe and enjoy the beauty of the underwater world.
Equipment is the most important factor when it comes to being comfortable when snorkeling, equipment that fits properly and more importantly, knowing how to actually use your equipment are key to being safe and comfortable.
Before you get in the water, it’s important to have comfortable and fitting snorkeling gear, to choose your snorkel kit there are a couple of basic guidelines to follow:
1) Choosing and preparing a mask
You preferably want a tempered glass and a soft silicone mask, name brands and color do not matter. The fit is the most important. To find out if the mask is the correct size, simply put the mask on your face, breath in through your nose, if the mask sticks to your face it fits. If the mask falls off, try another.
When it comes to putting the mask on first defog your mask. Using either a commercial defog, shampoo or Spit also works just fine, rub it in, rinse and off.
Wet your hair and face before putting on the mask. Equalizing the temperature of your face with that of the seawater will minimize the risk of fogging. Push your hair back so that you do not have hair-causing leaks in your mask.
The mask strap goes on the back of your head near the top. The mask strap should be just below your crown, keep the strap snug but NOT tight, making the strap too tight causes the seal to stretch and your mask will leak. Attach the Snorkel to the mask strap on either the left or right depending on the snorkels design.
2) Choosing and preparing fins
Your fins should fit comfortably. If you choose closed heel fins it doesn’t matter whether your toes show or not, it’s the fit over the top of the arch of your foots that’s key. Or unless you have booties use an open heel fin. If entering the water from the beach, walk into at least waist deep water before putting your fins on, ensuring all the sand is off your feet and not in the foot pocket of the fins.
3) In-water techniques
Relax and try breathing through the snorkel before you try it in the water. Get used to the slight resistance in air flow, and practice long slow big breaths in and out. Be aware that at certain angles your head can go underwater with the snorkel, if you do get water in, to clear is as simple as exhaling while saying the number TWOooo, by making the sound “Twooo” fast – this will blast any water out of your snorkel, remember to breath out before you breath in.
Relax, Breath and float. Your natural setting is to float if you are breathing and relaxed. Keep your hands across your chest (a great trick for keeping warm too) and kick gently, slow movements from your hips and ankles and not your knees.
Finally, wear a t-shirt or rash vest and plenty of sun block ideally reef-safe
Snorkeling Golden Rules
Snorkeling is an all round pretty safe and simple hobby. But as with most things there is a right way and a wrong way… and always some golden rules that keep you safe, but more importantly, rules that will leave our glorious snorkeling spots happy and healthy and unharmed
- Golden Rule 1: Watch those fins!
When you snorkel, swim, don’t walk. One would expect this to be a rather simple request. We notice more and more people going snorkeling with “booties” which is not a problem until you find you can suddenly walk. This is not a great idea, the amount of damage done to coral and a range of underwater life from careless snorkelers treading on them is insane. Fins tend to float up behind you, so if you keep horizontal and above the reef, so technically you shouldn’t do any harm. If you must stand, then check where you are putting your feet first before you do any damage. Remember fins become an extension of your body making you longer and you need to be aware when floating upright that your fins are below you, watch that you don’t kick the reef as you tread water.
- Golden Rule 2: Take Nothing, Touch Nothing, and Leave Nothing behind
This is a simple rule to apply to anytime you spend time in nature, you know the old “take photos leave only footprints”. Touching things can come at your own detriment too. Keep your hands to yourself; you’ll be glad you did. Corals are in the same family as Jellyfish, due to all having stinging tentacles. Corals are extremely sensitive and the acid on our hands cause harm to a number of different corals slowing killing them.
- Golden Rule 3: Buddy system/surface support
Never go into the ocean alone. This is common sense. If you do not have a buddy to snorkel with then make sure there is some surface support either of someone on land spotting you and confirming your return, or a boat crew following you along.
- Golden Rule 4: Slow down!
You see hundreds more creatures and corals if you go slowly, gentle breathes, slow kicks, explore, look for things. Arms flapping and feet kicking up a small tsunami not only chases away the very wildlife you are searching for, it also picks up sediment, which then settles on corals and can smother them. Slow and calm equals lots of fish, better visibility and you’ll leave the water happy and relaxed.
Raja Ampat: snorkeling sites
With Raja Ampat having a representation of over 65% of all the worlds currently know species of Corals it truly is a site to be seen firsthand. Apart from the Corals the life that resides in the reefs make coral reefs one on the most Biodiverse Ecosystems on the planet. Up to 70% of the world’s species of fish at some point of their lives spent time in a reef system.
Raja Ampat provides a unique opportunity so see some of the most pristine and untouched reefs that are remaining in our oceans. With higher average sea temperatures it’s also believed that the corals and the reefs of Raja Ampat are more resilient to disease and temperature change. Making it a truly unique place to dive and snorkel.
With a number of reefs surround nearly all the islands here in Raja Ampat and bank reef systems in the blue the variety of reefs is numerous. Here are some of the best spots for snorkeling in Raja Amapat.
1) Biodiversity House Reef
A Fringe reef system right in from of the resort. Depending on the tide the top of the reef is between 2-5m and gently sloops off to a maximum of 20m. With a wide variety of Hard corals and numerous table corals the reef boasts home to a number of different fish species, and well as Moray eels, Turtles, reef sharks. For those with more experience snorkeling it make for a great night snorkel site as well with good chances of see the Raja Ampat Epilate shark aka the Walking shark.
2) Batu Lima
Translates as 5 Rocks is effectively an extension of the house reef. The shallow rocks sit towards the end of the peninsula. At high tide it’s possible to swim between the rocks and see the wonderful pinks and purples of the gorgonians that surround, often there is a Wobbegong hiding out in there.
10 mins out directly in front of the resort is the Island of Mioskun with a stunning peninsula extending out on the east side of the island. With the top of the reef between 2-3m extending to 6-7m before the sloping wall, the area is vast for snorkelers to explore, from dense corals teaming with Chromis and Damsel fish to the slopes heading into the Blue with big schools of Fusiliers and the passing Travally and Jack fish. This site also has a large number of Napolin wrasse from Juveniles to adults cruising along the reef. In season there are good opportunities to see the odd passing Mantas as well.
4) Frewin Garden
With its mix or soft and hard corals Frewin Garden provides a kalioscope of colors teaming with countless reef fish species, reef sharks and passing schools of fusiliers, red tooth triggers and emperors.
5) Frewin Wall
As an extension from Frewin Garden the wall extends the entire length of the island, with slight over hangs in the shallows the density of sponges and tunicates covering the surface is spectacular, with large fan corals and gorgonians extending from the wall in to the blue privides a unique snorkeling experience
6) Frewin Laut
From the Gentle slope to the top of the reef at 2-3m the density and the variety of the different hard coral species on this site is a wonder. With all the usual reef fish with the addition of numerous blue spotted reys and the huge bump head parrot fish make this snorkel site an explorers adventure.
7) Sardines Reef
Out in the blue between the Islands of Mioskun and Koh is a large bank reef system known as Sardines Reef. With the top pf the reef between 3-8m this is for the more experienced snorkeler as there can often be currents on this site, which makes for a fun ride just floating along and watching the big schools of fish passing by, from Spade fish, Sweet lips and big schools of Snappers and Chub, it’s a conveyor belt of fish. There is often a good chance to see numerous reef sharks at this site as well.
8) Koh Island
The entire Southeast side of Koh is covered in Reef from a large shallow bank at 2-4m to a gentle slope into the depth. Koh boasts large schools of pelagic fish off the reef with a wide varity of reef fish in the shallows. There are regular sightings of Hawksbill Turtles on this site.
9) Cape Kri
One of the most famous sites of Raja Ampat, holding the world record for the highest number of fish species counted in a single dive. The reef starts as a flat bank extending out from Kri Island, again this is not a site for the beginner, with good chances of currents on this site in the shallows. The top of the Reef ranges from 3-8m ontop of the bank, at the peninsular it drops to +30m. Its over this peninsular that the big schools of big fish hang out in the current, from Baracuda, big eye travally, blue fin travally, dog tooth tuna and snappers. There are also numerous Turtles on top of the reef both Hawksbills and Green Turtles can be found here
One of the furthest site from Biodiversity resort, with a large jetty fronting the Village of Yenbuba the site provides a diverse array of snorkeling spots, with giant clams under the jetty and lots of Macro life in the shallows of 1-3m. To the top of the reef along the wall at 3-5ms with lots of different species of Sweet lips, Parrot fish and snappers. To large pelagics in the blue with Barracuda, Jacks and Travally. It may not hold the record like Kri but this is definitely one of the most biodiverse sites in Raja Ampat.
On the back side of Kri Island Ransiwor reef covers a large area with depths ranging from 2m to 8m at the top of the reef, with large coral bommies providing shelter to many squirrel fish. There are often a number of Turtles on this site that are used to divers and snorkelers and you can follow them closely watching them swim and feed on the reef.
12) Manta Sandy
Between the months of October and May the reef and Oceanic Manta’s visit Raja Ampat for the cleaning stations and nutrient rich waters to feed in. At Manta Sandy there are a couple of large cleaning stations that the Mantas visit daily. Snorkelers can float to off to the side of these stations and have an amazing view of these majestic giants. The visibility is not always good at this site but regardless its still always possible to see the Mantas.
13) Arbork Jetty
The Jetty at Arbork boasts numerous schools of Fusiliers and sliver side bringing in the big Giant Travally and other large pelagic fish to feed. All the action is under the Jetty where there is often strong currents, especially off the jetty towards the reef. With so much life under the Jetty you can spend hours just watching and taking in all the action.
The best way to enjoy Snorkeling Raja Ampat
Many of the beaches of Raja Ampat are fronted with a fringing reef system, providing good snorkeling opportunities. These do not always provide the best diversity. The House reef here in front of Raja Ampat Biodiversity Eco Resort is one of the best ‘house reef’ systems here in Raja Ampat, with its convenient location you can jump in and snorkel at any time. To see the bigger snorkel sites the only way to reach these is by boat. It’s more often than not possible to join the dive boats taking divers to these sites. The other option is to hire a private boat to take you to the sites of your request.
If you have any question about Raja Ampat snorkeling, don’t hesitate to contact us.