A Paradise Both Inside and Outside the Water
Located in a unique enclave amid the so-called Coral Triangle, in the Pacific Ocean, Raja Ampat is stunning for its extraordinary marine biodiversity and its amazing landscapes. Though it’s well off the tourist map, there’s no question that those visitors who happen upon Raja Ampat are captivated forever. It’s a paradise for lovers of diving, of nature in its pristine state, and of unforgettable sunsets.
Made up of more than 1,500 islets, this archipelago is situated off the northwest tip of Birds Head Peninsular, in West Papua, one of the two provinces making up Papua New Guinea.
Considered one of the most diverse marine environments on the planet, Raja Ampat stands out for its remarkable conservation of nature, the traditions of its millenial tribes, and the hundreds of unique species in its National Marine Park, including the Dudong and hundreds of species of coral populating the ocean floor.
On Raja Ampat time really does seem to stand still, letting the traveler enjoy a lifestyle in total communion with nature, discovering an aquatic and earthly paradise, complete with welcoming people.
What can you spect in Raja Ampat?
The Cuisine of Raja Ampat
The cuisine of Raja Ampat is, without question, traditional. Don’t expect to find large chain restaurants, or any restaurants at all serving Western food. Instead, the flavor and freshness of the local fish and produce tantalizes travelers with a delightful new cuisine.
A basic ingredients of the cuisine in Raja Ampat is sago, flour derived from the trunk of the Sagú Palm Tree. It is used to prepare a multitude of main dishes and an intriguing variety of desserts. In Papua, as in the region of Raja Ampat, not much fruit is grown, so it is surprisingly difficult to find fresh fruit, beyond bananas. Rather, the region’s cuisine is based primarily on fresh fish and native vegetables.
The inhabitants of Raja Ampat are mostly fishermen and farmers, who grow and harvest their own ingredients to make their local dishes: Mumu (earth-oven cooking), Barapen (stone-grilled) Chicken, and Papeda or sago congee, a starch made from sago flour, derived from the trunk of the palm tree.
The name Mumu comes from the earth-oven in which this traditional dish is cooked, which is placed in the ground amid hot stones. It is a pork dish accompanied by yams, vegetables and rice. The chicken preparation Barapen ala Walesi is one of the most famous dishes in the cuisine of Western Papua. It is also cooked in a traditional oven buried in the earth, to which the cook adds chicken, vegetables, spices, and cassavas or yams. The recipe for Chicken Barapen ala Walesi owes its name to a tribe in Wamena Papua called the Walesi; it doesn’t include pork, because many of the inhabitants of that region are Muslums. Another typical dish of Raja Ampat is Papeda. Especially popular on the coasts, it is based on sago flour, mixed with hot water. For added flavor, the locals enjoy this thick liquid spiced with chiles or accompanied by plates of fish.
Like fresh fruit, alcohol is scarce in the cuisine of Raja Ampat. The local people are very religious, and for celebrations and rituals they use traditional drinks like tuak and arak, which are brewed from virgin coconuts and have a low alcoholic content.
Raja Ampat Currency
The Indonesian rupee is the money of Raja Ampat and, though its exchange rate varies, currently it is at 13,000 Rp per US dollar. A good policy regarding money on Raja Ampat is to carry a large quantity of coins, since you will only find ATMs and Banks in Sorong (the main city connecting with Raja Ampat).
It’s a good idea to use the ATMs at Indonesian airports like Bali or Java, since most businesses here don’t accept credit cards. It is best to exchange money before you arrive in Indonesia. As an alternative, you can exchange dollars in Sorong, though the money exchange rules there are very strict: they only accept crisp bills, recently minted and in good condition.
Raja Ampat Culture
The society of Raja Ampat is a mixture of Indigenous cultures with the culture of the immigrants who have arrived on the archipelago in the course of the past century. Its people are very friendly and welcoming toward all visitors who respect their marvelous land. Their lifestyle is relaxed and carefree, perhaps because they live in Paradise!
In Western Papua more than 250 Indigenous languages are spoken. Language in Raja Ampat is not standardized, since many inhabitants speak different mother tongues. Also, not many people speak English, though it is not difficult to communicate with the locals.
In Raja Ampat, traditional dances are performed for celebrations or ritual occasions, like the Bintaki dance, inspired by the movements of fishermen. Another artistic representation of the culture of Raja Ampat is the Wor song and dance. Brought by ancestors who migrated to the archipelago from the island of Biak, this dance was performed to welcome kings or nobles who were visiting the islands.
Travelers should plan to make small adjustments to adapt to the local culture. For example, it’s important to pay attention to how local people dress, and to avoid wearing bathing suits in church or religious centers. A T-shirt and longer pants are the ideal attire for roaming the archipelago at any time of year.
Following Christian tradition, the people of Raja Ampat observe Sundays as a day of rest and for family gatherings. Though the restaurants are open, it’s best to not plan excursions or activities for Sundays, out of respect for local culture.
For local people it is very important that visitors be respectful of the culture of Raja Ampat. It’s a good idea for travelers to employ local inhabitants as guides when they visit monuments or centers of worship. The people of Raja Ampat, with their deep-rooted Indigenous cultures, are calm, friendly and welcoming toward visitors.
One of the most important events in the area is the Raja Ampat Festival, organized by the government of Indonesia to promote the region. This festival is basically a rally for all of Indonesia, where visitors can discover the marvels that this region has to offer the world. In 2015 one of the most surprising stops was on the islands of Raja Ampat, where visitors were shown the most amazing feature of the Raja Ampat Festival 2015: the greatest marine biodiversity in the world.
Raja Ampat Coral Reef
The Raja Ampat Coral Reef is one of the few truly wild places left on the planet, in addition to having one of the richest marine biodiversities in the world: 1,508 species of catalogued fish, 537 species of coral–accounting for 75% of all existing species–, and 699 species of mollusks.
Extending over more than 24,000 square kilometers, the archipelago of Raja Ampat, with its four large islands (Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool) and its more than 1,500 islets, is home to the last remaining nature preserves in their pure state, unaltered by humans. This coral reef in Raja Ampat is noteworthy for the amazing variety of species, unique in all the world, that inhabit it, like the Dugong, half elephant and half crustacean, the toad fishes, the hammerhead shark, the carpet shark and the wobbegong or bottom-dwelling shark, among others.
There are several conditions that allow the coral reef in Raja Ampat to host one of the richest marine biodiversities in the world. In the first place, the native corals are especially resilient and can regenerate themselves, which helps sustain the unique habitat of the Coral Triangle.
Another distinctive aspect of this región is that, since it is so remote, it hasn’t been contaminated by human population. Together with its year-round temperate climate, and the tranquility of the Pacific Islands, these factors make Raja Ampat the aquatic and terrestrial paradise that it is.
Raja Ampat Weather
Because of its proximity to the Equator, the Raja Ampat weather is clearly tropical, with moderate temperatures and monsoon seasons. The best time of year to visit the archipelago 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 rainy season runs from June to September, making up what is known as the Eastern Monsoon.
The Raja Ampat weather is moderate, with temperatures ranging from 20ºC to 33ºC, and a water temperatura of between 25ºC and 28ºC, so visitors can enjoy dives, as well as excursions and other outdoor activities. For further information visit Raja Ampat weather and climate.
Raja Ampat National Marine Park
Raja Ampat, with one of the richest marine biodiversities on the planet, boasts its own National Park. The park is a protected zone where the hundreds of species inhabiting its waters remain unaltered by man. This National Marine Park of Raja Ampat constitutes one of its main tourist attractions; hundreds of divers come to the archipelago to discover an aquatic paradise unique in all the world.
The espectacular marine landscapes and the fantastic variety of corals and fish found in the Marine Park of Raja Ampat are not only to be admired by expert divers. Casual visitors and tourists can also plunge into the marine world through dives for beginners, allowing them, too, to enjoy the ocean riches of Raja Ampat.
- 75% of all species of coral on the planet.
- 57 species of mantis shrimps (Stomatopoda).
- 10 times as much coral as in the Caribbean.
- 5 endangered species of tortoises.
- 13 species of sea mammals.
- More than 1,600 species of reef fish, 35 of them exclusive to this region.
- 603 species of hard coral.
To visit the Marine Park of Raja Ampat, you are required to purchase a permit for 1,000,000 Indonesian rupees (about 100 US dollars); this supports the costs of conservation and management. The permit is valid for twelve months and should be paid for by bank transfer, prior to your arrival in Raja Ampat.
Raja Ampat Islands
The archipelago of Raja Ampat is made up of 4 principal islands and more than 1,500 islets, where you will discover an aquatic and terrestrial paradise.
Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo, the largest islands, are where you will find most options for lodging and resorts. Waigeo is the largest, with 3.155 km2, followed by Misool, with 2.034 km2, Salawati with 1.623 km2 and Batanta, with 423 km2. But it is on the 1,500 small islands, keys and islets where you will find the most remote and pristine Paradise. On the Islands of Raja Ampat you will find nature in its purest state, revel in the warmth of its turquoise waters, and bask in the sensation that time has stood still so you can enjoy this Paradise hidden away in the Pacific.
How to get to Raja Ampat
Though it is a remote corner of the planet, the archipelago of Raja Ampat is not inaccesible. On the contrary, it is well communicated with the Island of Guinea from Western Papua. The best option for how to reach Raja Ampat is from the Sorong Domine Edward Osok Airport. Since there are no direct flights to Western Papua, you will reach Sorong by way of a connection in the airport of Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon or Manado.
You will arrive in Raja Ampat by way of ferries or boats that carry passengers to the islands of the archipelago. If at first glance how to get to Raja Ampat might seem challenging, both locals and visitors residing in the area are happy to help travelers find their way to their destination.
Raja Ampat map
Things to Do in Raja Ampat
The archipelago is a Paradise for divers and lovers of exploration; still, it is more than a destination for such adventurers. The region offers a wide variety of activities and forms of entertainment, so you can both discover exciting new landscapes and also just kick back and relax.
For the intrepid, one of the best things to do in Raja Ampat is to make an excursion into the marvelous natural environment out of the water. The geological history of the región has given rise, over centuries, to the formation of enormous limestone rocks that make up a varied and unique landscape.
Some of the most interesting excursions are to the Island of Gam, the Islands of Fam, and el Pasaje (the Passage), a beautiful canal between the Islands of Waigeo and Gam.
Of course, diving is the most popular activity here, and no wonder, since no visit to the archipelago is complete without a visit to the impressive ocean floor and its unique biodiversity.
Other fascinating things to do in Raja Ampat include kayakking, snorkeling on one of our many white-sand beaches with cristal clear waters, bird watching, trekking, and visiting the region’s Indigenous villages.
There’s no question that diving is a top priority in Raja Ampat. Its marine biodiversity is the main attraction of this archipelago, which also offers stunning scenery and a warm, inviting culture and peoples.
But it is divers who visit this archipelago the most, to pursue their passion and discover species and vistas that can’t be seen anywhere else on the planet.
One of the attractions of diving in Raja Ampat is the warmth of its waters; year round the water temperature stays above 25º C. Another is its pristine state, due to careful conservation of the environment and the respect shown by both locals and visitors to this unique Paradise.
Both Raja Ampat and, especially, the National Marine Park constitute a unique space where every dive offers a new opportunity to discover fish, corals, and sea mammals unique to the region, and to observe them at leisure in their native habitat.
Another popular option is to visit the archipelago by boat, taking in the scenery and the ocean floor from the unique perspective of life on board in Raja Ampat.
During these life-on-aboard cruises, you will have the opportunity to visit some of the best diving spots in Raja Ampat from aboard ship. Most boats sail from Sorong and take 8 or 9 days. During the cruise, you will enjoy two dives to enjoy the ocean floor and revel in the unique species found there and in the pleasure of diving in warm, crystal-clear waters.
Life on Board in Raja Ampat is just one of the many options for seeing the archipelago. Others choose to stay at hostels and resorts, as a home base for exploring the islands.
Western Papua is one of the most coveted destinations in the world for both profesional and amateur diving. In particular, snorkeling in Raja Ampat is one of the region’s main attractions, since it allows any visitor to explore the archipeago’s amazing ocean floor, along with the unique species that inhabit it.
Diving aficionados already know about Raja Ampat; but you don’t need to put on a neoprene suit and carry an oxygen tank, in order to enjoy the marvelous diversity of the turqoise waters of Raja Ampat.
Visitors who aren’t expert divers, but who want to relax, contemplate the marvelous scenery, and disconnect from the ruckus of tourist centers, will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the ocean by snorkeling in Raja Ampat.
For newcomers to snorkeling, beginners and families, one great option is to arrange for a snorkeling tour of Raja Ampat. With the facilities offered by various companies, visitors can discover the full range of marine diversity in the archipelago. Through the advice and explanations of those in charge of the snorkelling tours of Raja Ampat, you will discover the most amazing species and the best places to practice diving.
Indonesia is a favorite destination for surfers, since surfing in Raja Ampat and in other islands of the region is not only a great plan; it’s also a wonderful opportunity to visit remote places where you can connect with nature at its wildest, both inside and outside the water.
For divers, nature lovers or simply for those who want to relax and enjoy scenery and unique people, Raja Ampat is an ideal destination. Have you been to Raja Ampat? What did you like most? If you want to add information to the article or learn more about our resort in Raja Ampat contact us and we’ll help delighted!