Raja Ampat is the islands-regency in West Papua Province, Indonesia. Featuring beautiful islands with some of the most pristine waters and some of the best dive sites in the world. Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on Papua, Raja Ampat is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool.
It is a paradise of marine-life containing around 75% of the world’s species in easily accessible locations via snorkeling or scuba diving. The most popular sites are Kabui Passage, Arborek Island’s Dock, Sawandarek, Yenbuba, Friwen Wall, and locals will be able to show you hundreds more.
The islands also offer hiking with loads of wildlife and landscapes to be enjoyed.
Staying on the islands is also a chance to experience the local life and customs including local folk songs, food, and renowned hospitality.
- Arborek Village – showcasing local culture and crafts
- Key Dive sites: Melissa’s garden, Mioskun, Blue magic, Cape kri, Sardine reef, Keruo channel, Arborek jetty
- Ayau and Asia Islands – remote and undeveloped
- Gam and Kabui Bays – scenic reefs, and beaches
- Kri Island – long beaches and dive centers
- Mansuar Island – jungle hikes, birdlife and villages
- Waigeo Island – jungle hikes, wildlife, bays, and seascapes
- Batanta – snorkeling and waterfalls, namely, Batanta Island Waterfall
- Pam Islands – home to stunning beaches and Pianemo, a visually stunning islet
- Hornbill Island – for birdlife and sunsets
Raja Ampat has a tropical climate with consistent temperature (and water temperature) all year round. The two notable seasons is the rainy season (June – September) and dry season (October-April). During the rainy seasons seas can get a little rougher with winds that come up and rain is unpredictable. For diving, the dry season is the pick for calm seas and minimal rain.
Raja Ampat Marine Park entry permit
The permit fee for international visitors is 1,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah (~USD 100.00). Permits are available at the counter next to the Raja Ampat Homestay Information Center at Waisai port.
Getting to Raja Ampat
The main point of entry to Raja Ampat Marine Park is at Wasia, Waigeo Island which is the capital of Raja Ampat. All accommodation houses will pick you up from here and it is also where you buy your entry permit as mentioned above.
From Sarong Harbour to Raja Ampat
There are ferries that head from Sorong harbor to Waisai. The journey time is two hours and tickets are bought at the harbor on the day. Tickets start at 100,000 Rupiah (10 USD) and are valid for 12 months. From Wasai you can get boats to any of the islands in the area.
- Pelabuhan Rakyat Sorong Harbour (Address: Malawei, Sorong Manoi, Sorong City)
The nearest major airport is Dominique Edward Osok Airport (SOQ) located in Sorong. You can get domestic flights here from major airports in Indonesia. Dominique Edward Osok Airport (SOQ) is serviced by Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air, Xpress Air, and Susi Air.
From the airport, you can take a taxi for around 100,000 Rupiah (10 USD) to the harbor where you’ll find ferries to the islands as detailed above.
Alternatively, if you are comfortable with small Cesna aircraft, Susa Air offers flights from Sorong to Wasai and Wasai to Waigeo.
Bali to Raja Ampat
Simply fly to Sorong Airport (Dominique Edward Osok Airport) and taxi to the harbor and ferry to Wasai as outlined above.
Our picks for places to stay on the Raja Ampat Islands
A modern and centrally located resort offering restaurant, pool, diving gear, and wifi.
Offering restaurant, BBQ, beachfront, snorkeling and more activities.
Beser Bay Homestay is located in Besir. Located on the beachfront, this property has a restaurant, a garden, a terrace and free WiFi.
Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s West Papua province, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau. The Raja Ampat archipelago straddles the Equator and forms part of Coral Triangle which contains the richest marine biodiversity on earth.
Administratively, the archipelago is part of the province of West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya). Most of the islands constitute the Raja Ampat Regency, which was separated out from Sorong Regency in 2004. The regency encompasses around 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 sq mi) of land and sea, and has a population of about 50,000 (as of 2017).
The name of Raja Ampat (Raja means king, and empat means four) comes from local mythology that tells of a woman who finds seven eggs. Four of the seven hatch and become kings who occupy four of Raja Ampat’s biggest islands whilst the other three become a ghost, a woman, and a stone.
History shows that Raja Ampat was once a part of the Sultanate of Tidore, an influential kingdom from Maluku. Yet, after the Dutch invaded Maluku, it was claimed by the Netherlands.
The first recorded sighting and landing by Europeans of the Ampat Islands was by the Portuguese navigator Jorge de Menezes and his crew in 1526, en route from Biak, the Bird’s Head Peninsula, and Waigeo, to Halmahera (Ternate).
The English explorer William Dampier gave his name to Dampier Strait, which separates Batanta island from Waigeo island. To the east, there is a strait that separates Batanta from Salawati. In 1759 Captain William Wilson sailing in the East Indiaman Pitt navigated these waters and named a strait the ‘Pitt strait’, after his vessel; this was probably the channel between Batanta and Salawati.
Most of the islands make up the Raja Ampat Regency, a regency (kabupaten) forming part of West Papua Province. It came into existence in 2004, prior to which the archipelago was part of Sorong Regency. The southern part of the island of Salawati is not part of the Raja Ampat Regency. Instead, it constitutes the Salawati Selatan Subdistrict of Sorong Regency.
The main occupation for people around this area is fishing since the area is dominated by the sea. They live in a small colony of tribes that spreads around the area. Although traditional culture still strongly exists, they are very welcoming to visitors. Raja Ampat people are more like Ambonese than Papuan people and now some of them are Muslim and some of them are Christian.
The oceanic natural resources around Raja Ampat give it significant potential as a tourist area. Many sources place Raja Ampat as one of their top ten most popular places for diving whilst it retains the number one ranking for underwater biodiversity.
According to Conservation International, marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth. Diversity is considerably greater than any other area sampled in the Coral Triangle composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and East Timor. The Coral Triangle is the heart of the world’s coral reef biodiversity, making Raja Ampat quite possibly the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world.
The area’s massive coral colonies along with relatively high sea surface temperatures, also suggest that its reefs may be relatively resistant to threats like coral bleaching and coral disease, which now jeopardize the survival of other coral ecosystems around the world. The Raja Ampat islands are remote and relatively undisturbed by humans.
The crown-of-thorns starfish eats Raja Ampat’s corals, and the destruction this causes among reefs has posed a threat to tourism. The crown-of-thorns starfish, which “can grow as big around as a trash-can lid,” has proliferated due to increasing nitrogen in the water from human waste, which in turn causes a spike in phytoplankton on which the starfish feed.In 2019, local divers had begun the task of reducing starfish populations by injecting the starfish with a 10% vinegar solution; the dead starfish can then be eaten by local fish.
The high marine diversity in Raja Ampat is strongly influenced by its position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as coral and fish larvae are more easily shared between the two oceans. Raja Ampat’s coral diversity, resilience, and role as a source for larval dispersal make it a global priority for marine protection.
1,508 fish species, 537 coral species (a remarkable 96% of all scleractinia recorded from Indonesia are likely to occur in these islands and 75% of all species that exist in the world), and 699 mollusk species, the variety of marine life is staggering. Some areas boast enormous schools of fish and regular sightings of sharks, such as wobbegongs.
Raja Ampat Islands have at least three ponds containing harmless jellyfish, all in the Misool area.
The islands have a tropical climate with temperatures ranging from 20 to 33 ºC.
Raja Ampat is considered the global center of tropical marine bio-diversity and is referred to as The Crown Jewel of the Bird’s Head Seascape, which also includes Cenderawasih Bay and Triton Bay. The region contains more than 600 species of hard corals, equaling about 75 percent of known species globally, and more than 1,700 species of reef fish. Compared to similar-sized ecosystems elsewhere in the world, this makes Raja Ampat’s biodiversity the richest in the world.Endangered and rare marine mammals such as Dugongs, whales (such as blue or/and pygmy blue, bryde’s, less known omura’s,sperm), dolphins, and orcas occur here. Rainforest that covers tropical islands in Raja Ampat is the natural habitat of a lot of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Two species of birds of paradise, i.e. Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra) and Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (Diphyllodes respublica), are endemic to the islands of Waigeo, Gam and Batanta. In northeast region of Waigeo island, local villagers have been involved in turtle conservation initiatives by protecting nests or relocating eggs of leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. Their works are supported by local government, and NGOs.
The submarine world around the islands was the subject of the documentary film Edies Paradies 3 (by Otto C. Honegger), which has been broadcast by the Swiss television network Schweizer Fernsehen.
In March 2017 the 90-meter cruise ship Caledonian Sky owned by British tour operator Noble Caledonia got caught in a low tide and ran aground in the reef. An evaluation team estimated that 1,600 square meters of the reef was destroyed, which will likely result in a compensation claim of $1.28m-$1.92m. A team of environmentalists and academics estimated much more substantial damage, with potential losses to Indonesia estimated at $18.6 million and a recovery time for the reef spanning decades.