On the eastern part of Indonesia, lies a hidden gem filled with astounding natural beauty and impressive marine life called Raja Ampat. This reclusive paradise is known as part of the Coral Triangle, the largest and richest marine biodiversity on Earth. Raja Ampat itself is an archipelago comprised of more than 600 islands, mostly uninhabited, surrounding the four large main islands. They are Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta, and Misool. Waigeo Island Indonesia is the largest of the four main islands of the archipelago and is located about 65 km off the coast of the Papua mainland. The closest major island to Waigeo is Batanta. Waigeo is also known as Amberi or Waigiu to the local people.
The island itself is separated by the Majoli Gulf that nearly cleaves the island in half, with only a small part of the land in the north still connecting the western and the eastern part of Waigeo. The total area of the island is roughly measured at 3.155 square kilometers. The town of Waisai, the capital of the Raja Ampat Regency, is located on the western coast of the western part of the island. As such, Waigeo island Indonesia is more accessible and has better facilities than other islands in Raja Ampat. A lot of tourists and guides recommends that visitors who planned to explore and travel around Raja Ampat should start their voyage from Waigeo.
Due to the abundance of marine life in the area, Waigeo offers you a truly magnificent experience of underwater adventure. For that reason, the best course of action to take is obviously scuba diving or snorkeling around a multitude of coral reefs and colorful fishes around the Waigeo Island attractions.
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Interesting Things to Do and Places to Visit
The island of Waigeo is approximately 110 km wide from east to west and 50 km from north to south. As such, there will be plenty of interesting places, natural attractions, and must-visited landmarks around the island. Here are some of the best tourist destinations and favorite things to do in Waigeo Island Indonesia.
1. Travel to Kabui Cape and Witness the Pencil Island
Located in the south of Waigeo Island Raja Ampat Papua, Kabui Cape is a unique combination of relaxing yet thrilling experience you can have in Raja Ampat Region. The main feature of Kabui Cape is the Pencil Island, which is not actually an island because you cannot really land on it. It’s actually coral reefs and hard stones that shape looks like a pencil altogether, surrounded by a beautiful and soothing sea.
Get your camera ready since the spectacular scenery will definitely make you itch to take a picture immediately. It is truly a mesmerizing experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. If you’re fond of adventures or mysteries, prepare yourself as you are able to explore several caves around the cape with ancient skulls scattered inside.
2. Do Some Birdwatching at Sawinggrai
As the home of Cendrawasih, the Bird of Paradise, Sawinggrai provides you with a delightful one of a kind experience of birdwatching. The environment and facility around here are really well-built and properly maintained. Most tourists would visit the natural habitat of the bird and take pictures with them. Cendrawasih is known for the colorful plumage of the male species, which was used to attract the female ones during the mating season. The plumage formed bright elongated feathers jutting from the head, wings, beak, and sometimes tails. However, Sawinggrai is not only home for Cendrawasih, but also home to various species of fish. Because of the warm and crystal clear seawater, you can either snorkel or just jump straight into the water. As you swim around, you can also feed the fish. Where else can you be this close to nature and interact freely with its lovely inhabitants?
3. Buy Some Souvenirs at Sauwandarek Village
Sauwandarek is an interesting tourism village in the west of Waisai, the capital city of Raja Ampat. When you step into the village, you will not be able to look away from the exotic and thick traditional feeling of the wooden house topped by thatched roof. In addition, this village is also known for their modest hats and bags made of sea pandan leaf, handcrafted by the women in this village, especially mothers.
Behind the village, you can also enjoy the peaceful sight of Lake Yenauwyauw. The water is salty since it was once connected to the sea. The local people believes that there lives a white sea turtle not far from the lake, and it is considered as luck if someone happens to see the turtle. It is also possible for you to spot a Maleo bird, an endemic species of bird, in this Sauwandarek area. Still, the highlights of this village are the beach. Many divers and snorkelers across the globe are charmed by the beauty of its coral.
4. Snorkel and Explore the Wayag Island
This primary destination and main icon of Raja Ampat is located on the west of Waigeo Island Indonesia. Surely, there are certain reasons why it becomes the icon of Raja Ampat. It has often been said that there is no better snorkeling spot in Indonesia can compare those in Wayag Island. It’s pristine crystal clear water with healthy and untainted coral reefs become the perfect home for thousands of species of biological diversity and of course, become the perfect spot for snorkelers and divers to explore the richness of Wayag’s oceanic ecosystem.
Wayag Island is also popular with the sight of astonishing karst islands overgrown with trees harmoniously intersperse the turquoise and sapphire seawater. To get the best view of this jaw-dropping panorama, you should challenge yourself to climb the atoll (Pulau Karang). The climb can be quite hard and takes about thirty minutes to one hour to get to the top, but those hardships will all be worthwhile when you witness the most incredible pieces of heaven on earth at the top of the atoll. It will be an unforgettable moment worthy of being photographed.
5. Unique Natural Phenomenon at Urbinasopen Village
This local village in the eastern part of Waigeo Island presents you with a rare and interesting natural phenomenon which can be seen only every year end. The local inhabitants call this phenomenon as Sea Ghost or Hantu Laut, where some kind of light comes out from the ocean and wanders around on the water surface for about 10-18 minutes then disappears. The locals believe that the light was the spirit of their ancestors. Urbinasopen itself is populated by around 400 villagers, mostly working as a fisherman or managing the fields. The most common transportation method to go in and out of this village is by the sea-route, using a wooden boat known as the longboat by the local people.
6. Observe the Suling Tambur Performance
Suling Tambur is a traditional music performance presented by a group of people, especially from Biak Tribe, to celebrate local’s nuptial or local’s birthday. The musical instruments being played is a Suling (a flute made of bamboo), and Tambur (drum). The performance is usually held in an open air grass field, which is close to the sea, mostly in the northern area of Waigeo. The musical players even wear the traditional costume, which makes it even more unique and exotic. Sometimes the performance is also accompanied by a simple dance by the local people. As it has gained popularity in the international community, Suling Tambur has become a routine tradition to enjoy in Waigeo. The best time to witness this stunning performance is during Christmas or New Year, and any other important holidays.
Top Diving Sites Around Waigeo
Other than the natural landmark and interesting spots, Waigeo is surrounded by a myriad of fantastic diving spots. After all, the main feature of Raja Ampat is their coral reefs, so visiting Raja Ampat without diving or snorkeling is kind of eating the appetizers or desserts without ever tasting the main dishes. We have compiled some of the best diving spots around Waigeo, complete with a brief description of it.
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7. Bird’s Wall
Located on the southern coast off Waigeo, lies a 30-meter gentle slope full of marine life. These astonishing sea creatures can be found around the small rocks and corals in the slope, which serves as their feeding ground and living place. Various pelagic fishes such as the blue-stripe flagtail pipefish and juvenile emperor angelfish can be seen here. You can also see cuttlefish in here along with the larger fishes such as wrasse, fusiliers, and jacks passing by.
The corals and rocks make a perfect hiding spot for various creatures, so exploring the crevices might be a good idea around here, as you might see some Indian Lionfish resting or waiting for a prey near the ocean floor. It is easy to lose your track of time and depth during your dive here as there are plenty things that will keep you occupied, so keep your awareness and be alert at all times.
8. Sardines Reef, Kri Island
Contrary to its name, there are no sardines around this diving spot, but everybody who has dived in this spot acknowledged the sheer number of pelagic fishes here. Among the most common schools of fishes that you’d normally encounter here are trevallies, tuna, bump head parrotfish, etc.
The bountiful amount of fish sometimes even block out the light when they are swimming above you. This is one of the spots where you can spot the rare wobbegong sharks that dwells underneath the coral formation. Wobbegongs are mostly seen in the Australian waters, and this reef is one of the few places where you can snap a picture or two of these reclusive creatures. As Wobbegong sharks normally roam the seabed, you better keep your eyes peeled to the ocean floor to spot them.
9. Cape Kri
Another popular diving spot near Kri Island that is abundant with fishes. Cape Kri is known as the best place to get surrounded by schools of fishes as their number are said to be much greater than in the Sardines Reef. Lots of Napoleon wrasse, fusiliers, giant groupers, snappers, giant trevallies, dogtooth tuna, chevron barracudas, and other varieties are often seen in the waters. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the giant Queensland groupers that are almost as big as a small car.
One of the most popular things to do here is just drifting with the currents through the tremendous group of fishes effortlessly. As the spot is saturated by a great number of fishes, this is one of the most popular places to snap some great underwater pictures. However, since the current is quite strong, it might be hard to stay in one spot to try and take the best picture. That is why lots of divers come to this place again and again to retake those shots.
10. The Jetty
Located near a jetty that was used to be a pearl farm, this amazing diving spot is quite suitable for beginners as the dive will start from a shallow water. However, divers still need to be careful and on their guard, as lots of dangerous fishes such as scorpion fish, stonefish, and crocodile fish lurks around the corals in the shallows.
These fishes have distinguishing features so it better if you learn it first to avoid them better.The cracks and crevices of these corals sometimes contained interesting marine lifeforms such as moray eel, banded pipefish, nudibranchs, and lots of crustaceans. If you are a small underwater critter lover, you’d love this place as there are a lot of small critters in here, scurrying between corals swiftly and gracefully. Big coral crabs, spiny lobsters, and mantis shrimps are among those critters you will encounter in this diving spot.
11. Manta Sandy
Located northwest of the Arborek Island, Manta Sandy is suitable to every diver due to its depth and current. A large concentration of microorganism such as plankton in this area attracts the manta rays to visit this place regularly, turning it into their feeding ground.
Hence, this site is very popular among tourists as the best place to easily spot some manta rays.Manta rays can grow to 4 meters wide from one wing tip to the other wing tip. Most of these creatures are unperturbed by the diver’s existence, encouraging divers to see them from an up-close and personal distance, some are even tempted into riding them. However, divers are advised to observe these majestic beasts from a distance, preferably behind the rocks, as not to disturb them.
12. Manta Ridge
Another popular place to spot some manta rays, this place is actually known as the cleaning ground for manta rays. Due to the strong currents of this area, large groupings of manta rays come to this place daily to get themselves cleaned up. The cleaning process is an intricate process of action involving several other creatures as follows.
The manta rays usually start the cleaning process by circling around in a seemingly orderly fashion above the reef. Then, they will start to swoop in over to the slope to meet various fishes that will act as their cleaners. Various species of wrasse and other fish will start nibbling and chewing any parasites and leftovers from the manta ray’s mouth, gills, and other parts of their bodies. It is a truly remarkable sight to behold, and certainly one of the most memorable experience during your trip to Waigeo Island. As usual, even though the manta rays are usually unperturbed by the divers existence around them, it’s best to observe and take pictures from afar.
13. The Passage
Located in the southern region of Raja Ampat, this 30 meter-wide channel offers you an impressive array of marine life you’ll ever see. The strong currents between the islands carrying tons of oceanic nutrients are the main reason why these sea creatures congregate in this place. They tried to ensnare whatever passing food in both ends of the passage.
The result is a fantastic fanfare of colorful fishes that your eye would surely find amusing. Even when the visibility was obscured into mediocre range, the stunning colors still looks amazing and pleasing to your eye. Lots of pygmy seahorses can be seen in this diving spots as there are plenty of fishes for them to cling to. However, as the currents can be quite strong in this place, it is best reserved for intermediate to expert divers.
14. Mios Kon
This diving site is located in the southeastern part of Gam Island, near a small island that bears the same name. You can find a lot of pelagic fishes here, such as yellow snappers, trevallies, groupers; and other marine life, such as moray eels, giant clams, and more.The reclusive wobbegong sharks are often spotted around here, so keep your eyes peeled on the seabed while you are diving. Because of its light current, this diving spot is popular among the beginners or those who were already at the intermediate level. However, divers should still be on their guard as the current is known to be occasionally strong sometimes.
15. Friwin Island
Another good diving spot for beginners, Friwin Island actually has several amazing dive sites. Two of them are considered as the best diving spot of this island, namely Friwin Garden and Friwin Wall. Colorful corals of all types and sizes are covering nearly the whole area, making it almost impossible to see the seabed.
The beautiful pelagic fishes living among the coral reefs are so plentiful that it creates an impressive sight, almost similar to an extremely large aquarium. Divers can choose to visit all of these dive sites all in one go or in separate dive tours. It is truly an unforgettable journey to the depths of the ocean.
16. Blue Magic
Swarms of pelagic fish schools are a common sight here, along with its natural predators such as barracudas, giant trevallies, Spanish mackerels, dogtooth tunas, even the blacktip and gray reef sharks. You can also see some manta rays around the cleaning station near the surface. Due to the strong current, this area is recommended for advanced divers only.
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