25 Things to Do in Raja Ampat Islands Indonesia (No.1 Heaven Archipelago)
Raja Ampat Islands Indonesia is considered the best tourist destination in West Papua, Indonesia. If you have ever watched the documentary “Edis Paradise 3” produced by Avant Premiere, then you have a glance of what Raja Ampat Islands has in store. Domestic and foreign tourists coming to this spot are mainly attracted to its astonishingly beautiful landscape, both ashore and underwater: its tropical forests, white-sandy beaches, mountains, and marine biodiversity are rarely found anywhere else in the world.
It is even called “The Amazon of the Oceans” due to its location at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which also includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Australia. This strategic location is the reason of its abundantly rich marine biodiversity. So strategically valuable is this area, that the Indonesian government has officially declared it a legally protected area, in order to avoid vandalism of any kind toward its marine ecosystem.
Raja Ampat Indonesia has four main islands, namely Batanta, Misool, Salawati and Waigeo. Along with other small islands, this area has about 600 islands. Only 400 of them have been explored, while the remaining 200 are still untouched by humans. Out of those 400, only 35 are inhabited.
The Origin of Raja Ampat
The name “Raja Ampat”, which literally means “Four Kings”, comes from a local hereditary myth or legend, which tells about a couple living in the forest. One day, on their way through the forest to find food, they found five strange eggs, which apparently were dragon’s eggs. They took the eggs home, and kept them in their room.
When the night came, they heard whispering sounds from inside the room. They peeped and got shocked. Those five eggs they kept in there had hatched and there came from them four young boys and one girl, all dressed in fine clothes which showed that they were of royal descent. Thus, the four boys would then become kings ruling four main islands of Raja Ampat.
Places to Visit in Raja Ampat
Here are the best places to visit in Raja Ampat:
In Waisai, you have Raja Ampat Dive Resort. Diving is one of the most beloved activities for tourists coming to Raja Ampat, and even has been the focus of the world tourism, vigorously campaigned by tourism stakeholders in Indonesia. Many diving packages are being offered by travel agencies.
When going for diving, you’ll be accompanied by an expert guide and thoroughly equipped for the underwater activity. Diving resorts stand ready to supply all the facilities, equipment and guides you need. If you have booked one of the resorts beforehand, you can even ask the resort staff to pick you up upon arrival on the port. As a result, you have several choices of diving resorts.
2. Sea Ghost
If you happen to visit the eastern part of Waigeo in Raja Ampat near the end of the year, you may have the unique experience of watching the “Sea Ghost”, a unique natural phenomenon in the form of a light beam shaped by the sea water around sunset, which you can enjoy from a boat for a few minutes only.
Meanwhile, you can also enjoy a kind of traditional bamboo flute orchestral show at the western and northern parts of Waigeo, which is usually performed at religious or national celebration days, or upon welcoming high rank officials and other VIP guests.
3. Wayag Archipelago
The Wayag archipelago in western Waigeo is a must-visit once you’re in Raja Ampat, since this is the place where all beauty of Raja Ampat is centered. This archipelago consists of chains of densely wooded small coral islands. It takes a 6-hour trip by boat from Sorong, which costs you IDR 6 million. But such a high cost will be immediately paid back with an unforgettable experience already awaiting you there. While sailing across this archipelago, an extremely beautiful scenery from the combination of the green islands and the blue sea will spoil your eyes. You can clearly see the fish swimming around and the coral reefs beneath the water surface.
4. Pari Manta Cleaning Station
While still in Waigeo, don’t forget to visit the Pari Manta Cleaning Station. No, it’s not sort of car wash station, as you might think. Rather, it’s an underwater spot where the Pari Manta, a kind of rayfish with approximately 6-ft wide body, get themselves ‘cleaned’ by thousands of tiny Angelfish. While diving, you can watch them swimming in wait for their turn to get the free service from the little fish which do their job subsequently on one rayfish after another. Make sure to attach yourself to a coral reef with a rope while enjoying this unique show, since you must stand against strong water current in this spot. Take an experienced guide along with you, who will tell you what to do to avoid the rayfish from feeling disturbed and swimming away.
What To Do in Raja Ampat Islands
Here are the lists of all the things you need to do to enjoy Raja Ampat islands Indonesia attraction:
5. Dives the Underwater Life
Nevertheless, it will seem worth all the huge cost once you arrive in your desired spots in Raja Ampat areas. All the abundance and magnificence of biodiversity you see there is just too great to miss. About 540 kinds of coral reefs, or the world’s 75 percent, are found here – ten times the number of species ever found in the whole Caribbean area. You can also find here no less than 1,511 species of fish, or about 75 percent of the whole world’s, 27 of which are to be found nowhere else in the world. Invertebrates are 699 species. Other features of this area are 5 rare species of sea turtle, 13 species of sea mammals, and 57 species of mantis shrimp.
6. Relaxes in the Beauty Marine Island
As you see, the richness of biodiversity awaiting here is just beyond imagination! Its only competitor in regard to the beauty of marine ecosystem is the Weh Island in Sabang, Aceh province, which is located at the westernmost part of Indonesia.
Raja Ampat has been acknowledged one of 10 best diving sites of the world. About 80 percent of Raja Ampat’s 15,400 sq.miles area consists of water. As a result, all you will see is sea all around with its sea animals. Also, Raja Ampat islands Indonesia are most untouchable area and it has a very natural virgin masterpieces.
7. Explores the Forest
Beside diving and snorkeling spots, Raja Ampat also has dense forests, colorful clustered limestone, various kinds of rare plant, and turtle nests on the shores. Trying the Papuan traditional fishing gears, learning to make the traditional wooden sculpture of the Asmat tribe under guidance of Asmat tribal craftsmen, and seeing the typical West Papuan red paradise birds along with 3 other species of paradise birds of Gam archipelago in their natural habitat will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experiences.
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8. Enjoys the Local Culinary
Seafood are the most available culinary on and around the tourist sites. The traditional and international menus according to your preference, all hand-made by the locals. Yellow fish soup is but one among many kinds of typical Raja Ampat culinary you can have there. They are also available in Indonesia restaurants in the capital Waisai.
Then, you can try variety of seafood menu here and its fresh from the sea or river water. Also, that’s the picture of Papeda food. A local food from Raja Ampat that made by sago and usually eat with fish complementary food.
More Heavenly Places of Raja Ampat
The Salawati Island is one of the locations, where also remains of shot-down fighter planes have turned into homes of fish and other sea creatures which certainly make a great underwater view. Another favorite activity here is surfing, since the sea waves in this area is challenging enough. You can also explore the islands by boat, or compete in kayak-race.
You should also take time to pump up your adrenaline in one of the islands, the Pulau Karang, or Rocky Island, by climbing up its nearly perpendicular slope to the top. It takes almost 30 minutes to climb, so make sure you’re in good physical shape. What you will see right after reaching the top is beyond incredible. The paradise-like scenery of the Wayag archipelago that you used to see merely from internet pictures is now right in front of you. Don’t forget to capture this scenery – and make selfie’s, of course.
Waitanta is another must-visit spot you should not miss. Here is the natural habitat of the extremely rare Bruijn red-headed turkeys, or Aepypodius Bruijni, which are once thought to be extinct. To see this rare species in person and make photos of them, is such a precious moment dreamt on even by many biologists. Don’t miss the chance if you have one.
In Misool you have Misool Eco Resort, which also functions as a conservation center. It has its rooms amidst an uninhabited island. Moving further in your exploration of this incredible archipelago, take time to visit Misool Island. This island lies straight facing the Ceram Sea and high seas where giant sea creatures including whales used to swim by.
The most famous spot and most visited in this island is the Blue Water Mangrove. Mangrove roots intersection with coral reefs growing spots in this area makes an outstandingly unique scenery that will charm any photography enthusiasts. Fishes and sea creatures from two different habitats intermingling in this area adds up to the uniqueness. All these you can enjoy without sharing it with anybody else, since this island – like most of the other islands in the archipelago – is uninhabited.
Historic spots in Raja Ampat are no less astonishing. Remains of supposedly prehistoric paintings of human hand palms and animals in considerably big size are still there in Tomolo Cave’s walls, which for sure will keep you staring in amazement. Further to the northern side of Waigeo, you can find other caves which purportedly are remains from the Second World War times, once used as bunkers by the Dutch and Japanese armies. At times, you will be entertained with a kind of traditional war dance by local tribes.
Things You Don’t Want to Miss in Raja Ampat Islands
Meanwhile, here is the things you need to know about Raja Ampat Islands Indonesia:
17. The Corals Life
Raja Ampat has the world’s largest and most comprehensive corals. In case you never heard, 75% corals of the world live in Raja Ampat. As well as 1000 reef fish species, 540 hard coral types, 700 mollusks species, and a vibrant coral reef reaches 90%. That is just so amazingly beautiful.
18. The Flora and Fauna Life
There are many flora and fauna species that you can only found in Raja Ampat, West Papua. Likewise, here lies webbegog, manta rays, sea horses dwarf, Eviota fish king (a kind of gobbie which is belong to the endemic fish Raja Ampat. There is also reef sharks, tuna, baracuda, paradise wilso, red bird, various parrots, a variety or orchids and more. Indeed, there is also mangrove forest and more flora and fauna life that you can only found here in Raja Ampat islands, Indonesia.
19. The History Life
The history of Raja Ampat in old days is still alive here even now. Likewise, you can found the heritage in prehistory period through hand stamps form on the caves in Misool Mountain. Also, you can smell the history of World War II in Wei Island by its sinking ship.
20. The Friendly People Life
Raja Ampat local people are friendly, just like most of Indonesian personalities. Indeed, if you come along to Raja Ampat, you can feel like home to talk to them. They will be surely happy if you hand them candies or areca nut. Then, you guys can share jokes, small talk, or ask them about anything. The leisure time while talking and chewing areca nut is called “Para-Para Pinang” in their language. Thus, they live in village full of peace and happiness.
21. The Festival Hype
There are some fun festivals in Raja Ampat held by the local people with its traditional taste. Meanwhile, the festivals are Suling Tambir Festival in Waigeo and Maritime Festival in Waisai. Then, if you visit Raja Ampat then be sure you don not miss these festivals for fun.
22. Bring Home the Souvenirs
As we know, Raja Ampat holds their tradition so tight. Thus, they put their culture in creativity that stores as traditional special souvenirs. Likewise, you can buy unique and special souvenirs like necklace, plates, woven bags, and more. There is also an extreme souvenir here named Raja Kofiau necklace which is made by head dog skull and mermaid fish bone. If you brave enough, you may grab it.
How to get to Raja Ampat
In order to reach Raja Ampat, you must first take a domestic air trip to Sorong from either the capital Jakarta, Surabaya, Makasar or Denpasar in Bali island, since there are no international air route heading straight to Sorong airport. After arriving in Sorong, you can take a taxi from the airport to the seaport, and continue the trip by ferry boat to Waisai, Raja Ampat’s capital, which takes about 4-5 hours.
Another option available is taking a trip by speed boat, which you’d better do before the rise of tide. Using this mode of transportation, you should pay more attention to things like possible bad weather, rough seas, etc. as might be warned about by the ship’s captain.
The good news is all these trip bustles will likely be cut off with recent announcement by the government on planning to develop the Marinda airport in Waisai. In the meantime, it is always recommended to take enough food provisions before heading to Waisai, because food prices in Waisai are considerably high. Try to find a good lodging place upon arrival in Waisai.
How Much It Costs
Travelling to Raja Ampat can be quite costly, especially if you are a backpacker. If you begin with a Jakarta-Sorong trip, it takes at least IDR 1,5 milion. From Sorong you can best take a 2-hour trip by sea to Raja Ampat’s capital Waisai which ‘only’ costs you a nice IDR 130,000. Here you‘ll be obliged to pay a sort of environmental maintenance service tax to the local government, for which you’ll have to spend another IDR 500,000, and double that sum if you’re a foreign tourist. All these spendings are for one person.
Accommodations are no less costly. That’s why home-stays are most recommended among other modes of accommodations, about IDR 250,000 for one night. Make sure to choose home-stays which are the closest to the spots you’re interested to visit, in order to cut your transportation spending as much as possible, since this one is the most costly of all.
Enjoying Raja Ampat, which is basically an archipelago with no less than 600 islands, you’d have to use island hopping motor boats, which takes millions of rupiahs for each trip from one place to another. So, it will benefit you a lot to travel in a large group. Typically one such motor boat can bring up to 10-12 passengers. Try to bargain on the tariff before going on a trip.
As for meals during the trip, luckily it’s not that costly compared to other spendings. Usually it costs about IDR 20,000 or more each meal for one person. Most homestays include 3 meals a day in their room services. Unfortunately, you can hardly find any food sellers outside the capital Waisai, so it is strongly recommended to take enough meals for yourself on the trip.
Typically, it takes four days and three nights to enjoy and explore Raja Ampat, with minimum expenditure around IDR 6 million in total. This sum equals the cost of hiring a long boat alone for round-sailing in 10 days. Such a high cost could be the main reason why visitors to Raja Ampat are mostly foreign tourists. Another reason is the inadequacy of the existing infrastructures in Papua in general.
Some Travelling Tips
Here are several tips for you who wish to travel to Raja Ampat:
- The best times to visit Raja Ampat are around October and November when the seas are relatively calm and the weather is friendly enough to let you have the best captures of your precious moments on your camera.
- Make sure to prepare special wrapper for your camera to enable you to capture underwater pictures, or rather, prepare a special underwater camera instead. It takes extra photographic skills to make good underwater pictures, so make sure to take some time to practice the skills before travelling.
- Make sure to prepare things like sunscreen and sunblock, also a comfortable hat and t-shirts to wear, since most of Raja Ampat’s tourist spots are sunny all day.
- Taking anti-malaria medicine and mosquito repellant cream with you on your journey is strongly recommended. You will need them while visiting most spots in Raja Ampat.
Before Going Back Home
Want to bring home unique souvenirs from Raja Ampat? There are many choices available. Are you interested in traditional clothing, plait handicraft, Asmat tribal sculpture, or traditional music instruments? All these you can easily find around the sites, either in Raja Ampat or back to Waisai where they are also on sale on many souvenir shops.
Nonetheless, the whole experience itself while visiting this extraordinary place is already considered by many tourists as the best souvenir. Make sure you have neatly captured it all on photos and video recordings to show to families and friends back home.
Last thing that can be said is there are no ordinary things in Raja Ampat – everything is extraordinary. The atoll chain amidst the sea, the hard corals you can see outgrowing above sea level, the waving soft corals, the underwater caves, and the crystal-clear water are but a few things that will keep you wanting to come back here over and over again.