A favorite for divers all around the world, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Located mainly in Southeast Asia with some territories in Oceania, Indonesia, officially known as the Republic of Indonesia is a unitary sovereign state.
Indonesia is the world’s largest island country and is situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans. The island itself consists of more than 17,000 islands. It is the world’s 14th largest country in terms of land area and the world’s largest country in terms of combined land and sea area.
And amongst scuba divers, is a paradise.
Scuba Diving Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
Being the world’s 4th most populous country, Indonesia is home to an estimated population of over 260 million people. The marine life diversity within West Papua, Indonesia, is considerably greater than in all other areas sampled in the coral triangle of Indonesia.
Where is Raja Ampat? It is located in West Papua, Indonesia, one of the furthest and remote places you can travel to in Indonesia. Known as a diver’s mecca that nobody should miss! The reefs here are pure and described as untouched due to the location of the islands being remote from the nearest towns.
The pristine clear water surrounding the islands contain millions of reefs and fish, many of which you will not be able to find anywhere else.
The 5 Best Dive Sites in Raja Ampat
Many scientists have described Raja Ampat as the richest place for marine life on Earth. Raja Ampat divers will talk with great enthusiasm about the sheer numbers of fish found here, and it really has earned its reputation.
The number of dive sites within its location is still unknown; this is due to so many parts of the islands that are still yet to be explored. From what we have explored though, here are the 5 best dive sites in Raja Ampat.
1. Cape Kri Islands
Holding the world record for the dive site with the largest number of referenced species in one single dive, Cape Kri has earned its place in many divers bucket lists. The variety and numbers of fish at the eastern point of Kri island really have to be seen to be believed.
The biodiversity is simply amazing, with rare and weird underwater creatures in every direction. Over the past few years, many new species have been discovered in the archipelago.
The crossroads of the different currents towards the tip of the island of Kri has created an astonishing variety of fauna and flora. This Raja Ampat dive spot will definitely not disappoint its visitors.
2. Fam Islands
The Fam Islands consist of both small and larger islands – Fam, Penemu, Inus, and Yar. These islands are often visited by marine biologists because of their incredibly healthy and flourishing reefs giving them plenty to observe and study.
Two of the best dives at the Fam Islands are Melissas Garden and the Penemu Wall. With both dive sites teeming with marine life there’s plenty for divers to see. From the odd-looking wobbegongs to tiny and hard to spot pygmy seahorses.
The Penemu Wall is renowned for the huge gorgonian fans that can be found there – Some up to 3 meters big!
3. The Passage
The channel that separates the Gam and Waigeo islands is a shallow dive site which is named The Passage. This dive spot is known as one of the most iconic Raja Ampat scuba diving destinations that it has to offer.
With many different diving environments, The Passage has mangroves, rocky ridges and also a dive site called Citrus Ridge. Citrus Ridge is home to some of the best coral gardens.
This dive site is only recommended for advanced and experienced divers due to the strong currents that surround it. Having said that, it is actually a great location for snorkeling too.
4. Dampier Strait
Located between the mainland of West Papua and Batanta Island and the island of Waigeo to the north lies a dive site called The Dampier Strait. This diving location is flowing with marine life all thanks to the amount of water which passes through.
Cape Kri, already listed in these best dive sites can actually be found in the Dampier Strait, along with plenty more well-known dive sites including Sardine Reef, Arborek Jetty, and Manta Sandy.
The Dampier Strait is another dive site that has strong currents, and along with the currents come vibrant schools of fish and other marine life. Manta Sandy is a must-do dive site for any scuba divers looking for manta rays.
5. Batu Lima
Batu Lima, also known as Five Rocks, is located by the entrance to Kabui Bay. Five Rocks get the name from the large rock formations which stick out of the water there. Apart from this Raja Empat diving location being one of the most beautiful, scuba divers are drawn here by the huge coral fans you’ll find just meters from the surface.
The corals in Batu Lima range from purple to black and are all the colors in between, making it a great spot for any underwater photography. As well as the healthy and colorful corals this Raja Ampat diving location has to offer, comes a vast variety of fish. Divers are often put on a show of trevally which uses this area for their hunting ground.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to spot a couple of blacktips or even whitetip sharks.
Depending on the location, the current may vary from none to strong. Many dives here are drift dives; a spot called the Passage is very impressive when the current there is fierce. It is advised that divers stay deep when diving in order to avoid the surfaces strong currents.
A minimum of 50 logged dives is recommended to dive at this location due to there sometimes being very strong currents. Divers must be careful not to be caught by the strong down current on the opposite side of the Cape at the end of each dive.
The depth of this dive ranges from 10 to 40 meters and most of the dives around these islands are at a relevantly easy level for divers, however, due to the remoteness of the islands this destination is more suitable to experienced divers.
Due to now being a designated marine biodiversity park, a permit must be purchased to fund the park’s conservation and to help discourage mass tourism; the permit is valid for one year.
It is more than likely that this permit is included in the price if you are joining a diving tour. If it isn’t, don’t worry, permits can be purchased from the tourism offices across from the airport access road which is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm, or at the Waisai Ferry port (open up to half an hour after every ferry arrival).
The fee is Rp 500,000 for Indonesian citizens and Rp 1,000,000 for foreigners. Please do also be aware of scams for permit purchases and only buy them at the designated locations. Kri Island, Sardines, is a favorite among the liveaboards of Raja Ampat.
What Marine Life Can I See?
Diving here is truly something to remember, for it is an underwater heaven for photographers and divers alike. With magnificent hard and soft corals, crystal clear water and reefs rich with life, it has so much to offer all in one location. These islands are teeming with macro life and just about all the critters you can dream of.
The marine life found at this dive location has to be seen in order to be believed. In 2012, a world record of 374 species of fish was counted in the reef on one single dive.
The waters surrounding the islands are also great places to see the big fish action with pelagic fish everywhere. These include the giant big-eyed trevally or the dogtooth tuna. Divers can also spot many different species of sharks too, it is common to see blacktip and whitetip reef sharks but there is also a chance to encounter the strange yet beautiful wobbegong shark.
Although very rare, divers have mentioned sightings of dugongs around the area on several occasions. It is common to see playful dolphins, swimming alongside the dive boats and there is also a good chance for you to spot giant groupers that meet regularly by the reef. In between dives or when you’re done for the day, why not try snorkeling Raja Ampat?
With all manner of hard and soft coral varieties, coral growth within the area is extremely impressive and diverse. Snorkeling here is known to be world-class as the islands offer one of the most biodiverse marine environments found on Earth.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Diving in Raja Ampat is possible all year long, with water temperature averaging from 27 degrees to 30 degrees throughout the year. As the number of scuba divers visiting this remote area each year, there is no real “high season”.
The islands endure a tropical client with both hot and humid air. The weather is normally sunny all year round with the odd rainy days. From months May to September having more chance of rain than the other months within the year, but nothing too bad.
Not a certified diver? Don’t worry, the snorkeling is just as good! Snorkeling will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable underwater experiences for anyone not yet qualified to dive. But don’t let that stop you from getting your dive qualification, there are loads of dive centers that offer courses on the islands.