(For those who cannot view the vimeo link above use this from youtube instead)
Youtube: Raja Ampat Video
Raja Ampat, which means “four kings” in Bahasa, is not an easy place to access in Indonesia. It is located in West Papua and for us to reach Raja Ampat, we flew from Cebu to Singapore-Jakarta-Sorong via Silk Air and Garuda Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia was amazing as it offered free 23-kg dive luggage per person which was very helpful with all our gear. The travel may seem like a short distance, but getting to Sorong was challenging as there were limited flights to the remote area. Upon reaching Sorong airport, we also noticed that there were no money changers, good thing we had small US dollar bills to give a tip to the porter who helped us with our huge bags. We boarded our Phinisi liveaboard- Tiare cruise in Sorong, which was our home for 8 days. We have always wanted to try the traditional Indonesian sailing ship called Phinisi and we are so pleased we finally did.
Our 1st stop was the southernmost part of Raja Ampat called Misool, which took us 12 hours to get there. The island landscapes are as stunning as the underwater reefs. It was in this area where we dove one of our favorite dive sites, Magic Mountain (aka Shadow reef or Karang Bayangan). This site really lives up to its name as we saw 4 manta rays and one was very close to both of us.
For the most part of our dives in Raja Ampat, we had some decent current as it was close to the full moon. Our reef hook skills came in handy.
Aside from the mantas, the magic lies in the blue with traversing giant trevallies and reef sharks, a lot of schooling fishes and numerous turtles cruising right beside you.
Raja Ampat is mostly known for its rich biomass of marine creatures and corals being in the coral triangle it was a great place to take some wide-angle photography, as well as a plethora of critters perfect for our macro lens. As most of our day dives were big schools of fishes, we switch to our macro set-up prior to our night dives. The hassle of switching was very much worth it when we saw this rare but beautiful blue-ringed octopus, which we have seen only for the 2nd time in all our diving history.
Another creature that we have only seen once before, but is fairly common in Raja Ampat, seen almost in every dive is the tasselled Wobbegong shark. It is referred to as a carpet shark for its bottom dwelling nature, flattened bodies and patterned skin perfect for camouflaging against the coral reefs. It takes a keen eye to spot them, usually under table corals.
We had multiple jetty dives during our trip but my favourite was in Sawandarek jetty. Probably the most beautiful jetty I have ever been in terms of underwater biodiversity. It was also our 1st time to see schooling fishes of 4 or more different species, with beautiful hard and soft corals in between.
Another beautiful observation in most of our dive sites are the vibrant colors of the soft corals. It can serve as the main focus or can make an attractive backdrop even to the simplest moray eel.
The sheer volume of fishes in Raja Ampat is difficult to match, you see just about any type of schooling fishes. From the tiny Fusiliers to barracudas and sweet lips.
The diversity of nature is very apparent not just underwater, but also on land, with multiple mangrove coastlines and lush green rainforest all around. The landscape above the surface is equally breathtaking.
The land excursion and hiking to the peaks of the islands were very enjoyable as we get to see this paradise in a different perspective. Both the heart lagoon and Piaynemo viewpoint were worth the hike. We get to interact with the locals, although there is a large language barrier, their smiles were more than enough.
On our last dive day of the trip, we visited a pristine white sand bar. Another place to bond with fellow divers and snorkelers in our liveaboard, just enjoying each others’ company.
Our hearts were full just as our stomachs are, with all the sumptuous meals prepared to us by the hard working crew.
It was indeed a successful 4th year wedding anniversary for me and Brian, coinciding with my 300th dive made festive by the thoughtful crew of Tiare cruise.
As we always say, we will be back Indonesia. There is still so much more to explore and we are already looking forward for our next trip to the world’s largest chain of islands, Indonesia.