Is Raja Ampat already on you bucket list? You certainly have already seen pictures of this beautiful island scenery. If you are a scuba diver, you may have read about the amazing dive sites in Raja Ampat in magazines or the internet. If you like to avoid the big tourist masses and travel off the beaten track, then Raja Ampat might be something for your bucket list. But be aware, the trip from Europe to Raja Ampat is long and tiring.
Raja Ampat is located in the far east of Indonesia in West Papua. This part of Indonesia is not comparable to Bali or Java. Mass tourism has not yet advanced this far and the people and their culture are very different from the rest of Indonesia.
For a year we already live and work on the small island of Pulau Pef, in the middle of the beautiful islands of Raja Ampat. During the last 12 months we have experienced unforgettable moments have seen the beautiful landscapes and learned a lot about the culture and people of West Papua. With 25 photos we like to show you the beauty of this part of the world. Beware! You might get itchy feet, like to pack your suitcase and hop onto the next plane to travel to Raja Ampat immediately.
The beautiful landscape of Raja Ampat in West Papua
The landscape of Raja Ampat is dominated by rocky islands of limestone. The most impressive views you can get from the air or from vantage points high up on hills. On Pulau Pef we have a small hill with a platform on 42 meters. From the platform, we have a fantastic, panoramic view over the entire 360 degrees. Towards the west, we can see the beach with the bungalows and in the other directions, the interior of the island with the dense, lush jungle.
All our guests fly into Sorong, the closest city with an airport. It’s only a small local airport and there is not a lot of tourist infrastructure in Sorong. From Sorong our transfer boat brings the guests to Pulau Pef. It’s a three to four hour boat ride. The first two hours are over the open ocean but the last third of the trip is a beautiful drive along rugged limestone coast, small villages and secluded beaches. Shortly before Pef, we reach the passage. This is a narrow sea gate between the islands of Waigeo and Gam. Driving through the passage feels more like cruising on a river than being on the ocean. It’s a beautiful landscape and a great introduction to the area of Raja Ampat.
On the way from the passage to Pulau Pef, we pass another breathtaking natural wonder. The Hidden Bay. Only one very narrow and shallow entrance leads into the Hidden Bay. A mystical and hidden world of waterways, caves and rock islands. A cruise through this wonderful landscape is incredibly impressive. The area is huge and you can easily get lost if you do not know your way.
The archipelago Fam provides a great opportunity to see the typical landscape of Raja Ampat from a bird‘s eye view. It’s about an hour boat ride from Pulau Pef and we usually visit Fam on a day trip with three dives. During the lunch break we drive to a beautiful lagoon, from where a staircase leads up a hill. High above the beautiful Star Lagoon there are two observation decks. The views are simply stunning. We have been here many times already but every time we are overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape.
Further north of Raja Ampat, in Wayag, there is another platform with a beautiful view over the landscape of Raja Ampat.
You can read more about the day trip to Fam on: Daytrip in Raja Ampat
The mangroves provide a protected habitat for young and small animals
The mangroves provide an optimal habitat for young animals and all sorts of small creatures. In Raja Ampat mangroves are everywhere. It’s fascinating how the mangrove trees with their long roots can survive in salt water. It’s a unique experience to paddle through a tunnel of mangroves, snorkel into a thicket of mangrove roots or admire the roots and trees from below the water surface while scuba diving into the mangroves.
When scuba diving and snorkelling, we can also watch the countless small juvenile fish, which hide between the mangroves. The juveniles have the shape and color of the adult animals, they are simply much smaller. The Hidden Bay and Passage are lined with mangroves and we have plenty of time to spend observing this special environment. Here we can see how the rainforest meets the ocean.
The people of Raja Ampat in West Papua
The population of Raja Ampat lives mostly from fishing and since a few years, more and more are earning a living in the tourism industry. Raja Ampat has only been on the radar of tourists since a few years. The tourism industry is growing but is still relatively small. The locals are still very shy and reluctant towards western tourists. The education level is quite poor and most locals do not speak English or only some basic phrases.
The inhabitants of Raja Ampat are poor and the standard of living is low. Nevertheless the locals are happy and we are highly impressed with their joy and serenity. Most of our staff in the resort comes from the surrounding villages. During the last 12 months we have experienced wonderful moments together and learned a lot about their ways of life and culture.
The children from the neighbouring village are wonderful and are bursting with energy and drive. At the beginning they are very shy and reserved but quickly they gain confidence and start to play with you. If you start taking pictures and show them the results, there is no way back. They always want to see more pictures of them in different poses. The laughter looking at the photographs is huge and incredibly contagious.
The wildlife of Raja Ampat in West Papua
The wildlife of Raja Ampat is strongly related to the one of northern Australia. Many of the birds that we see in Raja Ampat, we have already spotted in Northern Australia. In the jungle surrounding our resort there are plenty of birds but they are usually very shy. Often we hear them but we do not always see them. There are parrots, herons, eagles, kingfishers and many more, which we can observe regularly.
There are no monkeys because we are east of the Wallace Line. But there are marsupials like the couscous. They are very shy and so far I’ve only seen one on a cruise through the Hidden Bay. The coconut crabs are good climbers and they can be quite large. Their pincers are impressive and vigorous. Do not get too close with your fingers when taking pictures.
Close to our kitchen monitor lizardslike to hang out, sunbath and wait for some food scraps. Sometimes we see snakes but they are usually very shy and hide in the undergrowth.
The wonderful underwater world of Raja Ampat
Most of the visitors come to Raja Ampat not because of the beautiful landscape on land. They visit Raja Ampat because of the magnificent underwater world. The biodiversity at the dive sites is higher than in most other places on our planet. Raja Ampat is in the area where the Indian Ocean and the Pacific meet. There is a huge amount of nutrients in the water and that’s the reason for the incredible rich coral reefs and the enormous biodiversity.
The dive sites in Raja Ampat have only been discovered recently and so the masses of divers have not arrived yet. The coral reefs are in pristine condition and there is still a lot of fish around.
At the dive sites in Raja Ampatyou can find almost everything from the smallest pygmy seahorses to giant manta rays. There is a huge variety of hard and soft corals, fish, snails, crustaceans and other sea creatures. The biodiversity is greater than in most other dive destinations.
You can find more information and pictures of the wonderful underwater world of Raja Ampat in these blog posts:
- Diving in Raja Ampat – The small reef dwellers
- Diving in Raja Ampat: Hidden Bay and Passage
- Day trip in diver’s heaven of Raja Ampat
- Diving with seahorses and Wobbegongs in Raja Ampat
Wonderful sunsets in Raja Ampat
The sunsets are always beautiful in Raja Ampat. But then there are some days where the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking and cheesy.
Life on the resort island in Raja Ampat
Our life on the island revolves primarily around our guests. We work in a small resort with a maximum of 18 guests. Our private life is of secondary importance and the attendance time is very long. Luckily I am in the water for scuba diving regularly. Every now and then I run diving courses and that is always a welcome change.
A very welcome change is it also if we have friends from Switzerland visiting us. My parents visited us for three weeks and our good friends Susanna and Peter dived with us for two weeks. The time together was absolutely awesome.
We hope you like the 25 photos of Raja Ampat. Would you like to see this beautiful landscape with your own eyes? The trip from Europe is a bit far, but maybe you’re already travelling in Asia.
Details about how you get to Raja Ampat, how much it costs and what you can do except diving, is what we are writing about in one of our next blog posts. Just visit www.swissnomads.com on a regular basis or like us our Facebook page, so you will not miss anything.
Do you want to visit Raja Ampat on a budget?
Raja Ampat is an expensive destination. After living in Raja Ampat for a year, we collected some useful information about how to travel the island paradise. And it is possible to visit Raja Ampat on a budget. It is not as cheap as other Southeast Asian backpacker destination but it doesn’t need to cost a fortune either. Check this out: Raja Ampat for backpacker