Isolated islands, untouched reefs, wild and stunning landscape, all that is waiting for you in Raja Ampat. It is a remote destination and offers one of the world’s best diving. Although Raja Ampat is an expensive destination, it is possible to travel on a budget (but not on a low-budget). Our tips help to make Raja Ampat for backpacker possible.
Raja Ampat is known as the place with one of the best diving in the world. The biodiversity is extraordinary and every scuba divers dream. But also the landscape above the water is stunning. Raja Ampat is remote and therefore an expensive destination. But, there are options to make Raja Ampat for backpacker possible. It cannot be traveled as cheap as Thailand or Bali, but you will get rewarded with untouched nature.
Things to do in Raja Ampat
Travelling to Raja Ampat is all about diving, snorkeling or a kayak adventure.
The colorful reefs attract divers and snorkelers to Raja Ampat. There is so much to see. Barracudas, mantas, wobbegongs, pygmy seahorses, mandarin fish, sweet lips, clownfish, octopus, Bryde’s whales and even dugongs can be spotted on the reefs.
Diving on a Liveaboard in Raja Ampat
It’s the priciest option but also the best in terms of exploring Raja Ampat.
A few years ago there were only a few liveaboards cruising around Raja Ampat. In the meantime there are more than 40 liveaboards registered. The variety is huge but for budget travelers the options of affordable diving tours are very limited. The best budget option is Wicked Diving.
Wicked Diving offers a trip 7 days/6 nights for USD 1690 (280 per night). That’s the best option we found. Full board, tanks and weights, dive guides, tea/coffee and lots of fun is included.
Soft drinks, beer, diving equipment marine park fees, flights and travel insurance are not included.
The main season for liveaboards runs from November to April.
We did the Komodo Tour with Wicked Diving. We loved it and we can recommend the company.
Two other affordable liveaboards with good reputation
8 days/7 nights USD 2350 (335 per night)
9 days/8 nights USD 2800 (350 per night)
There are a lot more liveaboards in all price ranges but no real budget options.
For all liveaboards advanced booking is essential to secure a cabin.
Diving from a local island
Some homestays have an own dive center or they can organize diving with a dive center close by. In the section Accommodation below you will find a few options.
A dive costs around IDR 500’000 and rental BDC & regulator IDR 350’000. Prices vary.
Tips for diving in Raja Ampat
- Currents are common in the area and it’s recommended to have some dive experience
- If you have your own equipment, bring it with you. Rental equipment is pretty expensive.
- Diving insurance is highly recommended. Raja Ampat is very remote and a treatment in case of a dive accident can be very expensive.
Kayaking in Raja Ampat
Sea kayaking is an excellent way to explore the beauty of Raja Ampat. You are very close to nature. It is a peaceful and economic way to explore the island paradise.
There are different options to explore Raja Ampat with a kayak. You can either do a tour with a guide or you can go independently. If you go on your own, you need to have navigating skills and good nautical maps of the area. You should also be familiar with currents, the tides and the weather patterns. Kayaking can be a lot easier if you know what direction the current is going. Plan ahead and take enough food and water with you. Raja Ampat is very remote and don’t count on getting fresh water on isolated islands.
If you are not familiar with sea kayaking and harsh, fast changing conditions than better book a tour with a guide. You can do so with Kayak4Conservation. They offer 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 day tours. The months May, June, July and August tend to be quite windy. Rough sea can be quite challenging and the chance of rain is high. During these months, only well experienced sea kayakers are allowed to do the tour.
Kayak4Conservation is based near the village of Saporkreng on Waigeo Island, just a short ride from Waisai, the capital city of Raja Ampat. Transport costs from Waisai to Kayak4Conservation approx. IDR 300’000 per person one way.
Approximate costs per day
- Local guide IDR 300’000 per day up to 4 guests
- Single Kayak rental IDR 560’000
- Double Kayak rental IDR 890’000 (inkl. paddle, spray skirt, life jacket, 5 liter water jerry can)
- Accommodation, stay at a homestay IDR 400’000 per night incl. three meals
- Additional rental costs for camping equipment if you don’t bring your own.
Total costs per day, camping: From IDR 860’000 / EUR 57
Total costs per day, staying at a homestay: From IDR 1’260’000 / EUR 85
Additional costs: Marine Park Fee IDR 1’000’000 / EUR 67 (valid 1 year)
We highly recommend to book in advance. Kayak trips are well booked in high season.
Where to stay: Raja Ampat for Backpacker
Raja Ampat for backpacker means you sleep in homestays with basic infrastructure, cold water in the traditional mandi (shower where you poor water over you) and electricity is mostly provided only for a few hours in the evening. Internet and phone signal is limited on most islands.
If you want to travel Raja Ampat on a budget, the cheapest option is to stay in a homestay. You get a small room or a small bungalow with a matrass on the floor and mosquito net. The rooms/bungalows are very basic. Shared bathroom is normal with a few exceptions. No AC. Prices usually include three meals a day. Check the details when you book. Most of the homestays offer a pick-up service from Waisai (on Waigeo Island).
Homestays should be booked in advance because traveling between the islands is quite expensive. The easiest way to contact a homestay is texting.
If you want to go diving or snorkeling make sure the homestay has a dive shop or can organize it.
Selection of Homestays in Raja Ampat on the islands Waigeo, Gam, Kri and Arborek
Prices are per person in Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
EUR 1 = IDR 15’000
IDR 10’000 = EUR 7
Waigeo is the main island of Raja Ampat and also the largest. Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, is located on Waigeo. There is a public ferry from Sorong (West Papua) to Waisai. Waiwo is the nearest beach from Waisai and is visited by mostly Indonesians. Hiking and birdwatching is possible on Waigeo.
Where to stay on Waigeo
- Traditional homestay, approx. 20 minutes from Waisai by boat or car
- Approx. IDR 700’000 per room/night
- WiFi available (Raja Ampat is remote and internet can be slow or just working during certain hours)
- Diving and snorkeling can be arranged
Yengkawe Homestay, Pulau Waigeo
- On land bungalow, IDR 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer by speedboat from Waisai IDR 300’000 per person one way
- Diving and snorkeling can be arranged with nearby resort, 1 dive costs IDR 500’000
- Tours to Wayag, Fam Islands, Manta Point and more can be arranged.
Warimpurem Homestay, Pulau Waigeo (close to Saporkren village)
- On land rooms and bungalows, IDR 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer from Waisai harbor to the homestay by car IDR 350’000 one way
- Diving and snorkeling can be arranged with nearby homestays.
- Tours to see Wilson’s and Red Bird of Paradise can be arranged. Tour costs IDR 200’000 per person. Departing before dawn at around 4 am. It’s a two hour walk through the jungle to Franky’s Wilson’s site.
Gam is separated from Waigeo by a small passage that looks like a river. Gam is wild and has some nice, secluded beaches. You can do hikes into the jungle to see the Bird of Paradise.
Kordiris Homestay, Pulau Gam
- With dive center, beautiful beach, on land and over water bungalows, IDR 300’000 to 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer from Waisai IDR 500’000 one way by boat (max. 4 pax)
- Dive center, 1 dive IDR 450’000, equipment rental (without wetsuit) IDR 150’000
Nudibranch Homestay, village Kapisawar on Gam Island
- On land bungalows, IDR 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer costs from Waisai IDR 1’500’000 one way by boat (max. 6 pax)
- Diving and jungle trekking can be arranged, tours to see Red Birds of Paradise is available, Cuscus can be seen
Kri is the smaller island right next to Mansuar. The area is famous for diving, its crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. Diving tourism actually started on Kri and since many years people come here to explore the underwater world.
Yenkoranu Homestay, Pulau Kri
- Standard room and VIP bungalow from IDR 300’000 to 500’000 per person/night
- Transfer from Waisai (1 hour): IDR 600’000 one way by boat (max. 4 pax)
- Dive center available, fabulous housereef
- Packages available: from 3 nights, 4 dives for IDR 3’600’000 to 7 nights, 12 dives for IDR 8’400’000 (incl. transfer from Waisai to Yenkoranu Homestay, accommodation in standard room)
Arborek is a flat and sandy island with coconut palmtrees and a white beach. The Barefoot Conservation Center who is doing Manta research is located on Arborek and the famous Manta Point is around the corner. Fantastic diving and snorkeling is possible right off the jetty. There is a dive shop located on the island and small shops for basic supplies.
Lalosi Homestay, Arborek
- Room and bungalows on land IDR 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer from Waisai IDR 1’000’000 one way (max. 10 pax)
- Snorkeling and diving can be arranged with Arborek Dive Shop, 1 dive EUR 40, BCD & regulator rental EUR 26
- Manta Point snorkeling trip (incl. equipment) IDR 500’000 per person
- Fam Islands trip including sightseeing and snorkeling for IDR 500’000 per person (min. 4 people)
Manta Homestay, Pulau Arborek
- Room in a bungalow IDR 350’000 per person/night
- Transfer from Waisai IDR 1’000’000 one way (5 to 6 pax)
- Diving can be arranged with Arborek Dive Shop, snorkel gear available IDR 50’000 per day
You find a complete list of homestays and more useful travel information on www.stayrajaampat.com
Places to visit in Raja Ampat
Wayag and Penemu (Fam Islands)
If you have seen pictures of Raja Ampat before, you probably have seen the spectacular view of Wayag or Penemu. It doesn’t matter if you visit Wayag or Penemu. Both islands offer breath taking views from a platform.
On Penemu island, which belongs to the Fam island, a stair is leading to the top. There are two platforms to take pictures. Make sure you have your camera ready and enough space on your memory card.
In Wayag it’s a tough walk through the bush to get up to the top. It’s highly recommended to wear proper shoes. The limestone rocks are sharp, so take it easy. Once you reach the top you can see the conical karst islands spread out in the turquoise water, a landscape that blows your mind away.
How to get there
From Sorong to Penemu it’s about a 90 minute boat ride. For a day trip you can expect to pay 2-3 million per boat (costs can be shared with other passengers). To Wayag it’s about 4 hours and a day trip costs approx. IDR 10 million per boat. The information center in Sorong can help you to find other interested people. Prices are due to change as they depend on the fuel prices. Fuel in West Papua is very expensive and that is the reason why tours and transfers are pretty expensive.
Some homestays organize day trips to Fam Islands or Wayag too. Ask for prices. To share costs is always best to team up with other travelers. Prices vary.
Teluk Kabui or “Mini Wayag”
The bay between Waigeo and Gam is a mini version of the typical Raja Ampat landscape. Here you find jungle-topped limestone islets in a big bay, surrounded by wild jungle. Teluk Kabui can be combined with a tour to the Passage and Hidden Bay.
Hidden Bay and Passage
Waigeo and Gam is separated by the passage. The small strait is more like a river. The passage separates the islands Waigeo and Gam. From the passage to the Hidden Bay it’s another 10 minutes by boat. Finding the Hidden Bay is all but easy. You need a local who knows where to find the entrance. There is only one way in to get to the labyrinth of limestone islands. You find more in our post Hidden Bay and Passage.
Which is the best option for divers?
If diving is your main purpose of visiting Raja Ampat, we would recommend booking a liveaboard. Even if it is not the cheapest option, you will get rewarded with a unique dive experience. You can dive at the best spots and if currents are not right, it’s possible to wait for the perfect conditions.
Usually you can do four to five dives a day. It’s up to you how often you want to go diving. The daily routine is dive, eat, sleep and repeat.
Best time to visit
Generally it is possible to travel to Raja Ampat all year round. We worked on a resort island for more than a year. From June to October the southerly winds can be strong and quite annoying in terms of waves. Besides this, the weather is pretty stable. There is no monsoon season and heavy rain is possible during the whole year. Usually it rains only for a couple of hours or even less.
The season for liveaboards runs from November to April. During these months the sea is generally calm and the winds are light.
How to get to Raja Ampat
If you travel from Europe, the best options are to fly to Jakarta or Singapore and further on to Sorong. There are direct flights from Jakarta to Sorong with Express Air and NAM Air. Garuda Indonesia is flying via Makassar. They announced a direct flight to Sorong in the near future. Sriwijaya is currently the cheapest option with a stop in Makassar.
Calculate three travel days from Europe to Raja Ampat return.
If you are in Asia, you can also fly with AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Makassar and further to Sorong with one of the local airlines.
How to get to the liveaboard
Usually if you book a liveaboard a representative of the company will pick you up at the hotel in Sorong or they meet you at the harbor. Some companies even pick you up at the airport. Check directly with the company.
How to get to one of the islands in Raja Ampat
Take the ferry from Sorong to Waisai
From Sorong you can catch the express ferry or slow boat to Waisai. Both options run daily at around 2 pm. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday the ferry runs in the morning too. Check the timing before you travel there. Changes may be possible.
Ticket price: From IDR 130’000 Economy to IDR 220’000 VIP. You can buy tickets at the harbor.
Tip: Economy class is fine. VIP seats are available but only a good option if you like to sit in a freezing cold air-conditioned cabin with loud karaoke.
Waisai on Waigeo has a small airport too but taking the ferry from Sorong to Waisai is a lot cheaper.
To the homestay – By private boat
If you book a homestay they usually pick you up at Waisai harbor. Ask for the price when booking and try to bargain. The costs from Waisai to Gam (approx. 35 minutes) cost approx. IDR 500’000 one way. From Waisai to Kri speedboat transfer costs IDR 600’000 one way (up to 4 pax).
Organizing your own transport is possible. You can ask a local at the harbor (to negotiate it helps to speak a little bit Bahasa Indonesia) or try via Transwisata in Waisai. You can also try to join a boat from a homestay who picks up other guests.
Where to stay in Sorong
favehotel Sorong – Modern, new hotel close to the airport, free WiFi, great breakfast buffet
Swiss-Belhotel – Good hotel with swimming pool, free WiFi, good choice on the breakfast buffet, approx. 10 minutes drive from the Airport
Good to know
Waisai is the capital city of Raja Ampat. It’s not recommended to stay in Waisai to spend your holiday. You will be far away from the sea and there is not proper beach. There are a few basic homestays at the south with basic bungalows and a nice beach.
Bring enough cash. There are no ATM’s at the villages and hardly any Credit Card facilities.
Raja Ampat is very remote. Don’t expect too much. Tourism in Raja Ampat is young.
Bring a phrasebook Bahasa Indonesia – English. Local people hardly speak any English.
Calculate enough time between you flights and the ferry Transfer. During the time we were staying in Raja Ampat, quite a few flights were cancelled. We have travel insurance which covers us in case of cancellation of flights. If you are looking for more information about travel insurance check this post: Do I need travel insurance?
To visit Raja Ampat you need to buy a marine park permit. The entrance fee is IDR 1’000’000 / EUR 67 and valid for one year. You can buy one at the tourist office in the JE Meridien Hotel, located just across Sorong Airport and at the harbor in Waisai.
Money saving tips: Raja Ampat for backpacker
- Flights during the month of Ramadan and big holiday Idul Fitri (breaking of the fast feast) are generally a lot more expensive or even fully booked. Consider that when booking your flights.
- Stay in a homestay
- Team up with others to do trips. Usually the transport price is calculated per boat and you can share the costs.
- Avoid staying in Sorong for more than one night
More tips needed?
You want to visit Raja Ampat and need more information? Let us know in the comments. We are more than welcome to help.
We lived and worked on Pulau Pef in the heart of Raja Ampat more than a year and we got to know the area quite well.
Raja Ampat is remote and therefore it is not very touristy yet. That may change in the future as Sorong has opened a new airport. Currently Sorong is a domestic airport. Should that change and Sorong becomes an international airport, Raja Ampat will not be the same anymore.
We really hope that the beauty of Raja Ampat will stay the same for many more years.
Have you ever heard of Raja Ampat before? Do you have something to add or other information about Raja Ampat for backpacker? Please write us a comment and share your experience.
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