Raja Ampat diving is characterized by its mindblowing diversity of medium to large size fish, good macro, and great hard and soft coral reefs, along with some muck and mangrove sites. The water temperatures hover at around 31°C year-round–so warm that a wetsuit is hardly needed. The archipelago’s topside scenery is also stunning.
Being so remote, reaching Raja Ampat is no easy task, as it requires three or more flights to get there.
Raja Ampat is located in the province of West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) in Indonesia. It is situated in the heart of Indo-Pacific’s Coral Triangle which is home to the richest marine diversity in the world and hence some of the best scuba diving anywhere.
The word Raja Ampat means “four kings” in the Indonesian language, and this refers to its 4 main islands–Misool, Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo.
Scuba diving in Raja Ampat is usually done via liveaboard from October to May, which allows you to visit the entire length of Raja Ampat in one visit. Although there are around 40 liveaboards currently in Raja Ampat, they cover an enormous area and generally, you will have dive sites to yourselves. And a good number of land-based options are also available for all kinds of budgets, scattered across Raja Ampat’s many islands
Wobbegong sharks and (skittish) reef sharks are commonly seen, especially once you learn where to look for the Wobbegongs. The rare walking shark is also found on certain night dives. This small, harmless carpet shark only comes out at night. While appearing to walk on the ocean floor with its fins, it can actually move surprisingly fast.
Jacks, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, trevally, and bumphead parrotfish are seen on many dives. Pygmy seahorses are found at most dive sites, along with a good variety of nudibranchs. Macro diving at the piers is excellent. You will also see lots of juvenile fish such as batfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, barramundi cod, parrotfish, etc.
If you look a little deeper when the current picks up, you can see reef sharks at most sites, especially at places like Blue Magic and Sardines. These are also prime locations for schooling fish, which tend to gather when the current is running. At such times, it’s not unusual to be surrounded by clouds of fusiliers and surgeonfish in mid-water, while legions of sweetlips completely obscure large coral heads below.
The fortunate diver may encounter the remarkable golf-ball-sized blue-ringed octopus. These highly venomous cephalopods rank as one of the most deadly animals on earth. A single bite from this diminutive octopus means quick and almost certain death. However, these creatures are rarely aggressive and present no danger to divers as long as a respectful distance is observed.
A great first dive for your Raja Ampat adventure. Consisting of a coral column that plunges down to 25 meters deep. Perfect for beginners or those at an intermediate level, in light of its currents, which are usually light but can occasionally be rather strong. As a rule you can expect is to see many yellow snappers on the reef and, if you dive down a little farther, you can find Wobbegong sharks. There are also seahorses, fusiliers, trevallies, groupers, giant clams, morays and much more.
One of the more famous of the Raja Ampat Dive and is often dived with Mioskon as the 2nd dive. An underwater pinnacle that starts around 7 meters and goes down to less than 30 meters. You can expect to find all sorts of different fish species and several cleaning stations, big schools of fish and larger predator fish, sharks and manta rays in season are also common sittings. Pygmy Seahorse are also abundant on this Central Raja Ampat dive site.
The site is a very large underwater pinnacle, which is oval in shape and about 200m long, with a reef top at around 5m and gently sloping sides down to the flat sandy seabed at about 25m. The current “splits” there and flows both down the northern and southern flanks of the pinnacle and over the top along the reef top. You can expect to see large schools of fusiliers, sardines, damsels, banner fish, butterfly fish, sweetlips and snappers frequent the site, triggerfish and predators such as barracuda, Spanish mackerel, Jacks and giant trevallies can be seen as well. Then there is the black tipped reef sharks, white tipped reef sharks and even grey reef sharks.
Searching for the wobbegong shark? Here’s where you will find it! Located in the Jet Fam Islands, a group of islets and limestone islands on the west side of Batanta Island which is considered to be among the best diving spots in Raja Ampat and the place to see the strange and impressive wobbegong as well as manta ray’s, great barracuda’s and maroon clownfish hiding inside the anemones. This is the one dive spot you absolutely can’t miss.
A narrow channel runs between the Keruo channel with towering sheer cliffs up each side. The dive site runs along the western wall of the channel, and can be either started from the north or the south depending on which way the current is flowing. The dive site is a spectacular wall covered in colourful sponges and nudibranchs. The bottom is at 35m but stay at 25m and drift along with the mild current as the tender follows you from above. This is another site that ends with a sheltered shallow reef that is great for some reflection photos with the trickling lighting.
Cape Kri holds the world record for the site with the largest number of species referenced in one single dive! The crossroads of different currents at the tip of the island of Kri has created an incredible variety of fauna and flora – all kinds of sharks, many schools of fish, amazing coral diversity, specimens for macro fans…everything is there! Sometimes, it’s enough to just dive down, cling to a rock, and enjoy the show! You never ever return disappointed from a dive at Cape Kri.
The famous Arborek jetty, where thousands, if not millions of fish surround your every move. Where your site is stolen by schools, and your skin is touched by magic. There is truly nowhere else like this in the world, and it is actuallu recommended to freedive here rather than scuba. The jetty itself starts at around 2m and goes down to around 10, so freediving and snorkelling actually gives you a better experience. You cannot come to Raja Ampat and not come to Arborek jetty.