If you asked me where is the best diving in the world, I would say Indonesia, the diving capital of the world! If you’ve never been you are seriously missing out! With so many islands to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice!
Everyone tends to head to Bali, however, if you want less of tourist destination and more diving paradise, I highly recommend starting with the Raja Ampat Islands!
Located in the heart of the coral triangle and off the West Coast of Papua, Raja’s coral reefs hold the highest diversity of marine life than anywhere else in the world!
Raja Ampat is famous for its diverse scuba diving and truly spoiled me as a diver! The moment I dived below the surface I knew I was hooked to this Indonesian paradise forever!
On my first dive, I was blown away by the abundance of colourful corals reefs and not to mention spotting my first hairy orangutang crab, pea sized frogfish and hundreds and hundreds of clown fish!
Why is Raja Ampat the best place to dive?
From wall dives to drop-offs and even the odd muck dive (black sand), Raja Ampat offers something for everyone. The crystal clear waters expose the stunning coral reefs which are bursting with life and some of the healthiest I have ever seen!
If you are an underwater photographer, you will be spoilt for choice, as it is absolutely incredible for both wide-angle and macro photography.
The Wobbegong Shark is a Must See!
Top of the list of things to spot has to be the incredibly weird looking Tasselled Wobbegong Shark! It has a long flat body with a tentacle like beard that helps it camouflage into the sea floor as it lies motionless waiting for unsuspecting prey! I'm sure you'll agree, the Wobbegong looks like a creature from another planet!
Raja Ampat is a melting pot of rich marine life, with hundreds of fish in all different shapes and sizes. From walking sharks, to pygmy seahorse, nudibranch and even the odd manta ray! The list is endless and I have gone into a little more detail at the end of this post.
What is the current like?
Anything from zero to strong. Just ensure you have a reef hook and you will be fine! I used to be terrified of strong current, however, my best dive on this trip was a current dive at “Magic Mountain”. It was like flying along a runway surrounded by gliding mantas!
Where can I get the breathtaking Raja Ampat Islands photo?
Don’t forget to save some energy to get that iconic postcard photo of the Pianemo (Piaynemo) islands, as it’s a 340 step climb up to the best view you will ever see! Although don’t let the rickety old steps put you off, grab a bottle of water, some sturdy shoes (not flip flops like me) and climb up to paradise! The only thing missing…..a water slide back down into the turquoise blue ocean!
Liveaboard vs Resort Diving
Raja Ampat was my first experience of Indonesia so I wanted to get the most out of it above and below the surface, so rather than stay at a resort I joined a liveaboard for the entire two week trip. I chose the Dewi Nusantara, one of the best luxury liveaboards in Indonesia.
bbbbbbBy staying on a Liveaboard you have access to so many more dive sites than any resort because of their access to remot. During my stay I was diving up to four times a day including night dives which was absolutely exhilarating! If you want to know what it’s like to stay on a luxury liveaboard you can read about my experience here.
When should I go?
Although you can pretty much dive all year round, the best time to dive Raja Ampat is from October to May. We visited in November/December and had superb conditions. If you are booking a liveaboard trip the boat will have set times of the year that they visit the islands, so make sure you check first.
Embarrassing Celebrity Encounter!
During my Raja Ampat trip not only did I get, up, close and personal to some incredibly rare marine life but also a celebrity! I hate to name drop, however, this is just too funny not to share!
As I boarded the liveaboard, I recognised one of the other guests and thought maybe we had just gone to school together. However, a few hours later, I realised how much he looked like a 90s TV celeb but I still didn't think it was actually him!
After a welcome cocktail or two I approached the guy to mention how much he looked like Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, to which he replied… “Well of course… I’m him! I'm Joshua Jackson”! I wanted the ground to swallow me up there and then! Note to self, I did not go to school with Pacey!
How do I get to Raja Ampat?
The tropical islands are located in Eastern Indonesia, off the west coast of Papua, which is not to be confused with Papua New Guinea, which it boarders with. The easiest and most direct way is:
1) First take an international flight to Jakarta. We flew from the UK with Qatar airways via Doha. 13hours.
2) Once arriving in Jakarta you’ll need to take a domestic flight to Sorong. 4 hours.
3) Once in Sorong you will be greeted by your rep and transferred to the liveaboard/resort
Can I get to Raja Ampat Islands from Bali?
If you want to combine your trip with stopover in Bali then yes it's absolutely possible. You will need to get a domestic flight from Bali to Sorong, however, there are no direct flights and will have to change in Makassar or Manado. When I took this route it was a matter of landing on the run way and letting new passengers board so we didn't even need to get off.
Where can I dive in Raja Ampat?
The dive locations vary, depending on your resort/dive boat schedule. We dived, Dampier Strait , Gan Yangeffo, Penemu, Misool and Batanta.
What marine life can I see?
How long have you got? The list is endless so here are just a few highlights: Manta Rays, Walking shark, Nudibranch, White tip reef sharks, Donald duck shrimp, Denise’s pygmy seahorse, Bargiabanti pygmy seahorse, Crocodile fish, Wobbegong shark, Blue ring octopus …. A kaleidoscope of colourful soft and hard corals, some of the best reefs in Indonesia and maybe the world.
Is Raja Ampat safe to visit?
Yes, however, I have heard there might still be a few indigenous tribes around that were once cannibals, so I’ll leave that up to you to find out!
On a serious note, providing you dive with a reputable resort or liveaboard you will be well looked after. The Indonesia people are some of the nicest cultures I’ve met and just one of the reasons I keep going back!
For more tips on liveaboard living and what to pack for a liveaboard trip, check out my other post on the Dewi Nusantara here.
Whether you dive or not, if you want to visit paradise get Indonesia on your bucket list!
Which country is your paradise?
Let me know in the comments below.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.