If you asked me where is the best place in the world to dive, 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, however, I highly recommend starting with Raja Ampat! 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, truly spoiled me as a diver! As soon as I hit the water and saw my first hairy orangutan crab with piercing red eyes, followed by the pea-sized pink frogfish, I knew I was hooked to this Indonesian paradise forever!
From wall dives to drop-offs and even the odd muck dive, 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 a photographer, you will be spoilt for choice, as it is absolutely incredible for both wide-angle and macro photography.
It is a melting pot of rich marine life, with hundreds of fish in all different shapes and sizes. Top of the list of things to spot has to be the incredibly weird looking 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, yep you heard right, 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.
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 be put off the rickety old stairs, 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!
As this was my first trip to Indonesia I wanted it to be out of this world, so I choose to spend my entire two-week trip aboard the Dewi Nusantara, one of the best Liveaboards in Indonesia. By doing so, I got to see and dive so much more than if I was staying at a resort. If you want to know what it’s like to stay on a luxury liveaboard you can read about my experience here.
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 him, so 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 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
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.
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 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!
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.