Raja Ampat has been a well-guarded secret by those in the know, but as word gets around of its stunning scenery and secluded luxury, you’ll soon be planning your own trip very soon.
Located in West Papua, Indonesia, this remote archipelago has a rich marine environment, which has made it a magnet for scuba divers since the 1990s. Made up of more than 1500 small islands, the area boasts one of the world’s greatest coral reefs, unique aquatic life and stunning beaches.
Experience the sights and sounds of nature
While Raja Ampat is known for being a diving destination, there are many different activities across the archipelago for nature lovers. Snorkelers, kayakers and occasionally surfers visit the region for good waves and warm water.
The wildlife is impossible to miss. Spot parrots and hornbills alongside other exotic birds such as the rare Wilson's bird of paradise in the trees. In the water, look out for mantas, dolphins, sharks, turtles and more than 1500 species of fish. At night you may even be lucky enough to see glow worms work their mating dance in the dark skies.
Raja Ampat boasts the highest level of marine biodiversity on earth, so if you spend your time under water you will not be disappointed by what you see. Totalling over 11,000 sq km, the protected marine areas of Raja Ampat are part of the Coral Triangle, a 6 million sq km marine region across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. Raja Ampat has 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the Caribbean, and scientists believe that the reefs’ resistance to the effects of global warming could make it instrumental in regenerating other reefs around the world.
Across the islands there are caves, lagoons and 4000-year-old petroglyphs of stencilled fish and handprints that reflect the ancient cultures that have always lived here. The descendants of those inhabitants are still here and warmly welcome guests to their slice of paradise.
Indulge in luxury or live like a local
For islands that are sparsely populated, there are plenty of places to stay. Papua Explorers Dive Resort has traditional Papuan style water-bungalows with all the modern amenities while the Papua Paradise Eco Resort has over-water bungalows of varying sizes as well, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the sunset.
A truly authentic experience is a homestay, and there are many options across Raja Ampat. You will stay in a hut built on family land and these families will be your hosts during your stay. The nice part is that you get to live like a local and also provide income for indigenous families. Although the traditional Papuan accommodation is modest, it is a cultural experience that cannot be missed by adventurous travellers.
Most places serving food in Raja Ampat are based in Waisai although villages tend to have small stores serving basic ingredients. You could stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for your stay from the market on Waisai, but there are also some excellent local warungs (family-owned businesses) serving typical Indonesian fare with a seafood focus. On the homestay islands, hosts will likely offer local foods they have made themselves.
A truly authentic experience is a homestay, and there are many options across Raja Ampat.
How to get there
While the secluded location provides visitors with an untouched paradise to behold, Raja Ampat also presents something of an exciting challenge – getting there.
The fastest route to get there from Singapore is to catch a flight from Changi Airport to Makassar in Sulawesi and jump on another flight to Sorong, where you can board a ferry to Raja Ampat.
Depending on where you are staying, you may have another boat ride ahead of you. Arrange this before you go as there is no public transport.
Word to the wise: Communicate your travel plans to your hosts so that they can pick you up at the other end and keep checking your own arrangements to ensure there have not been any changes to the schedule.
If your idea of vacation bliss is getting away from it all, heading somewhere remote and untouched, and seeing natural beauty like nowhere else on earth, then Raja Ampat is the right place for you.
To learn more, watch the Road Less Travelled video guide to Raja Ampat!
Discover Indonesia: Raja Ampat
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Best time to visit
Raja Ampat is a great place to visit all year-round, however visitors may want to note December and January are usually the wettest months of the year. The months of October to April, have the best chance of perfect conditions.
You’ll first have to transit through Makassar. From Makassar, you can catch a short domestic flight to Sorong, West Papua, and then you are another 1.5-2 hour ferry or speedboat ride away to one of the Raja Ampat islands.
Indonesian rupiah. There are ATMs and currency exchange counters at the airport in Sotong. These are also the most convenient.
Raja Ampat is accessible from Makassar. You can fly directly to Makassar via Silkair from Changi Airport. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!