With an extraordinary biodiversity, Raja Ampat is one of the few places on the planet where you will see such a wide range of marine life in their natural habitat. Located in the great Coral Triangle between the Indian and Pacific oceans, Raja Ampat offers a snorkelling experience like no other. We’re talking views on par with those of a diver’s. The reefs of Raja Ampat are in a perfect condition, with many giant corals, purple corals, and sea squirts, hard coral tables, deer antler corals, green and brown moose antler corals. The people of Raja Ampat are lovely and welcoming, not to mention model conservationists and artisans. Join them in their culture for a day at the delightful Arborek Tourist Village
Welcome to the archipelago with the richest marine biodiversity on Earth. Made up of 1,500 small islands that house 550 species of coral, 1427 fish species and more than 700 types of mollusks, Raja Ampat is a place where mere snorkelling feels (and looks) like deep-sea diving. It’s very remote, which means a delightful lack of other visitors. Think clear turquoise waters, a kaleidescope of corals and reef fish, and, perhaps best of all, some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet. Come and sail the isles of Raja Ampat, the tropical paradise you’ll be telling friends about for years to come.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 6 Dinner Included: 6
Sorong (West Papua)
Welcome to Raja Ampat, whose name means 'Four Kings'; legend has it that a woman found seven sacred eggs and four future kings hatched from them. Located at the 'beak' of West Papua's Bird's Head Peninsula (or Doberai Peninsula), Sorong is where our trip begins. It's the largest town in West Papua and the gateway to the islands of Raja Ampat (Pulau Raja Ampat). We have no activities included for tonight, so perhaps take the opportunity to join fellow travellers for dinner. You might like to sample the street food along the waterfront, opposite the Marina Mamberamo.
Those arriving earlier should check out Stone Hill for a panoramic view of the town – it's dotted with remnants of Dutch colonial houses and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Also consider visiting Sapta Ratna Pagoda, a local Buddhist temple; the best time to visit is late afternoon when it's cooler, and you can climb to the top for a beautiful panoramic sunset (to get there catch a becak, cycle rickshaw, or taxi, or simply make the one-hour walk). Those after a more relaxing option can head to Tanjung Kasuari (15 minutes by taxi from the hotel). Since Sorong is a port town, fresh seafood is abundant and you can buy fresh fish and have it barbecued in front of you.
Tomorrow we head off early to the port to catch the 9 am ferry to Waisai. Our local guide will be waiting for you in the hotel foyer at 8.20 am.
Palau Raja Ampat
Sit back and relax as we begin our sailing adventure around Raja Ampat's delightful islands. The following itinerary for the next few days won't be 100 % set in stone. We'll keep a flexible approach to what we visit and when, based on weather and other factors. Half the fun of sailing, of course, is the spontaneous element and the fact that each day is unique. See the ‘Further Reading’ section below for more background information on Raj Ampat.
The itinerary will loosely run as follows:
We'll catch the 9 am morning ferry to Kota Waisai, on the island of Waigeo, the capital of the Raja Ampat Regency. In Waisai we climb aboard our new home for the next seven days – the Big Kanu. Based on a traditional Melanesian outrigger canoe, the trimaran is the perfect vessel for sailing the shallow waters of the archipelago.
Our first stop is an enchanting location. Scattered throughout Kabui Bay are karst formations, many of which rise dramatically from the sea and are covered in thick tropical vegetation. Some have wooden jetties which allow easy access for a closer look. Kabui Bay also offers clear turquoise waters full of colourful corals and schools of fish, which make for great snorkelling or paddleboarding. There's a 5-kilometre mangrove river leading deep into the heart of a limestone karst forest with sorts of weird tress that burst out of the water – a far cry from your average muddy mangrove swamp. We tie up alongside one of the many limestone towers here, using a disused deck overnight. It's quite an amazing feeling atmosphere in this place. Anyone for for some yoga in the morning?
Famous for its white sandy beaches and pristine forests, Gam offers calm, shallow waters that were made for snorkelling. Take a stroll along the beach or, better yet, trek to one of the higher points of the islands for some birdwatching. A highlight of Gam is to visit a local village and meet the friendly people there. The religion of the islands is Lutheran, so you might see the odd church dotted about the place. When we dock at the jetty or wander into town we'll be met by a welcoming party of curious kids. It's refreshing to step inside the village and experience the beautiful simplicity of life here; in can be infectious and make one question the needless complications of life back home.
Wayag is the Raja Ampat poster child – if you see an image of Raja Ampat it's probably of this place. Here we have a little circular beach spot where most other boats dare not go, and can set up our own dining table among the trees on the edge of the white sandy beach (about six metres from the boat). We'll light a fire, settle in, and spend two days dining and exploring from this gorgeous anchorage. Those up for some strenuous exercise (and not afraid of heights) can tackle the steep hike through thick vegetation and be rewarded with sweeping views of the area.
If you thought the snorkelling was good up to this point, it's about to go above and beyond. Snorkellers here get an underwater experience that’s almost on the level of diving. Enjoy a mosaic of the most colourful corals, reefs and fish, tassled wobbegongs, Raja epaulette sharks (walking sharks), Pewter’s angelfish and perhaps seahorses. Large black corals, unique to the bay, occur much deeper elsewhere but in Alyui Bay nearly reach the surface. These special corals, their name owing to the dark colouration of their flexible and spiny skeleton, often have lightly-colored polyps, with some especially beautiful white colonies resembling wispy, snow-dusted saplings. Snorkellers will also likely see an abundance of sea slugs in the shallow waters of the bay, with the some of the more colourful (and relatively easy to see) sponge- and sea squirt-eating varieties often spotted along the current-swept walls.
A small island you can walk around in less than an hour, Palau Arborek is home to the Arborek Tourist Village – a friendly, hospitable community known for its handicrafts. Noken, a traditional Papuan woven string bag, is one such handicraft. The locals are extremely welcoming and proud of their efforts in formulating regulations and their own conservation region, leading the way in community based marine conservation. You can snorkel straight off the beach here. As you swim along the pillars of the jetty you'll see huge schools of fish and coral, and at low tide you might be able to join the local women as they look for sea cucumbers.
The Strait is the large passage of water between the islands of Gam & Waigeo in the north and Batanta in the south, taking its name from the English explorer-adventurer William Dampier who first charted the area in the 17th century. The Dampier Strait is where the Indonesia Throughflow runs – an ocean current that delivers upper ocean waters from the north east Pacific Ocean to the south west Indian Ocean (where most currents flow north to south). It’s the largest movement of water in the world. The current brings an abundance of plankton and streams of other nutrients to the reefs, resulting in an amazing diversity of coral and fish.
As you approach the small island of Friwen, don't be surprised if you're met by a welcoming party of children. Join them on the tree swings or go for a wander through the small village. We’ll have another chance to interact with the locals on the small island of Friwen. The islands have beautiful beaches on the northern shore, but it's the Friwenbonda to the south that is the real attraction. The Friwenbonda is a limestone tower located 500 metres from Friwen and separated by a deep channel. The cliffs of the north coast plunge into the ocean and create the Friwen Wall, a spectacular snorkelling site, home to huge coral fans of yellow, red and purple that sway in the current. Depending on the current, you can be dropped off at one end so the current takes you to the other.
***The beauty of sailing is that each day is unique and, while we have a destination to reach, if the weather changes or something takes the group’s fancy, we are flexible on the day's itinerary. The itinerary is subject to change and may vary depending on the weather and sea conditions. Your skipper will make the final call to ensure your safety at all times***
The beauty of Raja Ampat is breathtaking and unsurprisingly this is one of the most important areas of marine biodiversity in the world. Due to its unique location, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Coral Triangle as it is known, is home to massive coral colonies and is one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world.
Scientists are constantly discovering new species and drawing new conclusions in Raja Ampat. These advances include the discovery that the coral around Raja Ampat is more resilient to fluctuations in water temperatures. This allows the coral larvae to be swept into the Indian and Pacific Oceans to replenish other reef ecosystems. So it’s not surprising that diving in Raja Ampat is one of the island’s most sought-after activities, and certainly the most beautiful.
In May 2007, the government of Raja Ampat regency created 7 Marine Protection Areas (MPA's) and that has since been increased by another 5. The MPA's were set up to ensure the long-term health of the marine ecosystems and now cover 45% of Raja Ampat’s coral reefs and mangroves. This area is around 35,000 square kilometres of incredible scenery and marine life.
Friwen – Waisai
As our sailing adventure draws to a close, we make our way slowly back to Waisai. There will be time for one last swim and a snorkel before we find a quiet bay in which to moor for the night.
We have a final breakfast on board, then say ‘Selamat tinggal’ to the crew and get ready to board the 9 am ferry back to Sorong. The ferry journey (approximately 2 hours) should have you back in time for mid- to late-afternoon flights.