Raja Ampat diving
Raja Ampat (or the Four Kings) is an archipelago consisting of the islands of Misoool, Salawati, Batanta, and Wiageo which are surrounded by over 1,500 small islands and cays. Formerly known as Irian Jaya, this area is now part of the newly named West Papua province of Indonesia and is located on the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula, on the island of New Guinea.
Put simply, Raja Ampat could quite possibly be the best diving in the world. It certainly is the world’s most bio diverse marine region with more recorded fish, coral and mollusc species than anywhere else on Earth. The variety of marine life can be staggering. Some areas boast enormous schools of fish and regular sightings of sharks, such as wobbegongs. In Mansuar, you may encounter large groups of manta rays and turtles. From the boat and often close to shore you may get the chance to don your snorkelling gear for some unforgettable interaction with resident pods of dolphins or even some passing whales. Other highlights include the innumerable war wrecks, both ships and planes (with new wrecks being discovered constantly).
The reefs of Raja Ampat are just as varied as the marine life. There are vertical walls, reef flats, slopes, sea mounts, mucky mangroves, lagoons and pinnacles. The reefs are in pristine condition with miles of perfect hard corals and many varied colourful species of soft corals. The diving is predominantly drift dives due to the moderate prevalent currents in the area which provide nutrients for the myriad fish and coral. Currents are average to moderate and vary from none to very strong. Visibility is normally very good but can vary and is normally at its best earlier in the day so your pre-breakfast dives are not to be slept through!
This is truly “Frontier Diving”. Topside the beautiful islands stretch as far as you can see and are largely uninhabited. At night the lights of local fishing boats twinkle in the dark along the few inhabited shorelines while in more remote areas you may only see a distant spec of light over the entire horizon.
Not many liveaboards dive the Raja Ampat area, making this adventure even more unique and special.
Raja Ampat has a high season from October to May and weirdly enough it is during their rainy season due to the winds in the dry season making parts of the park inaccessable. The rainy season should not be mis-construed though. It is generally mostly a shower in the late afternoon and evening and most of the time the days are nice, wind is minimal and the skys are generally clear or slightly over cast. The seas are calmer at this time of the year as the oppposite season has winds that kick up waves and make it very difficult to dive the more exposed sites in the Southern part of Raja Ampat. The water temperature stays around the 27-30 degrees celcius mark all year round.
Recently due to the popularity of Raja Ampat a lot of boats have been running trips in the so called low season but this is also the dry season and so promotes nicer weather and better visibility but the trade of is that only the northern more sheltered part of the park is accessable but as the area is so vast and there are so many quality dive sites the reports from these northern trips have been glowing so far.