Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, has four times more ocean than land and around 13,000 paradise islands to explore. It is one of the best dive destinations in the world to experience a variety of marine life and different dive areas, including the beautiful islands of Raja Ampat. The Raja Ampat season begins in November, so let’s take a look at some great reasons to visit this world-class dive destination.
1) Visit the Most Species-Rich Region on Earth
Raja Ampat is within the most biologically diverse marine region on earth; the coral triangle. This centre of global biodiversity comprises an area that includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. A dive trip to Raja Ampat is an opportunity to witness a species diversity higher than anywhere else within the coral triangle.
Divers can enjoy an exceptional variety of species when exploring Raja Ampat; from large pelagics to a diverse array of macro life. Over 1500 fish species, 537 species of coral and almost 700 mollusc species have been identified at Raja Ampat so far. Divers can enjoy encounters with sharks, dolphins, mobula rays, manta rays, reef fish, turtles, whales and even non-stinging jellyfish at Misool. It is an ideal dive spot for macro photographers, who can enjoy the exceptional water visibility and light conditions at the colourful reefs. Pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish and a variety of nudibranchs are often seen.
2) Swim with Whale Sharks, Walking Sharks, Wobbegongs & More
Shark fans can enjoy diving with a variety of sharks at Raja Ampat and the whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay are not to be missed. This famous dive site is almost completely sheltered from the winds and features one of the best whale shark encounters in Indonesia. The fishermen give fish to the whale sharks to bring luck, and numerous whale sharks can be found there year-round. Cenderawasih Bay is also the location of a number of World War II wrecks, providing an assortment of dive sites.
Epaulette sharks, Indonesia’s famous ‘Walking Sharks’, can be found at Misool – one of the few places in the world where divers can see these sharks and witness their unique walking behaviour. Epaulette sharks can survive extended periods of time with little to no oxygen and use their pectoral fins to ‘walk’ between corals at low tide. They can even be seen walking along the seafloor during dives.
Blacktip and whitetip reef sharks are seen frequently at Raja Ampat and wobbegong sharks are found at Yangelo Island.
3) Sail Raja Ampat’s 1500 Paradise Islands
Imagine sailing amid forest-clad islands and bright turquoise waters, and you’re picturing one of the best ways to explore Raja Ampat. With over 1500 islands scattered across the ocean, you won’t be short of stunning landscapes and white-sand beaches to explore each day.
Indonesia has a rich history of sailing using their traditional phinisi boats; hand-hewn from exotic and rare woods. Phinisi boats were originally used to carry spices and textiles through the ancient spice route and modern phinisi boats are used for cruising and diving. There are a variety of phinisi boats to choose from in Indonesia, as well as sailing and motor yachts, a luxury floating hotel and steel hull boats. Each have their own advantages and are all ideal for a relaxed dive holiday cruising Raja Ampat’s many islands.
The Pearl of Papua is a beautiful luxury sailing liveaboard that offers Raja Ampat cruises all year. The steel-hulled Empress II is ideal for budget-friendly safaris, whilst the True North is the equivalent of a luxury floating hotel.
4) Dive Pristine Heat-Resistant Coral Reefs
Indonesia has some exceptional coral reefs that are thought to be resistant to the effects of coral bleaching. Raja Ampat is no exception to this and is home to more than ten times the number of hard coral species found in the Caribbean. Scientists have discovered many of the coral species found at Raja Ampat are more resistant to rising ocean temperatures than in other areas of the world. This resistance has left some of Raja Ampat’s reefs in almost pristine condition.
Bird Wall at Waigeo Island is a great dive site for coral bommies and Misool has been nicknamed ‘the kaleidoscope’ for its colourful coral reefs. Wofoh Island has one of the best coral wall dives in the area, with a reef wall covered in a colourful mixture of soft and hard corals.
5) Hang Out with Huge Groups of Manta Rays
There is something magical about swimming with manta rays as they glide through the water and Raja Ampat is a great place to dive with these ocean giants. Mantas are frequent visitors to Raja Ampat and can be seen in large groups as they pass over the reefs.
Manta Ridge has several cleaning stations, where divers can see up to 25 manta rays at any one time as they queue to use the cleaning stations. Mansaur is another good dive site for groups of mantas, plus turtles and a variety of fish life. November to April is the best time to visit to see manta rays in large numbers, as the warming water and plankton blooms attract them to the reefs.
This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com
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