In this post, I talk to PJ about his trip to the Indonesian island, Raja Ampat. Through our chat, I learned a lot about what Raja Ampat has to offer, the rich biodiversity that he saw, and about mushroom shaped islands of Wayag. Read along.
Q. Most people have never even heard of Raja Ampat. Where is it located, how did you get there, and where did you stay?
A. Having learned to dive in 2006 in Honduras, I mostly dived in Hawaii and Caribbean on weekend trips when I lived on the US West and East coasts. I was looking for something with a biodiversity that was different from here. As I searched for the best dive sites in the world, one of them had a name that was so familiar yet I had no idea where it was: Raja Ampat
Turns out it was in Indonesia and was popular mostly for 'live-aboards' (which is where you live on the boat and dive in a new destination everyday). Since I had to be in Bali for a wedding that Thanksgiving, this would work out perfectly as an add-on trip.
However after doing extensive research online, I understood that the live-aboard wouldn't work for me - For one, I wanted to do other things besides diving and secondly they wanted a minimum stay of 7 days. I found an eco-resort on a private island in Raja Ampat that could only be reached by a boat. They had an Instagram account, check out the photo for details.
The resort seemed to be doing all their business on Whatsapp and they had one cottage available.
Raja Ampat while not terribly expensive has a shortage of places to stay so I wired my money and got the reservation with 5 dive packages and all inclusive vegetarian food.
I had to fly to Jakarta and connect to Sarong in West Papua (yes, same island as Papua New Guinea!) and then take a public ferry to Wasai. They picked me up in their boat from Wasai. Getting there wasn't easy but it was totally worth the 20+ hours of travel.
Q. So, what's so special about Raja Ampat? What does it have to offer?
A. Raja Ampat (which literally means 4 kings), is a collection of 1500 islands, cays and shoals. The one I booked was one of them. People come here to dive because of the bio diversity. It is truly a great site for people who like scuba and snorkeling too!
Wonderful Indonesia states that the 'territory within the islands of the Four Kings is enormous, covering 9.8 million acres of land and sea, home to 540 types of corals, more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. This makes it the most diverse living library for the world's coral reef and underwater biota."
Q. Tell us about all the experiences that Raja Ampat have to offer. What were the most memorable ones? Did you use a travel company for the excursions?
A. Turns out its a lot more than just diving. I did five dives in five days including a night dive right off the island. There was a shark family living right next to the dining cottage. The resort had their own boats and diving gear and dive masters. There were ten other tourists on the island in the cottages, two from France and the rest from Asia. The owner's son ran the logistics, his wife cooked very authentic local food and he ran the excursions.