Does Raja Ampat live up to the hype?
Every so often a new destination comes into the worldwide spotlight and in recent years Raja Ampat has certainly been up there with one of the most talked about destinations. I’ve been lucky to visit the region on 5 different occasions and one thing I can say is that each one has been very different from the next. Without doubt some of my fondest diving memories have come out of this secluded corner of eastern Indonesia and for me that says lot about the place.
My first mind blowing experience was at Blue Magic where everything just seemed to come together and with little current we got to explore the site with ease – a huge school of jacks circled the sea mount, batfish and barracuda were schooling in the blue and the top of the reef was spectacular. This was a typical Raja Ampat dive, masses upon masses of marine life, reefs like no where else on earth and a real sense that you are somewhere special.
The 2nd time was a completely different experience – especially as I had talked it up so much in front of the group, there was a strong current and very little place to hide. It was good, just not that good. As with any diving destination I’d say go diving in Raja Ampat with an open mind – forgot what you’ve read or heard and it will surely be an amazing experience.
Should I go liveaboard or resort based in Raja Ampat?
Raja Ampat is a great liveaboard destination – there is no doubt about that, 1,500 + islands make up the region and so you’re going to be entertained above and below the surface. But there are some great land based options that will certainly enable you to see much of what the region has to offer from a diving perspective. Most resorts offer 4 dives per day with ease, a 20 minute boat ride will give you access to 30+ quality dive sites so a liveaboard is not the only way to go.
Misool Eco Resort in south Raja Ampat is one of the more expensive options but in exchange you’ll have fewer divers around spectacular reefs, Sorido Bay Resort in the north is well positioned with a manta cleaning station close by and numerous sea mounts and fringe reefs just minutes away by boat.
When is the best time to visit Raja Ampat?
Raja Ampat is typically in season between October and May – this is when conditions above the surface will be most calm and when there’s less wind and rain. Visibility is pretty consistent year round but don’t expect to have gin clear conditions here, the magnitude of nutrients in the water (which supports the abundance of marine life) means that 20+ meters is considered good. The color and condition of the reefs more than makes up for it however.