Take your pick from the hundreds of dive sites teeming with marine life in this fascinating region. By Rachel Kwek
Well-known for its pristine and colourful reefs teeming with diverse species of marine life, Raja Ampat is undeniably one of the most desirable diving destinations in the world. Situated in Indonesia’s West Papua province, the 40,000-square-kilometre diving paradise boasts over 1500 species of coral and 500 species of fish. The archipelago’s name, which means “four kings” in Indonesian, refers to the main islands of Misool, Salawati, Waigeo and Batanta, but there are actually more than 600 islands in total. Most of the resorts in the region are in the north and visitors usually access the south via liveaboards.
Famous sites such as Sardine Reef, Manta Sandy, Arborek Jetty and Cape Kri are located in the Dampier Strait, which separates the mainland of West Papua and nearby Batanta from Waigeo to the north. A large amount of water known as the Indonesian Throughflow passes through the strait. The strait’s topography constricts this flow upon its entry, causing currents in the strait to be quite strong at times. These currents bring large numbers of plankton and fish to Cape Kri and Sardine Reef, feeding vibrant corals and schooling scad around the pilings at Arborek Jetty and enticing the mantas to the cleaning stations of Manta Sandy. Sardine Reef is a great site for those interested in macro life with nudibranchs, mantis shrimp, pygmy seahorses, octopuses and cuttlefish but also teems with huge schools of batfish, surgeonfish, jacks, fusiliers, rainbow runners and trevally.
Cape Kri in particular is one of the best sites to see the variety of sea creatures in Raja Ampat. With 374 species of fish being counted in one single dive, the stunning underwater landscape it offers never fails to impress even the most seasoned divers.
Fly to Sorong, West Papua before joining your liveaboard or going to your resort by boat.
Note: You need a permit to enter West Papua. Your dive operator will usually help to complete the formalities but remember to bring your passport, three photocopies of your Indonesian visa and a photograph you can use to identify yourself.