The Jewel of West Papua
Myth-enshrined ancestors form the basis of Papua’s modern social structure. “Raja” means King, while “Ampat” means four. According to the legend, eggs laid by the mega bird of Waigeo hatched into four fabled kings who settled the region’s four biggest islands, from north to south; Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool. These four kings fathered Raja Ampat’s original people, the Maya. A stone egg enshrined in a Mayalibit Bay lends a sliver oftruth to this myth.
Known as the “Amazon of the Sea”, it is home to 533 out 798 known coral species, which is 75% of world coral species. You will come face-to-face with up to 1,437 reef fish species in every direction. Here you may also encounter with more than 700 species of mollusk including 7 species of giant clam, as well as 2,300 known species of Nudibranch, which means naked gills, and describes the feathery gills and horns that appear on their backs.
No wonder, Raja Ampat scuba diving has gained a reputation as being amongst the finest in the world. It was recently awarded the # 1 snorkeling location on earth by CNN Travel.
This archipelago is comprised of 600 islands, as well as an additional 900 more shoals and islets. Blue water mangroves connect most of this region’s shallow sandy bottoms. This area of 40,000 km2 / 15,444 miles2, is 7 times the size of the “Island of Gods”, Bali. The best time to visit is October to April when the sea is calmer and the visibility is optimal.
Spending time outdoors, whether it is scuba diving with Black Manta at Dayang Island or blown away by spectacular hard corals and tons of fishes at Dampier Strait, is one of the best ways to soak up the spirit of North Raja Ampat. You will be surprised to learn that the shark family of fish are much more diverse than the commonly found predatory grey and white species. You will appreciate this if you encounter the Wobbegong Sharks and Epaulette Walking Sharks at Mioskon.
They live and hunt on the seabed or on the reefs and are only found in this region of the world. Start your morning with Paddle-boarding or kayaking in the hidden coves of Kabuy Bay. End your day with a magical night dive full of seahorses at Saporkren. Blue Magic is not the only place to dive here and even near the jetty offers a lifetime memory. You can explore many jetties in Mansuar to Aljui.
Surface intervals allow for time to explore the endless islands. Journey out for island visit or hike up the peak to make your heart pump with the reward of a spectacular view of the turquoise lagoons of Wayag or Paynemo. You can combine this with swimming with baby sharks or learning more about the sustainability at the Atlas sea pearl farming center.
Allow a little extra time to explore some of the lesser-known villages such as Selpele to see for yourself how much the locals here depend on sea-life. They practice a sustainable fishing tradition called “sasi”. As a bonus to rare visitors, a celebratory dance welcomes you to their village. If bird watching is your thing, the 3,155-km2 forest of Waigeo is home to more than 299 species of birds. But be sure to spend extra days to witness something majestic, like bird watching on the lookout for The Bird of Paradise.
Venture to where the wild things are.