Raja Ampat Scuba Diving
Lying within the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat is an incredibly rich environment for scuba diving. Healthy reefs grow strong and dense, encouraging an abundance of reef fish and large pelagic species. Whale sharks circle WWII wrecks at Cenderawasih Bay whilst Manta Ridge hosts several cleaning stations.
Go Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat and discover one of the most species rich marine location known on Earth. It lies within the coral triangle, an area comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. A dive trip to Raja Ampat is an opportunity to lay eyes on a species diversity higher than that of anywhere else within the coral triangle (an area itself known to hold some of the most biodiverse sites on the planet), leading scientists to believe that this is the most abundant coral reef ecosystem on Earth.
Raja Ampat is located off the northwest tip of the island of New Guinea, and part of the West Papua Province. When diving Raja Ampat, you will be within an archipelago that consists of over 1500 small islands, cays and shoals, that surround a group of 4 main islands: Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool. It is thought that the reefs in Raja Ampat are relatively resistant to threats like coral bleaching and coral diseases, as surface temperatures are relatively high and coral colonies are very large and dense (which would normally facilitate the rapid spread of disease).
Diving in Raja Ampat is exceptional, not just for its species count, but also its totally undisturbed and unspoilt condition. Human activity within the Raja Ampat archipelago has remained virtually non-existent simply due to its remoteness. Even scuba diving in Raja Ampat is for the most part only possible via liveaboards.
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Marine life in Raja Ampat
Marine life does not get any more prolific than in Raja Ampat. So far, over 1500 species of fish have been recorded, 537 corals and nearly 700 mollusc species. Almost all of the hard coral species to be found in the coral triangle can be found in Raja Ampat. While scuba diving, you will find wobbegong, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, whales, nudibranchs, lionfish, sea dragons, giant trevallies and so much more. Nearly 300 fish species were once counted in a single dive!
Raja Ampat is also one of the few locations where 'non-stinging jellyfish' can be found, making for a unique, inshore scuba diving experience in the Misool area. Thousands of years ago, when sea levels dropped due to an ice age, jellyfish became trapped within natural basins and were unable to escape. Over millennia these jellyfish evolved to lose their sting as it was unnecessary for their survival.
Best dive sites in Raja Ampat
The best dive site in Waigeo Island is Bird Wall. It lies to the south of the island and features gentle slopes that level off at 100 feet (30 m). Coral bommies are scattered throughout the site, attracting dense congregations of reef fish, invertebrates and especially molluscs like nudibranchs. This is the perfect dive spot for macro photographers, who can take advantage of the fantastic light conditions made available by the 100 foot (30 m) visibility.
Manta Ridge holds several cleaning stations atop a fairly wide ridge. At each station it is normal to see around 10 to 12 manta rays, but there can be as many as 25, all queueing in an orderly fashion awaiting their turn to be cleaned. It is the strong currents from deep waters, carrying large quantities of zooplankton that attract these 23 foot (7 m) wide, filter feeders, in such high numbers.
When the trade winds hit Raja Ampat, Cenderawasih Bay is often the dive site of choice. This bay is almost completely sheltered from the winds, and features some of the most amazing spectacles of whale sharks in Indonesia. These gentle giants are so at ease it is possible to actually go scuba diving alongside them. Cenderawasih Bay is also the location of an unknown number for World War II wrecks, providing a fantastic assortment of dive sites.
Best time to dive in Raja Ampat
Scuba diving in Raja Ampat is possible almost throughout the entire year, although most dive cruises tend to visit the islands between October and April. There are 2 rainy seasons in Raja Ampat, the first between July and August, and the second between November and December. Water temperatures remain fairly unchanged throughout the year, with a low of 81 Fahrenheit (27C) during May and October, and a high of 86 Fahrenheit (30C) between November and April. During these months, when the water begins to warm slightly, plankton blooms are prevalent and this reduces visibility. However, this also increases activity on the reefs, and is when you are going to see manta rays in huge numbers. It should also be noted that between July and September, strong trade winds are present that can liven the conditions of the sea, with rougher boat journeys and slightly more challenging diving.
Experience level for diving Raja Ampat
The scuba diving in Raja Ampat is mostly drift diving due to the fairly moderate and constant currents. Therefore, it is recommended to hold at least an intermediate certification to dive around these islands. As always, bring an SMB with a finger spool to ensure any ascents that occur in a slightly unplanned location can be marked, and your boat crew alerted.
How do I get to Raja Ampat
Indonesian Liveaboards to take you scuba diving in Raja Ampat usually depart from Sorong. It is possible to reach your dive trip in Sorong either from Bali or Jakarta. Generally, it is less complicated to fly to Bali and catch a connection from here. Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali offers a growing number of direct international flights as the location is becoming more popular. Long-haul flights still require a connection which is usually made via Bangkok or Singapore, or sometimes Kuala Lumpur depending from where you departed.