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  4. Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia: where to stay, eat, have fun, and how to get there

Raja Ampat archipelago is part of the Indonesian province of West Papua and consists of over 1,500 islands. It is far enough away that it takes a lot of time, effort and money to get there. But it is the remoteness of this region that makes it so special. The number of tourists is very small, the area does not suffer from overpopulation, pollution or development and is one of those places that have managed to preserve the pristine beauty of nature.

General information

  • Area: 8,034 square kilometers.
  • Main islands: Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo.
  • Population: 64,141 as of 2020 census.
  • Location: at the equator, the Indonesian province of West Papua.
  • Alternative title: "Four Kings".
  • Distance to the capital of Indonesia Jakarta: more than 2700 kilometers.
  • Distance to Bali: over 1900 kilometers.
  • Languages spoken: Bahasa Indonesian and over 10 local Papuan dialects. Hotel staff, guest house owners, guides and dive instructors can speak English, but travelers are advised to bring a phrase book with them.
  • Religions: Christianity and Islam.
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What islands are included in Raja Ampat

The archipelago includes four large islands: Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo, as well as a number of other islands, including Arborek, Gam, Cree, Friven, Mansuar, Kofiau, Pam and others.

Misool

Misool is the second largest and the southernmost of the four key islands. Due to its remote location and hilly terrain with dense forests, the island has very few local residents, no main roads, no big buildings, and of course no airport.

How to get to Misool Island

The starting point in Raja Ampat for most travelers is the Indonesian city of Sorong . After flying to Sorong, you need to take a public ferry or express ferry. Since ferry schedules are subject to change without notice, it is best to contact the ferry company for more information.

Misool Island Hotels

Misool is not a place for mass tourism, so you should not count on a large selection of accommodation options. There are several guest houses here, accommodation in which will allow you to get in touch with the life of local residents as much as possible, as well as the luxurious island resort of Misool Eco Resort with white sand beaches and pristine coral reefs.

The resort has a maximum capacity of 40 guests, housed in beautiful villas located on the beach, on the water and surrounded by the jungle. All rooms have Balinese-style open-air bathrooms, wall-mounted fans, air conditioning, hot and cold showers, minibars with refreshments, and handcrafted furniture and accessories.

The hotel has a restaurant overlooking the lagoon, located on the beach in the shade of coconut trees, a dive center with a cozy terrace where you can drink a cup of coffee and read books about marine life, and a stunning house reef, densely populated with marine life.

The hotel provides private speedboat transfers. Travel time is about 4 hours.

Entertainment and attractions

Kayak trips. Canoeing and kayaking trips are one of the most exciting local attractions. Routes of different lengths and difficulty levels are suitable for both beginners and family travelers, as well as experienced kayakers. Participants of such treks can camp on beautiful beaches, stay with a family or choose a comfortable accommodation on a traditional Indonesian pinisi boat.

Diving and snorkeling. The best way to discover the beauty of the underwater world is a dive safari. The island is surrounded by more than 50 different dive sites, where there are manta rays, whale, reef and leopard sharks, giant moray eels and trevally, barracudas and octopuses, green turtles and many other marine life.

In Misool, but some dive sites are more suitable for experienced divers. Best diving months: October to April.

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Salawati

beautiful, serene island of Salawati is the third largest of the "Four Kings" of Raja Ampat and the closest island to Sorong .

The island boasts a beautiful beach, clear waters and lush sago forests. Most of the island is occupied by dense jungle, which is home to many birds and animals.

Entertainment and attractions

The main activities on the island are snorkeling and diving . The calm current makes the conditions comfortable for beginners. The waters surrounding the island are not only filled with marine life, but also hide sunken ships and planes from World War II.

Also on the island there are bunkers of the war period, which attract the attention of not only tourists, but also researchers.

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Batanta

Batanta is the smallest of the four large islands that gave rise to the name Raja Ampat . The island includes several villages. Here you will find pristine seascapes, waterfalls, wildlife and fabulous coral reefs.

How to get to Batanta Island

From Sorong take a ferry to Waisai . Transfers from Waisai can be provided by the owners of most guest houses.

Batanta Island hotels

There are guest houses on the island, but don't expect too much from them. Modest yet cozy traditional-style bungalows, located on the beach or over water, privacy, beautiful views and hospitable hosts - this is what awaits travelers in this distant, but incredibly picturesque corner of the world.

Here are some options for guest houses on the island with an indication of approximate prices for accommodation. Hereinafter, prices are calculated per person per day and include 3 meals a day.

  • Mandemor Homestay (Yensawai Village) offers 3 overwater bungalows. The bed is a mattress on the floor. There are mosquito nets and electricity provided by a generator. On the shore there is a western-style toilet and a special basin for bathing. Guests can arrange snorkelling and excursions to all local attractions from $31.
  • Marwes Homestay (near Marandan village Weser (Yennyar)) offers one VIP bungalow located on a miniature beach. The cloister has a Western-style bathroom and toilet. The bungalow is designed for two. The bed is equipped with a mattress. There is bedding, mosquito nets, chairs and a small table, and a covered porch with ocean views - from $28.
  • Rissen Homestay (also near Marandan village Weser) offers one bungalow designed for two guests. But if necessary, additional beds can be equipped. Guests have access to a shared bathroom with a pebbly floor that includes a bathtub and a western-style toilet - from $24.00.

Entertainment and attractions

There is plenty to do on the island: walking along the beach, bird watching, hiking in the jungle, visiting magnificent waterfalls or just relaxing in the shade and enjoying the atmosphere of harmony and unity with nature.

Be sure to bring your snorkeling gear as the local waters are vibrant with activity. Dolphins, manta rays and dugongs are found here.

As a rule, the owners of guest houses can organize exciting excursions for guests, trips that include snorkeling and sightseeing. When going on a tour, take comfortable clothes, shoes and plenty of water with you.

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Waigeo

Waigeo is the largest of the four islands. On the southern coast of the island is the capital of the Regency of Raja Ampat - Waisai.

Waisai offers a variety of accommodation options. In addition, the city has banks and ATMs, cafes (many with free Wi-Fi ), a 4G/3G data signal, a hospital, a harbor, an airport, and government services. However, for those who are looking for picturesque beaches, beautiful reefs and wild jungles, it is better to choose accommodation in one of the local villages.

How to get to Waigeo Island

From Sorong take a ferry to Waisai. Transfers from Waisai can be provided by the owners of most guest houses.

Waigeo Island Hotels

  • Warimpurem Homestay (near Saporkren village) about 20 minutes by car from Waisai Port . Offers three private bungalows by the sea. Each can accommodate four people. There is also a two-room family bungalow. All bungalows have mosquito nets, real beds with bedding, extra mattresses can be provided if needed, a small desk and a mirror. Guests are provided with bath towels. Each bungalow has a covered veranda with seating and a small table. There is a western style toilet and shower. Meals are served in a separate gazebo - from $31.
  • Wapnansan Homestay is also about a 20-minute drive from Waisai and offers several basic overwater bungalows. Trips and excursions are organized for guests - from 31 US dollars.

Entertainment and attractions

The main activities here are diving, snorkeling, bird-of-paradise tours, the opportunity to explore the village of Saporkren, as well as trekking.

Visit to Saporkren village. Saporkren is a traditional village worth visiting. The walk to the village along the beach passes through several white sandy coves and shady picnic spots. Dolphins love to visit this part of the coast.

Birdwatching. The tropical jungle of Waigeo is home to many reptiles, insects and, of course, birds. It is also one of only two places in the world where you can see Wilson's legendary bird of paradise. The second such site is in Batant.

Tracking. This leisure option is available in the Mayalibit Bay area, which divides Waigeo into two parts, and in the Waigeo Jungle. The island has hiking trails that allow you to explore the rainforest, see rare birds, animals and plants, as well as get acquainted with village life.

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Depositphotos

Weather

Raja Ampat is on the equator so the area is not prone to tropical storms and the day length is about twelve hours all year round. The average air temperature is about +30 o C, while high humidity is maintained. The ocean is also warm all year round. The water temperature is about 27-29 degrees. At the same time, many islands have their own microclimate.

The rainy season lasts from May to September. Precipitation is often plentiful, but short-lived. Strong winds are experienced between June and August, making the waters rough and may limit boat travel.

The weather is usually drier from October to April, but rain is possible, especially in December and January. The wind during this period is usually not strong, and on some days it is generally calm.

Best time to travel to Raja Ampat

The climate and underwater conditions on the islands are good all year round. But the best time to travel to the region is from October to April, with the most chance of perfect weather conditions from mid-October to mid-December.

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Depositphotos

Money

The main currency of the region is the Indonesian rupiah. There are ATMs in Sorong and Waisai where you can withdraw money. However, you should not make financial transactions at the last moment in order to avoid overlaps. We also recommend that you check with your bank before the trip whether it is possible to use your card in banks in Indonesia, in particular in Mandiri bank. If you want to do this immediately upon arrival, use the ATM located at Sorong Airport.

When planning a further trip around the islands, it is necessary to stock up on cash rupees, since, as a rule, there is no way to cash out money on the islands. And for accommodation, organization of excursions and other services provided by local owners of housing, it will be necessary to pay in cash. Although there are progressive homeowners who provide tourists with the opportunity to pre-pay by bank transfer before arriving on the island, and some even accept credit cards. We recommend that you clarify this issue with the receiving party in each case.

When planning your budget, take into account the costs of transportation, entrance fees, meals, diving and other entertainment, as well as contingencies.

If you want to exchange currency, it is best to do so at a bank in Sorong . When exchanging US dollars, keep in mind that most banks only accept newly issued $100 banknotes. Banks do not work on weekends and holidays.

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Depositphotos

Beaches on Raja Ampat

The beaches of Raja Ampat are characterized by untouched nature, crystal clear waters and a mesmerizing atmosphere. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

Arboreck beach

Located on the island of the same name and is one of the most popular beaches of Raja Ampat. The beach, strewn with soft brown sand, is surrounded by calm, clear waters, which creates all conditions for swimming and snorkeling . You can hide from the heat in the shade of coconut palms.

Cemara beach

"Cemara" means pine tree, but contrary to the name, there are no pine trees near the beach. A well-groomed and photogenic beach in the South Waigeo area with soft white sand, clear waters and a peaceful atmosphere.

Daram beach

This tropical beach is part of Misoola. It is known for its unusually creamy clean sands and an abundance of coconut trees that provide pleasant shade for the few tourists to relax. In addition, endangered green turtles and hawksbill turtles nest here.

Jaam beach

This beach is characterized by clean sand, a shallow bottom, thanks to which the water warms up well, and small coral reefs. However, the main attraction of this location is the presence of sharks in the local waters, which can be observed under the guidance of a dive instructor .

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Transport to Raja Ampat

The main communication options between the islands are public ferries and boats.

Ferries

Northern and southern Raja Ampat are connected to Sorong by ferries. This is public transport, which is used not only by tourists, but also by local residents. Ferries can sometimes be late or overcrowded, but overall the trip is quite comfortable.

There are two daily express ferries from Sorong to Waisai and from Waisai to Sorong . The express ferry takes about 2 hours and departs daily at 09:00 and 14:00 from the port. Tickets can be purchased on the day of departure at the ticket offices of the port offices. They offer both economy and VIP tickets. The latter include an adjustable seat back and air conditioning. Estimated fare is IDR 100,000 for economy class and IDR 215,000 for VIP ticket.

Ferry schedules may change, so check with the host or information center for up-to-date information before traveling.

Upon arrival in Waisai, you must take a boat to your accommodation.

Travelers who do not want to wait or share a vehicle with other tourists can rent a private speedboat to take them to their accommodation. However, the cost of such a service will be much more expensive.

Boats

Boat is the most used and in many places the only mode of transport in Raja Ampat . Many owners of guest houses have their own longboats, which they use to transfer tourists and excursions. The most convenient way to get to your accommodation is to request a transfer from your host. If he does not own his own boat, he will be able to negotiate with one of the local operators.

Some hotels have private boats for this purpose.

Most of Raja Ampat does not have public transport between the islands, but transfers from one house to another can be easily arranged. To do this, you must either ask your current host to transfer you to your next place of residence, or call your destination to arrange a meeting.

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Depositphotos

Food and drink

Most guest houses offer tourists 3 meals a day. You should not expect restaurant delights here. The basis of the local cuisine is "papeda" made from the heart of the sago palm, tubers of the cassava plant that taste like sweet potatoes, rice, fish, chicken meat, tofu, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, local snacks and drinks can be purchased in the village shops, but the range of goods is rather limited. There are restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

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Depositphotos

History and interesting facts about the islands

  • The name Raja Ampat is translated as "Four Kings" and originates in local mythology and the story of a local woman who found seven eggs. From the four eggs came four kings who became the rulers of the four largest islands. From three other eggs, a woman, a ghost, and a stone appeared.
  • The archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle and the biodiversity in local waters is the highest in the world. It is home to over 1,400 reef fish species and over 550 coral species.
  • Coconut crabs are a protected species, so don't buy them. Conscientious homeowners will refuse to cook them for you and will insist that you let them go.
  • Sunday is a public holiday, so boat trips, excursions and other activities depending on the services of the host may not be available.
  • While walking around the local villages, it is recommended to wear discreet clothing and refrain from visiting local temples without prior permission.

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