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Snorkeling Raja Ampat: Heart of the Coral Triangle!

The Bird's head Peninsula Seascape, Raja Ampat, resides in the heart of the Coral TriangleRaja Ampat, or four kings, is located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papa (the western portion of New Guinea, politically associated with Indonesia). The four kings refer to the four main islands, Salawati, Waigeo, Batanta, and Misool, though legend has it that the names actually refer to four men who were hatched from four of seven eggs found by a woman (the three other eggs hatched to reveal a ghost, a woman, and a stone). Each man lived on one of the four islands where they eventually became king. Legends and myths aside, one fact remains: This region has an unusually high variety of marine life and is recognized as the world’s center of marine biodiversity.
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Dozens of surveys by the world’s leading scientists have found that the region possesses over 600 species of corals (nearly 75% of all known species of reef-building corals) and more than 1500 species of tropical marine fish (about half of all known tropical marine fish). The astoundingly high level of marine life is due, in part, to plate tectonics, high amounts of water that flow through the region, and a variety of marine habitats that are found in the area. Pristine reef flats, secret bays, swift channels, deep drop-offs, shallow seamounts, mangroves, marine lakes, and protected coral gardens are but a sample of the types of marine habitats that can be found in the roughly 50,000 square kilometer area of Raja Ampat.
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Along with the four main islands, Raja Ampat has over 1500 breathtaking islands and islets that offer a scenic backdrop to the unspoiled underwater wilderness. The majority of the islands, especially the smaller islands and islets are made of limestone and the main islands are mostly volcanic in origin with deposits of limestone and sandstone. Dense jungle and rainforest dominate much of the hilly, craggy terrain, making perfect habitats for over 350 species of birds including parrots, hornbills, and birds of paradise.
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We wrote our snorkeling itinerary to take advantage of the huge diversity of marine life that abounds in Raja Ampat, from tiny neon gobies to large reef mantas. Whether we float blissfully above a shallow protected reef or get whisked along a fringing reef, each day we will snorkel in a variety of marine habitats that makes Raja Ampat such a special destination.
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Though our main focus will be on the incredibly rich underwater world, we will have opportunities to view rare or endemic birds, summit dramatic rock islands for incredible views, and relax on idyllic white-sand beaches – but not too long because we have a lot of snorkeling to do. We have guided over 50 snorkeling tours to this region and have come to know more than just a few islands and snorkel sites, largely unknown to other operators, that have some of the best reefs and scenery that Raja Ampat, the Heart of the Coral Triangle, has to offer!

 


ITINERARY

Route map for the coral triangle adventures snorkeling to to Raja Ampat, west Papua, IndonesiaOur snorkeling tour begins and ends in Jakarta, Indonesia. One round trip, internal flight (Jakarta-Sorong-Jakarta). Upon our arrival in Sorong, we will board our boat and cruise towards our first destination within the Raja Ampat archipelago. Please note that although we visit many of the islands and island groups in the sample itinerary below, each of our departures is unique and that weather, tides, and opportunities to explore all play a role in the decisions about our daily schedule as well as the overall itinerary.

Day 1: Jakarta / Anara Airport Hotel Jakarta
Meals provided: D
Meet in Jakarta, Indonesia at our group hotel, Anara Airport Hotel, for the tour orientation and welcome dinner. As is often the case with our internal flight, we will depart for Sorong in the late evening, thus our ‘overnight’ will be in transit to Sorong. Overnight Anara Airport Hotel.

Day 2: Sorong / Gaia Love / Waisai
Meals provided: B,L,D
Fly to Sorong and transfer to our live-aboard boat, the Gaia Love. Boat orientation and lunch before we depart for our snorkeling adventure into the islands. While we do not plan to have the chance to snorkel today, if time and weather permits, we will give it our best. Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 3: Penemu / Fam Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
The Fam islands, Penemu being the largest, offer us the chance to drift snorkel along incredibly healthy, colorful walls where huge schools of fusiliers, unicornfishes, surgeonfishes, snappers, rabbitfishes, and sweetlips crowd along the edges while the current passes by. In the afternoon, we will snorkel in a quiet lagoon where we can lazily float above fields of delicate branching corals, some that can only be found in this specific habitat! Penemu Island is also home to some of the most stunning island scenery in Raja Ampat. We’ll have a chance to take a dinghy tour through the network rock islands and finish the tour with the chance to walk up 400 stairs for the ultimate in panoramic views! Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 4 – 7: Alyui Bay / Wayag
Meals provided: B,L,D
Ajyui Bay is one of the premier destinations in Raja Ampat. The bay possesses a variety of habitats including robust passages where brisk water movement supports a dazzling amount of bizarre and colorful life along the shallow edges of the islands, as well as protected reefs in private lagoons where a mixture of juvenile and adult reef fishes play amongst the tangle of staghorn coral thickets. We’ll also snorkel sea grass and sand flats to look for rare critters such as waspish and tasseled wobbegongs.

To the north of Alyui Bay is Wayag, a remote island archipelago otherwise knowns as paradise. The convoluted network of picture-prefect, jungle-capped limestone islands create narrow passages, hidden lagoons, and shallow platform reefs. Our snorkels range from exposed seawards reefs to sheltered coral gardens and mangroves. Dinghy tours around Wayag rank among the best on the planet! We will meander our way through intimate passages made by towering limestone islands and stop off to put our feet in pure white sand before returning to our gorgeous moorage within the islands. Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 8: Pef / Secret Bay 
Meals provided: B,L,D
The combination of limestone and mangrove islands in the Pef island group create magnificent shallow habitats that often possess a large diversity of sponges and sea fans. This is easily the best place to see the spot-tail blennny, marvel at enormous sponges (both fan and barrel), and catch a glimpse of a ray or juvenile shark as they swim among the mangroves in the shallows. Secret Bay is a drift snorkel that begins at the mouth of channel and ends in an intimate bay. Along the way, we’ll get whisked by huge fields of purple and orange soft corals and sea fans! We will also tour the bay via dinghies to look for and hear birds and enjoy the scenery, the tides will determine our timing. Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 9: Yangeffo / Gam
Meals provided: B,L,D
The tiny mangrove islands of Yangeffo are separated from the main island of Gam by little more than a 75m-wide channel. Normally, mangrove islands would be fairly turbid and, as such, lack high coral abundance and diversity, but the channel focuses strong water flow that flushes the area of sediment. This results in clear-water mangroves where a huge number of corals use the prop roots of mangroves as substrate to grow upon. The clash of ‘habitats’ makes for amazing snorkeling opportunities! We will snorkel both sides of the channel, especially to take advantage of the reef that extends from Gam. Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 10: Mansuar / Dampier Strait
Meals provided: B,L,D
Dampier Strait is where the big fish are found! The seaward reefs along Kri and Mansuar that are simply some of the best Raja Ampat has to offer. Huge schools of snapper, bumphead parrotfish, barracudas, unicornfishes, plus the thousands of reef fishes make this a must-do for fish-loving snorkelers. Look for sharks, turtles, and rays as they are common sightings as well. We’ll spend time along the jetty where current-exposed, weathered pilings act as substrate for forests of colorful sea fans. Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 11: Batanta / Dayang
Meals provided: B,L,D
Across Dampier Strait to the south, is the lush, volcanic island of Batanta. The shallow coral gardens around Dayang, located at the northwestern tip of Batanta, contain a mind-blowing diversity of hard and soft corals in every shape and color imaginable. Schools of fish number in the thousands and if we look closely out into the blue, a manta ray or dugong may be swimming by! Overnight Gaia Love.

Day 12: Sorong / Jakarta / Anara Airport Hotel
Meals provided: B,L,D
Disembark for our connection to Jakarta. Check in to our group hotel. Farewell dinner at the hotel. Overnight Anara Airport Hotel.

Day 13: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B

*For our Dec, 2024 departure we have one additional day in Raja Ampat. We will use this to take advantage of other stunning sites in Raja Ampat such as Wofo, Frewinbanda, or Arefi Island on Batanta.

DEPARTURES

Feb 22 – Mar 5, 2024 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: Gaia Love
Guides: Lee Goldman
Length: 13 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$8600 USD per person, double occupancy
$11,600 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
August 22, 2023: $4600 USD / $6600 USD (single occ.)
November 22, 2023: $3500 USD / $4500 USD (single occ.)

Back-to-back combination with: Misool, Raja Ampat, Mar 05 – Mar 17, 2024

Dec 09 – 22, 2024 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: Gaia Love
Guides: Lee Goldman
Length: 14 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$9000 USD per person, double occupancy
$12, 500 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
June 09, 2023: $4500 USD / $7000 USD (single occ.)
September 09, 2023: $4000 USD / $5000 USD (single occ.)

Back-to-back combination with North Sulawesi, Nov 22 – Dec 06, 2024

Mar 15 – 27, 2025 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: Gaia Love
Guides: Lee Goldman
Length: 13 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$8900 USD per person, double occupancy
$11,900 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
September 15, 2024: $4500 USD
December 15, 2024: $3900 USD / $6900 USD (single occ.)

Dec 08 – 20, 2025 ←Click to request a booking
Accommodations: Mermaid I
Guides: Lee Goldman
Length: 13 days

Prices and Payment schedule:
$8600 USD per person, double occupancy
$11,600 USD per person, single occupancy

Reservation deposit: $500 USD
June 08, 2025: $4600 USD
September 08, 2025: $3500 USD / $6500 USD (single occ.)

Tour cost includes:

  • Accommodations throughout tour dates
  • All meals on days 2 through 12 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 13)
  • All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • All snorkeling and park fees
  • All gratuities

Tour cost does not include:

  • Round-trip international airfare
  • Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
  • Visa requirements including payments
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • International departure taxes
  • Extra / overweight baggage fees
  • Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel GuardWorld Nomads, or Travel Insure)
  • DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
  • Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
  • Fuel surcharges (if applicable)

Cancellation policy:
180 – 91 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost

Please see our Terms and Conditions


ACCOMMODATIONS

We use the finest live-aboard boat in Indonesia to host us on our snorkeling adventures in Raja Ampat. In Jakarta, we stay at the Anara Airport Hotel in Terminal 3 of Soekarno–Hatta International Airport. Please visit our accommodations page for more photos or use the link to visit the given website.

GAIA LOVE

gaia love - coral triangle adventuresThe Gaia Love is a modern 40-meter steel hull vessel build from the ground up in Batam, Indonesia. Designed with a modern contemporary look and with an emphasis on diving in comfort, she accommodates up to 20 guests in ten spacious ensuite rooms: six on the upper deck and four on the lower deck. Each room is 20 square meters and has individual air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms with hot water. Upper deck rooms feature an additional private outdoor balcony. Gaia Love has a total of four decks (lower, main, upper and top/sundeck). The lounge, restaurant, and camera room are located on the main deck. Adjacent to the lounge is the seating area for plated meals. At the rear is an over-sized dive deck that can accommodate up to 28 divers. The partially shaded sundeck is perfect for evening gatherings and relaxation under the stars. More photos 

MERMAID I

Mermaid 1 is a vessel chartered by Coral Triangle AdventuresThe M/V Mermaid I is a 28 meter, double engine steel motor yacht. She comfortably holds 15 guests in one master state room (king bed), one single and four deluxe cabins (king or twin beds), and two budget cabins (double/twin beds) below deck. The master, single, and deluxe cabins have ensuite bathrooms, refrigerators and, except for the budget cabins, panoramic sea view windows. All cabins have TVs, DvD access, bathrobes, toiletries, and loads of fluffy towels. There is a wide stern dive platform with two exit ladders and fresh water showers. Delicious Thai, Indonesian, and western meals are served in the restaurant with large windows to enjoy the views. Our salon is equipped with a large flat screen TV/DvD and a full selection of marine life books. There are also two outside decks, one shaded with outside seating and the fabulous sundeck with sunshade plus cushioned sun beds. More photos 

ANARA AIRPORT HOTEL

Anara Airport Hotel in Terminal 3 used by Coral Triangle AdventuresAnara Airport Hotel is the only integrated hotel with Terminal 3 International Airport Soekarno-Hatta. We present you an experience a new level of comfort to indulge yourself all day. As the 4-star hotel, Anara Airport Hotel has deluxe rooms (28 sqm) with king or twin accommodations, free wi-fi, flatscreen TV with cable and satellite, work desk and chair, hair dryer, mini cooler, and coffee/tea maker. Explore authentic Asian and delightful international cuisines at the Selasih restaurant or relax in the ambiance of the Lobby Lounge. Onsite facilities include a wellness spa and gym and four functional/meeting rooms. The easy access from the international and domestic terminals combined with the elegance of a modern 4-star hotel makes Anara Airport Hotel the perfect choice for business and leisure travelers. More photos 


WHAT TO EXPECT

Raja Ampat straddles the Equator and, as an equatorial island archipelago, weather year round is hot and humid. Rain showers often happen in the early morning or late afternoon. Daytime temperatures hover around 86º F (30º C) and  do not fall much at night. Water temperatures average around 82º F (28º C), though cooler temperatures may occur if persistent rains cause a thin layer of cool freshwater on the surface. Currents around Misool are generally light but may be strong at specific sites. While we plan our snorkel session around the slack tides, we also have several sites where having water movement is an advantage. These drift snorkels allow us to cover large tracks of reef without having to swim too hard. Our snorkel sessions are 100% boat supported and two dinghies will be there at all times to assist anyone for whatever reason.

Most of the islands are steep and rugged with small pocket beaches, but we will have a chance to hike to a summit in the island group of Fam. The stairs are well established and require nothing more than comfortable shoes or sandals. We will also have several scenic dinghy tours scheduled during our time in Raja Ampat.

Please read more about our daily schedule.


WHAT TO BRING

The following list is a suggestion of things to bring and applies to almost all our trips. Specific items on a particular departure will be noted on the departure information.

-A good fitting mask, snorkel, and set of fins. If your equipment is brand new, please try it out in the pool. Determining the fit and function of your equipment in the pool includes doing several laps with all your equipment on. Doing several snorkel dives is also very beneficial. It is also important to clean your new equipment, especially your mask. Cleaning procedures for your mask include light scrubbing with toothpaste or dishwasher soap to remove the layer of silicon used to preserve the mask during shipping. Clean both sides of the mask. Doing this greatly reduces the chances of having your mask fog. Not doing this, even when using mask de-fogger, usually results in a fogged mask.

-A wetsuit, rash guard, diveskin, or any type of clothing that can be used for thermal and/or protection from the sun. We suggest bringing a full 3mm wetsuit and some type of core insulation like a vest or shirt made of 1 – 2 mm neoprene (e.g., Lavacore or Sharkskin shirts or vests). These items will not only provide thermal protection but protection from the sun as well. For those who feel that a 3mm suit may be too warm, please consider a full body skin or rash guard to ensure protection from the sun. With regards to thermal protection, remember the saying: It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. One that note…

-Head protection in the form of a wetsuit hood, a cap, or even a bandana. Anything that can keep the sun off your head is extremely important. It is the most exposed part of our bodies when we are floating on the surface.

-Underwater flashlight on departures with a planned night snorkel

-Biodegradable sunscreen lotion. Sunscreen lotions can be harmful and even kill tiny larvae (baby marine life). It is fine to wear on land, but we highly discourage the use of sunscreen lotions in the water. A full wetsuit or dive skin will protect one from the sun much better than lotions and provide thermal protection. It is truly a win-win for everyone and the marine environment.

-Casual, lightweight, tropical clothing
-Sunglasses (and a spare in case you lose your main pair)
-Comfortable footwear such as active sandals (Teva, Keen, Merrell, etc.)
-Hats. We cannot stress the importance of a hat in the tropics!
-All our boats provide items like shampoo, soap, towels, etc. We bring this up because these items represent added weight or may leak.

Other items to consider:
-Lightweight rainwear to protect from the occasional afternoon shower
-Binoculars


TRIP REPORTS

colorful coral photographed in Raja Ampat by Lee Goldman

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