snorkeler in raja ampat - coral triangle adventures

About Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat: Heart of the Coral Triangle

Raja Ampat is a popular destination for our Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling toursRaja Ampat, or four kings, is located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua (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 name actually refers to four men that 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.

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 no small part, to the 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.

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, often craggy terrain, making perfect habitats for over 350 species of birds including parrots, hornbills, and birds of paradise.

Our snorkeling tour takes us to Raja Ampat’s best shallow reefs and habitats as we explore islands both north and south of Dampier Straight. 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. We have led over 30 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!

Alfred Russell Wallace and Wallace's Line

Wallace’s Line

Tasselled wobbegong sharks are found throughout Raja Ampat and into Australia and Papua New Guinea

Tasselled Wobbegongs

Bird's Head Plate and the interactions between many of the plates in the region

Plate tectonics and Raja Ampat

 

mangroves support a variety of life in Raja Ampat - coral triangle adventures

Life thrives around mangroves

nudibranchs can be found all over the shallow reefs of raja ampat - coral triangle adventures

Nudibranch diversity

Indonesian Throughflow transports an incredible amount of seawater from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean

Indonesian Throughflow

 

Click on a tour date below to read about trip details including accommodationspricing, and how you can join us!

Itinerary


Map of Raja Ampat snorkeling itinerary

The tour begins and ends in Jakarta. One internal flight to Sorong.

Our 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 / Sheraton Bandara
Meals provided: D
Meet in Jakarta, Indonesia at our group hotel, the Sheraton Bandara, 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 Sheraton Bandara

Day 2: Sorong / Transfer to liveaboard
Meals provided: B,L,D
Fly to Sorong and transfer to our liveaboard boat and have our boat orientation and lunch before we depart for our snorkeling adventure into the islands. Overnight on our expedition boat

Day 3 – 11: Batanta / Penemu / Waigeo / Dampier Strait
Meals provided: B,L,D
What makes Raja Ampat truly special is the access snorkelers have to an amazing diversity of habitats. Just a few of the examples are shallow, protected lagoons with extensive coral gardens, exciting channels where soft corals, sponges, and tunicates of just about every color completely cover the substrate, and seaward reefs that support thousands of reef fish, turtles, sharks, and rays. Each area we visit will give us the opportunity to snorkel upon some of the healthiest reefs in the world.

Many of the fringing reefs of Raja Ampat are shallow and begin right from shore

Snorkelers…

On Batanta Island we will visit several areas where the shallow reefs along the shoreline contain a mind-blowing diversity of hard corals in every color imaginable. Although it is hard to take your eyes away from the coral, a look out into the clear blue water may reward you with schools of snapper, turtles, and rays. This is also a good spot for finding the wobbegong shark, a type of carpet shark known only from this region of the world.

The Islands of Penemu (Fam group) 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. We also have the chance to hike up to an elevated platform for a fantastic view of the rock islands of Penemu.

Waigeo is home to some of the best snorkeling in the entire world. We love this place for its passages where strong water movement supports a dazzling amount of life along the shallow edges of the islands. Lush gardens of colorful soft corals, sponges, tunicates, and sea fans compete for space in just a few feet of water! These reefs also attract a huge diversity of fish and offer us the chance to see magnificent critters such as octopus, nudibranchs (still holds the record for the most species of nudibranchs seen on a given snorkel), and flatworms. Reef fish diversity is amazingly high with everything from colorful angelfishes and ghost pipefishes, to wobbegong sharks and manta rays. Out in the blue, huge schools of fusiliers and silversides appear to not mind our company. For us, planning an entire trip around the island of Waigeo and Gam would still not be enough time to appreciate all of the diversity that exists around these islands.

The seaward reefs along Kri and Mansuar 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 snokelers. Look out for sharks and turtles as they are common sightings as well. If we are able to incorporate Misool into the itinerary, we will visit Pulau Segaf, Olobie Ganon/Pale, and Wagmab/Len Kafal as they have some magnificent reefs located in scenery you’d think was part of a dream.

As always, weather and tides will help us plan our daily itinerary and with dozens of visits to Raja Ampat, we have developed quite an extensive list of places we want you to see. The challenge for us (and we are always up to it) is trying to show you it all during our time in the islands! Overnight on our expedition boat

Split shot depicting the healthy and diverse reefs of Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Over/under shot…

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

Day 13**: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B

**Please note: We charter several different boats depending on the time of year and availability. Depending on the fixed schedule for each boat, the length of the tour on a given departure may be one or two days longer than the sample itinerary published above. Given that there are hundreds of snorkel sites to choose from, we will spend the extra time visiting more spectacular reefs around the island of Waigeo. In some cases where we include Misool, we may extend our time there to visit the southern island group of Pelee. Our day of departure from the boat, subsequent return flight to Jakarta, overnight at Sheraton Bandara, and international flight or extensions day will adjust to conform to the additional day(s) to the schedule (e.g., if the overall tour length is 14 days, Day 12 on the above schedule will adjust to be Day 13 and so forth).

What to Expect

The islands of Raja Ampat straddle the equator, though most of them reside in the southern hemisphere. As a generally equatorial island archipelago, weather year round is hot and humid, with almost daily rain showers occurring in the early morning or late afternoon. Daytime temperatures hover around 30º C (86º F) and  do not fall much at night. Water temperatures average around 28º C (82º F), though cooler temperatures may occur if persistent rains cause a thin layer of cool freshwater on the surface. We recommend having at least a full lycra to protect against the sun and possible no-see-um stingies that may be present in the water. We also strongly suggest a thermal layer consisting of at least a 2-3mm shorty if not full wetsuit. Our snorkel sessions can last up to 3 hours and we want everyone to spend the entire time in the water without the cause of cool temperatures to discourage that.

Currents around the islands of Raja Ampat may be strong. 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 they will be there at all times to assist anyone for whatever reason.

There will be opportunities to visit beaches for nature walks as well as the chance to climb up to the top of the islands for incredible panoramic views. The beach walks only require loose fitting clothes and foot protection that can get wet (e.g., sandals or neoprene booties). Our summit hikes require sturdy foot wear, though the hike is climbing a series of constructed stairs. A good pair of binoculars is a definite bonus! Birds like parrots, doves, and cockatoos are spotted nearly every day!

Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.

Join Us!

Click on the tour date to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!

Nov 25 – Dec 8, 2018
From $7600 USD per person, double occupancy
Accommodations: MV Pindito

Jan 29 -Feb 10, 2019
From $7400 USD per person, double occupancy
Accommodations: MV Gaia Love

Sept 23 – Oct 11, 2019
From $8900 USD per person, double occupancy
Accommodations: MV Pindito

Jan 21 – Feb 2, 2020
From $7800 USD per person, double occupancy
Accommodations: Mermaid I

Please email us with any questions you may have about these trips.