Raja Ampat is one of the most beautiful island chains in Southeast Asia: jungle-covered islands, white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, caves and tiny islets, crystal clear water, definitely the heaven on earth.
Discover this underwater paradise with Lee Goldman who kindly shared their adventures with us! They have a small tour company “Coral Triangle Adventures” based in California that specializes in offering educational snorkeling tours to many destinations in the Indo-Pacific. Read and enjoy their Raja Ampat trip report and do not forget to check their site www.coraltriangleadventures.com if you plan to visit this amazing region!
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Raja Ampat – Explore the wonderful Indonesia
We have been leading snorkeling tours to Raja Ampat for the past seven years and the ‘epicenter of marine biodiversity’ continues to dazzle and amaze us every time we go. Our recent departure in December of 2015 was probably one of the best in the past few years. Sunshine and calm seas were forecasted for our group of 14 snorkelers and it held true for the entire 10 days of our trip!
Biodiversity hotspot in the Coral Triangle
We started in Misool, the southern-most island that makes up the four main islands of Raja Ampat (four kings who ruled each of the four large islands, Misool, Bantanta, Waigeo, and Salawati), where we snorkeled over magnificent reefs around many of the numerous small limestone islands and islets. One of the best things about snorkeling in Raja Ampat is the abundance of healthy reefs that can be found in shallow water. We spent hours snorkeling over these reefs and never fond ourselves in water deeper than five feet!
After a few days of blissfully snorkeling over the reefs of Misool, we cruised north to Dampier Strait where we explored a diversity of habitats around the islands of Batanta, Penemu, and Waigeo. Bantata is one of the four islands of Raja Ampat and stretches for miles along the east west axis with the entire north side facing into Dampier Strait. The variety of habitats along the coastline set the stage for an incredible diversity of fish and coral. At one of snorkeling sites we saw so many fish and coral that we could have stayed there for days and been completely satisfied. Penemu is a small group of islands just north of Dampier. The islands are made of limestone and provide a great backdrop to the clear blue water and colorful coral reefs that can be found right up to the edges of the islands. At Penemu we also we had the chance to hike up to the summit of one of the limestone cliffs for a nice panoramic view of the stunning area.
North of Dampier Strait is the main island of Waigeo. Waigeo and its surrounding satellite islands and islets have some of the highest diversity of habitats in the world. Swift-moving channels, exposed seaward reefs, protected coral gardens, quiet lagoons and bays, mangroves, and docks/jetties are but a sample. Around islands like Yangeffo, Pef, and in Alyui Bay we had the chance to not only see colorful coral reefs growing up to and often underneath lush stands of mangroves, but to see a variety of critters including ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, crocodile fish, colorful nudibranchs, epaulette sharks blacktips, and the phenomenal wobbegong shark!
Our last few days of snorkeling were spent around the islands of Mansuar and Kri where we saw two species of sea turtles and schools of jacks, barracudas, and bumphead parrotfish. Add in a few schools of thousands of damsels, fusiliers, and anthias along with lush colorful reefs and that’s what you get around these islands. Want mantas? Manta Sandy is a site that has them for you. We only had six. Just another tough day in Raja Ampat…
We visit Raja Ampat on special snorkeling-only adventures twice a year. See you in April!