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Raja Ampat: The World-Class Wonderful Islands

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Surfers and divers always discover places. Follow the current to the far-flung Raja Ampat in Indonesia, this year’s biggest adventure splash. The fish around here know how unique they are. The arresting electric-blue giti damsel fish uses its flash yellowtail, the sexy doe-eyed, deep-reef cardinalfish, and the jamal’s dottyback with aqua-rimmed eyes as unexpected. Mandarinfish goes in their flirty courtship dancing at dusk – part, part samba – climbing up, cheek-to-cheek, locked in a dominant embrace of pectoral fins. And there’s the bashful Denise’s pygmy seahorse hiding one of gorgonian coral, a specimen so endearing.

The Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat rests in the Coral Triangle, which extends from The Philippines to Timor into Papua New Guinea. It is known as the most biodiverse marine habitat globally. There are numerous species that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s three-quarters of the planet’s coral varieties, ten times the Caribbean. The high-definition visibility implies that in one glance, without having to swim a stroke, then you will notice a large number of corals resembling Murano vases or bunches of baby corn, and marbled plumbing fittings, cobwebs, peanut brittle, and an oversized cabbage patch.

Raja Ampat comprises four major islands and hundreds of dots and specks from the fragmented western corner of New Guinea, the world’s second-largest island. The southern half of the island is provided over to the independent state of Papua New Guinea; the western half goes to Indonesia, apparently reluctantly, and can be called Papua. Locals are culturally Melanesian – more alike Fijians than Javanese – plus, they are keen on independence.

Yet this portion of the world also serves as a reminder that there are still relatively unexplored areas, serene and pristine. It has remained this way because of the straightforward actuality that, for several decades, there has been nowhere for travelers to stay. Committed divers, often the most seen of explorers, traveled around the region on life aboard boats. But now, homestays continue opening up, and word is beginning to spread.

Most people access Raja Ampat through Sorong, a city on the far west coast of Papua. There is an army barracks, an airport, and a karaoke place called Happy Puppy. Life for all here revolves around the nation’s three chief sources of revenue: fishing, logging, and mining, which also happen to be ruining the country’s natural habitats. The interface is busier than it should be for a far-flung provincial town. The colossal arms of cranes unload shipping containers. Oil tankers fill up at giant vats around the water’s edge. Down the shore are the most fabulous gold mine and the next largest copper mine on the planet. It is said that if Papua was an independent state, it could have one of the world’s wealthiest incomes per capita.

less than two hours by boat from here, there is a series of hotels and homestays, most of which have been opened ifor the past couple of years. You will find 16 overwater two amazing house reefs in Papua Paradise, home to the fantastic wobbegong sharks and flamboyant cuttlefish. I sit my stilted deck and observe a household of radjah shelducks swim beyond, providing occasional quacks. A foot-long needlefish flies straight out of the water, preventing a predator—even a near-resident dugong (I’d always believed they were fanciful beings, such as unicorns).

Whether your journeys bring you to a long stroll on beaches, delightful cuisines, relaxing spas and resorts, or urban attractions, additional research will give you the most satisfying experience for your visit. Get to know more about Raja Ampat by visiting Wonderful Indonesia.

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