About Raja Ampat
Located off the northwest tip of Bird's Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals surrounding the 4 main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. It is a part of the newly named West Papua province of Indonesia which was formerly Irian Jaya and is the domain of liveaboards.
Diving in Raja Ampat with schools of black snapper
Put simply, Raja Ampat diving is the bees knees in the world of scuba. If you don't enjoy your dives here, you may as well sell your dive gear! According to the Conservation International Rapid Assessment Bulletin and their more recent 2006 scientific surveys, the marine life diversity for scuba diving in Irian Jaya is considerably greater than all other areas sampled in the coral triangle of Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea - the cream of the cream in world diving.
Over 1,200 fish species - a world record 284 on 1 single dive at Kofiau Island, the benchmark figure for an excellent dive site of 200 fish species surpassed on 51% of Raja Ampat dives (another world record), 600 coral species (a remarkable 97% of all scleratinia recorded from Indonesia are likely to occur in these islands), 699 mollusc species - again another world high. It is believed that the region will soon receive protected area status.
The term "Frontier Diving" seems to have been invented for Raja Ampat in Irian Jaya. To visit these waters is to feel at the edge of the earth. To gaze over crystalline seas at the beehive-shaped, largely uninhabited islands is to be as far away from it all as you can imagine. At many places on the sea in Asia, the night sky is lit up like Piccadilly Circus by fishing boats. At night time in Misool you can peer out at the horizon and maybe see 1 or 2 distant specks of light.
To dive in Irian Jaya is mostly drift dives due to the moderate currents prevalent in the area, which provide nutrients for the myriad fish and coral. The variety of marine life can be staggering. Some areas boast enormous schools of fish and regular sightings of sharks, such as wobbegongs. In Mansuar, it's highly likely you'll encounter large groups of manta rays and turtles. From the boat and often close to shore you may get the chance to don your snorkelling gear for some unforgettable interaction with resident pods of dolphins or even some passing whales.
Due to sometimes strong currents, Irian Jaya is not really considered a destination for absolute beginners, rather for divers with a few dives under their weightbelts looking to get away from the crowds. Visibility is normally very good but can vary and is normally at its best earlier in the day so your pre-breakfast dives are not to be slept through!.
There are many highlights and everyone has their own special spots around Irian Jaya but no trip would be complete without checking out:
Cape Kri - You want lots of big stuff? You want to be enveloped by fish? Roll in here and both desires will soon be sated. Meaty Queensland groupers, sharks, snappers, Napoleon wrasses, barracuda, dogtooth tuna, trevallies, you name it ... They are all here and they are all here in numbers.
Misool Island - By contrast Misool is all about investigation through the holes and tunnels where lie all manner of macro wonders. No swirling schools here but rather soft corals galore and critters by the bucketful such as sea horses and ghost pipefish. Great by day, unbelievable by night.
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