Just the mention of beautiful beaches and turquoise water in Indonesia, the ever-popular Bali and Gili Islands come to mind.
But not many know that Raja Ampat would give these islands a run for their money. The name translates to “Four Kings” in Indonesian, referring to the four major islands - Waigeo
, and Misool
Incredibly intact and little visited, this archipelago of over 1,500 islands is long hailed as a diver’s mecca due to its rich complex of coral reefs and marine life.
Yet, besides its underwater scenery, there’s more to discover in these islands. Here’s why Raja Ampat should be ranked high on your bucket list:
Be Amazed By Nature At Its Purest Glory
Once you step foot on Raja Ampat, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty of Mother Nature in no time.
Green clothed islands framed by mangroves and glittering white sand beaches, lapped by luminous water, seem like a painting come alive.
Since the islands haven’t been taken over by crowds, you get it all to yourself. Time to discover how much life has to offer beyond the hectic, concrete jungle.
Diver’s Dream Come True
Situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle, beneath the translucent water is a treasure trove of coral reef systems and diverse marine life (75% of all known coral species in the world) - about a tenfold of the Caribbean.
Bump fins with patrolling colourful parrotfish, check out mantra rays and giant turtles gliding by, spot wobbegong and epaulette sharks at the base, little Nemos shying away and technicolour corals that dominate in every direction.
This is where otherworldly gets its physical meaning. If staying on the surface is what you seek, consider snorkelling.
Humble Homestays And Picturesque Resorts
Imagine this - waking up to the sound of the lapping ocean, gentle sunlight and fresh air coaxing you out of your bed, lazing under swaying trees with fresh coconut juice while warm sand tickles your toes as the unspoiled surrounds luring you to be active.
These moments are easily achievable at the resorts and homestays available in Raja Ampat.
The resorts are undoubtedly honeymoon material. The idea is pretty simple, to capitalise the charm of the surroundings and adding a dose of comfort.
Among the top names are Papua Paradise, Misool Eco Resort and Cove Eco Resort. They also offer activities such as water-rock climbing, snorkelling and diving.
Meanwhile the thatched-roof, wooden homestays are operated by the locals themselves, close to their villages. It's a greater way to discover what goes on in the lives of these locals and as a bonus, you can devour unpretentious, home-cooked Papuan fare.
Warm And Welcoming Locals
All of these natural attractions are equally matched by the warmness of the locals.
Children aren't shy of giving you cute poses for photographs or collecting seashells with you, while adults are happy to open up about their traditional musical instruments and dances.
The locals are commonly dressed in vivid costumes, adorned with coconut leaves and feathers, especially during cultural performances.
Reward their care and attention by purchasing unique handmade souvenirs such as necklaces, woven bags and traditional fabric. For something extra noble, spend some time in Sawinggrai Village on Gam Island to help local villagers learn English.
Birdwatching and Jungle Trekking
Ocean activities are spectacular but don’t discount birdwatching. It’s common to see birds making ripples on the water and at tree branches, but to discover plentiful of them, head into the jungle.
There are more than 300 types of birds including two bird-of-paradise species - the red and the Wilson's, among the most beautiful birds in the world. As the forest orchestra play persistently, look out for various wildlife too, especially Cuscus, a nocturnal animal that commonly lazes on the top of coconut trees.
Step Into Different Eras
Judging by the dramatic limestone formations, it's no surprise that there are several caves to locate.
On the island of Misool, there’s a cave that is sacred to the Muslim community, where on the inside, you’ll find palm patches of humans and animals as well as ancient paintings done by occupants from the prehistoric era.
Meanwhile, on the northern part of Waigeo Island, bunkers made by the Japanese and Dutch armies during the World War II can be explored, if you're the adventurous kind.
Be Blown Away By Breathtaking Views
Hiking is another favourite activity among tourists.
To take in the jaw-dropping views, hike up Piaynemo Island or Karang Island. It’s pretty challenging but the payoff at the peak is worth every effort, particularly during sunrise and sunset.
You’ll definitely admire the beauty of the islands from a different perspective. The sugarloaf-shaped islands look as though they’re levitating over the turquoise water due to the undercut from wave erosion.
Backed by wide ocean and hazy shades of distant mountains, you’ll find that taking a bad photo is impossible.
So really, there's really no excuse to say no to a place like Raja Ampat. If you are already sick and tired of going to places like Bali and Boracay, this is one picture perfect holiday destination.