West Papua, is home to the famous Raja Ampat, which divers all over the world are keen to visit. With over 1,300 fish, 600 coral and 57 species of mantis shrimp, it’s not hard to see why. In this remote haven, dive with manta rays, whale shark and sea turtle among striking pinnacles, walls, and swim-throughs all with pristine reefs.
The archipelago of Raja Ampat is identified as one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, with an incredible range of marine life, including 16 species of whale and dolphin regularly seen in the region. Reef and oceanic manta rays gracefully dance at current-swept sites while pygmy seahorse and bobtail squid are found in sandy bays. It is truly one of the best places to dive on the planet.
Diving in West Papua
In West Papua lies the 1,500 islands that comprise the Raja Ampat archipelago. The four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo have been found to house astonishing levels of marine life - with 75% of the world’s total hard coral species!
West Papua diving offers pristine coral reefs, captivating swim-throughs, cavern, and tunnels as well as the chance to drift effortlessly among pinnacles and walls in the ocean’s strength. Sight sharks at Mansuar Island, large groups of manta rays or hunt with eagle eyes for macro critters - pygmy seahorse, frogfish and bobtail squid are all residents.
At Misool, the southern-most island of Raja Ampat, venture out under the light of the moon where you may discover the epaulette shark which has ingeniously crafted its fins into foot-like appendages so it can walk across the sandy seabed hunting for prey. While scuba diving in West Papua visitors can also stop at Indonesia’s largest national marine park, Cenderawasih Bay. Here, divers can spot whale sharks with ease as the resident colony feeds on the offcasts of local fishermen.
The dive resorts in West Papua are ever-increasing yet, they tend to be based in northern Raja Ampat. Misool, further south, has only one dive resort and if you intend to experience the whole of Raja Ampat and possibly Cenderawasih, visiting liveaboards are definitely a great option for you. With strong currents in the area, it’s suggested to have completed beginner dive courses before visiting this beautiful part of the world.
Best places to dive
From Misool Island, delve into the Kaleidoscope dive site to experience a reef with an incredible range of colours. Soft corals cover a sloping reef as mobula rays and Napoleon wrasse draw your eyes away from the mesmerising coral. Ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorse and nudibranch can also be spotted here. Nearby, the Farondi islet offers unique landscapes, with tunnels and caverns cutting into limestone walls for divers to explore.
On a visit to Manta Ridge, you are likely to be blessed by the appearance of from 5 to 30 manta rays in one dive. Gaining its rightful title as the premier place to see manta ray in Raja Ampat, strong currents draw large groups of manta daily to the 6-metre deep site. Bumphead parrotfish graze on the reef as wrasse clean the visiting mantas.
On the south side of Waigeo Island in northern Raja Ampat, dive along Bird Wall to find a number of interesting and unusual nudibranch species, sea dragons and turtles. Also from Waigeo Island, revel in the currents at The Corner, where at a depth you can spot whitetip and blacktip shark cruising along the reef. Sailor shrimp, spine-cheek anemonefish and mushroom coral pipefish can all be found hiding among the coral.
At Cenderawasih, as well as diving with whale sharks, delve into the black sand of Sungei Omiand dive site in search of frogfish, tiger prawn, pygmy seahorse, and various nudibranch species.