If you are a keen diver with hundreds of dives, I am sure you have heard about Raja Ampat. If you are a rather unexperienced diver, like me, with way less than 30 dives, I might tell you a secret travel advice…
Raja Ampat, The Four Kings, is an area of 1500 islands northwest of the Bird’s Head Peninsula on New Guinea Island. It is one of the best diving spots on the globe as it has the world’s richest biodiversity. But not only will you find species under water, which you cannot find anywhere else in the world, even the world above the surface is stunning and unique. Robinson Crusoe islands with palm beaches touching turquoise water … miles away from civilization.
For sure, this place has been discovered by the diving industry and thus, you can stay in very expensive and supposedly beautiful resorts starting from 1800 USD per week including 2+ dives per day or even on liveaboards. But for a real Crusoe experience, you can stay in one of many homestays across the islands. Some families have started to offer rooms for travelers and some of them even have their own jetty and diving facilities.
I stayed in a place called Koranu Fyak on the Island Kri in a bamboo hut directly at the beach. It is a very basic stay without a possibility to lock your hut, shared bathrooms with other tourists and simple food with whatever the catch of the day is with some vegetables. The diving gear was in ok shape (not great) and the boats usually left late for diving since either the engine had difficulties starting or there wasn’t enough gas. You get great free lessons in living in the moment as well as patience.
To me this was the best way to truly calm down for a couple of days surrounded by pure nature (which for sure this included the dogs of the place, some big spiders and mosquitos…). I was staying at the place during full moon and it was incredible to walk at night in the bright white illuminated sand. The reef was just in front of the place and from the neighbors’ jetty, I had sharks strolling below me in the water when I did my early morning yoga session.
If you are an unexperienced diver, be aware, that there can be strong currents, meaning, we had to hold on to corals with both hands and the BCD was shaking in my mouth. So tell the diving instructors about your experience level and ask them to take care of you as well as to avoid strong currents.
The locals a great people and they are so used to diving, that they cannot understand, how it can be challenging to tourists. So they will not take care of you the way you are probably used to by a dive instructor. They usually never asked about the air or made sure we had hooks for the currents. But they have the best eyes to spot the tiniest things, like the rice corn sized sea horse, which only exists in Raja.
If you are interested staying at a homestay check out this very helpful website: www.stayrajaampat.com.
If you want to dive Raja Ampat from your couch at no cost, I recommend this great documentary below (in German).