The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
Try to describe the diving in West Papua and you soon run out of superlatives - beautiful, pristine, extraordinary, dramatic, exciting and stunning all easily roll off the tongue. The landscape both above and below the surface of the sea is amongst the most beautiful on the planet and with so many diving areas and fabulous resorts, West Papua must rank as one of the top destinations in the world for discerning divers. Once the domain of exploratory liveaboards, West Papua is now home to an ever-increasing number of beautiful resorts - many of which have become leaders in sustainable dive travel and conservation in Raja Ampat and beyond.
Located at the far eastern limit of Indonesia’s great island chain, the province of West Papua is made up of two peninsulas - the Bomberai and Doberai, or Bird’s Head peninsula - as well as over 2500 islands, cayes, shoals and reefs dotted around the coastline. The interior is split by towering jungle-clad mountain ranges, whilst much of the coastal landscape is dominated by dramatic karst scenery - rocky pinnacles and sinuous ridge lines shelter placid, turquoise lagoons and isolated white sand beaches. This beautiful landscape continues below the waves and much of the diving around West Papua focuses on razor-like reefs and ridges, pinnacles, caves, tunnels and passages. When you add in the huge areas of pristine mangroves, sandy channels and sea grass beds, you have the perfect mix of habitats for some of the best diving on the planet.
West Papua is one of the least populated provinces of indonesia, with only two towns of any real size - Manokwari in the east and Sorong in the west. Much of this huge area is isolated, remote and relatively pristine and whilst the province is very much part of Indonesia, Papuan culture is strong and proud and guests will immediately get a sense of being in a very different part of the world. From the languages spoken and different customs, to the tree kangaroos, cuscus and incredible numbers of endemic bird species that can be seen, the experience of traveling to West Papua feels like exploring a new frontier, one that with rewards a visitor with some of the most exciting dive experiences on the planet.
Diving in West Papua is focused on three main areas: Raja Ampat to the north west of the mainland and made up of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, Misool and hundreds of smaller islands; Triton Bay and the surrounding area to the south of Raja Ampat; and Cenderawasih Bay on the eastern side of the Bird’s Head Peninsula. Each area has its own particular charms and highlights but all are home to an extraordinary wealth of species and offer some truly spectacular diving.
The three main diving areas in West Papua offer slightly different experiences but all have an mix of amazing marine biodiversity, healthy reefs, colourful soft corals, schooling fish and big fish such as manta rays, reef sharks and wobbegongs. Throw in the beautiful scenery, pristine beaches and some amazing jetty dives and you have a perfect combination that will tempt any discerning diver.
Northern Raja Ampat is made up of Uranie, Kawe, Alyui Bay, Waigeo, Fam and Penemu, the Dampier Strait, Mansuar and Kri. Home to picture-perfect lagoons and shallow reefs washed by strong currents, their area is well known for its schooling fish, manta cleaning stations and famous sites such as ‘The Passage’, ‘Blue Magic’ and ‘Cape Kri’. The latter still holds the record for the highest number of fish ever recorded on a single dive. These northern areas are justifiably famous for beautiful hard corals and fish life, all fed by the nutrient-rich currents that flow through the area.
In the central area of Raja Ampat are the island groups of Batanta and Kofiau, all easily accessible from the resorts in the northern islands and from the mainland itself. These islands are well known for their interesting macro life and fish diversity, as well as some great mangrove diving.
The southern limit of Raja Ampat is marked by the large island of Misool and hundreds of smaller islands and pinnacles that stretch to the southeast. This entire area has some of the best diving on the planet. Undulating ridge lines of reefs funnel the currents through narrow channels, concentrating fish life and providing the ideal conditions for the growth of spectacular hard corals, soft corals and sea fans. Sites such as ‘Magic Mountain’ also offer very good chances of diving with oceanic manta rays. The Misool area also has some fantastic ‘blue-water’ mangrove diving. In comparison to the northern dive sites of Raja Ampat, the Misool area generally has better visibility and more soft corals, with less fish life.
Further southeast lies Triton Bay and the Iris Strait between Aiduma and the mainland. Here, cooler upwellings are funnelled through the bay every year creating markedly different conditions compared to the northern sites, and much of the underwater terrain is dominated by boulders and rock covered in soft corals. The visibility in the bay is generally lower than other dive spots in West Papua, but the diversity is second to none and Triton Bay also has unique habitats that again stand out from those found further north. At sites around Pulau Arus for instance, huge black coral bushes grow up into the shallows and soft corals cover literally every surface.
Triton Bay also has a well-known site for whale shark interactions. At several ‘bagans’ or fishing platforms, whale sharks congregate to feed on the baitfish that escape the nets of the fishermen. Like any wild animal, the whale sharks are never guaranteed but visitors to Triton Bay stand a very good chance of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with these incredible animals.
The main gateway for visitors to West Papua is the town of Sorong located in the north west of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, facing the islands of Raja Ampat. Guests can fly in from Jakarta, Bali and Manado and Makassar in Sulawesi. Sorong’s remote location means that visitors must plan for an overnight in Bali or Sulawesi once they arrive in Indonesia, before heading east to Sorong in the morning. Alternatively, guests can catch the overnight flight from Jakarta to maximise their time in West Papua. At the end of a trip, it may also be necessary to stay for one night in Bali or Jakarta before getting an onwards international flight.
Once in West Papua, guests must use the transfer services of their resort. There are no public transport services outside of the towns and most of the resorts are in remote locations.
The equator cuts right through the northern islands of Raja Ampat, guaranteeing a hot and humid, tropical climate across the entire area. Day time temperatures are normally 31-32c, whilst nights can cool to 24-25c. West Papua has two main seasons dictated by the winds and rains. From July to September, the winds blow from the south bringing rain and rough seas. Resorts in the south normally close during this period, however resorts and liveaboards operating in the more sheltered north remain open. From September the winds drop and Misool and Triton Bay in the south open their doors once again to visitors.
Dive in and explore the amazing underwater diversity of Triton Bay, the last frontier of diving in Indonesia. This package includes accommodation for 7 nights, transfers on the resort’s weekly transport boat, 15 dives plus a trip to see the local whale sharks. Prices for single occupancy are available, as well as packages if you would like to do less diving. Please let us know your preferences when making your booking.
Sample the incredible underwater environment of Raja Ampat with 8 days and 7 nights at the beautiful Papua Paradise Eco Resort. This package includes accommodation in a Superior Bungalow, full board, up to 4 dives a day and free nitrox for certified divers. Upgrades are available for Deluxe Bungalows. Please ask us for single room rates. The resort runs daily boat transfers to the resort so you can easily customise your package.