They say Raja Ampat casts a spell on all those who visit and we couldn’t agree more
All things considered, Raja Ampat is easily one of the best dive destination, if not the best, in the world. I know you’ll ask me, is it better than your favorite, the Galapagos? Well, I’m obsessed with hammerheads and Galapagos has the best hammerhead shark action, so in that regards no. But,
Raja Ampat diving has manta action and the coral reefs are stunningly beautiful! The dives are shallow and easy, the water temperature is 29 degrees celsius, and the plethora of marine life is most impressive. The schools of everything are super-sized. Think giant schools of barracuda, sweet lips, tuna, trevally, fusiliers, surgeonfish, bump head parrot fish, and much, much more.
Liveaboard diving is the best way to dive a destination because it’s efficient and you get to dive remote sites usually not reachable by resort boats. The total price you shell out may seem exorbitant but it’s actually of great value when you break it down. The price you pay includes accommodation, transfers, all meals, all diving with experienced dive guides. This is why I love liveaboard diving.
But liveaboard diving also means you are confined to a boat for a week. That being the case, I’d rather pick the people I’m going to be stuck with. This is the reason why I organize dive boats. Chartering the whole boat and dividing the cost among divers is usually about 25% cheaper than if you are to book the slots individually.
Diving Raja Ampat Liveaboard is the 4th liveaboard diving trip I’ve organized and it’s the best one so far, as far as the people goes. We dived Tubbataha in 2010, dived South Maldives in 2014, Komodo in 2016 (yet to blog about it).
4 degrees of Separation
We were 19 divers in total and this is the best combination of divers I’ve had so far. The vibe was great and everybody just gelled even if we’re made up of different groups. I didn’t know everyone in the beginning, but everyone is connected with someone I’ve dived with. So it’s maximum 2-degrees of separation for me with a diver on the boat, and maximum 4-degrees for anyone on the boat. In a way, everyone is vouched for, although based on past experience, it’s not guaranteed I must say!
Zara and Mike and I were together in all the 4 trips. Bembong and Monette were on all except Komodo last year because of the election. Paul PhD we met diving Komodo liveboard last year. Steven was from the failed Tubbataha dive trip but we went diving in Coron. He came with his long time friend Keong, aka Chinese Richard Gere. Ryan and Erica had been diving with us since the Maldives and their friend (now our friend too) Jackson joined us this year. Marivi and Hilda were part of the South Maldives crew. I dove with Adrian and Mike in Romblon. Really happy that they joined this trip and invited their friends Sean, Gabbie, and Kellda. I met Anne in Anilao during the photo competition 2 years ago.
Sea Safari 8
Sea Safari 8 is one of the biggest luxury liveaboard diving in Raja Ampat. It can take up to 24 divers but it’s really comfortable with only 19 divers. It has a spacious dive deck, 2 chase boats and 5 dive masters.
There are 8 rooms on the lower deck, 4 rooms on the main deck, sun deck for sunset cocktails and drone flying, spacious lounge for napping between dives or movie marathon, restaurant on the main deck that serves food 5x a day. The kitchen crew baked cakes for Monette’s and Mike’s birthday (different dates) and serenaded them with Indonesian songs by the whole crew!
We really hit the jackpot with Sea Safari 8. I originally booked another boat who had a miff with my agent and cancelled my reservation. When I learned about it early January, I almost killed myself because everyone at that time have already booked their flights. I was flying to Europe that week and didn’t have time for drama. Fortunately Sea Safari 8 was available and Emil was able to get it for me at the same price we paid. What a treat! It’s the best liveaboard diving Raja Ampat. It would be great to go back to dive Sea Safari for Banda Sea, in 2019 perhaps!
Raja Ampat Diving
Raja Ampat diving is majority wide angle diving. It has the world’s most beautiful reefscape for underwater photography. There is not a lot of macro except for pygmy seahorses, which were a lot. But Filipino divers do not travel to dive macro as we have that in our backyard.
The visibility in Raja Ampat was good but the water is not that clear during our dives. The dive master said October is the best season to dive Raja Ampat, best visibility speaking. Generally the best season to dive all of Indonesia is October, according to him. This makes me think about scheduling of future dive trips.
Raja Ampat Diving covers a big area, divided to North (Wayag) and South (Misool). We dived a bit of both starting from the south and then north. We didn’t get to Wayag though, where you can see the iconic hills because we didn’t have enough time. I would have wanted to see that but then the whole trip has been great so I’m not really complaining. The itinerary was decided by the boat and we did a total of 20 dives plus 1 bonus night dive which I skipped.
Best Raja Ampat Dive Sites
- Magic Mountain, Daram Island
Beautiful sea fans and abundant sea life including camo-shark, giant napoleon wrasses.
- Blue Hole, Parondi Island
Everyone except our group went to the blue hole because our dive master got lost. The entrance is 1m from surface and he missed it at the beginning of the dive. The pictures from the other group looks cool. Last year in the Maldives our dive master couldn’t find the entrance to the blue hole as well. I now think it must be me.
- Melissa’s Garden, Kruo Island
Stunning reef scape with lots schooling fishes. This has the best visibility of all our dives. We saw the woobegong shark for the first time here (I think).
- The Mangrove, Kruo Island
This is so eerily beautiful! The picture above the woobegong.
- Manta Sandy, Erbore Island
This is manta cleaning station and we did 2 dives here. It’s like being in theatre where you just find a seat and watch the show. I have about 90 minutes of video footage! The current is super strong so bring reef hook.
- Cape Mansuar, Mansuar Island
This is the famous jetty and it has the most amazing fish schooling action. If only the visibility was better, it would be the best dive and best photo opportunity. The big school of sweetlips was there but I didn’t get the chance to shoot it.
- Blue Magic, Dampir Strait
This is the most difficult dive we did. We had to do negative entry and super hard finning to 25m. I’m glad I was diving with long fins so it wasn’t as hard for me. We were looking for oceanic manta but did not see. But still enough action with school of barracuda, sharks, and bump head parrot fish.
How to Get to Raja Ampat
Sea Safari 8 departs from Sorong. I think all liveaboard dive boats depart from Sorong. Sorong Port is about 30 minutes by car/taxi from the airport.
- There is NO direct flight from Manila to Sorong.
- There is NO direct flight from Bali to Sorong.
Direct Flights to Sorong
- Jakarta to Sorong
- Makassar to Sorong
- Manado to Sorong
The best way to fly from Manila to Sorong is via Jakarta, because there are direct flights from Manila to Jakarta and are cheap
It took us 2 days to get to Sorong from Manila because our Raja Ampat liveaboard diving starts on a Monday. And there is no earlier flight on Sunday. The best will be if your dive trip starts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday. That way you can take the early flight of Philippine Airline that arrives in the afternoon. You’ll have about 10 hours of layover in Jakarta but at least you don’t have to stay overnight (24 hours layover) like we did.
Anyway, regardless, the trip is worth it!
For updated info on traveling to Raja Ampat