With hundreds of islands spread off the coast of West Papua, Raja Ampat boasts the highest marine biodiversity in the world and is best explored by liveaboard.
Raja Ampat liveaboards
Raja Ampat is made up of four major islands and more than 1500 small islands situated off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia. While there are scuba diving resorts scattered around the major islands, you’ll be able to dive more of the area’s 200 dive sites from a liveaboard. For this reason, liveaboards are the most popular form of travel in Raja Ampat. Most of the dive safaris last between 5 and 10 nights.
There are dozens of liveaboards sailing Raja Ampat, suitable to every budget and need. Most of the liveaboards in the area can be divided into two categories: sailboat or steel-hulled yacht. The Tiger Blue and the Dewi Nusantara are examples of luxurious, gaff-rigged Phinisi sailboats. These ships sail in traditional, wooden style. On the other hand, the Raja Ampat Aggressor and the MV Black Manta are steel-hulled yachts. These are a wonderful choice for those that suffer seasickness and need a bit more stability.
Furthermore, liveaboards in Raja Ampat can range from 1500 USD to 6,000 USD. If you’re conscious with your budget, check out the Sea Safari ships or the SMY Ondina.
Diving in Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat, well known for its colorful corals, is a destination for divers who love dense schools of colorful fish and encounters with weird and wonderful critters. Lucky divers will see an astounding number of rare marine life species including wobbegong sharks, manta rays, epaulette sharks, bobtail squid, whale sharks, pygmy seahorses and thousands of colorful fish.
This island chain boasts a wide variety of underwater environments such as easy reef dives, deep dives and high-speed drifts. The star of the show, however, is the diversity of tropical fish. The highest diversity of marine life on Earth exists in Raja Ampat, and the area holds the record for the highest number of species found on a single dive. Landscapes are volcanic in nature with outstanding coral growth due to a limited population and recently implemented protections.
Because currents in Raja Ampat can be strong and unpredictable, it’s recommended that only intermediate and advanced divers travel the islands by liveaboard.
BEST TIME TO GO
October to April
The best time to travel by liveaboard to Raja Ampat is from October to April.
At this time, scuba divers will experience less rain than during the summer months. The seas are also relatively smooth, making for the most comfortable liveaboard journeys. Furthermore, October to April are the best months for spotting manta rays in Raja Ampat.
The sea and air temperatures in Raja Ampat are relatively constant throughout the year. Sea temperatures average about 80-86°F (27-30°C), and visibility remains approximately 80-100 feet (20-30 meters) during any month.
Outside of peak months, scuba divers can still find liveaboard trips to Raja Ampat between May and September. However, July to September tends to be very rainy and strong winds can cause rough and uncomfortable seas.
If you’d like to travel to West Papua during the Raja Ampat off-season, consider a liveaboard trip to Cenderawasih Bay where you’re practically guaranteed encounters with whale sharks. Many ships move to these protected waters during the rainy season.
The departure port for most Raja Ampat liveaboards in Sorong. Most of the dive safari crews will assist you with transfers to and from the airport.
Sorong Airport is serviced by domestic flights from Jakarta, Denpasar, Makassar and Manado within Indonesia.