I spent one week of the end of my 2015 and start of 2016 in Raja Ampat islands. I didn't go diving as it freaks me out to be deep down in the water but I love snorkelling and this place has the most beautiful snorkelling sites I have ever seen in my life.
It is not easy to get to Raja Ampat islands, in fact it was annoying and felt like a never ending trip. It took 2 domestic flights from Jakarta - it was about 6 hours all up not including the waiting during transit. Then there was 2 hours express ferry trip that takes us across to Waisai, the main island of Raja Ampat (the non express ferry would take even longer). And finally, another 25 minutes boat trip that takes us to the resort where we were staying.
We went snorkelling every single day, catching boat with other divers from our resort. I've never seen as many different fish in my life, big and small. I met a lot of Nemo (clownfish) on almost every snorkelling spot we went to. I am also proud to have learnt so much new different types of fish too from this trip, amongst the many many different kinds, I've met the evil looking moray, wobbegong, some baby manta rays, puffer fish and I even saw a baby white tip shark. And the coral reefs and clams were colourful and came in many different shapes.
Each snorkelling spot was overwhelmingly beautiful, some were really shallow water that I was scared I might hit some coral reefs with my fins. Some of the creatures were weird, foreign and alien-like, it was a different world down there. We went snorkelling maybe about 2-3 hours a day and we didn't get tired of it. I didn't bring under water camera, which is probably a good thing so I got the full experience in front of my eyes instead of having to worry about taking photos.
Above the water it was pretty amazing too. Here are some photos from one our rest spots after snorkelling Pasir Timbul (sandbank).
Other than snorkelling we also got to relax on a boat ride exploring surrounding islands, spotting some caves and local villages in the area.
Here's what one of the typical Raja Ampat kampung (little village) looks like.
Spotting this tiny secret beach in between our snorkelling spots!
And here's the resort where we were staying, Doberai Eco Resort. So many memories at this place. From just lazying at the bungalow in the morning and watching sunset, the meals and conversations, the power blackout during dinner one of the nights that turned out to be incredibly beautiful as we were gazing at the stars and saw all this fish (or planktons?) glowing and flashing some pretty green colour in the water, the new years eve celebration with fireworks with the staff and other guests, the python (!!!) that decided to join our party and turned up in the kitchen (then the staff rushing and catching the snake and brought it back to jungle which was really just behind our bungalows...), the wait at the beach at 4am in the morning to see the birds of paradise but none of the staff turned up because these guys were all asleep and drunk after the new years celebration hahaha.. it was all a part of the memories and experience.
Oh we did kayaking too, paddling around the back of our bungalow and found a nice secluded beach. Though we didn't get a chance to stay long at all as we saw the storm coming so we had to hurry paddling back to the resort because we didn't want to get stuck.
Loving the sunset we saw almost everyday from our bungalow. Not in picture: mosquitos and whatever other bugs there were. Both sun screen and insect repellent are definitely essential at the tropical islands.
Oh and let me tell you about our guided night snorkelling around our resort on one of the nights. Armed with the usual snorkelling gear and a flash light, off we go. It was a totally different experience and also slightly freaky now that I think about it and let me tell you why. We were expecting to see a lot of glow in the dark sea creatures, especially after we saw those beautiful small fish / planktons glowing in the water during the black out.. we did not. We saw a lot of sea snakes, puffer fish and different shapes of jelly fish; I almost hit one in front of my face but luckily I didn't get myself into trouble. Vision was very limited to as far as maybe about 2-3 meters ahead as that's as far as my flash light could reach, and I was scared of bumping into jelly fish or some sea snakes would attack me hahaha. Regardless, it was different experience though I'm not sure if I would do a night snorkelling again unless some glow in the dark action under water is guaranteed.
Here are the snorkelling and diving spots around the islands! Ticking off my snorkelling spots and digging my memory here I think the snorkelling spots we covered include Batu Lima, Coral Garden, Friwen Wall, Chicken Reef, Blue Magic.
These ones are photos from one of the snorkelling spots. So many pretty and colourful coral reefs and fish underneath this rock. The excitements of plunging into the water and exploring!
During the boat trip some water could be so clear and calm that it was just like a mirror and you could see the reflection of the sky and clouds very clearly. On other areas during the boat trip we also saw some dolphins and a school of flying fish (and a few birds flying low to catch them). So unreal.
On the way to Pianemo where we also spotted some more caves along the way, then we got to this are where the water was just changing colours with different shades of blue and green - you'll see what I mean in video below - then we got to stop at this spot to climb some never ending stairs in the heat, drenched in sweat... (sentence continued)
... to see Pianemo from above. Worth the sweat and running out breath to see this view that I only saw on google images before the trip.
Not pictured was the excursion to see the birds of paradise as the birds were just too far away to be captured by my camera. After failing to go on the first day of 2016 (because the staff was pretty much out after the new years party, such island life!) we managed to go the next day. We started super early at 4am and it was dark and had to hike in the dark, in the jungle for a very very long time. Well ok, maybe it was for 1 hour, but really when it was dark and you can't really see much in the dark using the flash light, hiking, drenched in sweat and my glasses kept being foggy (regretting I didn't wear my contact lenses) it felt like forever.
And then the waiting game in the middle of the jungle - also felt like it took forever. After a while though, we started hearing the different kinds of the bird singing and here they come. Our local guide pointed out where to look, aft first we saw only a couple of love birds but a few more were coming out afterwards; again, it was that live National Geographic moment going on.
This adventure felt surreal now that I'm looking at the pictures and writing all the highlights of my trip. If you love snorkelling and/or diving this place really is paradise, as what people say. Be open minded and put a lot of buffer for travelling in case of changes of plans, delays and cancels of flights and ferries; Indonesia's tourism system is not the fully developed and organised and we had a panic drama on our way back to Jakarta because they decided not to run the express ferry on the day we were going back hahaha. All good though, and trust me it would be well worth it, Indonesia has such beautiful hidden exotic gems like no others.
Thanks for the good memories Raja Ampat! And thanks for reading if you made it this far.