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Raja Ampat

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Budget BUDGET DIVING AT RAJA AMPAT by Andrew Falconer

 

I first dived at Raja Ampat in November 2016 (previous article “Budget Diving at Wakatobi and Raja Ampat”) and was sufficiently impressed to make a second trip, this time in April 2019.
I stayed two weeks and dived from two locations, staying at homestays in each case. Of course you can also dive Raja Ampat from a live-aboard or a resort, but you will pay considerably more for the privilege. Also using homestays benefits and involves the local population.

Getting to Raja Ampat is a bit of a mission: from Perth to Bali (Air Asia) staying overnight, then Bali to Sorong via Makassar (Sriwijaya Air) arriving in Makassar at 7pm and departing at 4am to arrive in Sorong at 7am (all flights depart in the middle of the night). From Sorong by fast ferry, leaving at 9am to Waisai (2 hours), then by pre-arranged local boat to Kri island.


 

Location of Kri and Arborek islands within the Raja Ampat area, with Sorong (lower RHS), Waisai (top RHS) and Pianemo (middle LHS)

 

 

Last time, I dived with Wobbegong Dive from Kri, and they were fine, so I chose them again, also staying at their homestay Koranu Fyak Bungalows. The accommodation was basic as you would expect, but the meals were not good (fish and rice and vege, but the fish was never fresh), and the generator for lights usually only came on after dark (on one occasion I had dinner by torch light as they had run out of fuel. The homestay next door (Yenkoranu) would have been better, and if I come back again I would stay probably there instead).

 

Looking back up to the surface with schooling fish silhouetted

Manta close up

 

 

I was the only guest and diver for the week I was there, so had personal dives with Matthias as guide, who was good. We dived all the top sites including Cape Kri, Blue Magic and Chicken Reef, and had some fantastic close up experiences with mantas, with no one else about except the two of us.

 

 

A manta ray goes gracefully by

Manta Overhead

 

Visibility was generally good (it was the dry season), water warm (I dived with a shark skin and stinger suit); some sites, in particular Cape Kri had strong currents, which attract pelagic fish such as barracudas and jacks in large numbers, plus trevally, tuna and sharks, which you could just observe by hanging on to a rock.

 

In the middle of schooling painted sweetlip

Shark up above

 

 

I did a total of 13 dives from Kri, all boat dives except one on the house reef on Sunday, with a diver from the homestay next door, as Sunday is a day of rest, with no boat dives.

 

 

Schools of fish above the reef and around a jetty

 

 

I was unable to pay by credit card at the homestay, so I had to return to Waisai to get cash from an ATM, staying overnight, before heading to Arborek island loaded with cash for my second week of diving.

 

 

Yet more schooling fish

Black tip reef shark

 

 

Arborek is a small sand island (you can walk around it in less than 30 minutes) surrounded by reef in the middle and at the western end of the Dampier Strait. There is a dive shop on the island and a number of homestays. I stayed at Kayafyok, in a cabin on stilts over the water. The food was basic but this time the fish was mostly fresh and the veges more imaginative. Again I was the only guest staying there.

 

 

Batfish with cleaning fish attached

Schooling barracuda close up

 

 

I did a total of 7 boat dives (no dives on Sunday), with Arborek Dive mostly with two or three other divers, although we split into two groups.  Dive guides Gita and Marcel were excellent. The diving continued to be great, especially on the Deep Rock, Citrus and Mayhem sites, which all had amazing amounts of fish including schooling barracuda.

 

The corals at Raja Ampat are exceptional

My homestay accommodation on Arborek

 

 

The best thing about Raja Ampat in my opinion is that there are still lots of large pelagic fish about, something that is rare these days due to overfishing. The corals are also really good, and mostly undamaged and there is minimal snagged fishing lines and plastic. This is partly due to the remoteness and relatively low population. It is also a marine protected area (there is a $100 entrance fee), which helps, but it is also fragile and becoming subject to all the usual pressures.

 

The island of Pianemo has some spectacular land formations, which can be viewed from a platform

 

 

One of the days diving with Arborek Dive included a break to view the spectacular island formations of Pianemo, which is very popular with non diving tourists.
The homestays and dive operations used in this article are be detailed on the excellent website:

http://www.stayrajaampat.com

Or directly by email to:
mailto:krfwda@gmail.com
arborekdiveshop@gmail.com

All underwater photos were taken with an Olympus TG5, with wide angle lens and underwater housing, with colour correction by Dive+ software where indicated.

Total cost of my trip was $2,850 ex Perth.

APRIL 2019