Travelling is not only about the destination; the journey is sometimes just as incredible! This famous quote was definitely applicable to my trip to Raja Ampat. If you have read my blog Sailing through the Raja Ampat Islands with Mutiara Laut you know how I ended up on this amazing luxury sailing ship and that I had the time of my life.
Off the beaten track Indonesia
When you mention this amazing place to someone who is interested in exploring remote areas of the world I am sure they will start getting excited. Raja Ampat is a very deserted island group in West Papau and the number one off the beaten track Indonesia destination. Its isolated location makes it a paradise for explorers, but the reality will tell you that travelling in this area is not that easy.
Organize your own trip to Raja Ampat or a Raja Ampat Tour?
An organized Raja Ampat tour is pretty exclusive and the reason is simple: there are hardly any facilities on the islands, most islands are inhabited, have no electricity, no natural resources, and no phone signal. If you decide to organize a trip to Raja Ampat by yourself be prepared to go back to basic. If you have unlimited time and are up for a big adventure go for it, but my advice is to save up a little bit more money and join an organized liveaboard. From what I have seen I am afraid that this is the only way to get the most of your Raja Ampat tour. I am not a fan of organized tours, but if you want to see the real beauty of this fantastic natural wonder then travel to Raja Ampat with someone who knows where to go. I was among the lucky ones to enjoy this paradise in style on the majestic luxury schooner of the Mutiara Laut, click to see their website!
Things to do Raja Ampat
In total I sailed around for 7 days and although I was constantly at sea, time was flying! You might think staying on a 46-meter long boat for a week there will be moments that you are finding yourself lost at sea, but there was never a dull moment. With hardly any phone reception and therefore no Internet, it was a bit of a rehab for me I can tell you, but I totally loved being disconnected from the world. Every day I enjoyed doing all the amazing activities, then it was time to watch the sunset, catch up with great stories of that day, eating catch of the day and watching stars while sailing in the middle of the night!
Of course scuba diving is one of the best things to do in Raja Ampat, This is what draws people from all over the world to this underwater paradise. All my dive friends on Facebook were sending me messages like: ‘stop posting pictures, we are jealous!’ Diving in Raja Ampat is every divers dream because of the incredible underwater world and marine life. Diving with Manta Rays, whalesharks, seahorses, and dolphins all in one dive is possible!
Don’t worry if you are not a scuba diver, snorkelling is just as great. The shallow reefs around the islands are untouched. Sometimes there is even no need to gear up and get your self in your scuba gear, just a snorkel and fins are enough to see amazing things. While snorkelling I also saw big tunas, barracuda’s, and yes also sharks! We even tried to snorkel with dolphins, but ended up seeing the reef sharks in the middle of the ocean hunting for sardines!
Island hopping in Raja Ampat
It means a lot when an avid scuba diver like me says that the true beauty of Raja Ampat not only lies underwater! I have been to places like El Nido and Halong Bay that are in essence very similar, but my trip to Raja Ampat totally stands out. In 7 days sailing I saw may be a 1,000 islands but only 3 other boats and a handful local sea gypsies. This area is so remote that building a sustainable village is almost impossible. There are a couple islands that are inhabited but don’t expect more than a couple stilt houses and some hidden wooden sheds between the palm trees. More than 99% of the islands are uninhabited and a pristine paradise. Some have beaches, some only coral gardens, some are accessible, some not. Exploring the Raja Ampat islands for sure is my coolest island hopping tour ever and together with diving the best things to do in Raja Ampat.
One of the most amazing things about the Mutiara Laut is that it has two tenders available for anything the guests are up to. When I heard that there was the possibility to go wakeboarding I got really excited! I only did it once in a cable park, which was big fun! If you ask me now where I really learned how to wake board I can say: Raja Ampat! :)
Who is not a fan of sunsets? Out on the ocean they get even better, the horizon is endless and there are always some clouds around. Here in this paradise the only thing that could spoils your unobstructed view were the karst shaped Raja Ampat islands! Sunrises were equally stunning but I am not a big fan of them! ;)
Sailing Raja Ampat
I have done a sailing trip before from Panama to Colombia and it was amazing, but it was in a small catamaran and because there was hardly any wind we only sailed once for a couple hours. Now I found myself on a two mast Schooner, build to perfection by a renowned shipper from Holland. Putting up all the sails up was a long process and all the 18 crew members were involved. I think it took a little under an hour but wow what was it impressive to see the Mutiara Laut with all the sails up. The motor was turned off and the only thing you could hear was the wind in the sails and the ship breaking through the waves. Such an amazing experience lying in the nets on the bow of the ship. I am in doubt now, may be sailing is the best thing to do in Raja Ampat! I don’t know anymore, my trip to Raja Ampat was so phenomenal, everything was cool!
For the ultimate Robinson Crusoe experience you have to explore a little island that has some cliffs for a lookout, a little beach for a fire, some trees for shelter and a house reef to fish. The ultimate survivor islands are easy to find here and from what I heard is that they filmed a couple seasons of the French survivor here. I know exactly why they chose this location!
On a Raja Ampat tour you gotta find yourself that picture-perfect tiny little island with a white sand beach and some palm trees. There are plenty around so I chose my own to get dropped off. I brought some drinks, sat in the sand, looked around, sipped my beer, felt the crystal clear sea water coming in at my feet, smiled, sipped again on my beer and thought: wow this is fucking amazing!
On the ocean every journey is a food journey. I love catch of the day and whatever it is it has never been disappointed. Of course the amazing crew on board the Mutiara Laut prepared some fantastic dishes but the best thing still is the fresh seafood caught just before dinnertime!
Wayag Viewpoint Raja Ampat
Probably the most famous spot in Raja Ampat is the Wayag Viewpoint. It was the only place where there were some kind of touristy activities going on and we saw a couple other boats that were doing day trips from Sorong. Local tourists, no foreigners by the way. There is a staircase that leads you to a magnificent viewpoint on top of one of the islands overlooking the absolutely stunning bay.
Watching the giant gentles of the ocean will never get boring, staring the horizon on the lookout for fins popping out of the water. According to the captain we were not really lucky on this trip to Raja Ampat, but we still saw a pod of dolphins and some whales a little bit further away.
It was not really my favourite thing but apparently there are many bird species around. I saw a ton during the trip and tried to catch some rare ones that only exist in West Papua with a binocular. If you are a bird watching fan inquire about the Bird of Paradise to add to your Raja Ampat tour.
With so many islands around there are many calm places to jump on a stand up paddleboard and paddle around. In and between the islands where the water is so crystal clear that you don’t need a snorkel to see clearly what is going on under the surface. I mostly tried to paddle out just before sunset, at least those times when I was not shooting sunset pictures.
Most Raja Ampat islands are uninhabited and therefore unexplored as well. Though there are a couple tourist spots that a handful tourists every month! LOL. We went to a place that was hardly accessible as the waters were super shallow, but zigzagging through a maze of islands we found a old wooden ladder that lead us over a rock and into a cave filled with water. Swimming in a cave in Papua is a must do on your trip to Raja Ampat. It was an amazing adventure and the further we got inside the dark it became. Without our torches it would be pitch black. To make it even more excited we weren’t there alone: spiders, bats and hell knows what lives there. After swimming for 15 minutes there was light at the end of the tunnel and a little climb lead us to a hidden lagoon surrounded by 50m high limestone cliffs. There are no words how to describe this, but I swam to the middle of this small lagoon floated on my back and looked around. This is how I imagined Raja Ampat to be, something I had never seen before: a magical place so far away from civilisation! My mind was zooming out like Google Maps floating here in this lagoon. I wish I had a 360 camera! This is the real off the beaten track Indonesia destination.
We all know mangroves are a vital breeding ground for marine life and around the Raja Ampat islands there are a lot of mangroves to explore. Best to be done on a paddleboard, but we were warned there are salt water crocodiles that live in this part of the world. Unfortunately I did not see any! :)
Watching shooting stars
Another magical phenomenon is to watch the stars at night. There is no better place to look for shooting stars than in the middle of the ocean. Did you know that it is really easy to see shooting stars on a clear day? You just gotta be a little patience and you will always see some!
If you have any specific questions I am happy to answer them personally! I hope you enjoyed reading my article, let me know what you think of it!
Is Raja Ampat a bridge too far? Travelling in Indonesia is captivating, so you might want to start in Bali. My first visit ever to Indonesia was also in Bali, and I did not like it at all. Now a couple years later I have been to Bali numerous times and totally loving it. Curious what happened? Read here all my articles about Indonesia here!
This article is sponsored by Mutiara Laut though all opinions are my own!