Raja Ampat, Indonesia

It's the pristine waters and the incredible biodiversity of Raja Ampat islands that lure the greatest number of travellers to Papua, who come for the outstanding diving. Even non-divers will find many reasons to visit Raja Ampat, as kayaking, birdwatching and other adventure programmes are developed. Although there are more than 1,500 small atolls in Raja Ampat group, there are four main islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. Raja Ampat (‘Four Kings’) gained notoriety when scientific data seeped out that the area may very well be the epicentre of oceanic biodiversity.

Travel tips for visiting Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat's position in the Coral Triangle – comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and New Guinea – is significant. Some 1,320 fish species, 553 varieties of coral and 699 molluscs have been recorded here and the discovery of new species – such as the walking shark – are common. Couple this with crystal-clear waters, rainforests and mangroves, and no amount of difficulty getting here seems to be too much trouble.

Alfred Russel Wallace visited Raja Ampat in 1860 in search of birds of paradise, and this amazing area lies just east of the line named in his honour. Infrastructure has developed rapidly in recent years, with an array of upscale dive resorts and more affordable homestay accommodations. The area is particularly popular with live-aboard dive boats.

Diving and snorkelling is the main event; frequently encountered are manta rays, giant groupers and large schools of barracudas and jacks, as well as sharks, whales and dolphins. In the shallows are pygmy shrimp, octopus and nudibranchs. Birdwatching is as exciting as the undersea world. While the fabulous bird of paradise is at the top of most avian enthusiasts’ must-see lists, there are lowland forest, mountain and riverine species to search for.


Raja Ampat islands are home to some of the world's best diving © SergeUWPhoto / Shutterstock

Best things to do in Raja Ampat

Although there are more than 1,500 small atolls in Raja Ampat group, there are four main islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. These are the best things to do in Raja Ampat islands.

#1 Experience some of the world's best diving

Raja Ampat is one of the best places in the world to dive. A kaleidoscopic underwater world of colour with dolphins, sharks, whales and schools of fish from barracudas to parrotfish, the reefs in this region are incredible. Most explorations are drift dives due to strong currents, but you'll have the chance to experience caves, vertical walls, ridges and lots of coral reefs here too.

#2 Go birdwatching at dawn

For twitchers, Raja Ampat offer the chance to spot a vast array of birds, including two endemic birds of paradise, cassowaries and a large number of brightly-coloured parrots. There are great guides on a number of islands, including Pulau Gam, who can lead you out at dawn on birding trips.

Blyth's hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus). Raja Ampat, West Papua © Shutterstock

Blyth's hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus). Raja Ampat, West Papua © Shutterstock

#3 Snorkel in some sublime shallow waters

There are plenty of amazing places for shallow-water snorkelling in Raja Ampat with manta rays, octopus pygmy shrimp, and nudibranchs amongst the prize spots. A number of islands have jetties where it's possible to jump right in and explore the coral, such as on Yenbuba and Sauwandarek. Most places to stay in Raja Ampat will hire out snorkels and fins.

#4 Kayak through paradise

Eco-friendly Kayak4conservation is a community development project and offers homestay-to-homestay programmes for experienced kayakers, or with a guide and support boats for the less adventurous. The homestays are owned by villagers and snorkelling is included in the adventure.

Kayaking in Wayag, Raja Ampat © Shutterstock

Kayaking in Wayag, Raja Ampat © Shutterstock

Where to stay in Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat has plenty of accommodation options across the islands – and the choice is only increasing. As well as dive centres and homestays, many travellers will stay on a live-aboard dive boat or cruise.


Gam has the biggest number of places to stay, all along the coast. There are bio-resorts, high-quality diving accommodations, and plenty of rustic homestays too. Inland, expect homestays and guesthouses.


The majority of accommodation on Waigeo is located on the south coast, not far from Marinda Airport. There are some top-notch dive resorts, low-key thatched beach huts and some lovely homestays.

Kri Island

Dotted along the north coast on Kri are dive resorts, villas, and lots of affordable homestays.


The majority of the accommodation on Batanta, mainly homestays but some villas too, is on the north coast and the surrounding atolls.


Tiny Arborek has some great homestays on stilts and basic beach huts.


There are a handful of homestays on Mansuar, plus a couple of dive resorts.

Find accommodation options to stay in Raja Ampat region

Diving in Raja Ampat

Diving in Raja Ampat is a breathtaking experience that divers from around the world flock to. The region is situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle, which is home to the highest marine biodiversity in the world.

Here you'll find a remarkable 500 species of coral — which accounts for 64% of all coral species globally.

With crystal-clear waters and excellent visibility, diving in Raja Ampat is an unforgettable experience that should be on every diver's bucket list.

Best dive spots

Upon submerging your head in the waters of Raja Ampat, you'll be transported into an entirely different realm. Each dive location is unique in its own way. Some spots feature impressive marine creatures like manta rays and sharks, while others are teeming with microorganisms or stunning coral formations.

Kri and Gam are the most popular diving locations, but Waigeo and Misool have incredible dive sites too.

Chose a diving school

Most diving institutions offer guided tours to the top dive sites. With the assistance of your instructor, you may also have the opportunity to explore lesser-known areas for a more daring underwater adventure.

Ensure that you select a diving school that is both certified and staffed with English-speaking instructors who are professionals. Before making a booking, inquire about the quality and state of their diving gear, and verify that they have emergency oxygen readily available.

Additionally, research online reviews of any diving schools that have piqued your interest and make informed decisions to guarantee that you receive proper supervision while diving.


Boat is the only way to get to Raja Ampat © Igor Tichonow / Shutterstock

How to get here

The only way to get between Raja Ampat islands is by chartered speed boat or via your live-aboard dive boat. Once on the islands, you’ll need to get around on foot.

By boat

Almost everyone arrives in Waigeo harbour. From here, you can charter speedboats to your accommodation on whatever island you are staying on.

How many days do you need?

Due to their remoteness and the difficulty in getting to Raja Ampat, you'll need at least five days to a week here to make the trip worthwhile, particularly if you plan to dive. If you haven't got long, aim for Wayag and Piaynemo (known as Little Wayag), which are both stunning and have some incredible diving. Other big underworld hitters include Blue Magic, the Fam Islands, Kri, and The Passage between Waigeo and Gam.

Looking for inspiration for your trip? Talk to our Indonesia travel experts.

Colourful Corals in Raja Ampat, Indonesia © SARAWUT KUNDEJ/Shutterstock

The coral in Raja Ampat is incredible © SARAWUT KUNDEJ / Shutterstock

Tips for getting around

Sorong, on the northwest tip of Bird’s Head peninsula in New Guinea, is the entry point to Raja Ampat and is accessible on some international flights via Biak.

By plane

Sriwijaya Air, Garuda and Wings are among the airlines that fly to Sorong from Jakarta.

By boat

Regularly scheduled ferries or chartered boats ply the waters between Sorong and Raja Ampat. Check with your Raja Ampat accommodation to determine if they provide transfers from the harbour.

Best time to visit Raja Ampat

The best time to visit Raja Ampat is from October to April when the weather is dry, and the sea is calm. During this period, the visibility for diving and snorkeling is excellent, and the water temperature is comfortable. Note that this is also peak time for tourism, which can mean higher prices and crowded dive sites. During this period, it's essential to book your accommodations and dive tours well in advance. The sea can be rough from June to September when it's the wet season. This can make it difficult to dive and snorkel as the visibility can be poor.

Find out more about the best time to visit Indonesia.

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Rough Guides Editors

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 7.03.2023

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