Island Hopping in Raja Ampat: A Beach Paradise in Indonesia
A lot gets made of the fact that Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands. While a lot of those are probably just rocky outcrops poking their heads out of the ocean, there are a lot of island destinations to choose from. Raja Ampat, a group of small islands off the coast of West Papua, has become somewhat of a dream destination for divers and beach lovers alike. What’s it really like though…?
In this post I’ll take you on an island hopping adventure around Raja Ampat, taking in villages, exotic birds and some incredible scenery.
I’m going to start with possibly the nicest beach in Raja Ampat, which is actually a sandbar only accessible at low tide. This little sliver of sand (actually two separate slivers) called Pasir Timbul is surrounded by some of the clearest water in the world. It’s right up there with the Caribbean and the Maldives in terms of an exotic beach paradise — you’ll need to take a tour or hire a boat to see it though.
My fellow bloggers, photographers and Instagrammers and I were dropped off at the bottom of a rocky track. Our destination was a viewpoint at the top of one of the Pianemo islands. After scrambling up the rocks we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the limestone islands surrounded by glowing water. We also visited another viewpoint, which involved a sweaty climb up a hefty number of stairs. Again, the view at the top was incredible; it was just a shame that the grey skies dulled the colours a bit.
Searching for birds of paradise
I’m not much of a morning person, but I did manage to drag myself out of bed at 5am one morning to see some birds of paradise near Sawinggrai Village. These birds (red bird of paradise) are only found in this little corner of Indonesia and are notable for their red wings and unnatural looking tail wires. After a short walk through the jungle we arrived at a clearing where we waited quietly for the birds to appear. We ended up seeing lots of them although they were quite difficult to capture on camera.
As soon as we hopped off the boat and onto the jetty at Pulau Arborek we were greeted by a group of local kids dressed in traditional attire. They performed a song and dance and then we walked into the village with the rest of the locals. I’m not usually a big “village tourism” kind of guy but it all felt pretty genuine. We ate lunch on the beach and had some free time to explore the island. The village is extremely tidy and the island is surrounded by some stunning water (the snorkeling just off the beach is recommended).
Visiting a School on Waigeo (the main island in Raja Ampat)
As you may know, I used to be an English teacher. I sometimes miss teaching, so it was nice to do some volunteering at a school in the regional capital. The kids were really happy to have us and were quite talkative. When asked what they want to be when they grow up almost all of them answered “doctor”, “police officer” or “soldier” (unsurprisingly, none of them wanted to be a struggling travel blogger). Our trip to the school was organised by Rainbow Reading Gardens, a non-profit organisation which aims to bring the world of books to Indonesia’s less fortunate children. They are doing great work — get in touch if you’d like to help out.
What about diving…?
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not a diver. Raja Ampat is getting a reputation as one of the best places in the world to dive, and judging by some of the comments made by my fellow travellers that reputation is very much deserved.
FURTHER READING: Check out this article on diving in Raja Ampat for more information.
Where to stay in Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat isn’t a budget destination. Accommodation is quite pricey but you can find home stays on some of the bigger islands for under $30 per person including meals. We stayed at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge which is one of the fancier options in the area. It was really nice and the island it’s on is ripe for exploring.
Island hopping in Raja Ampat is a lot of fun but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for a budget beach getaway you’re better off heading for Flores or Lombok. The cost of flights, boat trips and accommodation quickly adds up, but if you can afford it you should make every effort to visit as it’s a pretty amazing place.
Have you been to Indonesia? Are you dreaming of a trip to Raja Ampat? Let me know in the comments below!
My trip to Indonesia was organised by Indonesia Travel for their #TripOfWonders and #WonderfulIndonesia campaigns. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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