After spending 3 days exploring the cultural capital of Indonesia – Yogyakarta, it was time to explore the tropical paradise of Raja Ampat.
I have no idea how this place escaped my aqua blue water radar but I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to explore this amazing place. I now have a new No. 1 favourite destination in the world.
The Raja Ampat Islands are an Indonesian archipelago off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua. Comprising hundreds of jungle-covered islands, Raja Ampat is known for its beaches and coral reefs rich with marine life. Let me show you around this amazing place!
From Yogyakarta we flew to Makassar for an overnight transit before flying to Sarong early the next morning. Once we reached Sarong we jumped on a boat and travelled two hours to the village of Waisai where we met some beautiful Raja Ampat school children.
We were treated like celebrities when we arrived with all the school kids lining the balconies of the school cheering for our arrival.
Taman Bacaan Pelangi is a non-profit organisation working to establish children’s libraries in remote areas of Eastern Indonesia. With the support of volunteers and donors from around the world, there have been 37 children’s libraries established across 14 islands in Indonesia. These libraries mean that kids in remote areas of Indonesia are given access to books and stories to help with their learning and open up a whole new world of opportunity for them.
In groups of 3 we went into a classroom and had to tell our story to the kids. They really wanted to hear all about our lives. They told us what they were learning and what they wanted to be when they grew up. The little girl right in the middle of the photo below was so smart and her favourite book to read was the dictionary which melted my heart because she really wanted to do something with her life.
Once we finished in the classrooms it was time for a group photo and Laura and I got swamped by all the girls wanting to hold our hands and get photos with us. It cracked me up that they all had mobile phones. They were all so adorable and I wanted to take them all home with me!
Raja Ampat Dive Lodge
I was sad to leave but we still had a two hour boat ride to get to the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge where we were staying for the next 3 nights!
Straight off the boat we dumped our bags and all went for a swim in the warm tropical waters. It was so refreshing and I didn’t want to get out but it was almost time for sunset and I wasn’t missing out of photographing the crazy sunsets that you get in the tropics.
After witnessing one of the most beautiful sunsets that seemed to go on forever it was time for dinner at the lodge which was delicious. The next morning I was up early to photograph the sunrise. Even though there wasn’t a lot of colour it was nice to just wander around the dive lodge with it being so quiet.
Then it was time to jump back on the boat and head to Pianemo which was the No. 1 place I was so looking forward to seeing on this entire trip.
Raja Ampat is famous for its coral Islands and the most famous being Pianemo. The water surrounding these islands is clear blue and the perfect temperature. It’s a bit of a scramble up the hill to the top of some of the islands as they are still in there raw, untampered state which is nice to see. The quantity and variety of marine life here is so great that scientists have described this area as a biological hotspot and believe that the reef systems here act to restock reefs throughout the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Our group stopped at the Cape Star hill which gave us views over the islands that make up a star as you can see in the picture below:
After enjoying this amazing view and taking a dip because it was a scorching hot day we jumped back on the boat and headed over to the main Pianemo lookout. Climbing about 250 steps gets you to the top of the coral island that overlooks a huge area of Pianemo. There are two viewpoints from the top of this hill and they are breathtaking.
After almost dying of heat stroke it was time to head back to our dive lodge for some lunch and a rest in the shade.
After lunch we climbed back on the boat to visit the other side of the island that we were staying on – Mansuar Island – for some snorkelling. When we arrived at the jetty there were kids everywhere swimming in the clearest water I have ever seen. They were having so much fun – even with the simplest thing like a foam box.
I didn’t end up snorkelling because I was too busy having fun with all the kids. They were just beautiful.
After having fun with the kids it was time to leave and quickly make our way by boat to Sawinggrai Village to catch the sunset.
Sawinggrai village has 36 families and is famous for the Bird of Paradise (not the plant like we have here in Australia, but the actual bird!). The Red Bird of Paradise is the special icon of the village of Sawinggrai.
I didn’t end up seeing the Bird of Paradise while I was there but I did witness another magical sunset just as my camera decided to stop working.
I did manage to click one or two shots before that happened though.
Then it was back to the dive lodge for another delicious Indonesian style dinner and bed.
The next day we enjoyed a lazy breakfast and then jumped on the boat to head over to Arborek Village where we were greeted by a group of young girls performing a traditional dance for us. Unfortunately we were not allowed to record the dance so I can’t show you but they were so talented.
After the dance was finished we were welcomed into the village by the locals and then had time to explore the village, talk to the people that live there, enjoy some snorkelling and try some traditional food.
Arborek has a population of 197 and the village has lots of homestay options available. It is also an amazing place to snorkel or dive. You can simply put your head under the water near the jetty and see an array of reef fish.
After enjoying some traditional West Papua food it was time to say good bye to these friendly and hospitable people and catch the boat to a destination that now has been placed No.1 on my list of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
When the boat pulled up and anchored in the ocean and I looked out the window I couldn’t believe my eyes. I honestly don’t think my photos do this place justice. It truly is the closest thing to paradise that I have ever experienced.
This place is only accesible during certain tides and we only had an hour to swim and explore here. I literally swam the entire time that I was there. After we left I was disappointed with myself that I didn’t get my camera out. I think it is the first time that I forgot to take photos and actually just enjoyed the moment. That is saying a lot because photography always comes first.
Luckily, 5 minutes before we had to leave I grabbed my Go Pro and I did a quick run around taking photos.
I really didn’t want to leave Pasir Timbal but the tide was coming in and unfortunately we had to leave.
Back to Raja Ampat Dive Lodge
We headed back to Raja Ampat Dive Lodge for one more amazing sunset, one more swim and one last group dinner.
The next morning four of us got up early and kayaked to a unique looking coconut tree that we had heard about. Dan found it on his drone the day before so we knew exactly where to find it. It was a gorgeous calm morning and the perfect way to finish off the trip.
Three days spent exploring this amazing part of the planet was so much fun and three days I will never forget. I cannot recommend this place enough and you should add it to your bucket list. I am so thankful that I got to experience this paradise.
Have you been to Raja Ampat before? What was your experience like? I would love to know so leave a comment below.
Big thanks to the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia for taking me to this amazing place and to Raja Ampat Dive Lodge for the amazing food, rooms and hospitality.
The next stop on my Exploring Indonesia trip was Bali which you can read about here. Don’t miss the awesome video at the end full of photos and fun.