Raja Ampat (West Papua) travel story

The Indonesian West Papua area is an area little known to the general public, certainly more famous for fans of underwater beauty. In that remote place the Raja Ampat archipelago is synonymous with unspoiled natural beauty and far from mass tourism where man's pollution with his presence and activities is contained. Raja Ampat is within the "Coral Triangle" an area that covers almost all of Indonesia and Micronesia (the base) up to the north of the Philippines (the upper corner). In this area there is the highest biodiversity on the planet, about 76% of marine species are represented here. This could already be enough to imagine what we are talking about.
Organizing a trip to this area is not complicated, there are several possibilities for accommodation and activities to admire the underwater beauties (and not only) of the archipelago; sailing ships (charming but somewhat expensive), small resorts (nice and organized) and homestay (economic solution that requires a spirit of adaptation).
Whatever the choice, what must be considered is the journey to reach this area, a long and tiring journey, made up of no less than three flights with long waits for transits (from Europe) and a transhipment by boat. For a variety of reasons, my trip required 4 flights + ferry + fast boat.
For the location, my choice was that of a resort in an almost central position in the archipelago, the Agusta Eco Resort.

Agusta Eco Resort

The resort, managed by Italians (Mara and Marco), is located on a small island, one of the few completely flat but rich in vegetation. The property occupies a limited portion of the island, has the classic pier with a central area consisting of offices, swimming pool and restaurant with lounge. The bungalows are limited in number and surrounded by greenery, they are divided into three types, from the simplest in the local Papuan style to the largest and best equipped. I stayed in an intermediate level (called superior), completely in wood, quite large, comfortable, with large bed, with veranda, large bathroom and complete as amenities.
The spacious and comfortable restaurant serves typical dishes and sometimes Italian dishes. The cuisine is really good and varied, the cook prepares meat (typically chicken) or fish dishes in an excellent way considering where we are, even the presentation of the dishes is somewhat accurate. Much of the fish is supplied by local fishermen, I have personally seen large yellow fin tuna and various qualities of tropical fish.
 
The organization of sea excursions is well structured, in the morning meeting with indications of the characteristics of the sites that will be visited and then off to the destinations with different boats for those who dive and those who snorkel like myself. The outputs are half day or full day, it depends a lot on the distance of the sites from the resort, typically two dives in the morning with an interval based on biscuits, tea, coffee, etc. In daily outings, lunch is eaten reaching panoramic points or equipped piers and the return takes place before sunset, another magical moment of the day. The almost constant presence of clouds generates spectacular sunsets with intense light effects that can only be admired in the tropics or the equator. Every night a different show to contemplate and that's why I wanted to create a small album on the subject :  see photo album

Raja Ampat archipelago

Both above and below the sea, this archipelago offers great emotions. As part of the many excursions for diving or snorkeling it is possible to admire how nature has shaped these islands and how it has created spectacular scenarios. The islands are mainly mountainous, wild and with dense vegetation. Few flat ones like Agusta or Arborek. On the latter there is an Indonesian village with a church, school, shop, homestays and dive center. Arborek is an island totally surrounded by coral formations, seen from above it appears as a wonder of nature :  see photo

Another remarkable natural attraction is found in Cape Kri where an extensive and long area of white sand is present in the middle of a deep blue sea. It seems that the tides have fun playing with the sand that is periodically submerged and then emerge again. This alternation continuously designs and shapes the sandbanks that take on the most varied forms, creating large lagoons, shallow and hot water pools. The visit to this area is suggestive, with the boat you arrive right in the heart of the sandy formation, the reverberation is strong, the scene is dazzling when the sun shines or comes out of the clouds.
Interesting excursion to count and that to "The Passage". It is a rift, a crack, probably following a strong earthquake, which divided a large island in the Raja Amapt archipelago in two. The split did not take place in a straight line but in a zigzag, on average 50-60 meters wide, it is dotted with a rich vegetation that makes the water of a very intense green. Inland navigation takes place at low speed also because this channel is home to diving, here there are many small coral formations but with unusual shapes and spectacular bright colors. There are also semi-submerged caves with narrow immersed passages. On one of the sides of this crack it opens onto a small archipelago of rocks of different shapes and sizes that emerge from shallow waters that take on colors ranging from green to blue with all possible shades.
Another natural spectacle is the famous Piaynemo lagoon. Before reaching it, it is almost mandatory to make a stop in the small and opposite island of Rufas. This is a “gem” that cannot be missed…. A rocky island of contained dimensions that nature has worked over time eroding its interior to create a lagoon with a small connection to the external sea. The scenery reserves a truly remarkable contrasting set of colors, the external sea is deep blue, the rock is largely covered by lush vegetation, the lagoon is an intense green color. Seen from above (from the drone) it is a sight. It is possible for everyone to admire it personally from above by reaching a belvedere located in the highest rocky point of the island, therefore from a privileged position.
And here we are in Piaynemo, a large writing placed on a rock welcomes tourists. This is a protected lagoon that reminds, much smaller, glimpses of the famous Halong bay of Vietnam or the Phang Nga bay of Thailand. The rocks in the lagoon have different shapes and sizes but never reach cyclopean dimensions, the promontories extend over the lagoon forming tortuous loops where the water takes on colors ranging from green to blue with multiple shades.
The presence of the sun is crucial to enhance this beautiful place, its absence turns off the colors making everything a little flat, however the scenery remains fascinated. Inside the lagoon, some docks allow tourists to spend a few moments in this magnificent setting, the largest one is also the starting point to reach one of the most popular viewpoints of the bay on foot. Starting from the pier, a comfortable staircase winds its way through rich vegetation until it reaches a platform with a large terrace from which you can admire a significant part of the lagoon. Here the most beautiful souvenir photos of Piaynemo are taken and published. As always, the top view is one that allows you to admire the natural spectacle offered by these places. The footage from my drone is visible on the video I posted on my Youtube channel :    see video 

Raja Ampat underwater world

This is the main purpose that drives many enthusiasts to reach this remote archipelago. As mentioned above, Raja Ampat is located inside the "Coral Triangle", it is also located in a fairly wild and sparsely populated area and this practically means a level of pollution, especially for the plastic that can be seen, quite contained even if the sea is a fundamentally open element .... The countless excursions made through Agusta Resort allow you to discover this incredible underwater world even by practicing simple snorkeling. There are many sites where the seabed is almost "within reach" so eye contact is facilitated and the sunlight enhances the colors of fish and corals. The varieties of corals that can be admired are truly incredible, in the best places there are entire grasslands where you do not know where to direct your gaze, a mix of shapes, species and colors that leaves you amazed.
Many and many fish that can be found both in quantity (small and large schools) and in variety, passing from the small seahorse that resembles a sea snake to the reef shark. What is surprising here is the lack of fear of fish. In many other underwater places where I had the chance to dive, the fish had to be chased, they ran away quickly as soon as one dared to approach. Here it is not so, if you move with due caution without pretending to touch them, the fish do not run away as well as the turtles with which you can swim side by side safely. In some cases it happened that I was stopped and the fish were spinning near me as you can see in the video I posted on my Youtube channel :  see video


I shared these considerations with other guests of the Resort and everyone, including divers, expressed a similar splendid experience to me.

Unfortunately I was unable to admire the manta rays, 4 times we reached unsuccessfully a "Manta Bay" which is located near Arborek, a place where these big fish come to be "cleaned" by parasites thanks to small clean fish.

 
In conclusion I can say that during my travels and dives around the world I have never seen an underwater world as varied, rich, alive and colorful as that of Raja Ampat. An extract of my diving experience is collected in this photo album :   see photo album

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