Along with my trip to Raja Ampat, it was also my first trip to Papua. The trip kinda intimidated me since Raja Ampat sounded so remote. It takes about 5 hours flight to Sorong alone from Jakarta, then you need to take a boat trip to Waisai (capital of Raja Ampat) for 2-3 hours. Thus, Raja Ampat is definitely not an easy place to reach. But the story of its beauty wiped off my trace of fear and the only way to get less scared is being well prepared. So they say, being well prepared is half way to win the battle.
So.. what’s to prepare to get to Raja Ampat?
First, the itinerary obviously. Many flights fly to Sorong. But the thing is… you need to consider the boat schedule to get to Waisai since it only departs 1x a day at 2pm. So you need to ensure your flight reaches Sorong before 1pm, otherwise you can’t catch up the fast boat (Marina Express) scheduled at 2pm and you need to stay overnight in Sorong which means another extra cost. Same thing applies on your way back. The boat is pretty decent, if you would like to travel in convenience, then you may consider the limited VIP class seat due to its spacious seating arrangement and air-conditioned room.
Secondly, if you’re not that much of an adventurer like me and concerned on the hygiene. Papua is a Malaria-risk province, hence take anti-Malaria pills one week before your trip. Prevention is better than cure, yes?And I also brought mosquito repellent with me (which turned out to be very useful!). My other concern was on the hygiene due to its remote location and all I could do was bringing antiseptic lotion, wet tissues and feminine hygiene tissue. Other than that, not much you can control when it comes to hygiene.
Thirdly, manage your expectations. Raja Ampat is definitely not Bali. It’s still very much under-developed in terms facilities and infrastructure. But for sure, its beauty will blow your mind. You’d overlook its shortcomings for its magical beauty. Perhaps, it remains its untouched beauty thanks to its remote inconvenient location. Not for a fancy traveler.
Raja Ampat is an archipelago with 4 large islands and plenty of small islands. The biggest and easiest one to reach is Waigeo Island with Waisai as its capital. Waisai is actually a small town but the only time with electricity, while other areas in Raja Ampat rely on genset at night and have no electricity at all during the day . If you’re a gadget freak that always need to get connected all the time, ensure your gadgets get fully charged at night so they are all set to use during the day, unless of course you stay at Waisai thus such thing would be irrelevant. For phone provider, only Telkomsel and Indosat are available in this Island, although once you’re out of Waisai, it tends to be unreliable.
Despite its electricity availability, Waisai is not that much appealing to me due to its lack of beach-front motel/hotel. I’d rather have a beach-front place to stay as to certain extent it’s also one way to get back to nature and get disconnected. Don’t you love it waking up next to a white sandy beach and crystal clear ocean water?
Few so-called resorts (some are quite rustic despite the resort label) are available in Raja Ampat, but if you’re on budget, homestay is also available even at remote areas with boat access only. Homestay might be quite challenging if you’re a convenient traveler due to its basic condition (no air-conditioner, sharing bathroom and toilets, sounds of insects at night). My case, I traded off those inconveniences with nice hospitality and the snorkeling sites were literally in front of the homestay. Fair enough 😀
2 questions to ask yourself before making accommodation arrangement :
- Which Island would you like to stay out of so many Islands in Raja Ampat? For any first-timers, Waigeo is the safest bet, then you could do island hopping from there.
- Resort vs Homestay accommodation? Which very much depends on your budget
Things to Do:
- Sunrise – get up early and catch the sunrise. It’s worth the effort!
- Sunset – Find a sunset spot around where you stay as the sun goes down, not much of activities to do but enjoying the sunset.
- Snorkeling – Snorkeling kit is available for rent, but I recommend to bring your own kit.
- Island Hopping – Along with the island hopping, you’d find some hidden gems within Raja Ampat. One of them is the white sands emerged upon low tides next to the Mansuar Island. I felt like walking on heaven on earth as I reached there.
- Diving – One of the best diving sites in the world. Enough said. Too bad, I haven’t overcome my fears of darkness and depth. But according to the local, it’s not for inexperienced divers due to its strong nature
- Other Activities: Kayaking , Bird watching. it’s a place for nature lover because other than that, nothing much to do as there is no place for hang-out.
- Flights : return flights starting IDR 3,5mio with 1 stop at Makassar
- Boat trip : take a fast boat i.e Marina Express from the harbour. VIP class seat costs IDR 150,000 for one way trip
- Accommodation : most accommodations provide 3x meals per day due to its remote area. Starting from IDR 250,000 (charged per person)per day for homestay inclusive 3x meals per day. The meals are decent, nothing fancy. If you’re much of a snacker, get some stocks from Sorong beforehand. I personally brought my own coffee and thermos as I can’t survive a day without a decent coffee.
- Island hopping : perhaps this is the most expensive part of Raja Ampat trip due to the high fuel price. To reach Wayag (the furtherest north west island of Raja Ampat) , the boat rental costs up to IDR 10mio. Thus, it is recommended to travel in group as the boat could accommodate up to 10 persons. Otherwise, you could join fellow travelers who stay next door.
- The native Papuan consumes things called Areca/Betel Nut. It’s very common to see native people chewing it in public then spitting it out on the street and sidewalks. So you’d see the local people with red-stained teeth and lips during your trip along with the red splattering street.
- Raja Ampat is relatively safe for solo traveler but bear in mind, English is not widely spoken.
- Bring cash, cash and cash. Consider it as cash only area as the only ATM is located in Waisai and most places do not take credit cards
Finally, I’m so gonna back for Raja Ampat despite its inconvenience. It’s a MASTERPIECE of nature!