Nothing worth having ever comes easy
Raja Ampat, an archipelago of 1,500 small islands located in Indonesia’s West Papua province, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. It’s also a real mission to get there. I needed 3 flights, 4 buses and a couple of boats to get to my accommodation. This took nearly 48 hours but the delights presented to me and my camera on arrival made the arduous trip totally worth it.
The final part of this journey was by far the most enjoyable. After a pleasant ferry ride, I jumped onto a speedboat and zipped along the bright blue water, passing deserted islands on either side. In every direction was nothing and no-one, it was peaceful and serene, as though no other human being had ever visited before.
I stepped off the boat and onto the jetty. A collection of small wooden huts lined the beach of the resort and as I looked down I saw hundreds of tiny fish darting around the crystal clear water. Staff greeted our arrival with music and fruit cocktails, this really was the closest thing to paradise I’d ever experienced.
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Idyllic Island Life
I could have happily spent the entire week relaxing at the resort, but my more adventurous side figured I should take my camera out and explore a little.
I knew I wasn’t going to get to visit all 1,500 islands, but at least wanted to see more than one. I first took a trip to Arborek Village. Once again locals were lined up to meet us off the boat, this time armed with guitars, singers, dancers and every little girl in town dressed in tribal wear. They cooked a feast and told us stories of life in Raja Ampat. It was a simple life, but it sounded like heaven.
We later visited Sawinggrai Island. Here the children seemed less interested in our arrival, going about their daily lives, playing in the water and feeding the fish. Both islands were very traditional and the people very genuine. You kind of got the impression they’d never been to the mainland, that they’d never left their island, but if I was them I don’t think I would have either. With this much beauty around there seemed little need.
Editor’s Note: If you want to reach this little slice of paradise yourself, check out this Raja Ampat Guide
Piaynemo: The Jewel in The Crown
The true star of Raja Ampat is Piaynemo, a collection of mushroom shaped rocks sat majestically amongst turquoise waters. It’s like Halong Bay, but without the swathes of noisy tourists.
While the ride in was awesome, a short walk up 340 steps to the viewpoint revealed the area’s true beauty. From up here, you could see the karst-like islands in all their full glory, impossibly beautiful shades of green floating in the distance. It was breathtaking. I clicked away, the sun was shining and it was difficult to take a bad photo. All I could think about was how lucky I was to be here, somewhere so remote that only a handful of other people were present. I knew if Raja Ampat was easier to get to this would have been packed and the experience would have been a lot less special. In that moment though, I was glad for the 48-hour journey.
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A Diver’s Paradise
There is as much beauty below the water in Raja Ampat as there is on the surface. This is a diver’s paradise. It is estimated that 75% of the world’s underwater species can be found right here, it is one of the top dive spots in the world so I wasn’t going to miss out.
I pushed myself away from my beach lounger and onto a dive boat. It was not disappointed. While there were no sharks knocking about that day I was lucky enough to see cuttlefish, manta rays and some incredibly vivid fish and coral. I’ve been to some very impressive dive sites and this was certainly up there with the best.
Editor’s Note: Thinking of Diving in Raja Ampat? Check out our Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews
After the dive, I decided I’d done enough exploring so returned to the very important job of relaxing. I’d all but put the camera away when something magical happened, the sun went down. Raja Ampat had already provided me with a lifetime’s worth of stunning visual memories, but the sunset was about to top all of that. I looked back over at the jetty, there were a few people walking along and casting perfect silhouettes against a sky full of purples, blues, and oranges.
Within minutes I was joined by every other camera-wielding traveler on the island and we all lined up in the water to capture this incredible natural wonder. It seemed to last forever, the hues of the sky changing with every passing moment. As I looked around, I felt like we’d all just shared in one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets, that we’d all just found the most beautiful sunset spot on Earth.
It was tough leaving Raja Ampat, doing the journey in reverse was even more painful knowing I was being slowly led away from paradise. It was a long and expensive journey but one I’d happily take again for somewhere as glorious as this.
Looking for more inspiration on traveling Indonesia? Check out a few of our other articles
- Best Places to Stay in Indonesia: Ultimate List of Hotels & Hostels
- What to Eat in Indonesia: Dishes You Need to Try
- Top Things to Do in Indonesia
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1 thought on “Raja Ampat: A Photo Diary of Paradise Uncovered”
Raja Ampat looks amazing! Great photos!