The following is a piece done for Asia-based luxury website Lifestyle Asia.
Indonesia’s Raja Ampat is best known for its incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems, and the 1,500 small islands that make up this archipelago have some of the highest marine life diversities recorded on earth.
But chances are unless you’re a scuba diving enthusiast, you’ve never heard of it. Despite the fact that diving here is hands down some of the best in the world, Raja Ampat had managed to retain its romantic isolation and quiet peacefulness, making it one of our top destinations for 2013.
One of the most luxurious ways to experience these breath-taking islands is aboard the Tiger Blue – a magnificent 10-person chartered yacht. Decked out with top-end dive equipment, sea kayaks, knee boards, wake boards, water skis and fishing gear, the icing on the cake is the capable and friendly crew, who have been sailing Indonesia’s magnificent waters for years.
Luxury tour operator Lightfoot Travel has put together a 7-day itinerary for dive enthusiasts looking to explore Raja Ampat in the utmost style and comfort.
Day 1 — All Aboard the Tiger Blue
Your journey on the high seas begins with a flight to Sorong and a 10 minute drive to the harbour, followed by a short speedboat ride to board Tiger Blue. Have lunch and get orientated while Tiger Blue sets sail 50 nautical miles to Pulau Gam — a small island to the north west of Papua and a great base for the first night.
Day 2 — Birds of Paradise, Manta Rays and Sharks
After an early breakfast, jump on a speedboat to a local village and hike to a location where you have the opportunity to spot birds of paradise — be patient, be quiet and you will likely be rewarded. Head back to Tiger Blue in the late morning and set sail to Air Borek, sailing through the narrow channels whose reefs are home to Manta Rays. Then sail towards Pulau Yanggelo, 20 nautical miles away, while lunch is served. Snorkel amongst the beautiful coral gardens on the edge of these mangrove islands, and try and spot the wobbegong shark, found only in this area. There are great opportunities for kayaking, water skiing and knee boarding at this mooring location for those not keen on diving.
Day 3 — Get Your Hike On
Tiger Blue manoeuvres into the maze of isles and moors of the Wayag Islands where giant scallops, bumpheads, reef sharks and a huge range of colourful corals await. After lunch, laze around or work off the calories with an afternoon hike up Mount Pindito. Cool off afterwards in the cool waters at the gorgeous beach below before dinner.
Day 4 — Turtles and Bonfires
Dependent on weather and sea conditions, you will depart for a day trip to Pulau Pai. Upon arrival, snorkel with the Hawksbill turtles on the reef in a breeding sanctuary manned with guards who patrol the island and ensure that the breeding beaches are undisturbed. This is also a great chance to see the hatchery beaches before cruising back to the Wayag islands in the afternoon. There is then the option to snorkel, dive, or catch a few winks before a bonfire and cocktails on the beach.
Day 5 — A Sunrise Hike and Blue Lagoons
Yet another day to further explore the island and lagoons littered throughout the sea. For the restless, grab this opportunity for a dawn hike up Mount Pindito to see the islands in a different light. Set sail after midnight to the Alyui Islands and Jendana Bay.
Day 6 — Kayaking and Pearl Shopping
Wake up in the beautiful Jendana Bay. An early morning kayak session along the island’s cliff face is a sight to behold before a visit to the Atlas pearl farm to observe the farming process. Have lunch on board as Tiger Blue sails onto the Kabui Straits, discovered by Alfred Wallace. Spend the late afternoon exploring the narrow Straits via speedboat, or drift along in a kayak and enjoy the evening birdsong and friendly greetings of the locals.
Day 7 — Straits of Kabui to Pulau Pef
Wake and re-explore the Straits of Kabui where you can go on your last few dives along the cliff walls or kayak further into the bay. The tiny strait between the islands of Gam and Waigeo make for a special place to do wall, drift and cave diving for experienced divers. For those less confident, the speedboat can tow your kayak into the bay to drift down the whole length of the strait. After lunch, sail onto Pulau Pef to explore this beautiful mangrove area — enter lagoons, discover unusual orchids and birdlife via kayak or on the boat before heading back to Sorong at the end of your trip.
All itineraries can be tailored to the interest of a charter group. For Raja Ampat a minimum of 7 nights is recommended with 10/14 days ideal.