To say that Raja Ampat is hidden is an understatement. Most people don’t know where it is and chances are even if you make it there you won’t know where to place yourself on a map.
Raja Ampat lies off the coast of West Papua. 1500 islands and islets, still part of Indonesia. Its name means Four Kings for the four main islands Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. Its isolation is part of its charm and it is usually just known by mermaids – Raja Ampat is known for some of the best diving in the world.
My first trip to the Four Kings was due to an invitation from Kri Eco Resort, one of the more accessible dive resorts in the area. Still, getting to Raja Ampat is an adventure. I was already in Bali but even then I had to take a flight to Makassar and from Makassar to Sorong with Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national airline. Why flights to Raja Ampat leave at 4 in the morning nobody knows but I have come to like the lime green Ibis airport hotel which is directly in the Makassar airport. More likely than not you will see most people checking in here late at night again the next morning at the airport’s Starbucks easily recognized by some sort of scuba equipment.
From Sorong Kri Eco Resort will fetch you by speed-boat to get to Kri Island, which only takes about two hours making this a short trip – Kri is the island with easy access, there is always more remote in Raja Ampat.
A description of Raja Ampat is tricky as the regular attributes when describing a paradise seem to fall flat here. The water is just a little bluer than elsewhere, the hills a bit greener and more jungle-y, and the sunsets seem just better than your average sunset. And that is just above the surface – the true beauty of Raja Ampat unfolds underwater.
Staying at Kri Eco Resort
Scuba Diving in Indonesia is world renowned and diving in Raja Ampat is definitely top of its class. There are only a few resorts, a handful of homestays on local islands or the option of liveaboard diving in Raja Ampat. One of those few resorts is Kri Eco Resort and its sister place Sorido Bay both run by Papua Diving.
Kri Eco Resort offers just the right amount of barefoot luxury, sustainability, and an all-around great service when it comes to diving. Mind you, this is definitely not for those seeking a high-end resort as bungalows which are built over water have no aircon and are definitely rustic. Most have a shared bathroom which might be an issue when it rains as I come to realize because in Raja Ampat – when it rains it pours. Still, I don’t mind because the view from my deck is as good and my fourposter bed as romantic as it gets. Meals are eaten in the communal dining room and their honesty fridge is well stocked, alternatively, you can do it as my new-found friend Georgie does and come prepared with a bottle of gin or whiskey.
Fridays everything is self-serve as the staff is off that day however, meals are prepared in advance and while there is no official dive schedule, certified divers can grab a tank and dive the house reef.
If you are after marble floors and cold champagne kind of luxury you may not like it here. However, if you agree with me that crystal clear waters, 50 shades of pink for sunset, and sleeping next to baby sharks are the ultimate luxury then you have come to the right place because that’s the kind of luxury you can find in the palace of the Four Kings.
Raja Ampat Diving
Raja Ampat is not only hailed to be the best diving in Indonesia in line with Komodo but also as the best diving in the world. For divers, Raja Ampat is a bit of a holy grail, a bucket list item for good reason not only thanks to its remoteness but also to its amazing variety of dive sites and marine life.
But as with most scuba diving in Indonesia, diving in Raja Ampat can be a challenge especially when it gets romantic and the full moon comes out. That’s when currents are the strongest and you will need to know what you are doing and/or have a good dive guide. We get lucky as it is the end of the season and we have a 1:1 ratio of divers and dive guides, all local Papuans from the area who have lived and dived in Raja Ampat all their lives.
Dives are either conducted from the jetty into the house reef or from a small boat which can get into the tiniest crevices of Raja Ampat. Word famous dive sites like Arborek Jetty, the Passage and the most famous of them all, Cape Kri, await. This one is known as the dive site where 374 species of fish and marine life were counted in a single tank dive, a world record. ThePassage is basically an underwater rollercoaster and the Aborak jetty will have you surrounded by huge schools of sardines. Other resident favorites are the Wobbegong and Epaulette sharks best enjoyed on a night dive during a thunderstorm but honestly there is something for each taste in Raja Ampat whether you like your marine life big or small – have I mentioned that there plenty of pygmy seahorses too?! (sorry no picture, because damn those cute buggers are tiny)
What you should pack for a visit at Kri Eco Resort
If you haven’t gathered from my description on how to get to Raja Ampat, Kri Eco Resort is incredibly remote so there are no shops you can just pop in and stock up on whatever. While Kri has a small hotel shop you will pay island prices so I suggest you try your best not to forget anything.
- Scuba gear – see my packing list for a liveaboard trip here as most of it would also apply here due to the remoteness of Raja Ampat.
- SIM card from a provider like Telkomsel that you can recharge with your credit card via an app (set it up before you arrive). There is wifi at Kri Eco Resort but the prices are ridiculous, to be honest, so either go without for your stay or get an Indonesian SIM card.
- Snacks and drinks. Portions are plenty and there are snacks throughout the day available but if you are a fussy eater or know that you want a certain snack, bring it along. Same goes for hard liquor.
- Toiletries especially things like reef-friendly sunscreen, mosquito spray, and tampons – even better, get a diva cup before you go!
- You may visit a local village which will be your one and only shopping opportunity. While you can pay everything at the resort (including tips and marine park fee) with a credit card, take some cash for that excursion.
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