Raja Ampat is a hidden paradise in the remote westernmost part of Indonesia with breath-taking views of Raja Ampat islands.
After a 10-hour Qatar Airways flight from London to Jakarta, a day’s rest at the Hotel Bandara International, conveniently located near the airport, I took another 6-hour flight to Sorong, but the journey wasn’t over yet. A twenty-minute drive to the harbour, where a speedboat was waiting for us to carve our way through choppy waters on the final 3-hour leg of my journey.
It was a major relief to arrive at D’Coral Resort in Waigo Island. There was a long wooden pier extending over the water leading to the main reception and shoreside restaurant. There was a narrow beach, ideal for sunbathing, especially when the fishing boats are gone.
My spacious ensuite double bedroom was located on the ground floor of a two-story bungalow overlooking the ocean. The bed was covered by a mosquito net and although basic, it was comfortable and stylish. The terrace extended out over the sea and had wooden steps leading into the sea. The backdrop to the hotel is woodlands brimming over with local flora and fauna.
Late afternoon, I took a motorcycle tour through the Island of Waigo. After a while we reached the town of Waisai, capital of the Raja Ampat archipelago.
The centre of the square has a statue of a dolphin, titled Raja Ampat. There was a bustling local market on the banks of a fast flowing river where you could find almost everything from fish and vegetables to groceries, DIY tools and textiles. We stopped at Waisai’s Grand Mosque (Masjid Agung Waisai). It was a large mosque, the interior hall painted in green with white columns.
We headed towards the Port of Waisai where we watched a passenger ferry disgorge its mixture of workers and cargo. On our return journey, we stopped by the small airport to enjoy the stunning sunset.
I woke up early the next morning and watched the sunrise while having my breakfast. We departed at 6 am for a 3-hour boat journey to Wayag Island off the northwest of Waigeo Island.
The boat slowed down as we approached, so we could see the forested cone-shaped atolls, some as high as 200 meters. The scenery was breath-taking.
You can climb some of these atolls, but there are no steps or ropes to aid your ascent. It is always recommended doing the climbing early morning after sunrise or near sunset. We were blessed with sunny skies, but I was dehydrated and had to use several bottles of cold water to pour over my head and drink to cool down. Despite this, it was well worthwhile for such an exciting experience.
While catching my breath on top of this atoll, I took in the beauty of my surroundings. My position gave me a 360 degree panoramic view from the wetland valleys below me to the hundreds of rock isles wrapped in thick green forests that spread out to the horizon. The fresh air and clear blue sky combined with shiny calm blue waters surrounding these shady, densely forested rocks sticking out of the sea would make a wonderful painting demonstrating the amazing diversity of Mother Nature. I could have stayed there forever, but I had to head back down to carry on my journey. It was easier for me to go down the cliff, but I still had to be cautious in order not to slip.
We couldn’t stop by the beach as the water was too shallow, so we cruised round to the far side of the island where there was a pier for us to moor. The place was nicely prepared with huts and benches for short stays and picnicking. We had our lunch, and it was then an ideal time to go swimming. It was a little scary to see numerous black sharks in the seawater near the beach. They said they had been fed meat and so, not being hungry, the sharks weren’t interested in me. I think the idea of swimming with sharks put the group off, and so we took the opportunity to take photos instead.
It was a very adventurous day, and we got to observe, experience and learn about Raja Ampat. I loved the surface beauty, but would like to have seen the underwater wonders as well. Sadly, there was no time for diving. There would be more opportunities in the next days of my journey for snorkelling, but it was time to head back to the D’Coral Resort, as we had that three-hour sea cruise ahead of us.
For more information about Raja Ampat, visit www.indonesia.travel.
Images and story © Mohammad Reza Amirinia