The Bucket List: Sea Creatures You have to See in Raja Ampat

If you’ve read about the utter magnitude of the diving in West Papua, it could be presumed that you’re already convinced to make the journey! However, if you have stumbled across this article having not heard of Raja Ampat, where it is or why we are speaking of diving in Raja Ampat, you should first read this article: Why you need to add Raja Ampat, West Papua to your list of scuba diving liveaboard experiences, then return here to find out more. On the other hand, if you’re already considering Raja Ampat as a potential option for your next dive destination, we know that one key question for any diver is, what sea creatures and marine life can I see there?

The truth is that, the waters of Raja Ampat, are home to the climax of marine diversity and the Botanical Gardens of the diving world, as these waters are situated in what is known as, The Coral Triangle. A large portion of the species which live in the waters of Raja Ampat are undocumented and unnamed, this is due to the sheer diversity of life which can be found here, many small and crazy sea creatures can be seen that you cannot find in any book! But of course, there’s a whole array of marine life you can find; from pygmies to giants! So, to provide you with some insider intel before you go, we’ve put together this list of the top marine life attractions which, collaboratively make a scuba diving experience in Raja Ampat, utterly unique. 

Our bucket list of things you have to see in Raja Ampat follows, but as these waters host many of the same famed creatures as in Komodo National Park, we didn’t want to make you read it all again. So, this is an extension to the Bucket List Sea Creatures you Have to see in Komodo National Park, (so you can read this article first for more details or see Komodo’s sea creatures list at the end of this article). But, oh what additional diving delights we have to add to that list! So, without further ado, let us indulge you in some of the more exclusive findings in Raja Ampat.

Wobbegong Shark

Sea Creatures in Raja Ampat - Wobbegong Shark

Famed for looking like your Grandma’s favourite carpet, this shark is one we can’t seem to quit wanting to cuddle. Though they are well camouflaged, they can often be found laying under dimly lit ledges, whilst waiting to hoover up prey, we bring you – the Wobbegong shark! One of our favourite carpet sharks, this species lives rather comfortably in Raja Ampat and if you’ve tuned in your radar to see their flattened shape against the ground, they can be quite common to find!

Denise Pygmy Seahorse

For those in love with macro, there is endless life to capture in between the pulps and hiding on the reef in Raja Ampat, including one of the most elusive and sort after seahorse species, but you’ll need a guide to find it! The Denise Pygmy Seahorse is not only as small as the size of your little fingernail, but it is so utterly well camouflaged it’s almost impossible to find. Even once it is pointed out to you, you can then lose sight of it after a single blink. If you have cameras at the ready, ensure you have nothing less than perfect buoyancy control, this is one little species that doesn’t want your fins or fingers landing near them.

Huge Schools of Fish

Sea Creatures in Raja Ampat - School of fish

There’s one thing I think most people envisage when they first consider going scuba diving, that is the vision of huge schools of fish everywhere you look; being utterly surrounded by them, to move through them as they sit in tightly packed formations and to feel that sense of sheer wonder. In Raja Ampat, schools of fusiliers, blue stripped snappers, surgeonfish and trevallies can be found on every dive site, so dense in population that you can lose sight of your buddy in two fin kicks! It’s a truly breathtaking experience. It’s not uncommon to spend the dive in just one area because there’s so much action amongst such a variety of species, and all surrounded by beautiful coral in one place. You may never see anything like it again, ok, maybe in your dreams.

Sometimes it takes a little imagination or a torch to light up the wonderful and beautiful colours of the reef, usually a photo taken with a strobe shows us the true brilliance and vibrancy of the corals.

Citrus Ridge

In Raja Ampat the coral is abundant; soft corals, sponge corals, hard corals, sea fans and anemones every way you look. There is one dive site which will make your regulator fall out in sheer awe. Named after its crowning features, Citrus Ridge will have you wishing you could dive it every day. With bright-orange, soft coral in sheer, unspoilt, abundance, not to mention the typography, this location really makes for a really interesting dive.

Abundant Mangroves

Sea Creatures in Raja Ampat - Mangroves

One of the reasons Raja Ampat’s reefs are so well protected and healthy is due to the huge amount of  Mangroves that can be found on almost every coastline. The role of mangroves is to filter out the nutrients from the water, preventing too many bigger marine creatures living there and killing off the smaller ones, which live symbiotically with the coral. The mangroves also provide shelter for baby sharks and smaller fish waiting to brave the unsheltered world of the oceans and the reef. The destruction of mangroves around the world is one of the leading reasons for the depletion of the local reefs, mangroves are crucial to the wildlife both in and out of the water.

Jetty Dives

Private Jetty Dives in Raja Ampat by Scuba Republic

The day trips and liveaboards work alongside local communities, visiting neighbouring islands where locals live, you can stop for your lunch break on the jetty and take a walk around the village. You can also dive the jetties and shallow reefs with permission, and wow! What a dive it is, heading under the jetty in a mere four or six meters of water you will find yourself gliding past huge schools of oriental sweetlips as they sit in the dappled light from the shadow of the dock above.  Swerving fusiliers move in and around the posts, curious batfish follow you around, whilst giant clams sit on the sand, gleaming bright purple in the dazzling sunlight. It really is spectacular, in such shallow water the colours of the corals and fish shine, their vibrancy and quantity a surreal and bedazzling spectacle.

Schools of Giant Barracudas

People who don’t dive are generally rather wary of sharks, yet to many divers a close swim by from a big dogtooth tuna or giant barracudas, with their big eyes and military-style speed, would arguably be far more intimidating. None the less, they are impressive fish. So tuck your fingers away because in Raja Ampat you can see schools of giant barracudas in many places; sitting in the current or simply schooling near the jetty, these guys are common and a big school of them looks really pretty impressive.

The most diverse dive site ever recorded

If you’re a photographer, it’s time to make a decision before heading to your next dive site, Cape Kri. Known to have the most diverse species on one dive site ever recorded, this isn’t a place you want to choose between macro and wide angle (though if the current is pumping, as it often can in Raja Ampat, you may not have time for either!) It’s a fun and exciting dive and if you have the right guide, you won’t believe what you can find there.

Oceanic Manta Rays

Sea Creatures in Raja Ampat - Oceanic Manta Rays

Now, it could be said that we’re saving the best until last, because these guys really are the real Kings of Raja Ampat. With their wingspan reaching up to nine metres wide, their ethereal appearance and sentient behaviour, we will never get bored of spending time around Manta Rays, and Raja Ampat is home (for a few months at least) to the Oceanic Mantas.

The oceanic mantas are known for spending most of their life in the temperate climates of the deep ocean, this makes them difficult to come across during a dive and there are few places in the world where you can be guaranteed to see them on a diving trip. Yet, Raja Ampat is home to a popular selection of cleaning stations for these gentle giants. Frequenting the waters of Raja Ampat between September and April, you can visit and spend some quality time under the wingspan of the biggest ray in the world.

So, if that hasn’t got you excited enough to dive here, what about these Bucket List Sea Creatures you can also see in Raja Ampat:

  1. Grey reef shark
  2. Giant Trevally
  3. Dogtooth Tuna
  4. Black-tip reef shark
  5. White-tip reef shark
  6. Reef manta ray
  7. Bumphead parrotfish
  8. Eagle ray
  9. Napoleon wrasse
  10. Pygmy pipehorse
  11. Pygmy seahorse
  12. Mantis shrimp
  13. Glass shrimp
  14. Banana Nudibranch
  15. Spanish Dancer Nudibranch
  16. Blue Dragon Nudibranch
  17. Pikachu Nudibranch
  18. Blue-ringed octopus
  19. Wunderpus
  20. Mimic Octopus
  21. Reef Cuttlefish
  22. Flamboyant Cuttlefish
  23. Bobtail squid
  24. Hawksbill Turtle
  25. Mandarin Fish
  26. Frog fish
  27. Orangutan crab
  28. Clownfish
  29. Squat shrimp
  30. Dolphin
  31. Dugong
  32. Banded sea snake
  33. Bamboo shark
  34. Bobbit worm

Formore details read our article on these creatures here!

Written by Catherine Foley
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Instagram: @wanderdeeper / @w.d.images
Pictures by Aaron @wanderdeeper

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