Raja Ampat Regency incorporates around 600 islands off the north western tip of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s West Papua Province.
The name Raja Ampat translates to Four Kings and originates in local mythology where four kings hatched from dragon eggs and went on to rule the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo.
The area covers over 40’000 km^2 of land and sea with a population of around 50’000. A little over 8’000 make a living in Waisai, the capital of the Regency.
The Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network consists of seven individual MPA’s under regional or national jurisdiction in the heart of the Coral Triangle.
The livelihoods of more than 40’000 people spread across 135 villages depend on the preservation of the rich coastal and marine resources.
The goal of the MPA network is to establish “safe zones”, where fishing and commercial activity is limited to what the community needs. Key habitats and ecosystems, which are linked by the complex ocean currents of the Indonesian Throughflow are to be protected against exploitation that could impact not only the Raja Ampat area but other parts of the Indonesian archipelago and possibly the Coral Triangle itself.
In 2004 an alliance was formed between Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), WWF Indonesia and the local government of the Raja Ampat Regency. The idea was to establish 7 ecologically connected MPA’s that would cover an area of nearly 900,000 hectares and approximately 45% of Raja Ampat’s coral reefs and mangroves.
in May 2007, the network of seven MPA’s was formally declared by the government of the Raja Ampat regency.
The conservation area is managed by the Technical Management Authority (UPTD) within the Department of Marine and Fisheries of Raja Ampat.
Efforts undertaken include zone regulations, zonation patrols, increasing public conservation awareness, encouraging sustainable tourism activities and increasing the economic benefits of conservation for local communities. These efforts require huge funding and cannot be fully supported by the Raja Ampat government’s financing capacity.
In order for preservation efforts to be financially sustainable the Raja Ampat Regency has implemented a Regional Public Service Agency (BLUD) in 2014 which allows for more flexibility to use non-tax government revenues generated by tariff charges. This is the first and only conservation area in Indonesia to implement the BLUD system.
The Raja Ampat Marine Park Entry Permit tag (or PIN) has been recently renamed the Tariff to Support Environmental Services in Raja Ampat and must be paid by every visitor to Raja Ampat. International visitors contribute IDR 1’000’000, Indonesian citizens and KITAP holders contribute IDR 500’000 , children under 12 years are free. The permit is valid for a year from the date of purchase
Raja Ampat’s Marine Park Areas are part of a bigger network that consists of 20 MPA’s spread across the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua. Besides the Raja Ampat archipelago in the west, it also includes Cendrawasih Bay in the east and the Kaimana Regency and Triton Bay in the south
Below is a short description of the individual MPA’s in Raja Ampat.
|Dampier Strait MPA See Map|
|Location||the coastal island of Gam and Mansuar, coastal Batanta Island and Coastal Salawati Island (Central RA)|
|Population||The close location to the district capital of Raja Ampat, the local government has determined Dampier Strait as the primary marine tourism area. In Dampier Strait, the six villages of Sawinggrai, Arborek, Sawandarek, Yenbuba, Yenwaupnor and Arefi have been set as the main villages to experience cultural tourism.|
|Ayau Asia MA See Map|
|Location||Ayau district and Ayau Islands district (Northern tip of RA)|
|Population||9 villages with a total population of 2,145 inhabitants. Historically, the population in Asia Ayau MPA are descendants from the Biak tribe, as well as the Wardo and Usba sub-tribes.|
|West Waigeo National MPA See Map|
|Area|| 271,630 ha|
|Location||Sayang and Piai Islands and the Wayag island group (Northwest RA)|
|Population||The islands in this MPA are uninhabited, but under traditional law, this region belongs to the Kawe sub-tribe, whose people live on the islands of Salio and Selpele.|
|Mayalibit Bay MPA See Map|
|Area|| 53,100 ha|
|Location||Waigeo, in the districts of Mayalibit Bay and Tiplol Mayalibit|
|Population||Mayalibit Bay belongs to the ancient Mayan tribe, indigenous to Raja Ampat. Approximately 2’000 people spread over 10 villages live in the Mayalibit Bay area.|
|Misool MPA See Map|
|Area||366 000 ha|
|Location||Southeastern part of Misool and islands (South RA)|
|Population||5,000 people living in 13 villages scattered throughout the region|
|Kofiau MPA See Map|
|Population||2’000 people spread across 5 villages. Local communities in Kofiau are descendants of the Betieu tribe.|
|Raja Ampat National MPA See Map|
|Location||Raja Ampat Islands in Central RA|
According to the Köppen and Geiger classification, the climate in Raja Ampat is classified as tropical rainforest climate (Af).
Air temperature in Raja Ampat averages year-round between 25C (night) and 30C (day). But due to the humidity it can often feel a lot hotter.
Water temperature stays between 28C and 30C throughout the year.
It can be windy all year round. During October – April the wind arrives from the northwest and central Raja Ampat is better protected than during May – September when the wind comes from the southeast.
During the southeast monsoon months, the wind picks up and the sea can be choppy. Sea travel between islands can occasionally be limited, but otherwise water conditions for diving and snorkeling are not affected. However, this should not limit your experience as we adapt our schedules for your comfort and safety.
Spells of rain occur throughout the year. However, during the southeast monsoon months there is a slightly higher chance of rainfall, although rarely all day long. Rain is often short lived and localized.
As we are located near the equator, we enjoy a year-round day length of about twelve hours with stunning sunsets and sunrises around approximately 6.30 am/pm.
Conservation International marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is considerably greater than any other area sampled in the Coral Triangle, making Raja Ampat quite possibly the richest coral reef ecosystem in the world.
According to Dr. Gerry Allen, “One of the drivers of this extraordinary biodiversity is the high diversity of habitats, ranging from shallow reef habitats which include fringing, barrier, patch and atoll reefs to deep channels between the main islands.”
Almost 75% of the worlds known hard coral species, 1400 species of reef fish, 17 types of mollusc, 13 marine mammal species and five of the world’s seven sea turtle species be found in the area.
The Indonesian Throughflow is one of the strongest currents of the planet. It channels a gigantic volume of water from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean through the straits that separate the landmasses of Indonesia. And Raja Ampat sits in the middle of it. Currents are known to reach up to eight knots and they carry with them millions of eggs and larvae that supply the region with both genetic diversity and food.
Massive aggregations of schooling fishes like fusiliers, jacks and snappers are one of the signature features of Raja Ampat. The coral cover is dense, healthy and bustling with colourful reef fish. Several cleaning stations let us observe both species of manta rays while they are serviced by wrasses.
White tip and black tip reef sharks are encountered almost daily with the occasional grey reef shark making an appearance. Our most charismatic shark is without a doubt the tasselled wobbegong, a well camouflaged ambush predator that can be found under ledges or sometimes curled up on top of table corals. The endemic Raja Ampat epaulette shark is more elusive, but equally popular with divers. It is also called “the walking shark” due to its ability to walk along the seafloor using an undulating, crawling motion.
On days with lower visibility when we are less distracted by the insane amount of fishes we like to browse through sea fans, hydroids and inspect coral bommies in order to find one of the several species of pygmy seahorses, colourful nudibranchs or elegant flatworms. A peak in a hole might even reveal an octopus or a curious mantis shrimp.
The Northwest Monsoon (October – April) brings plankton rich water to the area which attracts plankton feeders, amongst them the elegant Manta ray. Expect visibility around 15-20m.
During the Southeast Monsoon (May – September) the water clears up and the visibility can be up to 40m. The aquarium like conditions allow you to observe marine life that was previously hidden by the plankton rich water. Especially local reef sharks, whose colours blend in easily into the background, can be seen in greater numbers.
Raja Ampat is well known for its currents, but we make sure that we choose dive sites that are appropriate for our divers based on their certification level, experience, and comfort. We check weather, tides and currents when we plan and check the currents upon arriving at the dive sites.
There are several ways to explore the numerous reefs of Raja Ampat with Scuba Republic. Whether you like to spend a week on one of our charismatic liveaboards, hop from island to island with our adventurous 3-7 days Safari trips or prefer to relax in our comfortable beach bungalows, we have an option for all tastes.
Raja Ampat’s islands are covered in dense, nearly impregnable rainforest that is natural habitat of a variety of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects.
Over 250 avian species have been described in the islands, including many endemic species like Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (Waigeo and Batanta), the Red Bird of Paradise (Waigeo and Gam), Kofiau Island’s Kofiau Monarch and Paradise Kingfisher and Waigeo’s Brujin’s Bush Turkey.
If you decide to stay land based be prepared to be woken up by competitive birdsong. Lorikeets and Cockatoos are a common sight, their song occasional disturbed by a rhythmic thrumming. Not a helicopter – but a passing hornbill.
We share the area with many critters such as crabs, geckos, frogs and monitor lizards. They come in different degrees of inquisitiveness, but none of them are dangerous. By far the cutest visitor is the critically endangered cuscus, a furry marsupial with a long tail roaming the trees at night.