I will confess to being a bit over enthusiastic when it comes to expounding the wonders of diving in Raja Ampat (The Four Kings) but frankly I don't really care. I am writing this blog supposedly about the best coral, and while Raja Ampat is right up there at the very pinnacle, you cannot really have best coral without corresponding marine life, so from that point of view it is something of a bargain, sort of buy one get one free.
So just where is Raja Ampat? It's off the western coast of Irian Jaya. OK, where is Irian Jaya? The western half of New Guinea in Indonesia. OK, OK so where is New Guinea? Fly to Singapore or Jakarta as a start and then local airlines will get you to Sorong which is really the starting point.
So that's the geography lesson over, now what's so great about the coral? It is amazing, in fact the entire area is known as The Coral Triangle for good reason, with the greatest coral and probably marine bio diversity on the planet. It is also an incredibly important area for coral proliferation as the waters of the Pacific wash through to the Indian Ocean and effectively distributes the coral larvae throughout, so it is something of a seeding nursery to these great oceans.
This isn't to say that dynamiting and bleaching is not having an effect here, but when you find the untouched reefs of which there are many, they really are just that, and only relatively recently appearing on divers' radars and very short of resorts. These reefs are totally untrammelled and undived; genuinely remote. And this is what makes the diving in Raja Ampat so special.
These islands vie with Palau as having the highest bio diversity on the planet and currently just edge it, but the big difference is that whilst you dive Palau in swarms of divers, not here. The corals though are spectacular, hard and soft and there are stats to prove it:
- 1,430 species of reef fish
- 42 species of endemic reef fish found only here
- 603 species of hard coral alone recorded, let alone hundreds of soft
- 75% of all known coral species in the world
- 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the entire Caribbean
- 57 species of Mantis Shrimp
- 13 species of Marine Mammals
- 5 species of endangered sea turtles
There is really not much more I can say except to remind myself to get back there. In fact I am, and will hopefully soon have some great reports on Southern Raja Ampat having already visited Northern Raja Ampat.
Have you been diving in Raja Ampat? Tell us your stories in the comments or contact us for more information.