Raja Ampat is located at the far western tip of the province of West Papua, an area often referred to as the Bird’s Head Peninsular because of its shape.
The waters that surround the island of New Guinea offer some of the very best diving in the world, with Papua New Guinea in the eastern half of the island long-established as a diver’s Mecca, but it is Raja Ampat that has become the place to have in your logbook.
Just 10 years ago your choices were limited to one dive resort and a couple of liveaboards, but now there are several well established resorts and at the peak of the diving season anything up to 50 boats operating in Raja Ampat!
Surveys of the area in 2001 by Conservation International and in 2002 by The Nature Conservancy identified over 550 species of hard coral (75% of all known coral species), and 1320 species of reef fish.
The results of those survey clearly indicated that Raja Ampat has higher marine biodiversity than any other similarly-sized region anywhere on the planet.
Its location at the far eastern end of the Indonesia means that it is right in the path of the path of the incredibly rich waters of the Indonesian Throughflow, as it first touches land on its way through the islands of the archipelago to the Indian Ocean in the south.
Those rich waters, the area’s remote location and relative isolation for many years all combined with the sheltered environment offered by its numerous islands, are the major reasons behind Raja Ampat’s tremendous biodiversity.
Raja Ampat means four kings in Bahasa Indonesia amd the name comes from the local myth of a woman who finds seven eggs, four (ampat) of which hatch and become kings (rajas) and occupy four of the area’s biggest islands, whilst the other three become a ghost, a woman and a stone.
Those four islands are Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta & Misool and they are surrounded by about 1500 smaller islands with a land area of about 15,000 km², and a total area of around 40,000 km².
In June 1860 the incredible British naturalist, explorer and anthropologist Alfred Wallace made the perilous crossing of 60 miles of open ocean in a small local prau boat, from the island of Ceram in the Mollucas to Misool – a journey he describes in his excellent book the Malay Archipelago.
Wallace was a contemporary of Charles Darwin and spent a total of eight years studying the flora and fauna of the region, with 3 months spent in Misool and then Waigeo.
The Raja Ampat area is sparsely populated with an estimated population of less than 60,000 living in about 100 villages mainly located on the coast.
Sorong is the main town and point of entry to the area.
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