“How will you ever find the words to describe this place?” asked Jack, a fellow diver on the liveaboard.
Though a valid question, I was more preoccupied with two even bigger problems: which island out of the thousands in Raja Ampat I’d live out a hypothetical Robinson Crusoe life, and whether or not I really wanted the word to get out about this place.
After searching far and wide for an island paradise that feels unknown and largely uninhabited, Raja Ampat fits the bill in every way. I imagine it looks the same now as it did thousands of years ago.
With each new corner we rounded and every beach we came across it just got better – unmatched with its crystalline lagoons and Jurassic Park-like flora.
And that’s just what’s above the water.
The real reason I went to Raja Ampat was to dive. I’d long heard stories about how abundant and beautiful everything under the water was, and though remote, I’d been enchanted by the idea of a liveaboard in Raja Ampat for years.
Everything else – the afternoons pretending to be a mermaid in the hidden lagoons, the beach bonfires while the sun lit up the sky with color, and the starry skies, free of light pollution, were just an unexpected bonus.
Under the water it was a show that even Ariel would find impressive. I often felt a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out what to look at first. There was so much diversity in every direction.
Though I can post photo after photo here, it’s really the video that does it justice. It’s some of my best work, I know you’re going to love it!
There were schools upon schools of reef fish in layers, from tiny glittering flecks in the water to huge schools of Jack fish and Barracuda. I’ve never been surrounded in all directions by a cloud of fish like that before. It was bliss, and it kept happening over and over.
Then there were the big things, like Manta rays, turtles, Wobbegong sharks, Mobula rays, Spotted rays, Black-Tipped Reef sharks and Groupers.
I saw a few other favorites like Cuttle fish, Octopus, and more Pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs than I could count as well.
As if that weren’t enough, the corals were the best I’ve seen too. There were so many colors and varieties, it was like a veritable underwater garden.
I left certain that Raja Ampat diving is unparalleled, and this is coming from a girl who dived Sipadan, Mozambique, the Maldives, and Komodo, too.
The boat, the Mutiara Laut, was gorgeous as well. Before the first day was over the crew already had everyone’s name memorized, and were always all smiles. Many of them, including the captain, have been with the boat since the very beginning – almost a decade.
The food was delicious, the room was serviced twice daily, laundry was done on board, and I could have all the cappuccinos I wanted. I never actually finished my water glass before it was being filled again by a smiling Wayan, who patiently taught me some Bahasa and Balinese phrases.
I’ve never sailed in such luxury, with a big bed and personal bathroom just for me, all smartly decorated in caramel-colored wood, mother of pearl, and cream white.
I’m ruined for boats and dive destinations now, I’m afraid.
I know I’m gushing but I can’t get over how incredible every aspect of the trip was.
We did three dives per day over an 11-day trip which took us to Misool, Penemu, and Dampier Strait. That’s one of several itineraries in Indonesia that the Mutiara Laut does. You can see the rest here.
Still, we barely scratched the surface. Raja Ampat is a national park full of protected dive sites, enough to have attracted a few of the divers on board more than once.
Like most diving in Indonesia, the current can go from, as my dive master Anton said, “mild to wild”. Though I found it to be fine, comparable with Komodo.
Raja Ampat isn’t heavily frequented by tourists, and what we saw during those 11 days one can only reach by boat. I suppose the difficulty in getting there is what has kept it so wild.
I’m already thinking of how I can work another Raja Ampat diving trip into next February. I want to experience this again and again.
It’s not often you find a place this gorgeous with diving this good and so few people. Just keep it on the DL, okay?
*This post was brought to you in partnership with Mutiara Laut. All opinions on the amazing diving and islands in Raja Ampat are my own, as always.