Text by Jean-Pierre Nathrass. Images by Meridian Adventure Dive & Brandon Celine.
Welcome to Raja Ampat – an incredible tropical destination with endless white sand beaches lined with coconut trees and crystal-clear blue waters. Raja Ampat is stunning above water, but it is diving Raja Ampat that draws tourists to the area every year.
What makes diving Raja Ampat so special?
Known as the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world, these warm tropical waters offer the best diving experience for divers of all levels.
The nutrient-rich waters of the Dampier straits, which separate the islands of Waigeo and Bantana, contain over 100 of the world’s best dive sites. From gentle slope dives and incredible walls to unique Jetty dives, diving in Raja Ampat includes it all.
These colourful dive sites are home to at least 75% of the worlds known coral species, where over one thousand species of fish and seven hundred species of molluscs make their home.
From incredibly rare and small pygmy seahorses to majestic oceanic manta rays that visit in the summer, divers are treated to an unbeatable experience.
Diving Raja Ampat – The Top 7 Dive Sites.
Raja Ampat is known for its incredibly diverse marine life and the large number of dive sites the area has to offer. While every dive site has unique attractions that make it worth the visit, we have compiled a list of our favourites.
1. Melissa’s Garden
Near the Fam Islands in the West of Raja Ampat, three inconspicuous islands give no indication that one of the most biodiverse dive sites in the world lies below. Melissa’s Garden is a shallow large pinnacle with gentle slopes that stretch between the above islands. The fields of coral that grow on the reef are hugely impressive.
Imagine a sea of colours as far as the eye can see! With coral groups of the same colour all growing together, it is easy to think that the corals at Melissa's Garden were planted. Thousands of fish swim among the colourful hard coral growths and divers often comment there is almost too much to see and take in. This site is all that makes Raja Ampat the best diving destination in the world.
2. Sauwandarek Jetty
Sauwandarek Jetty is an utterly unique dive site. From the large schools of fish under the jetty to the massive turtles that make their homes in the sloping reef, there is always so much to see.
Sauwandarek Jetty is an easy dive site to navigate and boasts some of the most impressive coral growth, plus marine life that makes your jaw drop. This dive site is part of a coral regrowth programme and many wire structures – including an airplane – can be seen sporting new corals. This is a perfect dive site for divers and snorkellers to see masses of fish and colourful shallow reefs.
3. Mike’s Point
A single uninhabited island marks this incredible dive site in the centre of the Dampier Strait. Mike's Point pinnacle has a unique topography like no other dive site.
One side of this pinnacle is home to a wall that stretches into the depths and is lined with overhangs, small caverns, and large boulders where groups of groupers and sweet lips can be found. On the other side, the reef gently slopes into fields of colourful coral that are home to smaller schooling fish and macro marine life. This is a site that cannot be described in words but needs to be experienced when diving Raja Ampat.
4. Neu Reef
A relatively undived reef, Neu reef lies in a massive reef system with many different dive sites. The incredible diversity that can be found on this slope dive truly sets Neu Reef apart from other dive sites. When dived in stronger currents, the reef is home to thousands of schooling fish.
From fusiliers and snappers to barracudas that hover above the soft coral growth – Neu Reef has them all. On a slack tide, this reef is perfect for hunting countless macro creatures such as tiny pigmy seahorses and blue ring octopi. Divers can also enjoy the garden eels that are found in the sandy patches between the slopes of Neu Reef.
Do not let the name fool you! The dive itself is an easy pinnacle dive known for the masses of marine life that converge on this dive site. Mayhem is home to masses of reef sharks and the occasional manta ray. Mayhem is the perfect dive site to just relax and look at all the life around you.
6. Citrus Ridge
Tucked away in the Yangelo area, Citrus Ridge is found in the channel that runs through the islands of the region. The stronger currents that flow through this cut bring masses of fish that group together at this special dive site.
Between the citrus-coloured soft coral growth that gives the site its name, you will find pinnacles that host barracuda, wobbegong sharks and many reef sharks. As your dive comes to an end, you'll find yourself in the shallow clear waters of mangrove forests that line the coastline.
7. Cape Kri
Cape Kri might be one of the most famous dive sites in Raja Ampat. This slope dive is found by the island of Kri, where the reef stretches for hundreds of meters. The deep waters off the slope and the location of the island combine perfectly for large game fish sightings. The stronger currents that flow around this dive site attracts large numbers of tuna, giant trevally, and reef sharks. If you prefer pelagic life, this is the dive for you.
Diving Raja Ampat – The Top 6 Sightings.
On your visit to Raja Ampat keep an eye out for some of the most unique and rare marine life sightings in the world.
1. Manta Ray
Manta Rays can be seen in numerous diving destinations, but Raja Ampat is the only place in the world were the Oceanic and Reef Mantas can be seen interacting on the same reefs. These mantas can be found during the summer months on popular dive sites like Blue Magic and Manta Sandy.
2. Pygmy Seahorse
Raja Ampat is home to hundreds of macro marine creatures, including the rare Pygmy Seahorse. These tiny seahorses come in many colours and sizes with most not being much larger than the size of your pinkie nail. These seahorses will spend their entire lives on the same patch of coral but are still incredibly elusive.
3. Sea Turtles
Of the seven species of sea turtles, four can be found when diving Raja Ampat. Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Oilive Ridleys all call the region their home. These turtles can be found on many dive sites in the area and often more than one will be seen on the same dive. Some are also known to make nests on certain dive sites and have grown to very impressive sizes.
4. Epaulette Shark
The Epaulette Shark, also known as the walking shark, is part of the carpet shark family and is a truly unique sight to see. These small sharks are found on shallow reefs in the area, where they hide from predators whilst feeding on smaller fish and molluscs in the tidal pools.
Once the water level drops these sharks are found walking on land. These unique sharks can survive on land for a few hours at a time and make use of their long tails and pectoral fins to move around.
5. Blue-ringed octopus.
This tiny and highly toxic octopus is found in the shallow reefs of Raja Ampat. This octopus has distinct vivid blue rings that decorate their bodies – do not be fooled by their impressive looks! These tiny creatures are highly toxic, and their venom can kill 26 human adults in minutes. While this octopus is incredible to observe, keep your distance when you spot one.
While not a common sighting, Raja Ampat is home to a unique marine mammal. The dugong is found in the shallow seagrass areas at many of Raja Ampat's bays. The mammals are related to the more common and well-known manatees. The dugong has been given the nickname of mermaids by the local community. These incredibly shy animals can grow up to 2m long and weigh up to 300kg, but are gentle when encountered.
Hosting incredible marine diversity and dive sites that cater for all diver experience levels, diving Raja Ampat is a must for anyone who wants to be truly surrounded by the incredible underwater world.
About Meridian Adventure Dive.
Situated in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Meridian Adventure Dive is a PADI 5 Star Resort and winner of the PADI Green Star award. Scuba divers enjoy our professional services that have become synonymous with both the PADI and Meridian Adventure names.
The sweeping spine of Indonesia’s archipelago is an underwater treasure trove, and the Raja Ampat Islands are often overlooked. Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s most captivating diving grounds and is truly a paradise on earth.