A vast horizon of scattered emerald isles dramatically rising from the fresh azure sea. This is the first image that comes to mind when the unspoilt tropical paradise of Raja Ampat is mentioned. What lies under the surface of those mysterious waters is a divers paradise, the worlds highest marine biodiversity in a healthy ecosystem protected by a system of marine parks.
Raja Ampat is a big place. So here is a guide to the top 5 dive sites across the vast archipelago that is Raja Ampat. If you have between 12 to 14 days to spend in Raja Ampat, then you can join a charter that will cover all of the best areas from Misool in the south to Wayag in the north, and selected sites in between. Shorter trips of between 8 to 9 days will allow you to focus on the central Raja Ampat area and either the north or the south, depending on which itinerary you choose.
Below is a list of the top 5 dive sites in Raja Ampat, these are spread between the south, north and central regions of Raja Ampat. The top picks are:
- Magic Mountain – Perfect combination of large and macro marine life
- Kaleidoscope Ridge – High current and large schools of fish
- Cape Kri – Highest fish diversity in Raja Ampat
- Blue Magic – Mild currents and a great mix of small and large species
- Changgo – Epic underwater landscapes
South Raja Ampat (Misool Region) - Magic Mountain and Kaleidoscope Ridge
Time and time again this site leaves divers with 500+ dives under their belts surfacing to say “that is the best dive I have ever done”. A beautiful submerged ridge that starts at just 6m from the surface. The site resembles an underwater plateau mountain that progressively steps down half a dozen times.
Dropping in from the dive boat, the first sight is an impressive hard coral garden on the shallowest flat top of the ridge. Many times we have dropped into this site to see a Giant Black Pacific Manta Ray within minutes of being in the water.
As the dive progresses, we drop a level and start making our way down to 25m along the ridge edge. Here you can find a microcosm of the weird and wonderful macro critters clinging to the ridge walls. Swimming towards the deep end of the ridge, we start to head to the area where the current picks up a little. With the current comes the schools of Pelagic’s and other large fish. The Barracuda and abundant Napoleon Wrasse are a highlight here amongst many other fish species.
Hitting the end of the ridge the final flat-topped step is around 20m, this is where you start to raise your profile progressively up the steps and experience the diversity of critters to be found while ascending back to the 6m coral garden.
If you want the perfect combination of the small guys and big guys, then this is the dive for you. This site can get quite busy in peak season, so liveaboard captains and the nearby Misool Eco-resort coordinate dive group drop-in times via radio, to ensure you are swimming in schools of fish and not schools of divers.
Location: Southeast of Warakaraket island, Misool region
Depths: 6m to 40m+ – best depth 25m
Marine life: Good mix of Pelagic’s, Manta’s and macro life
If you love high currents underwater, and dramatic landscapes above water, then you will love this site. An undercut karst limestone island rises from the sea and what lies beneath the surface here is a submerged ridge that extends from the end of the island. This ridge makes for a great dive site with substantial colourful fan corals and a Coral Trout cleaning station.
You drop into the water on the protected end of the island, back from where the landmass ends. Depending on which way the current is running, you will either start with a leisurely search for some of the exciting flatworms and sea spiders or take a mild drift towards the end of the ridges. As you change direction to head back to the island and slightly assent to 18m the real action starts.
Strong currents sweep over the top of the ridge. Here we set in a reef hook and sit back in the current, enjoying the show that passes us by. Large schools of fish thrive in his current, often seeing massive congregations of brightly coloured yellow Banded Sweetlips.
Location: West end of Pelee Island, Misool region
Depths: 5m to 34m – best depth 18m ridge top
Marine life: Main attraction abundant schooling fish in currents, some macro in calmer waters also.
You can visit the south area of Raja Ampat on the “Raja South” or “Ultimate Raja” dive itineraries. La Galigo Liveaboard will take you to these beautiful dive sites from October through to April every year. To check availability, please visit our website at www.lagaligoliveaboard.com.