Diving Raja Ampat North
While diving Raja Ampat North YOU WILL be amazed by the graceful oceanic Manta rays GLIDING effortlessly through the warm clear water, above – the lush green islands rise from the sea like giant mushrooms. Children smile and dance as the sun sets over tranquil villages, the perfect segway into a balmy night dive under the islands jetty, with an astonishing abundance of nocturnal marine life. These are the hall mark’s of diving Raja Ampat north.
The north is as much an amazing cultural experience, as it is a diving phenomenon. Take a trip to the outpost of Wayag ranger station. Here you will meet the local men who patrol the area down to Kawe. They make their home in the jungle behind a picture perfect white sand beach. Here you can sit and watch swarms of Black Tip Reef Sharks circle your feet. On the other side of Wayag, Mt Pindito stands watch over the manta nursery lagoon below.
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Diving Raja Ampat North
Mayhem gets its name from the insane swarms of fusiliers, trevally, barracuda, surgeonfish and batfish that bestow this fully submerged reef. From the surface you would not even know this site exists of the north western tip of Yanggefo Island. We use a GPS to find the top of this reef, sitting 7m below the surface out in the blue.
Once we drop down its a circular flat topped reef, with sloping walls on all sides covered in hard and soft corals. The best parts of the reef are on the north and east sides, so we spend most of our time there. Occasional pelagic sharks wander into this site, so keep one eye on the blue and one eye on the amazing corals and critters of the reef. Maximum depth for this site is 26m and currents are moderate.
The jetty out the front of Arborek island is an epic dive site. During the day you can capture some amazing photos of schools of fish circling the jetty pylons, at night capture the mass of lion fish and woebegong sharks around the slopes. The dive site is a sloping wall of hard coral reef down to a sandy sea floor at 28m with many large bommies.
Be sure to check out the massive bommie right in front of the jetty. If you catch this bommie on a full moon when the corals are releasing their spores, it looks like a giant smoke stacker illuminated by your dive torch. As well as all the schools of jacks, spotted rays, potato groupers and sweet lips, you will find many smaller species such as bobtail squid, flamboyant cuttlefish and saron shrimp. Currents here are generally mild, making it a great night and day dive.
Wayag Ranger Station
The ranger station is both a great dive site (Bommie Bowl) as well as a cool place to chill above the water. Located on a fine white sandy beach with fringing palm trees, the rangers that live here really have it made. These guys are the locals that patrol the marine protected zone to ensure the conservation of the sea life, from illegal fishing and other environmentally damaging activities.
There is a jetty that juts out from the front of the beach. We will take you down here to the knee deep shallows, to see the masses of black tip reef sharks that call this jetty home. All you need is a mask and snorkel for this one, as you watch wave after wave of black tips come into the shore. Watch out for the baby black tips here too, great to see the conservation efforts are helping the animals breed.
Once you’ve had enough of the snorkelling shark experience, we gear up back into a BCD and reg to hit the local dive site. Bommie Bowl is a gentle sloping wall, quite shallow at a max of 22m, that starts north of the Ranger station. We make our way south keeping the reef on the right hand side. The reef is covered with a lot of soft coral as well as plenty of hard horn coral.
This makes this site great for a night dive as well as a day dive, plenty of crustaceans hide amongst the horn corals. Also check out the massive giant clams as you cruise along up at 13m, some are as big as a bath tub. Currents here are usually non existent, and if there is a current its very mild.
We drop into Citrus Ridge on the north east corner of Yanggefo island. The site is dived from west to east keeping the reef on the right hand side. As soon as you are in the water you will see that this reef is absolutely exploding with colour. Bright purple and orange soft corals dominate this site along its gentle slopes.
This dive is actually taken along the reef rich ridges of the north side of Yanggefo island, across a sandy channel, and then back onto the reef on the north side of Gam island. Be prepared for some pretty hectic current when crossing the channel. Don’t be fooled by the schools of barracuda that seem to hover in the current effortlessly, waiting for prey to dart down to.
When it comes to the animals on this site you can expect reef fish, schooling pelagics, wobbegong sharks, turtles, macro life… really this is an explosion of life in every sense. The maximum depth we go on this dive is 26m and the currents are moderate to strong.
This unique dive runs down the narrow saltwater channel between Waigeo and Gam Islands. The narrow channel winds for 1.3 kilometres through pristine rainforest with reef habitat under the water. We start the dive by swimming through a hole into an open top cave. The roof has collapsed many millennia ago, leaving a secret room with jungle growing down from the roof, and sunlight trickling in.
From here we set back down and swim through another short tunnel that leads west, after about 10m this opens up to a fresh air cavity in the tunnel, where you can make your way down to the main chamber. The main chamber has a high roof fully enclosed at around 15m above your head, complete with many flying bats in the reflection of the waters rays on the walls. From here we exit the main cavern through a small underwater opening on the north side to enter the open air channel of the passage.
A word of caution, currents can be very strong own the channel, and the dive consists of high octane rides along the current, broken up by intermittent stops in the sheltered bays to the south of the channel. The channel itself is littered with giant bommies, harbouring all sorts of marine life including some decent sized schools of jacks. Maximum depth in the channel is 23m. We end the dive in one of the shelters bays that we stop along the way in our travels through the passage.
Here you can find soft corals and sea fans growing amongst the mangrove roots, which makes for some really cool photos. There is a sandy bottom here with some cool partner shrimp and Goby’s going about their daily housecleaning chores. One of the most spectacular things about this dive site, is the way it ends with an amazing view, prepare for a smile ear to ear, as you pop your head up under over hanging trees in the rainforest. As saltwater crocodiles can be found in the mangroves, we only visit this site intermittently depending on the reports and movements of crocodiles.
Cape Kri – OMG. this site has the highest recorded fish count out of any reef in Raja Ampat. Schooling trevally, surgeons, fusiliers, emperors, and snappers absolutely surround you on this site. This is one of those dives that captivates you from the very beginning and leaves you astonished by the end. The sea floor drops off below 35m at this one, so we stick to a maximum depth of 25m, so you can conserve your air and see the best parts of the reef.
Currents can be very strong at Capr Kri, especially at the end of the dive, so a reef hook is required. The dive site runs along the southern side of Mansaur Island, along a wall that slopes off the island, then a submerged ridge that joins onto Kri island to the east of Mansaur. We start the dive at the western point, keeping the reef on our left and move towards Kri. The majority of the dive is a steep sloping wall, covered with an abundance of soft and hard corals.
We drift along the slope with the currents, watching the schools of fish drift along with us. Towards the end of the dive the wall lowers to a submerged ridge. Here the current picks up rapidly and sweeps over the submerged reef, in a northern direction. We will hook into the reef here to enjoy the magnificent show that unfolds in front of us. Booming masses of pelagic’s stalk their prey in these currents below you, roaming the reefs for unsuspecting prey, watch these masters of their domain.
We move our reef hooks up to a higher level on this ridge to do our 5 meter safety stop, so you can enjoy the show a little longer, before firing up a SMB and being picked up by our ever watching dive tenders.
Mioskon island is located in the Dampier Strait, just south of the entrance to the area known as Kabul Bay. This site is normally pretty mild for current, and dips down to 25m. The site is basically a long ridge that runs towards the south east end of the island. Check out this site for plenty of the tasseled woebegong sharks, and lined snappers. Mioskon is as well known with the La Galigo family, as our end of trip beach barbecue spot, as it is for the dive site here. (Barbecue, a word coincidentally enough, added to the english dictionary by William Dampier – TRUE FACT). We rock up to this island at the end of every trip to farewell your new friends and the beautiful islands of Raja Ampat in true La Galigo style. The boys on the boat that have become like great friends over the past week or so on the boat, will head to the island and start prepping for the farewell party ahead of you.
Think hammocks slung between trees, queen sized bean bags on the beach, bamboo flares, candles buried in the sand, a bonfire on the beach and the amazing crew strumming the guitar and keeping the beat on the drum, while you knock back a few cold ones, and chow down on some delicious BBQ watching your last sunset over the Dampier Strait.
Trade stories and facebook deets with your new friends, as thousands of bats erupt from the tree tops over head on the island, for their daily flight to the fruit trees of far away places. A nice reminder that even though your trip is at an end, this stunning sunset just leads to another day of amazement in Raja Ampat, which will be here when you come back for your next trip.
Black rock is marked by a small cluster of bare rocks protruding out of the ocean with waves crashing down on them. Drop under water and a whole world of large marine life opens up before you. The site has many layers of walls and drop offs as you circus navigate the rocks from below.
There are some impressive hard corals on this site including a great patch of horn coral and plate coral. Large Napoleon Wrasse, Bump Head Parrot fish and Bat Fish dominate this site. Currents are strong on one side here and quite moderate on the other so as always follow your dive guides direction. There is a deep spot near an impressive pinnacle on the north side where a resident tasseled wobbygong shark usually hangs out. Also keep one eye on the reef and one eye on the blue for passing Manta’s, the Kawe area is full of them.
Eagle rock is actually 2 dive sites right next to each other. Above water this site is marked by 3 small islands clustered together. Often the excitement starts before we even get in the water here, on many occasions we have seen groups of mantas playing at the surface from the tender. Once we drop in, there is a plateau of small pebbly rocks that we start to cross , which is actually a channel between two of the islands.
On the way we pass by some big bommies that are manta cleaning stations, with the graceful giants swooping in from every direction overhead. The appearance of the mantas is pending on the currents, which we will try to coordinate with the tides of the day. The currents can be very strong through here, so be prepared for a bit of a push to get onto the more sheltered part of the dive site closer to the island wall. When you make it here you will find a sloping wall that extends east and rounds a corner to the north.
There is a great variety of all sorts of hard and soft coral here, with a bunch of bump head parrot fish chowing down on the reef. There is a deep spot on the north east corner of the site that dips down to 29m, but most of the site is around the 23m mark.
This is a cool new little wreck dive at Saonek island down at between 20 and 30 meters. The story behind it is it was an illegal Vietnamese fishing vessel caught in Indonesian waters. The hard line Indonesian boarder patrol through the crew in Jail, and sunk the ship for divers to enjoy. Another great example of Indonesia enforcing environmental conservation laws. This is a very new site, but give it a few years and it should be colonized by some great species.
Batu Lima in Bahassa Indonesian translates to Five Rocks. This site up near the entrance to Kabul Bay is a tightly compacted formation of 5 rocks, separated from the main land of Waiego by a sandy channel. The east and of the site is best to drop in on, navigating the site starting with heading towards the south with the reef on the right hand side.
This spot can get some high currents, so stick close to the sites sloping sides. The western side of the site has a cool mini wall up at around 8m, this is usually a hot spot for some black tip reef sharks. Maximum depth of this site is 23m, and its best for soft corals.
Blue magic is another of the signature Raja Ampat dive sites. This dive site always holds a special place in our hearts for us here at La Galigo, as this was the first dive site in Raja Ampat that we dived together as a company back in 2015. Another one of our fond memories from this site, is seeing one of our guests from 2016 with tears of joy in her eyes, as she saw a giant 6m oceanic manta here after many years of searching.
Above water you would have no idea what lies beneath, this spot is not marked by any rocks or island breaking the surface. Delve below, and you find a fantastic reef bustling with activity. The top of the reef is down at 10m, the flat top of the reef is strewn with bommies that make a reliable manta cleaning station. The site can get quite currenty at times, certain slopes of the reef provide more protection from the current than others.
On the sides of the reef with the higher current, expect to find massive schools of trevally, barracuda, snapper, surgeonfish, fusiliers, tuna, and Spanish mackerel. Maximum depth at this stunner site is 25m.
Mikes point is a cool little spot towards the eastern end of the Dampier Strait. Above water it is a very small island covered in a few trees. During WWII, the US airforce mistook this place for a Japanese navy vessel with camouflaged netting over the top, and bombed a section in the north east. The bombing resulted in several large chunks breaking off the island, which now form a part of the dive site.
Over the past 70 odd years, coral species have reestablished themselves on this area to form a unique feature of this dive site. Strong currents can be experienced at this site, so we will dive the area dependent off current direction and strength to a maximum depth of 27m. Current permitting, the best side to dive this one is starting at the northeast corner, where the bommies are, and sweeping around the island south, keeping the reef on the right. On this path, the dive will take us past the bommies, towards a set of layered steps leading to a sandy bottom. Look amongst this area for species such as juvenile Bat Fish.
As we keep making or way south, the area opens up to a steep sided wall of the submerged portion of the island, with a very impressive overhang. Take a look inside the overhang for all sorts of weird and wonderful nudibranchs. The reef on top of the overhang is also quite porous, and looks quite cool when the bubbles from the divers below seep through the reef. from here we head to the shallower parts of the site in the south end of the island. There is some really nice soft coral at the 8m mark here, very vibrant with colour.
No points for guessing what we see at this site. A nice calm sandy bottom at this site, gives you the perfect place to kneel down and be amazed at the dancing Mantas display. The site consists of a handful of bommies on a sandy bottom, these bommies are a manta cleaning station. Divers have created a small line in the sand from rocks, back at a safe distance from the cleaning station, so as to not disturb the mantas natural behaviors. We take a knee behind this line and sit back to enjoy the show.
Keep an eye in out, as mantas have a tendency to swoop in from all directions to come to this cleaning station. It’s very surprising how such a giant animal can sneak up on you and appear out of no where over head.
La Galigo liveaboard abides to the manta code of conduct:
- Cleaning Stations. Never approach a cleaning station, keep a good distance even if mantas are not around, as they can quickly appear out of nowhere. Be mindful of the cleaning stations location during assent and decent
- Be mindful of flash photography, never aim the flash of the camera directly at the manta’s eyes
- Keep your distance. Stay at least 3m away from the mantas. If a manta comes within 3m of you, stay calm and control your buoyancy as not to distress the animal with any sudden movements.
- Approach slowly. Don’t block the path, chase or harass the mantas.
- Don’t touch the mantas. This will disturb the manta and lead to a shorter interaction.
While waiting for the mantas to appear, there is some interesting macro life in the sandy sea floor, look out for the quirky pegasus sea moths around the place. This dive is in 15-18m of water and currents are generally pretty mild.
We start white arrow on a sheer cliff south of the Cendana Pearl Farm. As you drop in you will discover this site is a steeply sloping wall running east west. Current will dictate which direction we dive this site in. The majority of the dive is spent searching for small critters amongst the sea whips and soft corals that cover the wall, especially in the shallower regions.
Fire urchins are a unique feature of this dive site. Again this is an impressive site for a night dive, but just as good during the day also. Maximum depth here is 25m and current is mild.
Fuel Dock and Pearl Farm Jetty
The dock and Jetty are located within about 150m of each other here. Both are fantastic dive sites. The sandy bottom and sporadic bommies here hide a myriad of creatures from Bob tail squid, to Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Decorator Crabs, Candy Crabs, Blue Ring Octopus, Egg Carrying Fogfish… the list go’s on.
Don’t forget your camera for this one, macro photographers will be in their element. Also look amongst the bommies for woebegong sharks, there is quite a few that live around here. We will dive these sites as a night dive and hit a maximum of 18m. Being in a protected the bay the currents in this area are nice and gentle to non existent.
Two Hump Rock
How we dive this site is generally dependent on the current as they can be really strong here. If the current is right, we start on the south west of the first rock. We dive keeping the rock on our right hand side in a north direction. This drop in point is a steep slope covered in some nice soft coral and schools of snapper and jacks.
As we progress north, we come to a ridge that makes the submerged bridge between the two rocks. Current really picks up here as the water channels between the two rocks. We briefly hook on with a reef hook here to give you a bit of a rest and enjoy watching how the marine life dances and lives amongst the current.
Unhooking, we continue to curve around the northern tip f the second rock. Here the site turns into an impressive wall, looking upwards it seems to never end. The wall is covered in all sorts of impressive macro life, making it great to sieve through looking for critters. Maximum depth we hit on this dive is around 25m, and we finish up half way down the eastern side of the second rock.
Changgo is the second of our ‘owners favourites’ dive sites. This is a high current and high octane dive that is a lot of fun. A small exposed island on the east of Kawe, it gets exposed to some surge and current from the open channel to the north. If the tide is right and the conditions are good, we can dive this one. Were start on the south side and drop in close to the rock.
Heading straight down we navigate a series of huge cracks and crevices full of sweet lips and trevally. Keeping the reef on the left we round a wall with some pretty intense current to find the calming shelter of a huge cavern in the rock. All the big hitting fish can be found in here like the Barracuda and Jacks. The relief from the current doesn’t last too long as we push on and cop a current tunnel blowing through a giant swim through.
The swim through has some beautifully coloured fan corals too. Passing this epic landscape, back into a calm spot, is a huge overhang and coral encrusted wall that seems to go on forever when you look up. Dive this one and you’ll see why it made it to the owners favourite list. Maximum depth we take here is 25m.