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We have found a real pearl.
Raja Ampat has always been our dream. But why?
Raja Ampat is one of the most beautiful areas in the world, both above and below the ocean's surface. Due to its location in the middle of the coral triangle, it is the most biodiverse coral ecosystem in the world. An incredible number of different species of corals, fish and other marine animals attract more visitors every year. Raja Ampat is considered to be the most spectacular diving area in the world.
Raja Ampat is located on the northwestern tip of the Indonesian part of the island of Papua. Papua is located north of Australia and east of the Indonesian islands. Raja Ampat is an archipelago consisting of hundreds of small and four large islands. These four large islands are what Raja Ampat is named after, meaning "four kings".
For all of you who are considering a trip to Raja Ampat, we answer the question "How do you get to Raja Ampat?".
Your destination airport is Sorong for your journey to Raja Ampat. Direct flights to Sorong depart regularly from Jakarta or from Makassar in Sulawesi. We decided to travel from Jakarta with Garuda Indonesia and were very satisfied with it.
Alternatively, there is allegedly a direct flight with Wings Air from Manado to Waisai, which saves you the ferry from Sorong to Waisai. However, we did not find such a direct flight.
For all other flights you take the ferry from Sorong to Waisai. The journey takes a good two hours and runs daily from Sorong at 9 am and 2 pm. From Waisai, everyone goes their own way. All of the liveaboards also start here.
Our final destination was Cove Eco Resort - a Raja Ampat diving resort, where we stayed for a week. Our package also included transfer, so we didn't have to worry about anything from Sorong Airport. Lovely Maria received us at the airport exit. From here, we entrusted our luggage to the driver and just relaxed. Since we had a night flight from Jakarta to Sorong and arrived early in the morning, Maria first took us to a nice hotel, where we got a delicious breakfast. Here, we could spend time in a pleasant atmosphere until we left for the ferry. Then the driver took us to the port. Maria bought tickets for the air-conditioned VIP cabin of the ferry, had our luggage delivered to our seats and accompanied us to our seats. Then she said goodbye to us and asked us to stay in our seats after arriving in Waisai until a staff member of Cove Eco Resort picks us up.
Arrived in Waisai, they took care of our luggage and accompanied us to the speedboat of Cove Eco Resort. From here, we dashed in 90 minutes to Yeben Island, a small island in the middle of the Raja Ampat archipelago and our home for the next 7 days.
During some months, there is even possibility of a direct transfer from Sorong to Yeben.
When you arrive, you should have a flight that arrives in Sorong at 8 am latest, to catch the ferry at 9 am Otherwise you have to stay one night in Sorong. Swissbel hotel is fine.
On your departure day, you should choose a flight after 1:30 pm so that you can get to Sorong in time.
The arrival and departure days at the Cove Eco Resort are Saturday and Monday. Transfers on other days are possible, but not included, so that a surcharge has to be paid.
When arriving in Raja Ampat, each visitor must pay a marine fee of one million rupees. Alternatively, you can pay 75 euros or dollars. Paying in rupees is the cheapest option. For guests of Cove Eco Resort - a Raja Ampat diving resort, the staff pays the tax and adds it to your room bill at the end. Very pleasant, because you don't have to queue at the little booth in the heat of Waisai harbor. With payment of the Marina Fee, you will receive an entry pass that is valid for one year.
The location of Cove Eco Resort is really awesome. In fifteen to twenty minutes, the diving boat reaches the best diving spots of Raja Ampat as well as Piaynemo, the famous green hills that rise from the turquoise blue water.
Information on visas and how to get to Indonesia can be found in our Indonesia travel tips..
Raja Ampat is almost a year-round destination. Only the months of July to September are less suitable for diving trips to Raja Ampat. The sun is shining, but there is constant strong wind, that often prevents boating to the diving spots due to high waves. So the reefs of Yeben will be go to spots in these months. Mantas are also rather difficult to find in these months.
In the months of October to April, underwater visibility becomes somewhat poorer due to the increased occurrence of plankton, but every diver knows what plankton means. The big filter feeders arrive and so many mantas and other large sea animals are found in the waters of Raja Ampat during these months.
In the months of December and January statistically a little more rain falls than usual. We were there in mid-December and could not complain. In seven days we had rain once in the morning and twice at night. This did not affect our diving trips. The sea was always smooth.
Visibility is best between April and June. The weather comes from the south and brings large marine life with it.
The water temperature is between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius all year round.
The Cove Eco Resort [ad] tries to keep the negative impact on environment and local communities as low as possible and to set a good example. Soft and sustainable tourism shows the local population that this form of income is more profitable than the exploitation of sea and land resources.
The booking of the Cove Eco Resort is done by email via Matthieu, one of the owners of Cove Eco Resort. Matthieu gave us extremely competent and friendly advice. He was always available for us. We felt in good hands.
As described above, the Cove Eco Resort is located on the island of Yeben and therefore at least three hours by boat from Sorong.
Yeben is a very narrow but long island, west of Waigeo, the main island of Raja Ampat. The island is about 2 kilometers long and between 100 and 400 meters wide.
Cove Eco Resort is the only resort on the island. It is located on the north side of the island and therefore on the sunny side protected from wind.
In the morning, watch the sunrise from the jetty. In the evening, walk along the small island path until you come to the south side, where you can watch the sunset on a beautiful beach.
The beach of Cove Eco Resort is also white and fine sandy.
Cove Eco Resort currently has six beach bungalows lined up next to each other on the white beach. There are currently two more exclusive and larger bungalows under construction. There will also be air conditioning in the two new bungalows. Each of the existing bungalows has its own terrace with a beanbag, a sleeping bag, a hammock and two private loungers on the beach.
In the bungalow, you will find a comfortable king-size bed, a small desk and a closet with a safe. For a nice and calm sleep, there is a mosquito net and a fan. The bathroom has a toilet, sink and shower. Warm water and electricity are available day and night.
Laundry service is included, which we thankfully used.
There will also be air conditioning in the two new bungalows.
In addition to shower products, you will also find a lotion that protects against mosquitoes and sand flies.
There are two jetties. The boats park at one, that is intended for employees to load and work on the boats. The guests get on and off via the other jetty. Here, you also meet for snorkeling and shark watching. The Jetty is also the place with the least poor cell phone reception on the island.
Upon arrival, each guest receives a drinking bottle that can be refilled at any time. This reduces plastic consumption on the island.
One of the highlights and a guarantee of good mood for all guests is the excellent food in Cove Eco Resort.
Every booking at the Cove Eco Resort is connected to full board. So, you get breakfast, snack while diving or snorkeling, lunch, coffee & cake in the afternoon and dinner.
The restaurant team will coordinate the menu for the three main meals with you the evening before. Should something not appeal to you, you can always negotiate an alternative.
For breakfast, there were various egg dishes, typical Indonesian dishes, American breakfast, pancakes, French toast or muesli. The dishes changed every day and did not repeat during our seven days. There is always juice and bread rolls with jam, peanut butter and chocolate cream.
Between the two dives or snorkeling in the morning, the dive boat always takes you to a great lonely beach or a coral-covered jetty for your surface break. There is also tea, coffee and a small snack in form of cakes, cookies or other pastries.
After returning from diving or snorkeling, the kitchen team is already waiting for you with lunch. But there is always time for a warm shower.
We had delicious curry, fried fish, fried squid or fried rice to name just a few of the delicious dishes. Before, a soup was served every day. As a dessert, we had always fruits or a delicious candy.
In the afternoon at four, Yani and Erlan were always serving us a delicious snack with coffee or tea. The muffins, apple pastries or cakes were delicious and - as we heard - homemade.
Dinner is served shortly after seven o'clock - immediately after the quick briefing for the next day.
Here, too, there is always a soup first, then a main course - mostly chicken, beef or seafood. Afterwards, the chef spoils his guests with a delicious dessert.
The food was awesome without exception. We have never had two identical dishes and if something does not suit you, you can easily reorder it.
Yani and Erlan do everything to cater their guests' wish. You get coffee, water and tea all day long, as much as you want.
Soft drinks, beer and wine can be ordered all day long and cost extra. Soft drinks cost 3 Euro, a small beer 5 Euro (0.33 l) and a large beer (0.5 l) 7 Euro. Not cheap, but if you take the long journey into account, it is probably justified.
When you come to Raja Ampat, you probably want to dive or at least snorkel and you should.
First of all - we think the hype is absolutely justified. It is the best diving, we have ever had.
At other spots in the world, you can see a large school of fish or a shark or a manta. In Raja Ampat you can see them all at the same time.
Critter fans will also get their money's worth here. So take the macro lens with you. You will see nudibranch, seahorses or tiny colorful crabs on every dive. We also spotted the freaky Wobbegong and the Walking Shark.
Depending on the dive site and external conditions, the current varies between absent and super strong.
Snorkelers also will have great fun, since most of the reefs start at two or three meters.
It always starts at eight in the morning. There are two dives in the morning. If you want to, you can add one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
With almost 40 world-class dive sites less than 30 minutes away, you can dive somewhere else every day. We were always able to express our wishes when setting the program for the next day and so we were able to dive our favorite spots several times.
We both were lucky enough to always have a guide to ourselves. A maximum of four people are diving per guide. The snorkeling group also has its own guide.
Mostly our boat was the only one at the diving spots. From time to time, we saw one of the liveaboards. In 15 to 30 minutes we have reached all spots in the area.
Safety is very important to Cove Eco Resort. The boats have oxygen and the usual safety equipment on board. The rental equipment is new and makes a very good impression.
Nitrox will also be available in the next few months.
If you don't want to or can't dive or snorkel, then simply rent a kayak or a stand up board.
Otherwise, the jetty is always a good place to watch the sharks hunting or the dolphins jumping outside on the sea.
Every Wednesday, there is a trip to Piaynemo and the Star Lagoon. It is definitely worth it.
The view of the small rocky islands in the turquoise blue water is really unique and the landmark of Raja Ampat.
Before you climb the stairs to the viewing platform, you dive twice in the area. There is a third dive after Piaynemo. The same for snorkelers, of course. In between, you get lunch on a jetty. The excursion is totally worth it and is included in all bookings.
Of course you can also book other excursions such as Wayag - the big brother of Piaynemo, trips to Kri, Hidden Bay, the Passage or Arborek. The price depends on the distance and number of participants. Most excursions can be linked to diving and snorkeling.
You see, you won't get bored here.
We bought a Telkomsel SIM card with data volume in Jakarta. 320,000 rupees (about 18 euros) for 15 gigabytes. There are allegedly no Telkomsel card sellers at Sorong and Waigeo airports. You can also buy Telkomsel in Bali. The other providers probably don't work in Raja Ampat. The reception was good in Sorong and Waigeo. The reception was not so good on Yeben. WhatsApp and e-mail will work, but surfing the internet or Instagram and Facebook hardly works. WiFi is similarly weak in Cove Eco Resort, but it doesn't matter because there is enough to do and see. Raja Ampat will enchant you.
It is best to withdraw money before you reach Sorong, because there is no guarantee that you will receive money in Sorong Airport.
In Cove Eco Resort, you can pay in cash (Euro / Rupees) or by credit card. Paying by credit card costs 4% fees. However, cash never hurts, because a little tip is certainly appropriate.
Payment for your booking will be made long before arrival. You can deposit the amount in euros into a European account and avoid fees.
Raja Ampat was the highlight of our diving career and is probably very difficult to top. Despite the long journey, we have never looked back. The crew from the Cove Eco Resort treated us incredibly hospitable. We will remember all of the employees. We enjoyed it incredibly and will be back soon.