Why You Should DEFINITELY Visit Raja Ampat

Why You Should DEFINITELY Visit Raja Ampat

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 12th Oct 2016

Raja Ampat: the namesake of the mythical ‘Four Kings.’ There is an ancient island legend which tells the tale of a couple’s quest for food, their foray leading them into the dense forest lands. They say that all life begins with water, and it is by the tropical Waikeo riverbanks that seven dragon eggs were found. The couple took the eggs, stored them in a noken, and headed home. As night fell and the two slept soundly, they suddenly awoke to the sound of whispers…and upon inspection, they found four men and one woman in the place of the dragon eggs. Dressed finely in regal attire, it was clear that the five entities before the couple, were the royal descendants…

Or, so the story goes. Mythology is commonplace in Asia, but the story of ‘the four kings’ is clearly something that resonated with the people of Indonesia. And it’s for this reason that, of Raja Ampat’s 1500 islands, the four largest are believed to represent the male entities hatched from the eggs; the other four eggs going on to become a woman, a ghost and a stone respectively, with their own islands too. It’s at this point that we must recognise that Raja Ampat is a mystical and unusual part of our world – which only adds to the allure of this stunning destination. But, mythology aside, what other reasons are there to visit ‘the four kings’ in all their glory…?

Raja Ampat is frequently voted one of the top diving destinations in the world

It’s been top of the charts on more than one occasion, but Raja Ampat never really falls shy of that highly-revered position on Scubatravel.com’s ‘best diving sites’ list. With its phenomenal range of biodiversity, crystal-clear waters, and beyond exotic marine-life, there are more than a handful of regions to visit Indonesia’s prime diving spot. In fact, Raja Ampat is considered one of the last diving frontiers on the planet, with only 35 of its 1500 islands being inhabited. This leaves much to be discovered, with many reefs in which to dive, and copious coves just waiting to be explored.

Diving in Raja Ampat

The marine-life here is second to none

It’s been said that Raja Ampat is host to an incredible 75% of all known coral species in the world. In addition to this, the underwater flora and fauna really is something to behold. Raja is home to sharks, manta ray, batfish, and a beautiful array of pygmy seahorses…to name but a few of the stunning species to be found out here! The ability to get up close and personal with such a wide spectrum of marine-life is a joy synonymous to Raja Ampat, so it’s time put this destination on your bucket list right away.

Pygmy Seahorse

Mostly untouched, Raja Ampat is still off of the beaten tourist track

While Indonesia itself is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination (following the trend of ‘affordable Asia,’ on a path already paved by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), Raja Ampat is a lush destination still ‘out-there’ enough to feel enticingly different and secluded. In light of this, it’s easily plausible to include Raja as part of a wider holiday to Asia – whether you’re more of a ‘flop and drop’ fan, lounging on the beaches of the Gili Islands; or an avid adventurer, keen to explore the jungles and waterfalls of Bali. But for those of you who’d prefer to spend your time in one spot, fear not: Raja Ampat is home to a whole host of activities, from kayaking and snorkelling, to diving and beach-bumming. Take your time as leisure here to enjoy a magnificent blend of traditional holidaying, and unique sense of blissful island isolation.

Raja Ampat sunset

The island’s stunning scenery is considered a ‘natural wonder of the world’

Due to its solitary location away from throngs of human population, Raja Ampat has retained relatively pristine coral reefs – and the lack of island transportation, too, aids preservation. Taking a walk up the 340 wooden stairs on one of the islands, will offer you unbeatable panoramic views of the surrounding areas: rolling, tropical hills capture the gaze, and the stunning translucent oceans twinkle from the world below. With views like these, there’s no wonder Raja Ampat is often considered one of the most picture-perfect destinations on the planet. That said, if you are someone who appreciates beauty in all corners of the earth, you’ll be glad to hear that Indonesia itself offers a multitude of other natural masterpieces to behold. Before heading to Raja Ampat, perhaps take time to detour to the famous Kelimutu National Park: here, you’ll discover the striking tri-coloured lakes within the summit of Kelimutu’s craters. The pride and joy of this area is Tiwu ata Mbupu (translating to ‘Lake of Old People’) – with a gorgeous, powdery turquoise to its waters, the lake gives a soothing emotion to the otherwise treacherous-looking Mt Kelimutu. Elsewhere, the ever-changing minerals in two additional lakes create a real sense of magic, colouring the volcanic craters with intense shades of indigo, brown, orange, red and black. As a country, Indonesia is a widely untouched area of the earth, with plentiful offerings of dramatic landscape free for your pleasure.

Raja Ampat panoramic

And finally: the people are both fascinating and charming

When visiting such a remote location (surrounded only by water), it should come as no surprise that there will be stark differences between what we know as westerners, versus life on Raja Ampat itself. The population of Raja Ampat is less that 50,000, with one island hosting just 170 natives (70 of which are children!) – this distinct lack of integration with the rest of the world is nothing short of fascinating, and there’s so much to learn from the locals that it might just make your head spin. That said, there is much the locals can learn from us, too: the main occupation of the people on the island is fishing, which clearly shows initiative and the islander’s great use of their otherwise limited surrounds. But what happens when these fair waters are being purged of their vitality? The methods of unsustainable fishing in Raja Ampat means that the locals are walking a tentative line between feeding themselves, and killing of vital members of their ecosystem (think sharks being caught and finned, leading to an imbalance of life in Raja’s waters.) Part of our Raja Ampat Diving Project involves discussions had with members of the local community, aiming to educate them on the many ways they can enhance their lives on the island – it’s here where entrepreneurial attitudes can be taught, and that better care can be given to the waters surrounding the island. Volunteering will offer a unique experience of getting to know the locals, and working towards vital changes to aid sustainability of this beautiful area.

Raja Ampat volunteer

Aside from our volunteer efforts on the island, the people of Raja Ampat are a warm and welcoming bunch. At any one time, expect to be invited to play volleyball with some of the local villagers, or to take part in arts and crafts with the young ones! Raja Ampat’s tiny population means that any outsiders coming to visit, are often received with curiosity and excitable intrigue. Relish the feeling of being removed from the world, as there aren’t many places left on earth for us to truly be at one with both nature and unchanged societal traditions!

Convinced yet? Why not take a closer look at our project page and found out more before visiting this awesome archipelago!

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