This year’s unprecedented global pandemic has had a devastating effect on communities around the world, with the global travel industry being one of the hardest hit. Here at Papua Diving, the closure of Indonesia to international tourists has led to a drastic reduction in divers visiting our resorts and reefs.
However, despite these challenging times, there is still a silver lining to be found. Left undisturbed, biodiversity in Raja Ampat’s waters and the surrounding jungles is thriving. The first visitors back to our fantastic islands will be amazed at the wealth of wildlife on offer, so to whet your appetite our partners at Bluewater Dive Travel have picked out the best nature experiences in Raja Ampat, both above and below the waterline.
Without question, Raja Ampat is best known for its overwhelmingly rich marine diversity. Papua Diving’s very own house reef, Cape Kri, holds the world record for the most number of fish species identified in a single dive. Numerous studies throughout the archipelago have found that biodiversity in the region has increased over the last 20 years, a testament to conservation efforts from the likes of the RARCC Foundation and Papua Diving’s Kayak 4 Conservation initiative. Divers exploring Raja’s tropical waters can spot rare species such as the wobbegong shark, the endemic Raja Ampat epaulette shark, pygmy seahorses, and the deadly blue-ringed octopus, as well as countless colorful nudibranchs and all manner of reef and pelagic species.
Whether you’re exploring above or below the waterline, Raja is home to some weird and wonderful creatures, some not found anywhere else. Top-side biodiversity is protected in four Island Nature Reserves, and with 27 mammal species including bandicoots, opossums, bats, and tree kangaroos, visitors are in for a treat. One of the region’s most popular inhabitants is the super-cute cuscus. These furry nocturnal marsupials can be spotted in the jungle canopy at dusk, and despite their shy nature may try and steal a banana from your dinner table! Another unusual creature is the endangered coconut crab. Believe it or not, this huge, land-dwelling crustacean climbs trees to escape predation, although they are normally found scavenging for nuts and fruit at ground level.
For non-divers, or those looking for an air day, snorkeling in Raja Ampat is almost Sas spectacular as the diving. Just off-shore, the shallow water and excellent visibility of Papua Diving’s house reef provide a window into the underwater world. Rays, reef sharks, turtles, and schools of parrotfish and batfish can easily be observed from the surface, and for braver guests, a night snorkel reveals further fascinating reef inhabitants. Of course, a trip to Kri wouldn’t be complete with an encounter with manta rays. Snorkeling with these huge, graceful filter feeders is an awesome experience, and some of the best sites are only a boat ride away from the resort. Mantas are best spotted feeding in Raja’s nutrient-rich waters from November through to April.
Endemic tropical birds
Over 170 bird species inhabit Raja’s lush jungle canopies, including several endemic varieties. Of the most vibrant birds, lorikeets, eclectus parrots, paradise kingfishers, and the stunning endemic red bird of paradise can be spotted flitting through the canopy. The lively dawn chorus on Kri is impossible to ignore and allows the more elusive birds to shine. Listen out for the rufous-bellied kookaburra, hooded butcherbird, or the willie wagtail, all making their presence known against the beautiful sunrise. To provide guests with some great birdwatching opportunities, Papua Diving arranges a weekly sunset cruise and hike to a prime birding location.
Maybe you think you’ve seen it all underwater, but have you experienced fluo-diving? Using special lights and mask filters, divers can explore the magical, hidden world of the reef at night. Corals and many other marine species emit fluorescent colors that can only be appreciated with special equipment. Creatures that normally appear dull or bland in color will glow in the dark, taking on a whole new dimension on a fluo night-dive. With Raja’s amazing marine diversity, Kri’s reefs are one of the best places in the world to try fluo-diving; night dives will never be the same again!