Indonesia_Raja Ampat

 

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

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IN BRIEF :

Raja Ampat is a group of ~1500 Islands at the Eastern end of Indonesia in the region of West Papua. It has long been famous with divers for its amazing diversity of corals and fishlife. It is said to be the best place in the world for diving.

Until recently, the only option for visiting the area was on a week-long 3000USD liveaboard dive-boat; or by staying in one of a few expensive dive resorts on-land. However, in recent years, the locals working in those luxury resorts have noticed the untapped mid-range market and have started-up their own “homestay” resorts at more affordable prices. Not that these are cheap, mind. Prices are still about three-times what you would pay elsewhere in South East Asia. This modest “homestay” accommodation starts around 400 000IDR, full board.

Boat transport is expensive. There are (almost) no public ferries and the islands are far from each other. The gas/petrol prices are double those of neighbouring parts of Indonesia (apparently due to a corrupt official exploiting his stranglehold on all fuel ‘imports’ into the region). This gas price is more than reflected in the price of your ‘taxi’ boat transfers between islands (reckon on 700 000 IDR for a 10km boat trip).

There is a 1 000 000 IDR per-person ‘conservation’ fee for entry into Raja Ampat.

The snorkelling and diving is excellent, though. Fish numbers & species-diversity is better than anywhere else I have seen. This is the “aquarium” you keep reading about.

There are extensive coral reefs in many places. Coral condition is not pristine everywhere (about a third of hard-corals are dead), but if you know where to look, you can find plenty of huge, pristine reefs.

For big stuff – there is a good chance to see black-tip sharks and turtles cruising by. Mantas are seasonal and apparently come to specific spots that you can only reach on boat trips. I was disappointed not to see any.

Underwater currents can be moderate to strong. If you are just pootling about on your house-reef, you should be fine, but if you are swimming out to explore remote areas, the currents are enough to be cautious about. Get some local advice before starting.

I spent two weeks in Raja Ampat in October/November. This is the start of the “dry” season. Apparently, (and confusingly) there is a mini wet/windy season in December/January (in the middle of the dry season!), then everything is clear again until April. The wettest time is May to September. Strong winds & rough seas can be a problem June to August. Dive resort websites say that there isn’t much difference in the weather from season to season and that you can visit all year round.

Rainfall in Sorong (millimetres per month):
JAN     180
FEB     160
MAR     200
APR     240
MAY     310
JUN     340
JUL     330
AUG     240
SEP     260
OCT     200
NOV     170
DEC     170

Underwater visibility in October started off at a spectacular 30m+, although after a few nights’ rain, it dropped down to ~20m.

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I only visited Pulau Kri, Mansuar, Arborek and Gam. This area (the “Dampier Strait”) is only a small part of Raja Ampat, but it is the most cost-effective to visit (it is closest to the arrivals port and has highest visitor numbers, (so, there are better chances of sharing boat-costs)) and is said to have the best corals.

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If you want to go further afield, most ‘homestay’ resorts do have their own boat, but you will be paying 7 or 8 digit sums for your transfers between islands.

When you reach your distant homestay, their shared-boat day-trips should be an option, but these still work-out pretty expensive.

The other option for widespread exploring is on a liveaboard boat trip, cruising around the whole archipelago. Most of these are aimed at the luxury-end of the market and are very expensive. There are one-or-two cheapo, locally operated snorkel liveaboards. This guy out of Sorong seems to be the cheapest with a 7-10 day (very) non-luxury trip for about 1 000 000 IDR per person per day. (That’s not a recommendation – I haven’t used him). Also, SRA mention Koryau Kayem’s “liveaboard” trips;  and these folk contacted me and asked if I could share info about their trips. Again, I haven’t used them, myself.

If you are in a big group, you could charter your own boat and crew.  Read Travelfish’s comments about boat safety before chartering any boat in Indonesia.

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Best-ish seascape:
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Typical seascape:
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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

This site is mainly about off-the-beach snorkelling because it is cheap and easy to do. If you are scared by the prices in Raja Ampat– you might want to look at the nearby Banda Islands instead.

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IN NOT-SO-BRIEF:

General Orientation:

Getting there: Fly into Sorong (probably via Makassar or Jakarta). There is also a Pelni-ferry port in Sorong. From Sorong, take the daily (afternoon) ferry to the town of Waisai on the island of Waiego. To continue onwards from Waisai, you will need to rent a boat taxi (or hope to share one with others going your way).

Money: There are a few ATMs in Waisai, but not at the ferry port. There certainly won’t be any on the islands, so it is better to load-up with cash before you come. Most homestays only take cash. Mobile telephone service is starting to roll-out on the more populated islands, meaning that some homestays can now use an online credit-card verifier and accept payment via credit-card. But not many, so check in advance.

Accommodation: “Homestay” doesn’t mean that you will be staying in somebody’s house. Homestays are more like low-end ‘resorts’. Accommodation is generally bamboo-weave longhouses, built on stilts. Expect small reptiles and rodents to be scurrying round the rafters at night. Rooms usually just have a simple bed with a mosquito net and no aircon or fan. There is usually no furniture in the room, just the bed. Doors are simple sliding panels – there is no means of locking them. The Papuan people who work at the homestays are good Christian people and wouldn’t dream of stealing that suitcase full of cash you had to bring to pay for alla this.

There will probably be generator-provided electricity from dusk till midnight for lights and charging electronic gadgets.

Toilets will probably be shared and Western (sit) style, with a bucket-flush. Showers will be shared and might be a case of scooping plastic bowls of water over your head from a big bucket.

Some of the higher-end or longer established homestays also have self-contained bungalows – complete with hinged, lockable doors and private toilet/shower.

Homestays are full-board (i.e. they include all meals in the price). Breakfast will be tiny (that’s the Indonesian way!) For lunch and dinner, there won’t be a menu– everyone gets the same fish-and-rice dish handed to them on a plate (larger homestays might have a “serve-yourself-buffet” arrangement). Unlimited drinking water will be provided from a big dispenser in the restaurant. Take an empty water bottle with you, so you don’t have to keep running to the restaurant for a cup of water. Most homestays sell soft drinks/sodas/beer in cans.

IDR means Indonesian Rupiah. Prices were correct @ 2014, but inflation is high in Indonesia – you will need a hefty multiplier when comparing prices in the future.

USD means American Dollars.

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There are some excellent resources on the internet about Raja Ampat, so I won’t write it all out again. Take a look at these:

This blog was the first I saw suggesting there might be some options cheaper than luxury dive resorts.

StayRajaAmpat is an awesome resource for all things Homestay, and plenty more, too. It is run by an Australian guy who lives in Bali and wants to help  Homestay owners get a presence on the internet. He visits Raja Ampat regularly, updating information on the growing list of homestays. Please read the sections on local values and conservation 1 2 , as well as the all the logistical stuff.

Some more sources: 1 2 3

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Underwater Orientation:

Detailed descriptions of snorkelling spots are given down the page, but here are a few general points:

Coastline: The islands are diverse. Coastline may be karst rock cliffs; white sand beaches; or muddy (or not muddy) mangrove-root forests.

Shallows: The shallow waters off the beaches often contain sea-grass, housing delicate (sometimes sharp) life-forms. The shallows also often have coral growth in them, making-for difficult access to the deeper waters. Try to avoid damage to yourself and the environment by carefully choosing where and when (i.e. at what tidal height) you enter the water. Get horizontal as soon as possible.

Many homestays have wooden jetties reaching out over the shallows to the reef drop-off. These usually have rickety wooden ladders leading down to the water. Often, the ladders on public jetties don’t go all the way down to the water, so you should check that you’ll be able to get out before you jump in!

There is a wide tidal range. Many beaches are completely underwater at high-tide and you’ll find yourself wading more than you thought.

It is probably a good idea to bring some hard-soled footwear with you.

Reef profile: There is typically a back-reef stretching out ~50m from the shore to the reef drop-off. At low tides, it will be exposed or very shallow and will harbour relatively little life. Most of the action for snorkellers is at the reef-edge/drop-off. That is where you will find most coral and the food chains that feed from it. Drop-offs typically start 1-2m deep and slope down to about 8m. Beyond that is mostly featureless sandy bottom, sloping down with various angles and depths, depending upon location.

Corals: You can find more species of hard and soft corals than you knew existed. Dive-resort websites often hype the coral quality. I was surprised to find a lot of hard coral in poor-condition.

Fish: You can expect to see most of my East Indonesia Common Fish page, plus many more besides. Raja Ampat is famous for having the highest species diversity in the world. You should find many variations of species from families you already know, e.g. Damselfish, Butterflyfish, etc.

A few species new to me:

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(By the way, hover you mouse over pictures to see the species names at the bottom of your browser; or check out my Specieslist for more info).

Aside from minor variations in well-known families, there are some unusual endemic species. Raja Ampat is famous for the Wobbegong Shark and the “Walking” Shark.

The Tasselled Wobbegong Shark (Eucrossorhinos dasypogon), is a wide, flat, camouflaged ambush-predator, which sits motionless on top of table corals, waiting to snatch prey passing overhead.

The Walking Shark/Epaulette Shark is a nocturnal species of Bamboo Shark, which, during the day, hides itself under rocks. It comes out at night and “walks” along the seabed on its pectoral and pelvic fins, feeding on crustaceans and snails. There are different species of Walking Shark in different parts of West Papua, (including Hemiscyllium freycineti, Hemiscyllium henryi , Hemiscyllium galei), which has caused some confusion amongst enthusiasts . This fella tries to iron it all out.

Dive-resorts’ websites, marketing their wares, make you think that you will be seeing these unusual species every ten minutes or so, but you won’t.

In the two weeks I was in Raja Ampat I didn’t find a Wobbegong at all, nor any person who had found one.

After ten days, I saw my first Walking-Shark, but only after someone had tipped-me-off about how to find them. Spend all your time peering under the craggy edges of every rock you see, and after a week or so, you might get a sixth of a gill in your optic:
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Look closer!

During daylight hours, you probably won’t ever get a decent view of a Walking-Shark, unless you go round lifting up the rocks that they are sleeping under, which is bad-practice, environmentally speaking. OK, I did it once (G2).

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For bigger stuff, you will often see Black-tip reef Sharks and Hawksbill Turtles cruising along the distant reef-edge. Scared about sharks? Read this.

I spotted small pods of Dolphins from the surface a couple of times.

No Mantas, Devil Rays or Whale Sharks 😦

There are some lovely Nudibranch species present, though they are hard to find. Keep your eyes peeled around the legs of jetties. Divers are more likely than snorkellers to see Nudis.

Safety: For general safety info, see my safety page.

Underwater currents in Raja Ampat were usually mild-to-moderate and running parallel to the coast. If you are somewhere where there is beach to the left of you and beach to the right of you, you should have no problem. But if you are somewhere close to the tip of an island or where an exit is blocked by cliffs or mangroves, you need to be careful about the currents, as Raja Ampat is very spread-out and you are unlikely to be found if you get washed-off the end of the island.

There were almost no jellyfish when I was there (October/November).

About 10% of the Titan Triggerfish were a bit bitey (see ‘Area K2 to Area K3′, below).

Some people have cautioned about the possibility of Salt Water Crocodiles in remote mangrove areas (see Area G9a, below).

Visibility: Underwater visibility in October started off at a spectacular 30m+, although after a few nights’ rain, it dropped down to ~20m. According to some dive site websites, this is at the high-end of the norm, as plankton in the water keeps the viz lower.

Other areas in Raja Ampat: I covered quite a small part of Raja Ampat. If you want to know what’s underwater in other parts that I didn’t get to, then Dive Resort websites and the StayRajaAmpat website describe lots of other places. I must say that I find that these sources can “oversell” the condition of snorkelling sites, (saying they are better than they really are). I guess that’s part of the deal when you are ‘supporting community efforts to build a ecotourism industry’. Take these accounts with a pinch of salt.  Alternatively, you could send me a pile of money, so I can go back and photograph more places!

Just because a spot hasn’t been named “Steve’s Point” or “Wobbegong Alley” doesn’t mean that it is no good. Explore for yourself !

My (Stevie) Wondercam:
I took two underwater compact cameras with me to Raja Ampat. One died on the second day (fair-enough, it was old and on its last legs). The second – a brand new (but tested) Canon Powershot D30 – decided on day 3 that I wouldn’t be needing the screen any more. That means that all my Raja Ampat pictures were taken ‘blind’. The main problem with this was that unless my subject happened to be bang in the centre of the lens, the camera would be focussing on something else in the background. Consequently, some pictures are a bit blurry – sorry ’bout dat. If you want to read the ranty version of my cameric woes, it’s here.

Alright, that’s enough waffle. On with the underwater pictures.

If you want to go direct to a particular section, you can do a local search {Edit>Find (on this page)} on one of these textstrings:

Area K: Kri (and Mansuar)
Area A: Arborek (and Manta Sandy)
Area G: Gam

Otherwise, just read-on:

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Area K: Kri (and Mansuar)

Pulau Kri and Pulau Mansuar are a pair of islands about 20km South West of the ferry terminal at Waisai.

Pulau means “island”.

Mansuar is the bigger island and has three ‘towns’ (but no roads). It has a couple of homestays at the Eastern end.

To the East of Mansuar is Kri (also sometimes known as ‘Mansuar Kecil’ (=’little Mansuar’)). Kri is one of the first islands that had resorts & homestays built on it. There are no towns there – just two dive resorts and about six homestays. You could say that Kri is the most developed island for tourism (although it is far from crowded).

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Kri Island itself:

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I have only included homestay names on the maps as a reference for location. In fact, there are about twice the number of homestays pictured.

The corals at Kri are said to be amongst the best in Raja Ampat. This coupled with the higher numbers of visitors and homestays (= more choice; more price-competition; more opportunities for sharing boat costs), made it an appealing first stop.

Kri island is 3km long with sandy beaches along most of the North coast. All the accommodation is along this North coast and the received wisdom is that the best coral is there too, (though, actually, that turns out not to be true).

I stayed at Yenkoranu Homestay. It is long-established and features in the famous travel book, which makes for lots of demand. Many people have reported problems with getting a response from Yenkoranu when trying to make bookings. I think they are just swamped by demand. Early-on in the season it was no problem.

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At low tide, you can walk along the North Kri beaches along almost the entire coast:
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..but the beaches disappear at high tide.

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Let’s start our underwater explorations at the North West corner of Kri, at Area K1a on the map, near Mangkur Kodon Homestay.
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Entry into the water is easy at Mangkur Kodon – you can walk out across flat, clear sand to K1a, then swim the 40m to the reef drop-off.

The North coast of Kri was noted for its spectacular coral. However, about half of it has now been beaten-up (seemingly, by bad weather).

There are three areas along this North coast where the coral is in good condition, but K1a is not one of them:
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But head East, and the coral condition improves a little:
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There is a friendly Cuttlefish lives here:
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Further on East, there is a section of cliffs and rocky coastline:
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To walk past the cliffs, you need to wade (ankle-deep at low tide, waist-deep at high tide). The homestay dogs who followed you up the beach are going to have to swim it, though:
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There are small rocks in the shallows, ready and waiting for you to stub your toe. If you are walking along here and don’t have something solid on your feet – it is better to go out deeper and swim round the rocks.

Out at the reef drop-off and level with the cliffs, at K1b there is a short run of coral in good condition:
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This decent section doesn’t last very long and, continuing East, the coral-quality soon dips again.
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(That yella fella at the bottom is probably the yellow variation of the Mimic Surgeonfish (Acanthurus pyroferus)).

The coral continues fair-to-middling for the next 400 metres – past the cemetery, past Mambrasar, past Mambetron. But there is a really good section (probably the best on North Kri) at K1c, outside this homestay:
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This homestay didn’t have a sign giving-away its name. I asked the staff to write its name in the sand and then I took a photo of what they wrote. From what I can make out, it is called Ombon Swindy Wiy (?). It doesn’t seem to feature in StayRajaAmpat yet.

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There is some very good coral here. This good-looking section was identified by a couple of black marker-buoys.

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After another 100m, the coral condition dips again:
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..but there are some interesting fishes to check-out.

Some other interesting fish found in this area were this adult Yellow Boxfish:
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and, bottom-row, centre of this picture, a Barramundi:
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btw, mouseover any fishy pics to see the species name at the bottom of your browser. You can also check the Specieslist for more details.

Another good area for fishlife and coral is Area K2, just West of homestay Yenkoranu’s jetty.
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The corals are very fulsome:
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..and the fishlife is good, too. Here are two Ornate Butterflyfish; two Virgate Rabbitfish, two Foxface Rabbitfish, two Dotted Butterflyfish and a Blue Girdled Angelfish passing by:
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I don’t have space for all the pictures, but I have a stack more from the same spot, showing:
Regal Angelfish
Indian Sailfin Tang
Eastern Triangle Butterflyfish
Eclipse Butterflyfish
Teardrop Butterflyfish
Blackbacked Butterflyfish
Raccoon Butterflyfish.

Here are a couple of Rockmover Wrasse, doing what they do best – moving rocks:

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You can always count on Nemos to throw a few shapes:
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Here’s a Squaretail Grouper, slinking off into the depths:
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..and a Crocodilefish, already got there:
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Looking out towards the blue, here are some schooling Redtooth Triggerfish
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and some Humpback Unicornfish.
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Down at the bottom there, you can see a nervous Blacktip Shark, cruising along the reef-edge. This is how you will usually see your Sharks in Raja Ampat – nervous and distant.

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But things change a couple of times a week when the fish scraps from Yenkoranu’s kitchen get thrown off the end of their jetty:
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It is better to stay out of the water when the Sharks are having num-nums.  Things can get feisty:
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When the blood has dispersed and the Sharks have gone home, the shallow waters outside Yenkoranu are a good place for a nose-around.

Here is a Picasso Triggerfish:
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and some Threespot Dascyllus and a tiny Porcelain Crab, living in an anemone:
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This area dries-out at low tides, so you’d need a mid-high tide to be able to swim here.

After dark, Raja Ampat’s famous ‘Walking Sharks” apparently come out to play here. Sitting on Yenkoranu’s jetty hoping to see one is a popular night-time activity. However, in the ten days I was there, I never met anyone who succeeded!

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Yenkoranu is the most Northerly of the homestays. The next place to the North is Papua Diving’s expensivo ‘Kri Eco Resort’ (Area K3 on the map). A popular trip for us Yenkoranese, was a swim along the reef edge, towards Eco Resort’s jetty (Area K2 to Area K3).

Here’s the view of Area K2-K3 from the end of Yenkoranu’s jetty and from the Eco Resort’s chartered plane.
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(image credit)

The decent coral at the South of Yenkoranu’s jetty continues for another 30m North of it:
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Then turns into a pile of crap:
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Coral condition on this stretch from K2 to K3 is patchy – some bits good, some bad, some middling:
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..but you will probably find something to interest you anyway:
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Many an hour was spent swimming up and down this stretch. Here is some of the fishlife living there:
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..and don’t forget to look out into the blue:
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Keep on the lookout for Longjaw Mackerel. They’re a bit dull when swimming along normally:
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…but a lot more fun when they open their jaws to hoover-up anything in front of them:
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Also, lookout for Titan Triggerfish on this stretch. Titans are famous for being protective of their nests and aggressively chasing divers and snorkellers away, nipping at their toes as they flee.
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I’ve rarely had any trouble with Titan Triggerfish, I usually find that they run away like scaredy-cats. However, on this little stretch (Area K2-K3), there were a few feisty ones. If you do get attacked, the only solution is to get out of their territory as quickly as possible. A well-placed fist or heel in their face should stop them actually biting you. Well, just long-enough for them to back-up and start another charge at you. Get outta there!

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Area K3 – Kri Eco Resort

Kri Eco Resort is owned by Papua Diving and is one of the longest established tourist accommodations on Kri. Celebrated biologist Gerry Allen stayed there while doing his early research into the varied species of Raja Ampat, dontchaknow?

The staff at Eco Resort somewhat look down their noses at homestay dwellers. There is a gate on the beach saying that beyond is private land and non-guests are not allowed in. With accommodation around 300USD per night, I guess that exclusive means exclusive.

As far as I know, Papua Divers don’t own the sea and if you are a scummy, lo-rent homestay dweller and want to look under the Eco-resort’s jetty (and believe me, you do), you will have to swim there from Yenkoranu’s jetty. Or from halfway along the beach, where the fence starts:
215_Kri-3_Eco-Resort-Jetty_20141022_IMG_0715.jpg

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Kri Eco Resort’s jetty is aaawesome! There are usually huge schools of fish swimming around underneath it, including Gold Saddled Rabbitfish; Topsail Drummers; One-Spot-Snapper, but most notably, Big-eye Trevally:
217_Kri-3_Big-eye-Trevally_20141021_IMG_0528.jpg

Critics say that Eco Resort feed the fish to encourage them to stay there. I don’t know about that. If they do, it’s certainly working.

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A cornucopia of sponges, ascidians, sea-fans and soft corals have grown over the legs of the jetty:
219_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141020_IMG_0248.jpg 220_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141020_IMG_0196.jpg 221_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141026_IMG_1765.jpg 222_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141020_IMG_0214.jpg 225_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141026_IMG_1767.jpg 226_Kri-3_Eco-Jetty_20141026_IMG_1766.jpg

Well, how cool is that ?!

The eagle-eyed might spot some miniature sea-slugs (Nudibranchs) in there, too:
231_Kri-3_Nembrotha-purpureolineata_20141020_IMG_0239.jpg 230_Kri-3_Indian-Phidiana_20141020_IMG_0229.jpg 229_Kri-3_Leopard-Chromodoris_20141020_IMG_0206.jpg 228_Kri-3_Nembrotha-purpureolineata_20141020_IMG_0218.jpg
These fellas are all about 2cm long. I’m usually pretty good at finding nudis, but, here, there is a lot of ‘noise’ from all the other colours around. These particular nudis were all found by friends with better eyesight than me.

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I did manage to spot this Octopus:
232_Kri-3_Octopus_20141026_IMG_1790.jpg

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Further East from the Eco Resort, the coral quality really drops-off:
235_Kri-3b_East-of-Eco_20141021_IMG_0532.jpg
There’s no particular reason to come here.

There is an uncharacteristic good spot of coral at K3b, opposite the second to last of Eco Resort’s huts.
237_Kri-3b_Good-patch_20141021_IMG_0537.jpg

..but the standard of the coral soon reverts to very poor:
239_Kri-3b_East-of-Eco-Orangeband-Surgeonfish_20141021_IMG_0544.jpg
(Though there is always a chance of spotting a lovely Orangeband Surgeonfish.

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Coral condition along this stretch (K3b to K3c) continues to be poor:
242_Kri-3bc_East-of-Eco_20141022_IMG_0731.jpg

..but there is the occasional, isolated, attractive spot:
244_Kri-3bc_East-of-Eco_20141022_IMG_0745.jpg

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If you come here, keep an eye out into the blue. There’s a reasonable chance of spotting a Shark or a Turtle. Or both:
246_Kri-3bc_Shark-n-Turtle_20141022_IMG_0753.jpg

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Approaching Area K3c, here is a Moray Eel hiding-out under some OK coral:
252_Kri-3bc_Moray-Eel_20141022_IMG_0763.jpg

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There is a big pole/cardinal marker at K3c, which indicates to boats where the reef ends and the deep water begins:
253_Kri-3c_Corner_20141022_IMG_0765.jpg

Here, on this corner of the reef, there was some uncharacteristically good scenery:
255_Kri-3c_Corner_20141022_IMG_0768.jpg
256_Kri-3c_Six-Banded-Angelfish_20141022_IMG_0781.jpg

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Rounding the corner at K3c, we are now entering Sorido Bay, home of Papua Diving’s other luxury dive Resort, Sorido Bay Resort.
264_Kri-3cdef_Sorido-Rst-Aerial_MU.jpg 265_Kri-3cd_Sorido-Rst-Jetty_20141024_IMG_1229.jpg
(image credit)

Celebrated biologist Alfred Russel Wallace stayed there while doing his early research into the varied species of Raja Ampat, dontchaknow?

What?

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Going from the corner at K3c towards the resort’s jetty at K3d, you have sandy shallows on your right and scraggy, shallow reeftop on your left.

There were a few notables in the sandy shallows:
260_Kri-3cd_False-Clown-Anemonefish_20141022_IMG_0802.jpg 262_Kri-3cd_Sea-Cucumber_20141022_IMG_0850.jpg Indo_RA_263_Kri-3cd_Sea-Cucumber-xxx-MAYBE-Holothuria-fuscopunctata_20141022_IMG_0851Species_Slugs_Plakobranchidae_Plakobranchus_Ocellate-Plakobranchus_Plakobranchus-ocellatus_20141022_IMG_0834

290_KriMap3_6_2Currents.jpg

I had hoped that the Sorido jetty would be home to the same wealth of colourful lifeforms as the one at Kri Eco Resort. Alas, it wasn’t:
266_Kri-3cd_Sorido-Rst-Jetty_20141022_IMG_0804.jpg

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Somewhere around here is a “Cape Kri”. Everybody loves it, everybody raves about it, but all the maps & verbal accounts are kinda vague about exactly where it is. One seemly-reliable account suggested it is at Area K3e, so I spent a long time there fighting against the currents, trying to find such a wonderland:
270_Kri-3e_Hunting-Cape_Kri_20141022_IMG_0827.jpg 269_Kri-3e_Hunting-Cape_Kri_20141022_IMG_0820.jpg
No wonderland.

I did bump into a Turtle and a nice, fat Shark there:
274_Kri-3e_Turtle_20141022_IMG_0845.jpg 273_Kri-3e_Shark_20141022_IMG_0828_.jpg

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There is a deep-water gulley bisecting Sorido Bay and connecting its jetty with the outside world. There is some lovely coral on the South Eastern dropoff of the gulley (at K3f):
277_Kri-3f_Northern-Point_20141024_IMG_1239.jpg 279_Kri-3f_Northern-Point_20141024_IMG_1243.jpg
Maybe this is what they mean by “Cape Kri” ?

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Continuing North East along K3f, towards the end of the island, the coral quality drops-off a little:
281_Kri-3f_Northern-Scraps_20141025_IMG_1477.jpg

But keep your eyes open for the Sharks playing in the distance:
282_Kri-3f_Northern-Scraps-Blacktips_20141025_IMG_1478.jpg

A little further along, I saw a lovely Blue Tang:
284_Kri-3f_Blue-Tang_20141025_IMG_1488.jpg
..one of only two such encounters in Raja Ampat.

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I don’t think I ever did find Cape Kri. Maybe it is further out to the North (?near K4a). Or maybe it is only a dive site, too deep for snorkelling. Currents were strong in this area, and it was tough to swim against them to explore more.

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The strong currents also put intriguing-looking Pulau Koh out of reach. I think someone said that at low tide you can walk across, over the shallow sandbars. I never came here at low tide, but it didn’t look very shallow. Certainly, at higher tides, the strong currents here make swimming there a non-starter.

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Area K4: – the South Side

The received wisdom is that the North side of Kri is the best area for coral. Perhaps that was true in the past, but since a lot the coral on the North got bust-up; the long run of pristine coral on the undeveloped South side is waaaaay more beautiful.

The problem is that it is almost impossible to get there without a boat.

If you have a boat, or can pay to use a boat, then use the boat. Really. I don’t like using boats to reach places within swimming distance, but in this case, it probably is worth it.

If you won’t/can’t get a boat and if you are a hardcore type, it can be done manually. But you have to plan it like a military operation. Here’s why:

When the tide is falling/going-out, there is a strong current from the North East which splits down both sides of the island, running South West.
290_KriMap3_6_2Currents.jpg
It is handy to ride this current from K4b down the South coast to K5, and then tuck-in to Lumba Lumba bay (to avoid being swept off to Mansuar). The problem is – how do you get to K4b in the first place? You will probably be starting on the North side. The current will be too strong to swim against (K2-K3-K3d-K3f) to get to K4b. Also (as it is high tide), the beaches are all underwater, so you can’t walk to K4b. This is where that boat would help.

In the absence of a boat, the solution is to start walking to K4b three hours after high-tide. That way, the beaches are starting to return and you can walk/wade most of the way to the North point. By the time you get there, you should have two hours’ worth of South Westerly current to sweep you down the South side to Lumba Lumba bay (K5b).

Two minor problems remain: 1) you have to walk through the private grounds of Kri Eco Resort and Sorido Bay Resort to get to the North point; 2) you will have to walk over/between the shallow corals at K4b to get to the drop-off.

Well, it turns out that (1) isn’t so much of a problem. Despite the fences and gate, if you are polite and respectful, Kri Eco Resort don’t mind if you walk through their resort. Not along the beach (where you might be nosing into their beachside cabanas); not in the shallows (where you might be stomping on the wildlife), but on their concrete pathway, set back from the beach. Be nice, and they won’t mind.

Sorido Resort has a broad beach and no gates or fences. As long as you are not stealing stuff, they don’t seem to care if you walk along “their” beach.

Which just leaves the problem of how to get into the water at K4b. There are sharp and delicate corals on the reef-top at K4b and the shallows are very shallow as we approach low tide.
289_Kri-4b_North-Point_20141024_IMG_1250.jpg

The favourite option is to get in the water back at K3f and swim all the way around the cape to the South East side, staying on the deep-water side all the way (so you don’t have to cross the reef-top).

If you are able to swim against the current, that is.

If you aren’t, it is easy-enough to wade round the cliffs of the cape to get to the East side, but once you are there, getting over the back-reef shallows without damaging yourself or the coral will be difficult.
288_Kri-4b_North-Point_20141024_IMG_1238.jpg
Difficult, but probably not impossible (depending on the amount of swell). If you can get here earlier (at higher water) it will be easier, but, of course, the earlier you start, the more underwater are the beaches on the North coast.

So, it’s all a bit complicated. Getting to the North point by boat would be favourite. You could have your boat driver drop you off at Cape Kri at high (slack) water; he could go back to the homestay and you could have a snorkel round cape Kri before riding the falling-tide current all the way down the South side of the island. Sorted.

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However you reach it, the South coast is awesome.

After a slightly slow start:
291_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141024_IMG_1253.jpg

…you start a run of perfect coral down to K4c:
292_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141024_IMG_1254_.jpg
294_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141024_IMG_1295.jpg 295_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141025_IMG_1529.jpg
298_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141025_IMG_1559.jpg 296_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141025_IMG_1536.jpg 297_Kri-4bc_Corals_20141025_IMG_1545.jpg

The fishlife is generally better over this side, too, with more Sharks, Napoleonfish, Bluefin Trevally, and Giant Trevally:
300_Kri-4bc_Blacktip-Shark_20141025_IMG_1522.jpg 301_Kri-4bc_Juvenile-Napoleon_20141025_IMG_1517.jpg 303_Kri-4bc_Giant-Trevally_20141025_IMG_1511.jpg 302_Kri-4bc_Blue-Fin-Trevally_20141024_IMG_1260_.jpg

…plus the usual reef fish:
304_Kri-4bc_Ornate-Butterflyfish-_20141025_IMG_1541.jpg

There are small beaches on-and-off all along the South coast, but the reef is very shallow and you can’t get out of the water. Presumably that is also why there are no resorts/homestays on this stretch. Hopefully, that will continue.

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Coral condition falls-off in the more South Easterly stretch K4c to K5, but is far from shabby:
306_Kri-4c5_Corals_20141024_IMG_1327.jpg
307_Kri-4c5_Corals_20141024_IMG_1321.jpg 308_Kri-4c5_Corals_20141024_IMG_1337.jpg

Here are more fish from this South Westerly stretch:
310_Kri-4c5_Schooling-Surgeonfish_20141024_IMG_1339.jpg 311_Kri-4c5_Sgt-Major-Clown-Triggerfish_20141024_IMG_1315.jpg

This Banded Sea Krait is common in Asian waters.
312_Kri-4c5_Banded-Sea-Krait_20141024_IMG_1332.jpg
They are very poisonous, but totally disinterested in humans. Just don’t get between them and the surface when they are coming up to breathe.

Tuna are a rare sight:
313_Kri-4c5_Tuna_20141024_IMG_1308_.jpg
I only saw two in Raja Ampat, both on this Southern Side of Kri.

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It will probably take an hour to be swept from K4b to the start of Lumba Lumba bay at K5:
314_Kri-4c5_Lumba-Lumba-Bay_20141024_IMG_1354.jpg
Those six dots in the middle of the bay are Lumba Lumba Resort/Homestay

You can either swim into the bay, ducking out of the current, or choose to continue riding it, along the Lumba Lumba drop-off K5b (which is very picturesque):
316_Kri-56_Lumba-Lumba-Corals_20141025_IMG_1608.jpg
317_Kri-56_LL-Corals_20141025_IMG_1596.jpg 318_Kri-56_LL-Corals_20141025_IMG_1613.jpg

There weren’t many Sting Rays around. Here is a Blue Spotted Ribbontail:
315_Kri-56_Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray_20141025_IMG_1599.jpg

Unless you want to continue to Mansuar, K6a is the place to get out of the water. K6b has shallow water and live corals and you will have to trample them to get out there. It is easy enough to get out at K6a then walk around the rocky corner to Mangkur Kodon’s beach and the North side.

Area K6c is flat sandy bottom. It will be low-tide by now, so it will be too shallow to snorkel here, but even if you came back at high tide, there would be nothing to see. See?
320_Kri-6c_Flounder_20141023_IMG_1200.jpg 321_Kri-6c_Spotted-hypselodoris-nudibranch_20141024_IMG_1379_.jpg 322_Kri-6c_Varicose-Phyllidia-Nudibranch_20141024_IMG_1371.jpg

Currents can howl along this channel, K6b-c. (I’m not sure exactly when. IIRC, it is when the tide is turning). I only experienced it twice and both times currents were going South to North (K7a to K1a). Then they turned East when they reached the drop off at K1a and ran parallel to the North shore. Which was a perfect conveyor-belt to take me home. Still, do be cautious with the currents here..

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Area M: Ransiwar and Mansuar

It is an 800m swim from the Southern tip of Pulau Kri (K6) to Pulau Mansuar. In between, there is a tiny island, Pulau Ransiwar. Some of the best coral at Kri is at Yenbuba town jetty (K8b) on Mansuar, so it’s worth trying to get here one way or another.

Here’s the view from K6a across to East Mansuar, K8.
324_Kri-7a_Ransiwar-and-Yenbuba-from-6b_20141021_IMG_0324 MU.jpg
I swam here four times and never had any problem with currents. I’d say it was pretty swim-able.

If it looks a bit far, Mangkur Kodon Homestay have a kayak, but I’m not sure whether they rent it to non-guests. Most homestays with a boat would probably take you there for a few bucks.

If you are swimming to Mansuar from Kri, don’t enter the water at K6b – there are delicate corals in the shallow water there. Instead, walk/wade around the headland to K6a where you can enter the water without breaking anything.

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As you head out to the deeper water and start your journey, the corals in the channel at K7a are quite scrappy:
325_Kri-7a_Turtle_20141025_IMG_1627.jpg
..but are keeping this Turtle entertained.

Things slowly start to improve as you move along the coast of Ransiwar:
326_Kri-7a_Corals_20141023_IMG_0871.jpg 328_Kri-7a_Corals_20141023_IMG_0874.jpg 329_Kri-7a_Corals_20141023_IMG_0886.jpg 330_Kri-7a_Corals_20141023_IMG_0887.jpg

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Area K7b seems to be a popular location for large schools of fish to hang out:
337_Kri-7b_Diagonal-Banded-Sweetlips_20141025_IMG_1645.jpg
332_Kri-7b_Goldsaddle-Rabbitfish_20141025_IMG_1660.jpg Indo_RA_333_Kri-7b_Goldstriped-Sweetlips-Diagonal-Banded-Sweetlips-Unicornfish_20141025_IMG_1636 334_Kri-7b_Humpback-Unicornfish-Bigeye-Bream-Snappers_20141021_IMG_0360.jpg 335_Kri-7b_Humpback-Unicornfish_20141021_IMG_0355.jpg 336_Kri-7b_Diagonal-Banded-Sweetlips_20141021_IMG_0445.jpg 338_Kri-7b_Giant-Trevally_20141021_IMG_0357.jpg 339_Kri-7b_Turtle_20141021_IMG_0364.jpg

The coral here at K7b is fantastic;
341_Kri-7b_Corals_20141021_IMG_0363.jpg 342_Kri-7b_Corals_20141027_IMG_1881.jpg 344_Kri-7b_Corals_20141023_IMG_0894.jpg
345_Kri-7b_Corals_20141025_IMG_1648.jpg 347_Kri-7b_Corals_20141027_IMG_1877.jpg 348_Kri-7b_Corals_20141027_IMG_1875.jpg

At K7c is the start of the Westernmost channel between Ransiwar and Mansuar. This seems to be a good location to find some old favourites

…the Bicolour Angelfish:
350_Kri-7c_Bicolour-Angelfish_20141021_IMG_0393.jpg

..and the Keyhole Angelfish:
351_Kri-7c_Keyhole-Angelfish_20141025_IMG_1688.jpg

Taking a brief diversion North West, up the channel between Ransiwar and Mansuar (K7c), there are some Fire/Blue/Blade corals in the shallows:
353_Kri-7c_Blue-Coral_20141027_IMG_1972.jpg
If you are ever on a return trip from Mansuar to North Kri and the tide is falling, then try using this channel (K7c). If I remember right, this one is easier to pass through than K6.

The shallow corals in K7c are a good spot to look for juvenile fish. Here’s a teeny-tiny Blackpatch Triggerfish:
354_Kri-7c_Blackpatch-Triggerfish_20141025_IMG_1709.jpg

This is the West-end of Ransiwar Island:
355_Kri-7c_West-Ransiwar_20141027_IMG_1965.jpg
Ransiwar was the location of one of the first Homestays in Raja Ampat. It is closed now – those are the derelict remains.

Resuming our trip to Mansuar, and heading towards K8a, there are some reasonable corals in the shallows:
357_Kri-8a_Corals_20141021_IMG_0397.jpg

But things really start to pick-up as you continue South East. Yenbuba jetty (K8b) is your goal:
359_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141023_IMG_0924.jpg

The legs of the jetty are not quite up to the dizzying standards of the Eco Lodge (K3), but there are some decent growths here:
362_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141021_IMG_0400.jpg 365_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141021_IMG_0428.jpg 363_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141021_IMG_0402.jpg 364_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141021_IMG_0405.jpg

Not on all of the legs, though:
361_Kri-8b_Jetty_20141021_IMG_0412.jpg

There are actually two jetties here, both “L” shaped and facing in towards each other (almost forming a closed-in box). Some of the best coral is inside this ‘box’ at K8b:
367_Kri-8b_Inside-Jetty-Corals_20141021_IMG_0413.jpg
370_Kri-8b_Corals_20141023_IMG_1112.jpg 371_Kri-8b_Corals_20141023_IMG_1113.jpg 372_Kri-8b_Corals_20141027_IMG_1891.jpg 373_Kri-8b_Corals_20141027_IMG_1894.jpg

..with a good variety of small reef fish thrown into the bargain:
Indo_RA_369_Kri-8b_Threadfin-Butterflyfish-Checkered-Snapper-Black-Banded-Snapper_20141021_IMG_0432

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Most people take a look around the jetty and then stop. But if you continue a short way South East (towards K8c), the corals continue:
375_Kri-8c_Corals_20141023_IMG_1163.jpg 376_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1955.jpg 377_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1957.jpg

While you are here, have a look into the blue. This is a common hangout for schooling Pickhandle Barracuda:
379_Kri-8c_Pickhandle-Barracuda_20141025_IMG_1674_.jpg 380_Kri-8c_Pickhandle-Barracuda_20141027_IMG_1932.jpg


They cruise up and down between K8c and K8e, but most often seem to be at the K8c end.

There is also a decent chance of seeing other schoolers in K8c:
Indo_RA_382_Kri-8c_Schooling-Surgeonfish-and-Smooth-flutemouth_Fistularia-commersonii_20141021_IMG_0435 381_Kri-8c_Bluefin-Trevally_20141023_IMG_1028.jpg

The run of pristine corals starts at the jetty and continues for about 200m South East:
384_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1946.jpg
385_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1952.jpg 387_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1938.jpg 388_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1944.jpg 389_Kri-8c_Corals_20141027_IMG_1945.jpg

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In area K8d the coral-quality starts to fade out, but I did get a visitation from a team of Giant Trevally:
391_Kri-8d_Giant-Trevally_20141023_IMG_1181.jpg

I also got some shots here of Kri’s family of Bumphead Parrotfish:
392_Kri-8d_Schooling-Bumphead-Parrotfish_20141023_IMG_1186.jpg
This crew of (count ’em) 39 Bumphead Parrotfish cruise around Kri and you might bump heads with them anywhere. Each one is almost a metre long, so you can hardly miss such a big crowd.

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I thought I’d see how far I could get along Mansuar’s South coast. Not far, as it turns out – there was a strong current that was impossible to swim against.

At K8e, I did spot a Whitetip reef shark on the reef-edge at about 8m:
394_Kri-8e_Whitetip-Shark_20141023_IMG_1054.jpg
This was one of only two White-tips I saw in Raja Ampat (all the other Sharks were Black-tips). The other White-tip was also on the South side of Kri, between K4c and K5. The South side is more ‘oceanic’ than the North. It was also the only place I saw Tuna and adult Napoleonfish.

There were also a range of Unicornfish at K8e:
395_Kri-8e_Bignose-Unicornfish_20141023_IMG_1071.jpg 396_Kri-8e_Sleek-Unicornfish_20141023_IMG_1086.jpg

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Having given up fighting the current to try and get further West than K8e, I returned to Yenbuba jetty (K8b) and then through the channel at K7c. I found that the North Side of Ransiwar Island is all flat, sandy bottom. There are exposed sand-bars between K7d and K7e:
398_Kri-7de_NthRansiwar_20141021_IMG_0468.jpg
There’s probably not much of interest underwater there, but it does give you an easy exit route back to Kri if the currents on the South/East side of Ransiwar are unfriendly.

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I schelped out to the drop-off at K7f. It was pretty nice, actually:
399_Kri-7f_ Dropoff at-NthRansiwar_20141025_IMG_1716.jpg

But heading back towards K1a, the coral condition was patchy and not particularly good.

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The rest of Mansuar.

Mansuar Island is 10km long and its currents seem to make a non-starter out of exploring it independently. One day, my Homestay was taking their boat out for a Dive trip to a jetty halfway along the South coast (near the town of Sawandakek) and us snorkellers could tag along for 100 000 IDR.

403_Kri_MapMansuarTowns.jpg
Mansuar’s Towns

The jetty and bay at Sawandakek were sweet:
404_Kri-Sawandakek_Bigeye-Trevally_20141019_PA190017.jpg

The attractions being the corals:
406_Kri-Sawandakek_Corals_20141019_PA190019.jpg 408_Kri-Sawandakek_Corals_20141019_PA190061.jpg 407_Kri-Sawandakek_Corals_20141019_PA190052.jpg 409_Kri-Sawandakek_Corals_20141019_PA190062.jpg

And the schooling fishies:
410_Kri-Sawandakek_Harlequin-Sweetlips_20141019_PA190025.jpg 411_Kri-Sawandakek_Diagonal-Banded-Sweetlips_20141019_PA190026.jpg 412_Kri-Sawandakek_Whitemargin-Unicornfish_20141019_PA190042.jpg

413_Kri-Sawandakek_Orange-Spotted-Trevally_20141019_PA190033.jpg 414_Kri-Sawandakek_Humpback-Snapper_20141019_PA190028.jpg

415_Kri-Sawandakek_Batfish_20141019_PA190038.jpg

A couple of species I haven’t seen elsewhere included the Goldstriped Sweetlips:
418_Kri-Sawandakek_Goldstriped-Sweetlips_20141019_PA190067.jpg

And the Giant Sweetlips:
416_Kri-Sawandakek_Giant-Sweetlips_20141019_PA190065.jpg
who looks, confusingly, somewhat like a Snapper:

419_Kri-Sawandakek_Red-Snapper_20141019_PA190045.jpg

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421_Kri-Sawandakek_Giant-Clam_20141019_PA190047.jpg

 

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One fella I spoke to had taken a boat trip all the way to the Western tip of Mansuar and said that the coral there was fantastic.

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Area A: Arborek (and Manta Sandy)

Manta Sandy (=Manta Point)

My homestay’s boat was heading over to Manta Sandy and Arborek for some diving, and us snorkellers were allowed to tag along for 200 000 IDR.

Manta Sandy is a shallow sea-mount between the North West tip of Mansuar and the small island of Arborek. It is famous for being a cleaning station for Manta Rays. Much is made of this, but note that the Mantas’ visits are seasonal, and you have to be lucky for them to show-up. The famous travel book says that the best time is October to April.

I went on October 22 and there were no Mantas.

Manta Sandy without Mantas is just sandy. Boo.

One local fella confidently told me that the best time for Mantas is 10th December to 10th January.

Apparently, five showed up on 31st October.

I think that the best advice is to listen out for the talk in the diveshops. When the Mantas finally show up, everyone will be talking about it and there’s a reasonable chance that they will be back again tomorrow. If there’s no buzz, there’s probably no Mantas.

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Area A: Arborek Island/ Pulau Arborek

In the absence of Mantas, we moved onto Arborek Island, about 2km to the North West of Manta Sandy.

Arborek is a blip of an island, just 500m long and home to an indigenous community. It is noted for being very quiet and laid-back. There are six homestays there.

425_Arborek-Map.jpg 427_Arborek-A1_Local-Map_20141022_IMG_0646.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

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Snorkelling-wise, Arborek’s main claim-to-fame is the jetty on the North coast (A4) which has sea-fans and colourful flora growing on its legs.

Aside from the Main jetty at A4, local knowledge suggested that the best snorkelling spot was on the North East corner, near to A3.

I started near the second jetty, which serves Mambarayup Homestay (Area A1).

To the South of jetty A1, there was a fun school of Blackpatch Trigger fish:
428_Arborek-A1_Blackpatch-Triggerfish_20141022_IMG_0594.jpg
There was also some decent, but patchy, coral in the area.

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Heading North, against a strong current, towards A2, there was some decent coral:
431_Arborek-A2_Corals_20141022_IMG_0602.jpg 432_Arborek-A2_Corals_20141022_IMG_0601.jpg

Then some not-so-decent coral:
433_Arborek-A2_Corals_20141022_IMG_0603.jpg

When I visited, there was a strong current from the North East, which split on the corner and ran along the East and North Sides of the island.
434_Map-Arborek-Currents.jpg
The current was too strong to swim from A2 to A3, so I had to go back to the shallows then walk along the (dead) back-reef to get to A3, before being riding the current towards the main jetty at A4.

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The coral between A3 and A4 was patchy:
436_Arborek-A3_Corals_20141022_IMG_0582.jpg 437_Arborek-A3_Corals_20141022_IMG_0579.jpg 438_Arborek-A3_Corals_20141022_IMG_0580.jpg
…and mostly unspectacular.

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So, onto the big attraction – the main jetty at A4. The legs hit the seabed at about 5m. The hard coral there varies between rubbish and OK:
440_Arborek-A4_East-Jetty_20141022_IMG_0576.jpg 441_Arborek-A4_Jetty-Floor_20141022_IMG_0581.jpg

…but it is the growth on the jetty legs that you are interested in:
444_Arborek-A4_Jetty_20141022_IMG_0573.jpg 443_Arborek-A4_Jetty_20141022_IMG_0589.jpg445_Arborek-A4_Jetty_20141022_IMG_0569.jpg 446_Arborek-A4_Jetty_20141022_IMG_0562.jpg 447_Arborek-A4_Jetty_20141022_IMG_0571.jpg

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Other points of interest were some schooling Batfish:
448_Arborek-A4_Batfish_20141022_IMG_0584.jpg

…and a solitary Leopard Chromodoris Nudibranch:
449_Arborek-A4_Leopard-Chromodoris-Nudibranch_20141022_IMG_0575.jpg

Overall, the jetty at A4 was a nice location, but Kri Ecolodge jetty easily wins the prize.

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I also had a quick spin along the drop-off on Arborek’s North coast (A4 to A5).

There were a few nice Giant Clams there:
451_Arborek-A5_Giant-Clam_20141022_IMG_0639.jpg

But mostly, this stretch was unimpressive:
452_Arborek-A5_Corals_20141022_IMG_0643.jpg 453_Arborek-A5_Corals_20141022_IMG_0642.jpg

I had planned to come to Arborek, stay in one its homestays and do a thorough investigation into the snorkelling. As it was, this two hour snorkel trip to the North East corner was enough. I decided not to stay on Arborek, but to return to Kri, where there were richer pickings in the snorkelling. One fella who did stay-on at Arborek later reported that Area A6 was his favourite.

Back on-top of jetty A4, waiting to reboard the homestay’s boat to Kri, we saw a couple of dolphins 500m off to the North East.

Btw, in my planning stage, I thought that it might be possible to swim from Arborek to Manta Sandy avoiding the need for expensive boat trips. It isn’t.

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Area G: Gam Island

Gam is a fairly big, flat island 8km to the North of Kri and Mansuar (and Arborek). It is more mangrove-y than many of the other islands, but also has a few karst cliffs and sandy beaches. There are a few homestays around Gam – mostly on the South and South-East coasts.

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South Gam

I stayed at Nudibranch Homestay. It is on the central-South peninsula:
455_Gam-Where is-Sth-Gam-Map.jpg
The coastline on this peninsula is mostly mangrove. Also, there are two long sandy beaches with small ‘towns’/villages built behind them; and there is fringing reef 30m off the coast, everywhere.

456_Gam_SthMainMap.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

I have only included homestay names on the maps as references for location. In fact, there are about twice the number of homestays pictured. See StayRajaAmpat.com for more.

In South Gam there are about 6 homestays on the 2km stretch from G2 to G7. The homestays and towns are joined together by a decent walking path. Underwater currents can be strong and unpredictable, but if you stay inside this stretch G2 to G7, you can always get out of the water and walk back home.

Ironically, the best corals are outside of this, safe, “footpathed” area. The best corals are in Areas G1 and G8 where there is no walking route home. If you want to visit those, you need to (a) be a bit hardcore and (b) do some work to figure-out the patterns of the tides and currents, so you don’t get swept off somewhere.

If you don’t want to take your life in your hands, don’t worry, there are also some decent quality corals in easy-to-access Area G3b.

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Lets start chronologically at Area G1 to the East of the homestay-ey bit.

Area G1 has some awesome corals. It is worth trying to get here, even if you have to pay someone with a boat.

For the boatless, currents can be troublesome. As far as I could tell, the prevailing current runs West to East when the tide is falling. It (kinda-sorta) runs East to West when the tide is rising, so the best time to go is during the last hour of a falling tide to take you out East and the first hour of the rising tide to bring you back again.

That said, the currents are unpredictable. A few times, I found the current going East-to-West when I was 40m away from the shore and West-to-East when I was 50m away from the shore. Or East-to-West on the surface and West-to-East 3m underwater. Crazy.

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I was staying in Nudibranch homestay (near Area G2), and, at low tides, it is difficult to get out the mouth of the mangrove river due to some delicate corals there. In that case, the best option is to walk down to the jetty at G3 and jump-in there, instead.

Anyway, if and when you can get yourself out to Area G1, you will find about 1km of beautiful, healthy diverse coral:
458_Gam-G1_Corals_20141029_IMG_2155.jpg
459_Gam-G1_Corals_20141029_IMG_2121.jpg 460_Gam-G1_Corals_20141029_IMG_2179.jpg 461_Gam-G1_Corals_20141029_IMG_2147.jpg 462_Gam-G1_Corals_20141029_IMG_2135.jpg

Nice.

Here’s an uncommon Spot-Gill Cardinalfish I found in that area:
464_Gam-G1_Spot-gill-Cardinalfish_20141029_IMG_2126.jpg
(I also saw a couple of these at Arborek).

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Returning Westwards from all that beautiful coral, let’s duck into the mangrove river that leads past Nudibranch homestay (Area G2). This is a real muck-diving job – it involves nosing around in 1m of water amongst the roots of a muddy mangrove forest.

Swimming around in shallow, murky water might not be what you had planned for your vacation, but it’s worth a go. I swam up the river until I ran out of, err, river. Generally, the experience wasn’t that bountiful, but here are the highlights:

A carpet of funky upside-down jellyfish:
466_Gam-G2_Upsidedown-Jellyfish_20141101_IMG_3288.jpg x

A Jorunna funebris Nudibranch:
468_Gam-G2_Jorunna-funebris_20141101_IMG_3315.jpg
(the only nudibranch I found near ‘Nudibranch’ Homestay).

This little Flatworm:
469_Gam-G2_Flatworm_20141101_IMG_3331.jpg

These Orbicular Cardinalfish, who enjoy a shady spot:
471_Gam-G2_Orbicular-Cardinalfish_20141101_IMG_3369_.jpg

Some inquisitive Banded Archerfish:
472_Gam-G2_Banded-Archerfish_20141101_IMG_3375_.jpg
(so named because they squirt a jet of water to knock insects from overhanging branches into the water, for a tasty treat).

Oh, yeah and one of these:
473_Gam-G2_Walking-Shark_20141101_IMG_3277.jpg
This is yer Walking Shark. He was snoozing underneath a bit of decaying tree bark. I confess, I lifted up the bark to get a better view, but it was the only time I did it.

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Area G3: Sawinggrai Village/beach

475_Gam_Area-3-Zoom-Map.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

Coming back down the mangrove river and heading along the drop-off towards Sawinggrai town, the drop-off at G3a starts out a bit scrappy:
476_Gam-G3a_Crusty-Dropoff_20141028_IMG_1982.jpg

One day, I bumped into a cute little juvenile Barramundi (Cromileptes altivelis) here:
477_Gam-G3a_Juvenile-Barramundi_20141101_IMG_3178.jpg

Continuing West towards Sawinggrai jetty, area G3b has some decent coral and is your best-bet for easy-access snorkelling.
478_Gam-G3b_Corals_20141028_IMG_1983.jpg 479_Gam-G3b_Corals_20141028_IMG_1986.jpg 480_Gam-G3b_Corals_20141028_IMG_2000.jpg 481_Gam-G3b_Corals_20141028_IMG_2003.jpg
Look out for that purple patch of Staghorn coral – it’s pretty sweet.

Some uncommon fish found around here include this Vermiculated Angelfish:
482_Gam-G3_Vermiculated-Angelfish_20141101_IMG_3508.jpg

and these (new to me) Bluesided Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus cyanopleura).
483_Gam-G3b_Bluesided-Wrasse-Cirrhilabrus-cyanopleura_20141101_IMG_3540.jpg

This juvenile Cigar Wrasse:
484_Gam-G3b_Juvenile-Cigar-Wrasse_20141101_IMG_3549.jpg

and Firetail and Whitebar-Dottybacks:
485_Gam-G3b_Firetail-Dottyback_20141101_IMG_3511.jpg Dottybacks_Whitebar-Dottyback_Labracinus-sp_IMG_3503.jpg

A particular favourite was this gorgeous Splendid Dottyback:
486_Gam-G3b_Splendid-Dottyback_20141028_IMG_1994_.jpg
(I also saw one of these back at Yenbuba Jetty (K8b)).

And some Sharkbutt:
487_Gam-G3_Walking-Shark_20141101_IMG_3414.jpg

There are two big jetties at Sawinggrai. This Easternmost one has the accommodation for Mambefor Homestay on it. The folks staying there told tales of how they could sit on their front step looking out towards Arborek and watch dolphins swim past. Nice.
489_Gam-G3_Mambefor-Jetty_20141101_IMG_3230.jpg

It is worth having a poke around underneath the jetties:
490_Gam-G3_Under-Jetty_20141028_IMG_2007.jpg
but they are not as spectacular as the ones on Kri and Arborek.

One fellow homestayer found a friendly Mantis Shrimp under the jetties somewhere, but I had no luck finding it.

All I found was this Peppered Moray Eel, guarding a USB drive that somebody had dropped off the jetty.
491_Gam-G3_USB-Moray_20141101_IMG_3233.jpg.
Yes, it did still work – if anyone can find an email for Mr Michael Yeblo at Manado’s University of Sam Ratulangi, he is welcome to have the content back!

The Westernmost jetty is the public one. In the absence of refrigeration, the villagers have nets tied underneath to hold the unfortunate fish who are lined-up for dinner that week. These Coral Hind and Rock Lobster are waiting hopefully for their presidential pardon….
492_Gam-G3_Coral-Grouper-AKA-Hind_20141028_IMG_2021.jpg 493_Gam-G3_Rock-Lobster-Panulirus-versicolor_20141028_IMG_2023.jpg

Just West of the jetties, at G3d there is a good chance of finding a gazillion Big-Eye Trevally, who seem to hang-out here:
496_Gam-G3e_Schooling-Bigeye-Trevally_20141101_IMG_3442.jpg

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Continuing West around G3e, coral condition drops-off:
497_Gam-G3e_Coral_n-Pearly-Monocle-Bream_20141028_IMG_2043.jpg
You might find some unusual fish, though. That Pearly Monocle Bream (Scolopsis margaritifera) looks quite different from specimens you find elsewhere.

as do these Pacific Longnose Parrotfish (Hipposcarus longiceps):
498_Gam-G3_Longnose-Parrotfish-Hipposcarus-longicep_20141101_IMG_3427.jpg

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Continuing West, from G4a to G4b, there is a 300m stretch of mangrove at the coastline.
500_Gam-G4_Mangrove_20141028_IMG_2069.jpg

The coral-quality at the drop-off is unspectacular and there’s no particular reason to come here.
501_Gam-G4_Corals_20141029_IMG_2389.jpg 502_Gam-G4_Corals_20141029_IMG_2388.jpg

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Drawing-up to Area G5 and Nyanse Homestay’s jetty, the coral condition is unspectacular, although it is always good to find a Orangeband Surgeonfish:
506_Gam-G5_Orangeband-Surgeonfish_20141029_IMG_2376.jpg

There was also the occasional Mantis Shrimp wandering round on the seabed here, but they were all very camera-shy and soon disappeared back in their holes.

The coral doesn’t improve much past the little no-name jetty or the clifftop homestay with a ladder down to the sea (? Tapor Aikos).
507_Gam-G5_Corals_20141028_IMG_2083.jpg

There were some interesting fishies around Area G5, though. In the juvenile stage, Semi-Circle Angelfish display many concentric white semi-circle markings, but these disappear in favour of a simple ‘Blue-with-single-Yellow-band’ look in adulthood. This particular one is halfway between, showing both the juvenile and adult markings:
510_Gam-G5_Semi-circle-Angelfish_20141029_IMG_2366.jpg

Adult Many-Spotted Sweetlips are very shy and Six Banded Angelfish are, too. It’s uncommon to see them together.
Indo_RA_511_Gam-G5_Many-Spotted-Sweetlips-Six-Banded-Angelfish-Panda-Butterflyfish_20141029_IMG_2370
Even more so along with a Panda Butterflyfish.

This Golden girdled Coralfish (Coradion chrysozonus) is also uncommon:
512_Gam-G5_Goldengirdled-Coralfish-Coradion-chrysozonus_20141029_IMG_2391.jpg

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Area G6: Kapisawar village
The coral condition improves as you approach Kapisawar village:
514_Gam-G6_Corals_20141029_IMG_2361.jpg

Kapisawar is characterised by its long, long jetty:
515_Gam-G6_Kapisawar-Jetty_20141028_IMG_2091.jpg

The coral condition is pretty decent at the drop-off by the North and South ends of Kapisawar beach:
518_Gam-G6_Corals_20141029_IMG_2344.jpg 516_Gam-G6_Corals_20141029_IMG_2348.jpg
(not so much in the middle though).

Kapisawar is your next-best choice (after Sawinggrai) for an easy snorkel.

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Further North from Kapisawar, coral condition gets scrappy. It is patchy (bad to OK) as you approach Methos’ Homestay (Area G7).
521_Gam-G7_Corals_20141029_IMG_2342.jpg 522_Gam-G7_Corals_20141029_IMG_2341.jpg 524_Gam-G7_Corals_20141029_IMG_2340.jpg

Methos have their own little beach and this is probably the only place in South Gam that you could sit out in your swimsuit.
525_Gam-G7_Tapor-Aikos-beach_20141029_IMG_2338_.jpg

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On land, the track from Kapisawar village to Methos becomes quite narrow. Beyond Methos, it fades-out completely. You can walk an extra couple of hundred meters through the mangrove roots, but then the mangroves get too dense and your only option for continuing North is to wade out to sea (around G8a) and swim for it.

Most people will have no reason to go further North than this, but a snorkel buddy and I wanted to look for critters in Gam Bay/Lagoon, another 2km to the North East.

We went twice. It is a long haul from Nudibranch Homestay, so we walked as far as possible (until the mangrove track faded out at G8a) then started swimming.

I didn’t have any problems with current on this stretch, but I have read other people commenting about it, so be conscious of current when you get in at G8a, as there will be no walking back.

The corals in Area G8 are pretty sweet. Here they are from South to North:
527_Gam-G8_Corals_20141029_IMG_2201.jpg 528_Gam-G8_Corals_20141031_IMG_2879.jpg 529_Gam-G8_Corals_20141031_IMG_2880.jpg 531_Gam-G8_Corals_20141031_IMG_2881.jpg 532_Gam-G8_Corals_20141029_IMG_2208.jpg 533_Gam-G8_Corals_20141029_IMG_2211.jpg

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So, onto the end of the run, Area G9, Gam Lagoon (also known as Gam Bay).

535_Gam_Area-9-Zoom-Map.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

Independant snorkelling in Gam Lagoon is all about poking around the eroded bases of the karst rocks, looking for small lifeforms.
536_Gam-G9_Islet_20141031_IMG_2939.jpg 537_Gam-G9_Nudi-Huntin_20141029_IMG_2254.jpg

Lifeforms like this:
538_Gam-G9_Lamellarin-probably-Coriocella-hibyae_20141031_IMG_3079.jpg539_Gam-G9_Various-Ascidians-n-Sponges_20141031_IMG_3030.jpg 540_Gam-G9_Maybe-Astrogorgia-sp_20141031_IMG_3031.jpg
That first one is a Lamellarin – he is working hard to cure AIDS and cancer with his alkaloids. This one is probably Coriocella hibyae.

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Here’s the view at G9a, approaching the rocky islets in the North West.
542_Gam-G9a_View-from-G9a_20141029_IMG_2214_MU.jpg

My snorkel buddy and I came here twice. The first day, from G9a, we continued North toward G9b, not even noticing that the gap in the mangroves at G9c might be a short-cut into Gam Lagoon.

Most of that first day was spent nosing around in the shallows on route G9a-b-f.

In the evening, and sizing-up the return journey, we discovered the shorter route G9f-e-c.

At low tides, it is impossible to get over the shallow corals at G9c. You will have to take the long-way-round (G9a-b-f). Not that it matters – this is about the journey, not the arrival.

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Now here’s a funny thing. On the way back home, we met some folk who were staying at Methos Homestay (G7). They said that the staff at Methos had told them not to go to Gam Lagoon under any circumstances, as they would surely be eaten by crocodiles.

Eaten by crocodiles is bad.

As we had already planned our next trip to Gam Lagoon, this concerned my snorkel buddy and I. Was it fact? Or just a ‘scare story’ to stop Methos’ guests discovering other homestays? We asked Paulus (the owner of Nudibranch Homestay) that evening. His response was that there are crocs at Gam, but since tourists and motorboats arrived in the South, the crocs all stay way back, deep in the mangrove forest, as they are scared of the boat engines. “And what about in Gam Lagoon, where there isn’t any boat traffic?”, we asked, nervously. Our advisor stroked his chin: “Hmm, it is best to go there only from 10am-4pm”, he opined.

So there you have it. Crocs, but only working the night-shift. I hope they’ve set their wristwatches right.

Don’t say you haven’t been told!

We still went back the next day and didn’t get eaten, but it was probably quite comical watching each of us furiously trying to swim slower than the other, so we wouldn’t be the one in front, coming nose-to-nose with a Salty.

Going into the Lagoon on the second day, we took the shortcut (G9c-e-f) and had a look at the two new homestays they were building on the little island near G9e.
544_Gam-G9ce_Homestays_20141031_IMG_2882.jpg

It seems that these have since opened and are named Mnu Kwar and Beser Bay. There is a cute little beach here, but there was a lot of sea-grass in the shallow bay outside – a worrying feature for people trying to keep a clear line-of-sight for incoming crocs.

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In the bay at G9e, there were one or two Ox-eye Scad:
545_Gam-G9e_Ox-eye-Scad-Selar-boops_20141031_IMG_2884.jpg

There is no hard-coral in the area I covered, but all parts of triangle G9b-e-i are good if you like nosing around for colourful flora and other small & unusual creatures. That is to say, there’s not much that’s location specific – there’s a blob over here and a blob over there.

One exception to this is that Area G9f always seemed to have a lot of unusual Cardinalfish.

These Pyjama Cardinalfish.
548_Gam-G9f_Pyjama-Cardinalfish_20141031_IMG_2905.jpg

I mean these Pyjama Cardinalfish.
549_Gam-G9f_Pyjama-Cardinalfish_20141031_IMG_2906_.jpg

and these Girdled Cardinalfish, who are still having trouble with their twin-blade razors:
550_Gam-G9f_Girdled-Cardinalfish_20141031_IMG_3149.jpg

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Other notable fishies included this teeny-tiny baby Long Beaked Coralfish:
551_Gam-G9_Long-Beaked-Coralfish_20141031_IMG_2903.jpg

Thousands of these Regal Demoiselles:
552_Gam-G9g_Regal-Demoiselle_20141031_IMG_2960.jpg
(OK, location specific under the rock at G9g)

and these uncommon, yellow trimmed, Squaretail-Mullet:
553_Gam-G9i_Squaretail-Mullet_20141031_IMG_3132.jpg

It is interesting to see how Spinecheek Anemonefish paint their homes in different parts of the bay:
555_Gam-G9_Spinecheek-Anemonefish_20141031_IMG_3012.jpg 556_Gam-G9_Spinecheek-Anemonefish_20141031_IMG_2945.jpg

Eagle-eyed viewers might find the occasional Banded Boxer Shrimp:
558_Gam-G9_Banded-Boxer-Shrimp_20141031_IMG_2928.jpg

Two days in Gam Lagoon revealed three Nudibranchs:
560_Gam-G9_Nembrotha-purpureolineata_20141029_IMG_2258.jpg 561_Gam-G9_Chromodoris-geometrica_20141031_IMG_3008.jpg 562_Gam-G9_Risbecia-tryoni_20141031_IMG_3116.jpg
(which is two more than at Nudibranch Homestay!)

..plus this unusual flatworm, Pseudobiceros bedfordi:
563_Gam-G9_Pseudobiceros-bedfordi-Flatworm_20141031_IMG_2996.jpg

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But the things you are going to see the most of in Gam Lagoon are Sponges, Ascidians, Cnidarians and Lophophorates,
564_Gam-G9_Ascidians-Sponges_20141031_IMG_2988.jpg 565_Gam-G9_Tunicates_20141031_IMG_2924.jpg 568_Gam-G9_Various_20141031_IMG_2920.jpg 566_Gam-G9_Ox-Heart-Ascidians-Bluebell-tunicates_20141031_IMG_2978.jpg 569_Gam-G9_Dunno-Softcoral_20141031_IMG_3089.jpg
…and lots of them!

I didn’t find many jellyfish in Raja Ampat, but you might find one-or-two here:
571_Gam-G9_Jellyfish_20141031_IMG_3125_.jpg 572_Gam-G9_Mastigias-papua_20141031_IMG_3000.jpg

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This weird little fella is a Chiton (pronounced “Kyte-on”), probably Acanthopleura species:
573_Gam-G9_Chiton_20141029_IMG_2233.jpg

There is no shortage of softcorals:
577_Gam-G9_Fan-Coral_20141029_IMG_2261.jpg 578_Gam-G9_Dendronephthya_20141029_IMG_2222.jpg 579_Gam-G9_Dendronephthya_20141029_IMG_2240.jpg

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Over at G9h, somebody has put up a ladder, so you can take in the view:
581_Gam-G9h_Ladder_20141031_IMG_3106.jpg

It’s a precarious climb, but, you gotta, don’t you?
582_Gam-G9h_Viewpoint_20141031_IMG_3108.jpg

It looks a lot steeper on the way down.
583_Gam-G9h_Downhill_20141031_IMG_3114.jpg

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Round Gam Boat Trip

Some folks staying at Menthos Homestay were taking a boat-trip around Gam Island and wanted to share the costs. I guess it was this one, although the cost was 1.5Million (for the whole boat) and we were promised five stops, not three.

The guide on the boat was a bit half-assed to be honest, but it was still a good chance to see some spots that you wouldn’t otherwise reach.

591_Gam-Map-Round-Island-Trip.jpg

The stops were:
Some snorkelling on the South West corner (Area (G)11)
Hidden Bay (Area 15)
Snorkelling in “The Passage” – the gap between North Gam and South Waiego (Area 20)
Snorkelling at Mike’s Point (Area 25)
Snorkelling near Papua Explorer’s (Area 30)

Motoring off to the first stop:
592_Gam-G11_Towards-11_20141030_IMG_2468.jpg

Area (G)11: Snorkelling on the South West corner.

We jumped out of the boat for a bit of a snorkel. I say “jumped out”, but we soon discovered that this vessel wasn’t made for jumping out of. It was a motorised canoe, with a V-shape cross-section, about a metre wide at the top. As soon as anyone moved to the edge to jump out, the new weight distribution would just-about tip the whole boat over. And when they jumped off the edge, it would tip it over the other way! It was like ‘the Keystone Cops go snorkelling’.

Anyway, somehow we managed to get in the water. There was some decent coral there:
593_Gam-G11_SW-Corner-Corals_20141030_IMG_2442.jpg

and some schooling Fusiliers:
595_Gam-G11_Schooling-Fusiliers_20141030_IMG_2464.jpg 596_Gam-G11_Blue-and-Yellow-Fusilier-_20141030_IMG_2439.jpg

…but the snorkelling there wasn’t really any better than you could find outside your front door.

I did see a cute baby Blue Tang:
597_Gam-G11_Juvi-Blue-Tang_20141030_IMG_2452.jpg

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Area 15: Hidden Bay

The next stop was the “Hidden Bay”. This was not a snorkelling stop, but I had heard some “Kayak-Raja-Ampat-ers raving about this place. It is a spot where there is a narrow entrance leading to a big bay inside the body of the island.
600_Gam-G15_Hidden-Bay-Entrance_20141030_IMG_2470.jpg

We motored along a 30m wide “river” lined with 50m tall karst ‘cliffs’. The karst cliffs were an attractive sight.
602_Gam-G15_Hidden-Bay-_20141030_IMG_2472.jpg

After 200m, the cliffs subsided and we arrived into a wide, open bay, surrounded by mangroves. Our guide scratched his ass for a couple of minutes then the boat turned around and we left.

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It wasn’t until a few days later, when I found this aerial picture, that I realised that we had only seen about 1% of the Hidden Bay.
604_Gam-G15_Hidden-Bay-Aerial_285 IMG_3878.jpg
We had stopped at the first “junction”, near the entrance on the right side of the picture. (Image credit).

It seems that there are dozens of mangrove rivers that you could really get in and explore if you had the time and a kayak.

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Area 20: Snorkelling in “The Passage”

“The Passage” (=Kabui Passage) is a 50m wide sea-channel running between the North Coast of Gam and a peninsula on the South side of Waigeo. It a very ‘earthy’ spot, bordered on both sides by tall cliffs and with strong, swirly currents flowing in the waters along its 1.5km length. The currents can be so strong that the place is often referred to as a “saltwater river”. It is famed as an excellent dive-spot.

We motored East along the Passage and pulled into a homestay 1km on the other (East) side to eat our packed lunch. This was Warikaf Homestay and is the one you end-up at if you buy a guided walk from South Gam. When I was at the planning stage, I wondered whether it might be possible to stay at this homestay and regularly swim to and from to The Passage. It most definitely isn’t!! You can’t do the Passage without a boat. The currents are way too strong.

We finished our lunches and jumped back in the boat, all looking forward to snorkelling in this famous spot.

But the driver and the guide had other ideas, as they turned East out of the bay (away from the Passage) to continue our chug around the island.

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HOOOOOOLD ON THERE NEDDY! WHAT ABOUT THE SNORKELLING?

A minor rebellion was had by all, and we persuaded the guide to take us back to the Passage to go snorkelling. After all, that was the main purpose of the trip.

The point of the Passage is the current flowing along it. Persistent current means that there are lots of filter-feeders living there. Lots of Gorgonians (sea fans) and Ascidians.

We pulled over to a quiet, recessed bay halfway along the Passage, and worked on our Keystone-Cops water-entries to see some of this:
607_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2498.jpg608_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2532.jpg609_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2501.jpg 610_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2503.jpg 611_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2502.jpg 612_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2514.jpg 613_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2517.jpg 614_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2510.jpg  615_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2522.jpg  616_Gam-G20_Pssg-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2496.jpg    617_Gam-G20_Pssg-Hard-Corals_20141030_IMG_2539.jpg

Niiice.

That was all in the sheltered waters at the sides of the Passage. We debated whether we should try to ride the current down the middle of it, getting picked up by the boat at the other end. All things considered, we decided that it would be unwise. There were some feisty-looking whirlpools in the flow and it was difficult to guess how much downward-suck they possessed. Also, when we had been in the calm water of the edge-bay, a few times, big dive-boats had come screaming along the middle of the channel at 20 knots, hooters blaring. You wouldn’t want to be stuck on the surface in front of that. Plus, we were barely able to climb back into our boat in still water, let alone in the middle of a salt-water river, so decided to give the river a miss.

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Area 25: Snorkelling at Mike’s Point

Next was a long-haul to the East side of the island for a snorkel at ‘Mike’s Point’. Well, I think it was Mike’s Point – the guide fella didn’t seem to be very sure about it. One of the guests on the boat had previously stayed at nearby Kordiris Homestay and thought that it probably was, so lets go with that. It was a small island with a beach on the East side:
621_Gam-G25_MksPtBeach_20141030_IMG_2550 DELETEME.jpg

and a steep wall on the West.
623_Gam-G25_MksPt-Wall_20141030_IMG_2608.jpg 624_Gam-G25_MksPt-Wall_20141030_IMG_2591.jpg 625_Gam-G25_MksPt-Wall_20141030_IMG_2558.jpg

Most of the good stuff was 5m+ deep on the wall, but there were also a few lovely sights in the shallow waters, too:
626_Gam-G25_MksPt-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2588.jpg

627_Gam-G25_MksPt-Fan-n-Brittlestar_20141030_IMG_2593.jpg 628_Gam-G25_MksPt-Sea-Fan_20141030_IMG_2561.jpg 629_Gam-G25_MksPt-Soft-Corals_20141030_IMG_2576.jpg 630_Gam-G25_MksPt-Ascidians_20141030_IMG_2575.jpg Indo_RA_631_Gam-G25_MksPtSea-Cucumber-Colochirus-robustus_20141030_IMG_2598

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Area 30: Snorkelling near Papua Explorers

Back in the boat, the driver hauled-it Westwards towards home. It soon became apparent that the promised fifth snorkel stop wasn’t going to happen, so after another minor revolution we agreed that we would just snorkel at the spot that we happened to be in at the time. Let’s call this Area 30. It was about 1km East of Papua Explorer’s Dive Resort.

I guess it gave us the chance to see what a truly ‘random’ place in Raja Ampat looks like. It was pretty nice, actually:

Indo_RA_634_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Corals_20141030_IMG_2627 Indo_RA_635_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Corals_20141030_IMG_2617 Indo_RA_636_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Corals_20141030_IMG_2638 Indo_RA_637_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Corals_20141030_IMG_2660 Indo_RA_638_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Corals_20141030_IMG_2637

Indo_RA_640_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Split-Banded-Cardinalfish_20141030_IMG_2652 Indo_RA_641_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Nemo_20141030_IMG_2620 Indo_RA_642_Gam-G30_Near-PE-Mantis-Shrimp_20141030_IMG_2632

 

Then it was back home to Nudibranch Homestay to have dinner with the visiting CusCus:

650_Gam_NBH-KusKus_20141101_IMG_3579.JPG

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Well that’s it for the snorkelling.  Just a couple of extra admin bits:

Alternative maps:
I only have one – a topographic map of Gam Island: 1
Check out the maps page on StayRajaAmpat for more.

 

Sorong Sleeps:
Sorong is a spread-out town. The airport is at the East end of town; the ferry terminal for Waisai & Islands in the middle, and the Pelni (long distance ferry) port in the West. There is a Sorong city map in that SRA map link, above.

There are very few attractions in town, but you will have to spend at least one night there. Midrangers flock to the Meridian Hotel in the East and the Tanjung Hotel in the West, but there are several cheaper options available if you are a cheapskate like me.

The cheapest option near the airport is a no-name penginapan (Indonesian for a low-end hotel) attached to a travel-agent business, 100m from the Meridian. Facing the Meridian, turn to your right and walk 100m until you see the travel agent (Farinda Tour & Travel – look for the sign with all the airlines’ names on), then go inside and ask for the penginapan (no English spoken). They have big, clean rooms with own bathroom (cold water), AC, TV and drinking water &  coffee for 250 000 IDR for two people in 2014. I didn’t stay there, but some friends did and said it was fine.

I was leaving by Pelni ferry, so stayed at the other end of town, nearer Pelni’s port: Citra Hotel Jl Jend. Surdiman No.11 Tel. 0951-321246 email: citra_hotel@yahoo.co.id  No English spoken. The price was 150 000 IDR for one person in a clean, double-room with own bathroom and (crappy) fan. They also had ACs for (?) 200 000 IDR. I notice that the location is marked on the snorkel liveaboard guy’s map.  It is ‘near’ the Pelni ferry, but still a 10 minute drive.

Other Sorong cheapies (data culled from travel forums):
Hotel Indah: 235 000 IDR for an AC double room. Budget room (no AC, no fan) 150 000 IDR (@2013)
Hotel Tulip: 225 000 IDR for an AC double (@2013)
Hotel Manise: 225000 IDR for an AC double (@2012)

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Waisai sleeps:
A forum recommendation for cheapskates staying in Waisai:
Penginapan Surya: 150 000 IDR @ 2012 penginapan.surya@gmail.com Contact: michael_y0e@yahoo.com or frans_yoe@yahoo.com or telephone/text +6285658232442 or +6281344363030 . Ten minutes drive from Waisai ferry port.

 

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Did you come here from an external link or search engine?  Check out the MAIN MENU to read about some other places.

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Originally written December 2014     . . . .  Last updated March 2017

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13 responses to “Indonesia_Raja Ampat

  1. That’s one interesting little guy

    Like

  2. Thank you so much – this is fantastic, very well done!
    May I ask, what camera did you use?

    Like

    • Thanks Lothar

      The trip to Sawandakek was on an Olympus TG820 and everything else on a Canon Powershot D30 (both underwater compacts). Actually I had trouble with the canon (more here), although when it worked, the pictures turned out OK.

      As far as I can tell the trick is to get as close to your subject as possible, then most underwater cameras will give you a reasonable shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I already had a presentiment about this trick 😉
    But usually the fishies vanish until I approache/zoom/focus with my TG820
    Thank you again for these impressing pics and informative tips about the locations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello, I just come back from Sulawesi and Raja Ampat (Yenkoronu). may I suggest : Tumbak island cottage, the snorkeling (coral) was very good!

    Like

  5. Hello, Same like you for cap kri, and we do not see any walking shark on the Yenkoranu jetty at night, perhaps it is a legend ? I like very much yenkoranu house reef, kri eco resort jetty, Arborek jetty and housereef, and manta sandy where we are lucky to see 3 mantas (on march 2016), and the little spot at few metters with a lot of soft coral). Hope to come back there in 2017.

    Like

  6. First off great website and I refer back to it often in my snorkeling travels. I was in Raja in beginning to mid Jan of 2017. I saw 3 to 4 mantas at a time at Manta Sandy the 2 times I went and probably saw 6 different ones.I stayed at Besar Bay Homestay on Gam. Turns out about 200 meters from the homestay in the bay by I think the second island at the head of the bay you can see mantas in the morning and late afternoon. Which would only be a short swim.I only found this out on the night before I was leaving. Sure enough in the morning at least 2 mantas were there as we passed by on the way to Wasai. This makes for a great way to see mantas without having to have a boat and have them all to yourself or your swim buddy. Raja Ampat was great . Thanks again for your work in setting this website up

    Like

  7. Great blog! We are thinking about staying at Yenbuba Homestay. It seems like it’s possible to snorkel/walk along a lot of the north shore. Do you think it’s possible to swim/walk over to Kri Eco Resort’s jetty from there as well? We like the prices of the homestays better than the resort, but the coral seems to be better at the resort! Thanks for any advice you can give!

    Like

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