Raja Ampat is a diver’s mecca situated in West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province.
Its isolated location makes it relatively hard to reach, but this also makes Raja Ampat a pristine underwater paradise, far from congestion, pollution and crowded tourist spots.
The Raja Ampat archipelago consists of about 1,500 islands, many of which are uninhabited, and translates as “The Four Kings,” referring to the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool.
It requires a lengthy journey to get there, and it’s by far the most expensive place to visit in Indonesia, but that hasn’t stopped a steady stream of travellers keen to experience what is dubbed ‘the last paradise on earth.’ Raja Ampat’s coral reefs are rightly called the ‘bullseye of biodiversity’ with more varieties of marine life than anywhere on the planet. This is a destination that should be right at the top of the bucket list.
The number of marine species is mind boggling and new ones are being discovered every year. This includes the discovery of the unique Raja Ampat ‘walking shark’ only a few years ago. Unsurprisingly it is the pinnacle for all serious scuba divers.
It is a true reef to rainforest destination with much to see and do on land too. The most iconic attraction is Raja Ampat’s elusive birds of paradise which live wild in the jungles.
Wondering if Raja Ampat is worth the expense and the long journey? If you’re looking for pristine beaches with virtually no other tourists, turquoise waters, and abundant marine life, Raja Ampat simply cannot be beaten. We recommend visiting during the dry season from October to April.
The closest main airport to Raja Ampat is Sorong, the largest city in the province. From Sorong it takes about 20 minutes to the harbour from where you can take a 2 hour ferry.
There are not a lot of direct flights to Sorong, but we think Raja Ampat is more than worth the few hours of layover.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to this amazing archipelago!
Quick Answer on Getting to Raja Ampat
Keep in mind that you’ll need patience to get to Raja Ampat, with often long airport layovers.
To reach Raja Ampat, you’ll need to fly to the closest airport which is in Soron. From there you can take a two hour ferry to these paradise islands.
While there is a good range of budget and mid-priced accommodation, you’ll be shocked by the price of speed boat fares between the islands.
Transportation within the archipelago is extortionate so choose the location of your accommodation carefully to limit costs getting around the islands.
Flying to Sorong, West Papua
Sorong is the gateway to Raja Ampat. Keep in mind though that nonstop flights to Sorong are limited and available only from a few cities: Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya, Ambon, and Manado.
If you’re coming from other destinations like Bali or Lombok, you can only book an indirect flight which will first fly to one of these airports.
There are no direct flights from Bali to Raja Ampat. The fastest flight takes a total of 7.5 hours, including a 1hr 40min layover at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport.
Another option is taking a flight from Bali to Makassar and then a connecting service to Sorong. This reduces the time in the air although the overall travel time may be longer due to incompatible flights times.
A plane ticket costs around 2,500,000 IDR ($165), but can be cheaper if you don’t mind spending longer hours for your layover. You can book a ticket below.
There are no direct flights from Flores either. Again the best option is to make at least one stop in Jakarta. This takes the total journey time to about 14 hours, including a 7.5-hour layover. A ticket costs 2,620,000 IDR ($175).
All flights touch down at the Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong. It is located only about three kilometres east of the harbour where ferries depart for Raja Ampat.
Getting from the airport to the harbour
There is a choice of taking a taxi cab or an ‘ojek’ motorcycle taxi, which is fine if you are travelling alone and do not have too much baggage. Travel time is around 20mins and fares start at 100,000 IDR ($6.50) for a taxi and 20,000 IDR ($1.35) for a motorbike.
From Sorong Harbour to Raja Ampat
From Sorong Harbour, you need to take a ferry bound for Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, which is located on the biggest island Waigeo.
Express ferries have 2 departures daily at 09:00 and 14:00. Ferry tickets cannot be booked in advance so you will need to buy them in person at the harbour. The one-way fare is 125,000 IDR ($8) for economy class and 215,000 IDR ($14.50) for VIP. The ferry ride takes about 2 hours.
Pick up often included by most accommodations on Waigeo
Most accommodations on Waigeo will be able to pick-up their guests from Waisai Harbour. Make sure to arrange this with your accommodation beforehand, and remind them with a message before you depart from Sorong just to be sure.
Also, note that pick-up rates can be very expensive, especially because you might need a private speedboat to get to your homestay. Remember to haggle and agree on a price beforehand!
If you have spent some time travelling in Indonesia, you’ll soon realize that local transportation and other essentials are far more expensive here than anywhere else due to the isolated location.
Alternative for the express ferries
Private speedboat charters: If your flight is delayed and you cannot make the afternoon public ferry, another option is to charter a speedboat. If you take this option be prepared. Private speedboat travel is incredibly expensive. Depending on where your accommodation is, prices will likely start at about 2,000,000 IDR ($135) one way but can be as much as several hundred dollars if arranged through some of the larger dive resorts.
This is probably the number one reason that puts off independent travellers from visiting Raja Ampat. If you do happen to miss the afternoon ferry, you may want to consider an affordable hotel for the night in Sorong and take the ferry the next day.
Be prepared for expensive travel between the islands in Raja Ampat
Inter-island transfers: Getting around between the different islands is also extremely expensive and widely varies as many islands are quite far-flung. It will certainly make a major dent in your budget without careful planning.
It pays to choose your accommodation wisely so that you do not have to rely too much on transport between islands.
In addition, try to be flexible about when you go on boat excursions as you may be able to join with other travellers at a convenient time to share costs.