How to get to Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is a diver’s mecca situated in West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province.
Its isolated location makes it relatively hard to reach, which has largely kept Raja Ampat a pristine underwater paradise, far from congestion, pollution and crowded tourist spots.
The name “Raja Ampat” translates to “The Four Kings,” referring to the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. Aside from these four main islands, the archipelago consists of 1,500 more islands, many of which are uninhabited.
Is Raja Ampat worth visiting?
It requires a lengthy journey to get to Raja Ampat, making it one of the most expensive places to visit in Indonesia. However, 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.
Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to get to this amazing archipelago!
Quick answer on getting to Raja Ampat
To reach Raja Ampat, you’ll need to fly to Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong. This airport is the closest airport to Raja Ampat and is located in the largest city in the province.
Direct flights are available from only Makassar and Jakarta, or you can take an indirect flight from Bali, Lombok, and Flores. From Sorong, it takes about 15 minutes to the harbour where you can take a 2-hour ferry to Raja Ampat.
|Direct Flight from Makassar
|1,200,000 IDR ($77)
|Direct Flight from Jakarta
|3,000,000 IDR ($190)
|Indirect Flight from Bali
|2,500,000 IDR ($160)
|Indirect Flight from Lombok
|3,000,000 IDR ($190)
|Indirect Flight from Flores
|3,000,000 IDR ($190)
While there is a good range of budget and mid-priced accommodations in these paradise islands, you’ll be shocked by the price of speedboat fares between the islands.
Transportation within the archipelago is extortionate so choose the location of your accommodation carefully to limit the costs of getting around the islands.
Flying to Sorong, West Papua
Sorong is the gateway to Raja Ampat. Keep in mind that direct flights to Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong are limited and available only from a few cities. Makassar offers the cheapest and most direct flights to Sorong daily, but you can also book a few direct flights from Jakarta.
If you’re coming from other destinations like Bali, Lombok, and Flores, you can only book an indirect flight, most of which have a layover in Makassar.
The cheapest and fastest way to travel to Sorong is by taking a flight from Makassar. Airfares start from 1,200,000 IDR ($77) for the 2-hour flight.
At least 4 direct flights operate from Makassar to Sorong daily. The first flight is at 02:55, with the last one at 10:50.
If you’re coming from other cities with no direct flights, like Bali and Lombok, it’s recommended to book a separate flight to Makassar first and then another flight from Makassar to Sorong. This way, you won’t spend long hours on layovers.
Both direct and indirect flights are available from Jakarta to Sorong. The direct flights are operated by Lion Air, Batik Air and Garuda Indonesia.
Note that more flights operate from Soekarno-Hatta Airport than from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport, both in Jakarta city centre.
The earliest direct flight to Sorong is at 00:05 and the latest is at 22:00. The journey takes at least 4 hours and airfares start at 3,000,000 IDR ($190).
There are also indirect flights from Surabaya Juanda Airport to Sorong with a layover in Makassar. Airfares are also around 3,000,000 IDR ($190), and the shortest flight takes about 5 hours.
There are no direct flights from Bali to Raja Ampat. The fastest indirect flight takes a total of 6 hours, which includes a 2.5-hour layover at Makassar.
A plane ticket costs around 2,500,000 IDR ($160), but you can score cheaper tickets if you don’t mind a long layover. You can book a ticket below.
Same as Bali, you can only take an indirect flight from Lombok to Sorong.
Most of the flights have two stopovers, either in Jakarta or Surabaya, plus another in Makassar. The shortest journey takes 13.5 hours in total. For this route, flights with just one layover usually take much longer than flights with two layovers.
Airfares from Lombok to Sorong start from 3,000,000 IDR ($190).
When coming from Flores Island, flights to Sorong are available only from Komodo Airport. Note that these flights are also indirect.
The fastest indirect flight from Komodo to Sorong is about 13.5 hours, with fares starting from 3,200,000 IDR ($205).
Getting from Sorong Airport to Raja Ampat
All flights touch down at the Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong. It is located only 3 km west of Sorong Harbour, where ferries to Raja Ampat depart from.
To get from Sorong Airport to Sorong Harbour, you can take a taxi from 100,000 IDR ($6.40).
If you’re travelling alone and do not have heavy luggage, a cheaper option is a motorcycle taxi or an ‘ojek’. Rates start from 20,000 IDR ($1.30).
Travel time from the airport to Sorong Harbour is around 15 minutes.
From Sorong Harbour, you need to take a ferry bound for Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat. Waisai is located on the biggest island, Waigeo. The ferry ride from Sorong to Waisai Harbour takes about 2 hours.
Express ferries have two departures daily, at 09:00 and 14:00. Note that this is the same schedule for the ferries from Waisai back to Sorong.
Ferry tickets cannot be booked in advance, so you will need to buy them in person at the harbour. Economy ferry tickets cost 140,000 IDR ($9), while VIP tickets are 250,000 IDR ($16).
If your flight is delayed and you cannot make the afternoon public ferry, another option is to charter a speedboat.
Be prepared, though, as private speedboat travel is incredibly expensive. Depending on where your accommodation is, prices will likely start at about 2,000,000 IDR ($130) one-way. It may cost as much as several hundred dollars if you arrange this through some of the larger dive resorts.
If you miss the afternoon ferry, consider booking an affordable hotel in Sorong to stay for the night and then take the public ferry the next day.
Pick-up is often included by accommodations on Waigeo
Most accommodations on Waigeo offer pick-up at the 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 expensive 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.
Interisland transfers in Raja Ampat
Getting around between the different islands is also extremely expensive and widely varies, as many islands are quite far away from each other. It can 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 other travellers at a convenient time to share costs.
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