A seven day Raja Ampat liveaboard may seem too short to see all the great dive sites Raja Ampat has to offer, but it still provides a week of unforgettable diving
Diver and corals, Two Tree Island, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
This was my first time doing a classic one week Raja Ampat itinerary. On previous liveaboards to Raja Ampat (the first one eleven years ago back in 2008, and then in 2016 and 2017 and most recently 2019), I’d always done a longer combination trip such as Raja Ampat to Triton Bay or Raja Ampat to the Banda Islands and Ambon.
Raja Ampat is, after all, a long way to come, so it’s good to get as many days in as possible. This time, we’d taken advantage of Damai’s annual Valentine’s Day buy one get one free offer (sign up to their email list for the next one) and this was the trip we got at effectively half price.
With six days of diving, we focussed on the Misool area and the Dampier Strait, essentially heading down south out of Sorong and then gradually looping back up into the Strait over the course of the week.
Soft Corals, Two Tree Island, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 1 (25th May)
Candy Store / Andiamo / Two Tree Island
A fantastic first day of diving. Candy Store had a gorgeous array of massive red gorgonian fans hanging on to the sloping reef, while Andiamo had amazing sun-drenched visibility in the shallows, with curious batfish buzzing around the coral-encrusted rocks. Two Tree Island was the highlight, however: what the site lacked in visibility it made up for in a spectacular cavalcade of fans, fish, and hard and soft corals tumbling over each other. The sheer richness of the reef here, and the years of growth the size of the fans and corals indicate, is just breathtaking.
In the shallows, Nudi Rock, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 2 (26th May)
Boo Windows / Magic Mountain / Nudi Rock
Into some of the Raja Ampat classics on the second day. The early morning dive at Boo Windows was a little sad, as the pillar of stone which divided the hole in the rock giving the site its name has collapsed, leaving one large window. The site itself is still beautiful further along the slope – big schools of yellow snappers hanging around, huge great hard coral bommies, and a bonus turtle making an appearance at the dive’s end.
A curious Napoleon wrasse and hundreds-strong schools of blue fusiliers whipping across the plateau of Magic Mountain characterised our second dive, as we hoped for a sighting of a manta ray on this famous site. There were a couple of glimpse of a manta on the edges of the reef in the blue, but it was not to be a five star appearance. No matter – there’s a profusion of other life on this big site which provides plenty of interest when the mantas don’t feel like coming in for a clean-up.
Nudi Rock had some beautiful afternoon sun in the shallows, similar to Andiamo the previous day – it was a real delight to simply hang out watching the light come through the surface with Nudi Rock itself clearly visible above us, all the while surrounded by clouds of zebra fish.
Barracuda, Melissa’s Garden © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 3 (27th May)
No Contest / 3 Sisters / Killer Cave
The weather turned against us on day 3 with heavy rain and rough seas – we jumped in at No Contest and while the rest of the group got down this steep pinnacle, my buddy and I weren’t able to descends fast enough before being pushed away from the rock by the current. Swiftly picked up by the boat boys we decided to leave it alone and retired to breakfast. It was a salient reminder to be aware Raja has strong surface currents at times and to ensure you have a plan with your buddy.
I didn’t note down much or take photos at 3 Sisters and Killer Cave, so I think they must have been pretty humdrum dives where I’d dived without my camera.
It’s worth noting that our trip was at the end of the Raja Ampat dive season in May, so the rain and wind we saw today was an early taste of the changing weather that comes in over June to October in the Raja Ampat region.
Fish schooling over a fan coral, My Reef, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 4 (28th May)
Melissa’s Garden / My Reef / Keruro Channel
Melissa’s Garden is one of my all-time favourite dive sites in Raja Ampat. There is something about this big, relatively shallow plateau that seems to attract sunlight and every kind of marine life to it. It’s just got a lovely feel. The huge school of barracuda hanging in the blue just off the edge of the reef was particularly impressive, as were the piled-up plate corals and table corals across the site.
There was a real electricity on the second dive at My Reef was similarly busy with hundreds of rainbow runners rushing back and forth over the impressive yellow fans across the site – these big schools start to feel commonplace in Raja you see them so often, but it’s magical every single time.
Staghorn coral with fish at Melissa’s Garden © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 5 (29th May)
Cape Kri / Sardine Reef / Blue Magic
This was another day of strong currents where I didn’t dive with my camera and spent time with my buddy instead. By now the liveaboard had relocated to the Dampier Strait and there were more classic sites to explore.
Blue Magic is a plateau that starts at 15 metres so it’s a rapid swimdown to avoid being swept off the rock and back into the blue. Once you’re down it’s a lovely site, white sand with bommies scattered across it which have been evidently whipped by current over the years.
Coral bommie at Mioskon © Chris Mitchell
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Day 6 (30th May)
Cape Kri (again) / Mioskon
Cape Kri is famous as one of the richest marine life dive sites in the world, with schools of snapper and trevally riding the currents that pass over the site. It’s another staple of Raja liveaboard itineraries – so much we dived it twice.
Mioskon is perhaps the perfect finale to a Raja Ampat liveaboard trip. It’s very shallow – only a couple of metres at its shallowest, more power snorkelling than diving – and the richness of coral sponges and bommies here is stunning. The reef just rolls on, and on, and on over an hour plus dive in usually beautifully clear water fully illuminated by the sun.
Raja Ampat Liveaboard 24-31 May 2018 Dive Site List
Raja Ampat liveaboard dive site list May 2018
Conclusion: Is A Week For A Raja Ampat Liveaboard Enough?
While a week seems all too short for a Raja Ampat liveaboard, especially given the length of time and expense to get here, it’s unarguably six incredible days of diving that is hard to beat. Every day just turns up spectacular reefs and marine life encounters, regardless of whether the viz is good or bad or the sun shining or not. It’s a definite case of quality over quantity.
That said, I would probably avoid going at the end of the season again to maximise the chances of good weather – as we got the Buy 1 Get 1 deal we were necessarily limited about which dates we could choose.
Given the overall expense of a Raja trip – the remoteness means it’s not cheap, even with increasingbudget Raja Ampat liveaboard options – it’s not an easy decision to commit to doing a liveaboard here, but if you do, it’s very unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
Yellow snapper at Mioskon, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
A Note On Liveaboard Logistics and Trip Planning
A week-long liveaboard in Raja Ampat will typically take up 8 days and 7 nights.
- Day 1 is arrival with maybe a check-out dive in the afternoon if everyone arrives in the morning.
- Day 2 to 7 (six days) is the six days of solid diving with four dives a day (one night dive each day most days, unless there’s a crossing to a different region of Raja).
- Day 8 is check-out day, with guests being transferred off the boat early morning back to Sorong airport or to a Sorong hotel.
- See my Raja Ampat Diving: A Quick Guide for more tips on what to expect from a Raja Ampat dive trip and how to plan to make the most of your time there.
More Raja Ampat Trip Reports and Dive Advice
- Diving Raja Ampat: A Quick Guide
- How To Get To Raja Ampat
- Raja Ampat Liveaboard Trip Report December 2019
- Raja Ampat to Banda Islands and Ambon Trip Liveaboard Report February 2016
- Raja Ampat to Triton Bay Liveaboard Trip Report February 2008
- Liveaboard Packing List
- Check For Raja Ampat Last Minute Liveaboard Deals