Diving Raja Ampat remains truly remarkable, despite the environmental pressures and more liveaboard boats in the region. Here’s my detailed Raja Ampat liveaboard trip report.
Soft coral overhang, Four Kings, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Here’s a site by site rundown of my 7 day Raja Ampat liveaboard on Damai 2 between 6-12 December 2019. (If you’re diving Raja Ampat in 2020, this is a good primer on the sites you’re likely to visit). I tried to get a decent photo from every dive… with variable results. Hopefully it gives a flavour of what we saw and the different environments.
Diver with corals, Andiamo, Raja Ampat
Day 2 – 7 December
Dive 1: Andiamo
Two pinnacles separated by a channel and it was super, super fishy – schooling everywhere. Great viz. Big school of barracuda in the channel, yellow snapper, glass fish and a big school of bat fish
Glassfish and fan coral, Candy Store, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 2: Candy Store
Lozenge-like sloping rock with a bite taken out of it which forms a channel where fusiliers and barracuda etc school – loads of red fans and yellow elephant ear corals.
Candy store kind of similar to first site – like the fish had followed us. Felt amazing to see so many fish on two consecutive dives.Dived these sites last year with no real memory – this time weather and sun and viz much better so seeing them at their best.
Barracuda schooling, Yilliet Kecil, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 3: Yelliet Kecil
Terrible viz but loads to see. Dropped in on a big school of barracuda in 6 metres.
Big schools of fish running around … jacks and fusiliers… turtle chomping away on the coral.
Baby black manta ray, Magic Mountain, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Day 2: 8th December
Dive 1: Magic Mountain
Gloomy mountain, more like – viz not great and little light. But it was breakfast time – whipcrack of fusiliers, trevally and jacks whirling around each other on the top of the plateau.
Remarkable for a brief encounter with a dolphin and her baby. They were cruising the edge of the drop-off together – initially I thought it was a shark due to the poor viz and then a while later had a brief face to face encounter with them as we rounded the same rock.
Manta ray finally turned up – baby black manta weaving through 11 divers unphased by the bubbles. Came back on the other side of the mountain as we did the safety stop.
Diver in Boo Window, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 2: Boo Windows
Even though the central pillar fell out in 2018, Boo Window is still photogenic. Along the sloping wall it was a sky full of fish. Viz was poor through – that kind of gloom I can’t really see very well. A little disappointing compared to previous times but can’t control the visibility.
Glassfish clustered around soft corals, Nudi Rock, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 3: Nudi Rock
Slope with lots of fans. Super fishy with lots of little fish around – schooling inside bommies for shelter. Viz not great again.
Pook surfacing at Nudi Rock, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Nudi Rock, incidentally, is not called Nudi Rock because you can find a lot of nudibranches there but because it is a rock that looks unarguably like a nudi. See above.
Coral bommie and glassfish cyclone, Four Kings, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Day 3: 9 December
Dive 1 and 2 : Four Kings
Just fantastic on both dives. Mild current, great viz and so much action around these four pinnacles. There’s supposedly a manta station at the deepest fourth pinnacle but no show there – didn’t matter. The 30 metre viz revealed a blanket of glass fish seemingly stretching over the entire dive site, diaphanously undulating (look it up) in the sun drenched water.
Progressing from the shallowest pinnacle to the deepest, with huge corals piled on each other every inch of the way, the elbow of the dive site forms a real-life fish bowl – fusiliers, jacks, barracudas, glass fish all schooling here together en masse in one compact area. So good we dived it twice and frankly worth the price of admission alone.
Soft corals in the shallows, Tank Rock, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 3: Tank Rock
Sister to neighbouring Nudi Rock, Tank Tock has a similar topography – steep slope – murky most of the dive the usual fans etc. Last 10 minutes the best in the shallows – viz cleared up, warm water, zebra fish eveywhere and soft corals clinging to the pinnacle as it went above water.
Reefscape, Three Sisters, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Day 5: 10 December
Dive 1: Three Sisters Island
Murky and quiet reef to begin with – strong current rushing around the rock making it difficult to go beyond the main slope so zig zag pattern up there. Nice fans and bommie at the corner. Baby barracuda, mantis shrimp, turtle.
Fish swimthrough, No Contest, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 2: No Contest
Towering vertical rock with a huge u-shape taken out of it and a cluster of fan corals at its base – Lord of the Rings-esque. The U-shape acts as a channel for hundreds of fish to swarm through in the current.
Around the rock there’s plenty of soft coral tenaciously clinging on to the rock and a nice photogenic hole which acts as a fish swim through.
Diver photographing batfish, Two Tree Island, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 3: Two Trees Island
Murky but still amazing. Topographically a sloping rock. Back to my favourite corner with the gorgeous sea fans. Crocodile fish immobile beneath a soft coral. Batfish in the blue for the perfect safety stop.
Cruise overnight to get to…
Diver over lettuce corals, Melissa’s Garden, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Day 6: 11 December
Dive 1: Melissa’s Garden
One of my all time favourite dive sites anywhere. This is Finding Nemo reef made real. Plate and fan corals piled on each other like the crockery dropped by a giant. Barracuda in the blue at 6 meters. Black tip sharks cruising the shallows.
Diver over endless corals, Melissa’s Garden, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Quite strong current but gorgeous viz. Life everywhere amongst the corals stretching unbroken and piled high across the plateau. Viz still amazing on exit with the whole dive site visible below.
Piyanemo Viewpoint, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
The famous view that’s now synonymous with Raja Ampat. Walk up 300 steps up a well constructed wooden staircase. Shady but super hot at the top so take hat and sunscreen. And charge your phone battery for photos! Can have young coconut from the locals too.
Damai 2 liveaboard with Damai 1 liveaboard in the background, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Damai 2’s older sister boat Damai 1 had also arrived at Piyanemo at the same time so we could get both of them together in the obligatory romantic liveaboard photo. I’ve been on both Damai 1 and Damai 2 before and they continue to maintain excellent standards – no complaints at all about the boat, the staff, the food or the service – all were excellent.
Jacks under Arborek Jetty, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Dive 2: Arborek Pier
The jetty itself is a sad sight – there’s great photos of it covered in soft coral and suffused in glass fish – but in reality there are a couple of isolated soft corals on bare poles. The saving grace – and main attraction – is a school of jacks that circle around and inbetween the poles.
Diver with giant clams, Arborek Jetty, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Giant clams are all over the sloping reef below the pier. Half a metre to a metre long, grouped together. The reef itself has a few coral growing structures and there some nice bommies on the white sand. The night dive here found a blue ring octopus.
School of Jacks, Blue Magic, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
Day 7: 12 December
Submerged sea mount. Shallowest part 8 metres. Great viz. Strongish current so you have to hide down below the top of the mount. Big school of jacks playing at the top. Lots of coral which you could see had been blasted by current. Big fat blacktip amongst barracuda in the blue. Wobbegong and sweet lips.
Hard corals reflected in the ocean surface, Miskion, Raja Ampat © Chris Mitchell
The last dive of the trip. Very shallow. Gorgeous shallow dive along a reef with tons of sponges and hard corals at 1 to 3 metres amazing snorkelling spot – I swam into the current to the corner to see lots of fish. Big bommies with soft corals hanging from them. The colours of the corals reflected in the ocean’s surface.
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Route
The trip followed the now-standard 7 day Sorong to Sorong Raja Ampat itinerary, focusing mainly on the Misool region and then coming back up near to the Dampier Strait (see map).
Raja Ampat Liveaboard itinerary map © Dive Damai
For practicalities about getting to Sorong and what else to expect from diving Raja Ampat, see my Diving Raja Ampat: A Quick Guide page.
Raja Ampat Dive Site List
Here’s a complete list of the dive sites we visited, including the night dive sites which I didn’t do (saving my energy for the day dives… or possibly drinking Bintang).
|#||Date||Site Name||Site Area||GPS Point||Terrain|
|1||06-Dec||Matan||Warir||00'57.548 S||131'08.456 E||Sloping Reef|
|2||07-Dec||Andiamo||Daram||02'05.895 S||130'51.361 E||Pinnacle, Wall|
|3||07-Dec||Candy Store||Daram||02'06.270 S||130'52.361 E||Wall, Slope|
|4||07-Dec||Yilliet Kecil||Yilliet||02'11.228 S||130'35.639 E||Sloping Reef, Wall|
|5||07-Dec||Romeo||Yelliet||02'11.757 S||130'36.620 E||Night Dive|
|6||08-Dec||Magic Mountain||Warakaraket||02'15.559 S||130'38.881 E||Seamount|
|7||08-Dec||Boo Window||Boo||02'13.267 S||130'36.691 E||Ridge|
|8||08-Dec||Nudi Rock||Fiabacet||02'13.146 S||130'33.708 E||Wall/Ridge|
|9||08-Dec||Dunia Kecil||Wayil||02'12.385 S||130'25.270 E||Nightdive|
|10||09-Dec||4 Kings||Waiylbatan||02'12.497 S||130'22.671 E||Pinnacle|
|11||09-Dec||4 Kings||Waiylbatan||02'12.497 S||130'22.671 E||Pinnacle|
|12||09-Dec||Tank Rock||Fiabacet||02'13.106 S||130'33.908 E||Ridge/Pinnacle|
|13||09-Dec||Wagmab Bay||Farondi||02'00.249 S||130'38.302 E||Nightdive|
|14||10-Dec||3 Sisters||Farondi||02'00.170 S||130'38.376 E||Wall, Sloping Reef|
|15||10-Dec||No Contest||Balbulol||02'01.584 S||130'41.431 E||Pinnacles|
|16||10-Dec||2 Tree Island||Sagof||02'01.744 S||130'44.062 E||Wall/Slope|
|17||11-Dec||Melissa's Garden||Penemu||00'35.299 S||130'19.074 E||Slope|
|18||11-Dec||Arborek Jetty||Mansuar||00'33.743 S||130'31.201 E||Jetty, Sloping Reef|
|19||11-Dec||Arborek Jetty||Mansuar||00'33.743 S||130'31.201 E||Nightdive|
|20||12-Dec||Blue Magic||Dampier Strait||00'30.414 S||130'44.290 E||Seamount|
|21||12-Dec||Mioskon||Dampier Strait||00'29.840 S||130'43.627 E||Sloping Reef|
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 May 2018
- 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