If you ask me about my dream diving destination, I can happily say I have already visited it. In fact, Raja Ampat in Papua, consistently comes up as one of the top ten diving destinations from around the world and if you ever get a chance to visit you will quickly understand why. A marine survey conducted by Conservation International – a major conservation NGO – concluded that the region has the highest marine life diversity on Earth. It’s a grand statement, but what does that actually mean. Well, let me make a quick list of just some of the marine creatures you can expect to see if you come here on a diving holiday; sting rays, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, wobbegongs – a crazy looking type of shark, and the list goes on… In fact, just to put it in perspective, in an area no larger than four olympic sized swimming pools, scientists discovered six times as many coral species as can be found in the entire Caribbean Sea.
“The marine life diversity is the highest on Earth” – Conservation International
So now that I’ve convinced you – I’m sure few of you needed convincing – why it is such a good idea to go on a diving holiday in Raja Ampat, you want to learn how to get there and what diving packages are available. I actually explain how to get to Raja Ampat in Papua in my in depth budget travel guide. However, I don’t cover diving in Raja Ampat. There are essentially three choices, so let me show you what’s on offer.
Liveaboards are one of the most popular means of exploring Raja Ampat and diving within the region. The key benefits are the range of dive sites and stunning locations that you can visit on a liveaboard ship. In fact, many Raja Ampat liveaboard packages, start in Flores or even the Maluku Islands, meaning that you will get the chance to see plenty of sites on your diving holiday.
There is a huge range of options available for anyone interested in taking a liveaboard dive holiday in Raja Ampat. You could for example book yourself onto an old fashioned wooden sailing ship or a state of the art engine powered yacht and prices vary accordingly. The cheapest package I could find was for a six day liveaboard was US $1,450, with Wicked Diving. Mermaid liveaboards, who have two modern luxury yachts in their fleet, charge €2,900 for a nine night trip, included in the cost are two dives a day.
There are dozens of luxury resorts and hotels scattered around the archipelago of Raja Ampat and almost without exception, every resort and hotel has a dive centre. Most of the resorts offer dive packages and the prices vary tremendously. At the top end, resorts like Raja4Divers charge €2,350 per person for a weeks full board accommodation plus unlimited diving. Other resorts, like Raja Ampat Dive Resort, charge €90 per person per night and €90 for a single dive. While you can find some budget hotels and homestays in Raja Ampat, these places normally do not have a dive centre on the premises.
The last option available is to go directly to the dive centre yourself to arrange dive trips. This is a good option for anyone who is interested in diving, but doesn’t want to spend their whole holiday under the waves. As I stated previously, with the average cost a dive being around €90, this is an expensive option.
Of the three available options, I would personally suggest staying on a liveaboard if you want to go diving in Raja Ampat. The reason for this is simple, Raja Ampat is absolutely enormous and if you want to make the most of being there then a liveaboard is the perfect way to explore the region. While hotel dive packages are good, they just don’t give you the same freedom to explore. However, regardless of what option you choose, you are bound to have a great time.