our destination expert
A diver's mecca and the epicentre of the Coral Triangle, where a plethora of sealife lies waiting to be discovered - whether in minutiae on seafans, camouflaged on the seabed or blending in with psychedelic coral.
Raja Ampat, meaning Four Kings, is a magnificient archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals in Indonesia’s West Papua province. Folklore has it that a woman found seven eggs, where four of them hatched and turned into princes who then conquered the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo.
Single reefs here are meant to contain more species than the entire Carribbean – get up close with species recently discovered, such as Raja Ampat’s ‘walking shark’ and pgymy ‘pontohi’ seahorse. Don’t be surprised to see nudibranches smaller than your nail and as large as a quarter of a meter. Crouch near the sand at a manta cleaning station while the birds of the sea swoop gracefully over your head.
Diving takes centre stage but kayaking and trekking are also a real joy. Kayak through steep limstone karsts painted jungle-green or schlep through virgin rainforests to scale peaks and look over landscapes few will ever get the chance to see. Real feathered beauties can be found above the surface – it’s well worth rising at 3 in the morning to witness the flamenco-like mating dance of the endemic red bird of paradise.
Retire in time for your tablecloth dinner and glass of red. Who said remote means roughing it? Nowhere do you feel quite so far-flung, removed from the rest of the world, yet cocooned in such comfort on a luxury liveaboard or in a eco-resort.