Where is Raja Ampat and why is it great for snorkelling?

The tropical archipelago of Raja Ampat consists of hundreds of tiny islets and coral cays around the larger inhabited islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. Rajat Ampat is not only the easternmost and least developed of all Indonesian islands, sitting to the northwest of New Guinea; it's also within the Coral Triangle – an area which encompasses the world’s most diverse tropical marine ecosystems.
The Coral Triangle is considered to be the world's coral reef epicenter – equivalent to an underwater Amazon Rainforest – and Raja Ampat is situated right at its core, slap bang between the Pacific and Indian oceans. It's this location, and the relatively low human impact, that makes Raja Ampat such a thrilling prospect for snorkel safari vacations, with over 500 coral species providing rich pickings for hundreds of species of tropical fish, predators and molluscs. Hard coral areas in Raja Ampat equate to three quarters of all known species on the planet, with the richest reef fish diversity, comparable for its size, anywhere on earth. Marine mammals, too, thrive in the warm waters of Raja Ampat with whales, dolphins and dugongs all attracted to the area for the abundance of tropical vegetation and swirling schools of fish.
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What does a Raja Ampat snorkel safari entail?

Raja Ampat occupies a vast area with almost 40,000km2 of land and ocean offering untold opportunities to snorkel from wild and untouched sandy beaches. Guided snorkel safaris take you by boat to secret snorkelling spots as well as giving you access to shallow coral reefs, just offshore.
Full day trips to areas around the Fam Islands, northwest of Batanta Island, are absolutely breathtaking with snorkelling instruction allowing for a deeper understanding of what you're observing as well as building confidence to take independent exploration ever further. Each snorkelling session will last approximately 90 minutes in which time you might well encounter everything from manta rays and mandarin fish to wobbegongs and white-tipped reef sharks. Two-week itineraries may also explore other areas of Indonesia, such as North Sulawesi Island. Here you can explore Bunaken Marine Park, where dolphins and whales thrive.
Joining a small group or booking a tailor made tour is the best way to snorkel here as you'll be accompanied the whole time by local experts who not only know the best snorkel sites, but also have your back when it comes to safe snorkelling. Sunburn, dehydration, rocks and coral can all play their part in halting a snorkel safari vacation, but an organised trip will ensure your underwater experience is unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Accommodation in Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat’s isolated islands don't come equipped with much in the way of easily accessible accommodation; however, an organised snorkel safari vacation will take you to out of reach eco-resorts in some enviable locations. Uninhabited islands like Birie, for instance, boast pockets of tropical perfection where thatched, stilted, bungalows provide lucky travelers with a place to lay their heads or stare at the stars as they doze off to the lapping of the ocean.
Snorkel safaris in Raja Ampat might not be cheap but they will give you a superb opportunity to observe marine life in the most responsible way possible as well as contributing financially to the protection of local wildlife and marine park environments. Travelers and local staff are asked to sign up to North Sulawesi Watersports Association regulations that discourage poor fishing and boating practices. Local island communities are supported financially through responsible tourism, and they'll also benefit through education and healthcare initiatives which would not be possible without responsible travelers visiting the islands of Rajat Ampat.


The best time of year to snorkel in Raja Ampat is during the drier, calmer season from October to December. You can snorkel all the way through to mid-April, although as this is the tropics there's every chance of an afternoon rainstorm to clear the decks of heat and humidity. Monsoon kicks off in earnest at the start of May and will last all the way through to the end of September. June and July are Raja Ampat's wettest months. Some tour operators won't run snorkelling safaris during the wet season because high winds can make boat rides increasingly uncomfortable, especially for smaller craft.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tiomax80] [Intro: sutirta budiman] [Why is it great for snorkelling: Lakshmi Sawitri] [What does it entail 1: Elias Levy] [What does it entail 2: Benjamin Hollis] [What does it entail 3: clicjeroen] [Accommodation 1: monica renata] [Accommodation 2: bubusbubus] [When to snorkel: bubusbubus]