Raja Ampat: Backpacking on a Budget
Raja Ampat has to be at the top of most Indonesian backpackers travel list. It is one of the ultimate destinations for diver (check here for my top three diving spots in Indonesia besides Raja Ampat) from around the world and one of the last hidden paradise. Most people think it is expensive. I’m going to prove to you that it’s not. In this article I will show you how you can visit Raja Ampat for less than Rp 5,000,000. I will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions I have seen online about how to arrange a trip here. I hope this information will make it easier for people to visit here.
Where is it exactly?
Find Indonesia on a map. Got it? well now try to find Papua. Yes the big island at the far eastern edge of the country. Raja Ampat is located off the north-west tip of the island in a place known as the bird’s head peninsula. Believe me when I say it is much easier to get there when you know exactly where it is, at least on a map.
How to get there
There are two main ways to enter Raja Ampat, the first is from Sorong, West Papua to Waigeo. The other way is Misool, which you can reach from Ambon. I have only ever entered Raja Ampat from Sorong, so I will focus on what I know and have experienced and not what I have not.
The easiest way to get to Sorong is fly to there from Jakarta (Btw, if you want to know is it worth it to spend some time in Jakarta, you better check this article). The flight takes about seven hours and usually transits in Makassar (Ujung Pandang) for one hour. These are local airlines that I know serve the route Jakarta-Sorong: Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air, Merpati, Express Air. Some of the airlines transit in Surabaya or Ambon.
A return ticket costs between Rp. 700,000 until Rp. 5,000,000. If you want to get the cheapest tickets then you will need to find an airline with a promotion. I know that it is possible to get a ticket this cheaply, because my friend once bought a Jakarta – Sorong return ticket for only Rp. 685,000! Isn’t that great? The other option you have is to fly from Jakarta to Makassar with Air Asia and then from there fly to Sorong with one of the local airlines that I mentioned before. Air Asia to Makassar on promotion period time can be as cheap as Rp. 154,000 one way. Cheap!
It is also possible to take a public Pelni ferry from Jakarta (Tanjung Priok port) to Sorong. A one way economy ticket costs Rp. 747,000 while a super VIP ticket costs Rp. 2,954,500 (two beds per cabin with a private washroom, TV and air conditioner). The journey takes 4-5 days.
From Sorong you can get a public boat to Waisai or Waigeo. The ticket costs Rp. 120,000 and the ferry takes 2-3 hours. An insider tip from me, if you arrive in Sorong around 12, you can go straight from the airport to the port and be sailing off without any waiting around.
How much does it cost the whole trip?
This obviously depends on what do you want to see and do! You can get a 10 day 9 night cruise around Raja Ampat for Rp. 45,000,000 per person. A 7 day 6 night tour that includes almost everything you will want to see in Raja Ampat (but exclude diving) costs Rp. 8,500,000 per person or if you are lucky, you can get as low as Rp. 4.100.00 for a 6 day 5 night trip. A 6 day 5 night live on board diving trip can cost as little as Rp. 17,000,000 per person. Alternatively you could stay for a week in a luxury resort run by a Westerner for $3,000 per person.
One of the things you should know is that the more people you travel with the cheaper the trip. If you’re a solo backpacker or a couple then try and find other people who look like backpackers and see if you can travel together. You could even ask the staff at the Cultural and Tourism Ministry Office in Waisai where you need to buy a tourist permit (costs Rp. 200,000 for local and Rp. 500,000 for foreigner).
To hire a large speedboat for 12 hours will cost you around Rp. 9,000,000 with the capacity of 20 people per boat, while smaller boats can be rented for Ro. 2,000,000.
In Waisai, you can find hotels for Rp. 300,000 up to Rp. 500,000 per night. Homestays cost a lot less than this. It is possible to find cheap accommodation in the outlying islands of Raja Anpat as well. For example a homestay in Sawinggrai Village costs just Rp. 500,000 per night. Meals cost around Rp. 25,000 – Rp. 40,000.
What I can do there?
Raja Ampat is not just about diving. As an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands there are endless cays, and shoals to explore, white sand to relax on, clear water to swim in, coral to marvel at and colorful fishes to amaze you. The most iconic thing to do in Raja Ampat besides the diving, is climbing the peak of Wayag islands. There are two different summits to climb and both offer a breathtaking view that can’t be beaten.
Birdwatchers will find plenty to do in Raja Ampat with all of the birds of paradise to be seen. Sawinggrai Village is a great place to see them. You will have to watch out for all of the mosquitoes that will try and suck your blood. In front of the home-stay in this village you can also feed the fish (the local people provide the food for all the fishes). There are stairs that you can use to sit on and half submerge your legs underwater. The experience is priceless and even more enjoyable rather than a fish spa!
The other obvious thing to do is go diving or snorkelling. You can swim with Manta Rays, watch dolphins and see thousands of beautiful and colorful fishes. I was lucky and saw a blue dotted cuttlefish when I lay down in the ocean in one of the islands. I was quite shocked because the last time I had that experience in Sulawesi I was diving and not just relaxing!
I hope have shared enough of my experiences and knowledge to give you even more of a reason to visit Raja Ampat. If you do visit this place, please be sure to preserve this beautiful environment. Don’t forget, I would love to hear your story afterward! Visit here for more pictures.
Thanks for some of the pictures Mbak Yana, Tante Debby and Mbak Lisna! :-*