Famous for its rich biodiversity, Raja Ampat is located on the northwest tip of the island of West Papua, in the heart of the Coral Triangle. The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have claimed that 75 percent of the world’s marine species live in the waters off Raja Ampat, making it one of the most biodiverse sites on Earth.
In 2002, a political unit called the Raja Ampat Regency was formed and aided in creating the Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area, a network of seven protected areas. To protect the sites from high-traffic tourism, a decision was reached to introduce marine park permits. Raja Ampat has emerged as one of the must-visit destinations for recreational divers all over the world. The healthy shark and fish populations have been attracting increasing numbers of tourists, which has helped support the local economy.
In February 2014, Raja Ampat was declared a sanctuary for sharks, turtles, dugongs and manta rays. With the sanctuary set in place, destructive practices such as reef bombing and the aquarium fish trade are now banned, and scientists are constantly discovering new species.
MIKE’S POINT – This island in the middle of the Dampier Strait has an incredibly interesting and unexpected backstory. During World War II, the US Air Force heavily bombed the island because of its remarkable resemblance to a Japanese warship from the air. Fortunately, the reef has recovered astoundingly well, with a magnificent coral wall that hosts a great variety of reef sharks like the whitetip, blacktip, wobbegong, and epaulette shark. The bombings also carved out hospitable overhangs where great schools of Spanish mackerel and other marine life like turtles and sea snakes abound. Depths of up to 30 metres and strong currents mean some experience is required to enjoy this site safely.
SARDINES REEF – A large reef situated in the middle of open ocean, this site is home to an incredible number of reef fish such as fusiliers, damselfish, surgeonfish, and snappers. The reef life attracts predators like barracudas and trevallies, sometimes even reef sharks, providing an exciting experience for divers who visit. Divers have to be prepared for strong currents and limited visibility due to sand being kicked up at depths of 30 metres.
CAPE KRI – One of Raja Ampat’s most famous dive sites, Cape Kri offers divers an incredible number of fish species. A steep slope of hard and soft corals houses myriad reef fish, which attract schools of predators such as dogtooth tuna, barracudas, trevallies, and many reef sharks. Opportunities for wide-angle photography are plenty, since huge schools are very common. The site reaches up to 25 metres deep and has strong currents at times.