Raja Ampat in Indonesia: how to enjoy the tropical island paradise and avoid the crowds West Papuan


Raja Ampat in Indonesia: how to enjoy the tropical island paradise and avoid the crowds

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  • Hidden away in the remote Indonesian province of West Papua, Raja Ampat’s pristine islands reveal untouched tropical jungles and sparkling blue seas
  • An off-season visit will mean you’ll have the many beauty spots and sandy shores to yourself, away from the package tourist hordes

There’s not a soul in sight as our battered toothpick-shaped boat cuts through some of the clearest turquoise water imaginable. I’m deep in the heart of the remote Indonesian province of West Papua, heading for one of three minuscule sand atolls barely a metre across each and only exposed on lower tides.

“Usually we’d have some trouble to land the boat there,” says my host and guide Pak Martin Makusi. We push up onto the sand and jump overboard into the balmy shallows to stake our momentary claim on the tiny island. “In the high season here, there are so many boats we sometimes cannot get close enough,” he says.

We are in Raja Ampat, an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals. It seems hard to believe that this deserted paradise could ever become crowded, but as the popularity of Raja Ampat increases, more tourists are beginning to flock to these pristine islands and their numerous beauty spots, especially between October and March.

The sandy banks we are on sit among unique picture-postcard vistas of untouched tropical jungles fringing sparkling blue seas that simply beggar belief. Think Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay or the islands around Phuket in Thailand but minus the hordes of package tourists.

The hidden passage that connects Gam island with Hidden Bay in Raja Ampat. Photo: David Burden

Other Raja Ampat highlights include the Instagram-friendly karst islands of Pianemo; Kri’s record-breaking dive sites (marine biologist Dr Jerry Allen once counted 327 species of fish in one single dive); and the even more remote Wayag Islands, where solitary boats levitate in shallow lagoons surrounded by sheer limestone cliff walls.

Between May and October elsewhere across the vast Indonesian archipelago, places such as Bali and Lombok are well and truly in the throes of high season. Up here, however, there is barely a tourist to be found during these months. Thanks to regional weather patterns, it is the opposite way round in West Papua province – as far away from busy Bali as Hong Kong is.

https://www.scmp .com/lifestyle/travel-leisure/article/3008450/raja-ampat-indonesia-how-enjoy-tropical-island-paradise