The Raja Ampat archipelago lies within the Coral Triangle at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Ocean. This meeting of ecosystems in the remote eastern islands of Indonesia creates a veritable species factory. Raja Ampat liveaboard divers and snorkelers can see an amazingly diverse collection of marine life.
Raja Ampat – The Best Dive Destination in the World?
Is Raja Ampat the best dive destination in the world? At least one expert thinks so:
“Over a decade ago, years before Raja became THE place to dive in the world, I counted 327 fish species on a single dive. I went back about two years ago and couldn’t believe the positive changes on the site… The survey was the highest species count I’ve ever tallied on one dive, 374 distinct species in 90 minutes!”
– Doctor Jerry Allen, prominent Icthyologist and author
The Amazing Biodiversity of Raja Ampat
The meeting of the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, the deep waters channels and shallower waters near the islands, and the pristine, unspoiled environment yield incredible biodiversity for Raja Ampat liveaboard travelers. Powerful currents carry nutrients from the deep sea to the coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds forming the base of a robust food chain. You can find 75% of coral species in the world here, over 500 varieties. Divers can also see 700 types of mollusks and over 1,400 species of fish in the waters of Raja Ampat.
You may see larger species like wobbegongs and other sharks, enormous manta rays, groupers and occasionally even orcas. Divers in Mansuar often see large groups of manta rays and turtles. Mammal species also thrive in the waters of Raja Ampat. You may have an unforgettable opportunity to get in the water with pods of dolphins or even a whale.
With over 1,400 species of fish alone, a complete list of marine life would obviously be too long to publish here. Common popular highlight species in Raja Ampat include purple anthias and threadfin anthias, lionfish, batfish, enormous groupers, fusiliers, barracudas, fusiliers, batfish, gobies, angelfish, schools of jacks, emporer angels, banded pipefish, morays, titan triggerfish, and crocodile fish. With so much to see, you may want to bring an extra log book!
Rare Critters on Raja Ampat Muck Dives
The coral reefs and blue walls of Raja Ampat are spectacular, but some divers prefer searching the mucky sediment on the sea floor for smaller species. Liveaboard diving pioneer and author Bob Halstead coined the term “muck diving” in nearby Papua, and some of the most amazing species live in this region.
Muck dive critters are generally small, classified as ‘macro’. The term comes from the close-up setting you would use on your camera to capture these rarities. The blue ringed octopus, a favorite sight in the area, is only the size of a golf ball. They are highly venomous, but not aggressive, so be sure to keep a respectful distance to avoid threatening them. Whimsical looking frogfish are smaller still, only the size of a pea!
Other rare species you may see include emperor shrimp and the tiny but spectacular and other-wordly peacock mantis shrimp, ghostpipe fish, wonderpus, and bobtail squid. Larger species such as the rare Milne Bay epaulette shark also thrive on the sea floor in Raja Ampat. Keep an eye out for the rare giant tridachna clams, which can live to be over 100 years old. Nudphiles traveling on a Raja Ampat liveaboard will be delighted with the variety of nudibranch and opisthobranchs. Those are pretty fancy words, but “sea slug” just does not do these bizarre and wonderfully whimsical creatures justice.
Raja Ampat Coral
Over 500 species of coral, 75% of those living on earth, are busy building reef in the waters of Raja Ampat. Soft corals such as mushroom leather corals, purple corals and sea squirts, gorgonian fans in hues of pink, lilac, and purple, bushy bright red sea whips create a rainbow backdrop. Divers can also see thirteen species of hard coral here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
When to Charter a Raja Ampat Liveaboard
October through April is the best time of year to visit Raja Ampat on a liveaboard. May through November is rainier and the south west monsoons can make ocean travel difficult. You can expect water temperatures around 28 to 30 C (low 80s F). Air temperatures from ranging from 25 C overnight low (78 F) to 31 C daytime highs (89 F). The Mantra liveaboard boat has individual AC in every cabin for the comfort of our guests in Raja Ampat.