Raja Ampat dive sites offer world record bio-diversity in pristine seas with thriving coral. Around three-fourths of the world’s coral varieties grow in these nutrient-rich waters. Dense clouds of fish representing over a thousand species swarm over the vibrant coral reef. And an amazing tiny world of “macro” creatures hides in cracks and lurk in the muck, waiting to be discovered. This remote, unspoiled region at the far East of Indonesia, off Western Papua, has a small population and vast protected areas that keep the ecosystem flourishing.
There are over 200 dive sites that you can reach with a liveaboard dive boat in the Raja Ampat area. We have around 30 favorites that we visit regularly on our Raja Ampa dive trips. Here we’ll talk about Cape Kri, Sardine Reef, Miosokon, and Manta Sandy, four of our favorite Raja Ampat dive sites.
Raja Ampat Dive Sites – Best Bio-diversity: Cape Kri
Strong currents run through the surface waters of Cape Kri. Once you get down a little lower, they become more manageable. This site is renowned for bio-diversity. Several sources claim species count records ranging from 280-370 in a single dive. Depth here ranges from 5 to 25 meters deep.
Hard and soft corals in many colors cover the steep slopes, dotted with small bommies where fish gather in the lee of the current. Be prepared to be inside a cloud of fish. Schools of fusiliers, damsels, anthia, surgeons, giant trevally, and dogtooth tuna are common. Reef sharks visit here looking for a meal. Big groupers and napoleon wrasse drift in the current. If you look out away from the reef you might see a manta ray cruising effortlessly by. This site, like most in Raja Ampat, is also good for macro. Keep an eye out for colorful and bizarre nudibranches and fierce looking scorpionfish.
Raja Ampat Dive Sites – Best Density: Sardine Reef
Sardine reef, near Cape Kri, rivals its famous neighbor for bio-diversity and has, unbelievably, even more fish. You have to stay close to your dive buddy because you can lose people behind a living wall of fish. Schooling trevally and tuna may pass above you, literally blocking the light and leaving you in the shadow of a large living crowd. They call the the reef “Sardine” because the species that live here crowd above the sloping coral reef like sardines. The reef drops to a maximum depth of 25 meters.
Clownfish, bumphead parrotfish, jacks, butterfly fish, fusiliers, barracudas and whitetip sharks dart around the coral as you drift by. Slow down in the lee of the reef and look under ledges and table corals. You may spot the rare wobbegong shark waddling whimsically on the bottom. Make sure to aim to drift past one of the huge gorgonians you will see here. If you slow down and take a look in the lee, you might see some pygmy seahorses.
Raja Ampat Dive Sites – Best Easy Drift Dive: Miosokon
With some help from your dive guides selecting the right tide, a bit of current will pull you on a relaxing drift tour of Miosokon. You’ll start on the current side of the island and drift to the south east, eventually reaching the lee side. The shallow sloping reef reaches from about 5 meters deep to 25 meters. The healthy coral is home to schools of snappers, golden sweepers, yellowtail and anthias. Once you get around the lee side, you can slow down and look underneath ledges and coral formations for wobbegong sharks and macro life like pygmy seahorses.
Raja Ampat Dive Sites – Best For Manta Rays: Manta Sandy
In the center of the best Raja Ampat diving season, from October to April, Manta Sandy is a must-do dive. Here over a shallow, sandy bottom ranging from 5 to 17 meters deep, as many as dozens of magnificent manta rays gather at a cleaning station. Several species of reef fish emerge and groom parasites from the mantas, who may swim slowly to remain motionless in the current or slowly circle the site for hours, allowing their symbiotic friends to do their work. It is amazing to witness this example of inter-species cooperation between the graceful giants and their smaller helpers.
More Information on Diving Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat water temperatures range from around 27 to 30 C, and visibility ranges from 10 to 30 meters, tending towards the high end. November through May is the best season for diving in Raja Ampat. You might want to check out our articles on the species you can see diving in Raja Ampat and the advantages of a Raja Ampat dive liveaboard. The “How to Get To Sorong” in Raja Ampat section in our travel guide may also be useful.