If you love a real adventure and enjoy the ocean, then like us you might just have the holiday of a lifetime exploring one of Indonesia’s unspoilt treasures – but this is not going to be a holiday for everyone. I’ve split this article into two parts to cover the two completely different ways we experienced this spectacular region. If you like a little more luxury with your taste of paradise part 2 might be just up your alley.
We were lucky enough to experience this incredible place last year to celebrate my tigers 50th birthday. After considering numerous options in various exotic destinations we started to question what type of holiday would make the best memories to mark the occasion. Sure, there are plenty of beautiful resorts out there but was simply staying in a luxurious home away from home going to create the experience of a lifetime we were after? This was our first time away from our children (for more than one night) in 13 years – we were getting a free pass – we had to make sure we did something SPECTACULAR!
Life is either a daring adventure – or nothing at all.
To help us assess our options we set about re-visiting our previous travels and the experiences we have shared together to identify what we had enjoyed the most. We realised that we share a passion for snorkelling and that we would love to experience the underwater world somewhere new to us, somewhere amazing. We started our search for the ‘best snorkelling spots in the world’ and what became evident fairly quickly was that you need to see many of these locations by boat. It was at that point that we were thrown into the world of ‘liveaboards’.
In our search for the ‘best snorkelling spots’ Raja Ampat frequently appeared on various websites. Located in Eastern Indonesia off the Western tip of West Papua, Raja Ampat, is a remote marine national park. It has some of the most pristine, untouched coral reefs in the world.
The area is part of the Coral Triangle, which contains some of the richest marine biodiversity on earth – the coral here flourishes with vibrant colour and the area has all manner of sea life. The natural beauty of the many islands is simply breathtaking, and this enchanting area feels relatively untouched – we could at times sail for hours without laying eyes on another vessel. This isolation makes Raja Ampat a paradise for explorers, but that isolation also makes it a challenge to get too!
You can read all about the Raja Ampat region and download our facts and travel tips to find out more on getting there in the link below. Keep in mind as you read this article, the photos are all taken by us or the people we shared our trip with. It really does look this good!
A live aboard is essentially like it sounds, a boat designed for people to live on. After much research we decided that a live aboard called the WISESA ticked all of our boxes. The WISESA was newly launched in 2016 and is a 30m long traditionally constructed, wooden Indonesian sailing vessel. Catering for just eight guests and six crew you are certain to be well taken care of.
There are four air-conditioned cabins that can accommodate various combinations of passengers. Some of the cabins also have their own ensuite with the cabins at the rear sharing a bathroom. Although relatively small, the cabins are clean and comfortable, and the boat has a wonderful atmosphere. You can always escape to your own space for some quiet time – there is an indoor lounge, separate dining area, an outdoor deck and upper roof deck.
The boat caters for both snorkelling and diving on different trips, alternating between the two throughout the season. We joined a snorkelling trip. They also split their travel for the year between Raja Ampat and Komodo based on seasonal factors in region.
Over our years of travel, we have snorkelled many renowned areas from The Great Barrier Reef, Vanuatu, Fiji, Egypt, to the Philippines and other various spots in Asia. Without a doubt, Raja Ampat offered the most colourful, diverse and abundant coral and sea life we have seen. This view was also backed up by the many divers we encountered during our trip. These people had dived all over the world including places like French Polynesia and the Maldives and they rated Raja Ampat as their number one spot.
When you snorkel or dive this underwater paradise as well as colourful coral gardens you will also see a huge variety of reef fish and marine life. We saw schools of barracuda, lion fish, wobbegong sharks, raja walking sharks, black and white tipped reef sharks, turtles, eagle rays, manta rays, sting rays … and the list goes on.
The various types of manta rays were a huge highlight for me, and I can’t even begin to describe their grace and beauty in the water. We had an amazing experience during one of our snorkels where a young manta was very curious and literally played with us in the water for thirty minutes, getting so close at times it would almost touch us. Needless to say, there were many memorable experiences.
We were spoilt for choice with a mix of delicious traditional meals and western favourites. These ranged from pancakes, eggs and fruit for breakfast to a traditional Indonesian buffet for lunch and three courses most evenings for dinner. Not to mention the snacks – let’s just say, I’m still dreaming of the tempura fried bananas sprinkled with icing sugar which were my afternoon tea favourite. You will not go hungry!
For me there are two factors that make the journey aboard the WISESA so unique and a great way to explore the region.
The first is the crew. They are professional, organised, flexible and open to modifying the itinerary to suit your needs and the weather conditions. They really go out of their way to make your journey one to remember. The second is your ability to explore such a huge area, making every day completely unique and the experience such an adventure.
Each day on the WISESA we explored three to four different snorkelling locations. The days were also broken up with other exciting activities – visiting a local village, a sunrise trek to view the bird of paradise, a sunset BBQ on a deserted idyllic beach, walking to Pianemu Viewpoint (a platform overlooking the many pinnacle islands). This all sounds pretty action packed but, I can assure you that there is still plenty of time to relax together, nap, enjoy the outlook and read a book. This is a holiday where you will completely switch off and unwind.
As the sun set, we spent most evenings relaxing on the roof of the boat on bean bags, sipping G&T’s and staring at the milky way as we moored for the night. The tranquillity would occasionally be broken by a flying fish leaping near the boat, or by air being expelled by a pod of dolphins on the hunt … magic.
Compared to other island destinations like Tahiti or the Maldives, this is a relatively economical holiday, but you will pay more here than elsewhere in Indonesia due the remote location. We paid $2800 AUD each for eight days on board the WISESA including all meals, drinks, activities and park permit. We paid approximately $1300 AUD each for flights from Brisbane, Australia. Flight cost could vary significantly depending on your chosen path to get there. Refer to my travel tips for further information.
If you love the ocean and enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer, a live-aboard in Raja Ampat where you can snorkel or dive this underwater paradise may be the absolute trip of a lifetime. It was for us! My absolute favourite bucket list holiday ever. I am now dreaming of schemes to get back there – Komodo this time.
If you want to read part 2 of our adventure, in the same spectacular region but with a little extra luxury thrown in for good measure, the link will soon be available below.
Thank you so much to the beautiful friends we met on this trip who shared some of their beautiful photography with us.
This post is not sponsored, and all opinions are my own.