Raja Ampat: It’s More than Just Reefs
Raja Ampat, It’s More than Just Reefs
text and photos by Mike Veitch/Underwater Tribe
In the dive media, we are constantly bombarded with images of schooling fish, brightly coloured corals, and wonderful critters that highlight the beautiful marine life of Raja Ampat. These images are great and they do wonders in promoting the area as a diving mecca, however, by concentrating on the marine environment, these media circles often miss the other half of the story: the beautiful topside scenery! As a trip leader with many years of experience running diving adventures aboard liveaboards, I know that it’s often difficult to get visiting divers off the boat to check out beautiful beaches, islands, or villages, since most often these folks simply want to dive, dive, dive. Therefore, many visitors to Raja Ampat miss out on the beauty of the area other than what they can see from the dive platform.
As part of working as a guide in Indonesia, oftentimes I am in Raja Ampat for voyages that aren’t necessarily about the diving. Kayaking, birding, snorkeling, beach combing, and walking are just a few of the other activities that can be enjoyed in the area. The easiest, and perhaps most personally rewarding way, is to jump on a kayak and paddle through some of the incredibly diverse habitats from tranquil lagoons to mangrove forests. A kayak allows one access to areas that are not reachable by speedboat, as well as being able to enjoy the sounds of birds and waves instead of a boat engine. However, one of the most amazing ways to see Raja Ampat is undisputedly by air! I was lucky enough last year to be able to enjoy two helicopter rides in Raja; one in the north from Sorong to Wayag and another in the Misool area. There really is no better way to see these limestone islands than from hundreds of feet in the air, it gives such a unique perspective compared to sea level. Although being able to snap a few photos of the landscape while the helicopter was cruising above the islands was a bonus, the best part was simply being able to watch the scenery in a way I had never experienced before. The never-ending expanse of small islands is hinted at from the sea, but can only truly be appreciated from the air.
Although it may sound “sacrilegious” to many divers, it’s time to pause for a short break from looking at the world from the vantage point of a mask and check out the myriad other attractions in this wonderful corner of the planet!
Mike Veitch is the co-founder of the Underwater Tribe, Bali’s leading dive centre specializing in teaching underwater photography and creating custom itineraries for serious photographers in Bali and throughout Indonesia.