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Snorkeling in the Bird’s Head by Ethan Daniels, Tim Rock, Kerri Bingham, & Jones/Shimlock

Snorkeling in the Bird’s Head

by Ethan Daniels, Tim Rock, Kerri Bingham & Jones/Shimlock

Southern Raja Ampat near Misool island

From the site Administrators-Jones & Shimlock

As with many destinations it’s intrepid divers who do the pioneering.  This is certainly true for Raja Ampat and the Bird’s Head Seascape.  But as a destination becomes publicized, then popularized, other would-be visitors become curious.  For over a decade divers were virtually the only demographic visiting the BHS, but soon divers may be the minority.  Raja and the BHS have received so much publicity, and the images taken there so fantastic, everyone wants to visit.  It’s at the top of many people’s  “bucket list”.  Snorkeling tours are becoming increasingly popular, especially with domestic travelers, many of whom don’t even swim much less dive.  The Bird’s Head is the perfect place!  A myriad of shallow water habitats welcome these less adventurous travelers.  Now tourism in Raja is exploding and rightfully so.

The Bird’s Head is remote, consequently it’s not cheap to travel there.  For a decade infrastructure was minimal with only a couple of resorts or liveaboards an option, all pricey!  That too is changing.  Numerous lodges and basic homestays now populate the area, so now less well off travelers can find comfortable lodging.  Tourism has become the largest employer in the region, indeed it’s a part of the conservation plan. This is a good thing as it offers an alternative to logging, mining, and overfishing.

Wayag Island in northern Raja Ampat

We are divers but like most, we began as snorkelers.  There are too many sites to list but some of our favorites are in the Dampier Strait, conveniently near the area that is being developed.  Try the shallow fringing reefs around Mansuar and Kri Islands, off the western tip of Gam island near Yangelo and the islets east of Penumu island.  Cenderawasih and Triton Bays, both incredible destinations are home to resident populations of Whale Sharks.

Snorkeling with a Whale Shark in Cenderawasih Bay

There’s plenty for everyone.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!

And don’t just take our word for it…

A Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) swims in the equatorial waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. This remote region is known as “the heart of the Coral Triangle” due to its incredible marine biodiversity. It is also a favorite destination for scuba divers and snorkelers from around the world.

In the words of Ethan Daniels.

“For years it has been clear that the diving around Raja Ampat and the greater BHS, is among the best in the world, yet only recently has the area been popularized among snorkelers. Healthy and biodiverse, the shallow coral reefs surrounding Raja Ampat’s many islands present some of the finest wildlife viewing on Earth. One of the significant facets of this region that separates it from others is that it offers a wide variety of marine habitats for snorkelers to explore, from fringing reefs and isolated pinnacles to seagrass meadows, blue water mangroves, and sandy slopes full of unusual critters. Overall, Raja Ampat should be considered as a bucket list entry for any snorkeler who wants to be immersed in unsurpassed marine biodiversity and tropical aesthetics.” For more information on snorkeling expeditions in this area please contact Coral Triangle Adventures at

A snorkeler explores a wooden jetty near a remote village in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

A beautiful coral reef grows in the equatorial waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Ethan Daniels is a freelance marine photojournalist based in northern California and runs Ethan travels the planet, from the temperate waters of California and New England to the balmy Caribbean, Micronesia, and the Coral Triangle, covering aquatic-related issues. Ethan has authored three recent natural history/photography books, Under Cape Cod Waters, Coral Triangle Seascapes, and Marine Life and Natural History of the Coral Triangle.  A selection of recent imagery can be found at

Heading out for a snorkeling adventure

In the words of Tim Rock.

“Snorkeling in Bird’s Head Seascape can be wildly rewarding. These rock islands hold pristine bays with beautiful corals and sublime, trash-free beaches where one can watch the fish and listen to the calls of birdlife above. Encounters with large fish like whale sharks or manta rays is a real possibility here. You can even snorkel into and behind a raging waterfalls that spills into the sea. Give it a try. Highly recommended.”

Snorkeling the transparent waters of the BHS

Waterfalll near Mommon on the West Papua mainland between Raja and Triton Bay

For 30 years TIM ROCK has been an author and photographer who specializes in the marine world.  He presently lives and owns a photo gallery on Guam.  The majority of his career has been spent in the Western and Indo Pacific reporting on environmental and conservation issues. His work has won numerous prestigious awards and his TV show was an ACE award finalist. He is also author and contributor to a dozen Lonely Planet/Pisces series guides. To view more to Tim’s images click here, Tim, along with Simon Pridmore, are authors of the 2016 Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Raja Ampat and Northeast Indonesia.

In the words of Kerri Bingham

By now the dive community knows that Raja and the Bird’s Head Seascape offer some of, if not the best, reef diving on the planet.  But the majority of Raja’s dive sites are easily accessible to a much larger demographic, Snorkelers.  I’ve recently lead a number of snorkel-only charters.  The list below highlights 5 of my favorite spots.  A complete list would be much longer!

(in no particular order)

Yangeffo (West Waigeo)-mangroves and hard corals; also great for kayaking!
Cape Kri/Yanbuba (Dampier Strait)-great for schooling fish, sharks and amazing hard corals.
Eagle Rocks (Kawe)-cleaning stations for mantas. One of the best places to observe and be unobtrusive while they’re being cleaned.
Fiabacet (Misool)-excellent for fish and amazing soft corals/fans.
Wofoh (West Waigeo)-fantastic hard corals, great place to see the variety of anemone fish of Raja, plus a great opportunity for small critters and ‘muck snorkeling’!

Avid photographers Kerri Bingham and her husband Hergen Spalink are photography instructors whose work has appeared in major dive publications worldwide. Based in Bali Indonesia, they run exclusive dive expeditions through their company, Got Muck. Their mission is to ensure their valued guests experience the diving holiday of a lifetime. To see more of Kerri and Hergen’s imagery visit their website, Got Muck.

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