While Raja Ampat is home to an incredible number of dive sites, one area, in particular, is a hotspot for a myriad of interconnected and overlapping reefs. Kri Island is found in the center of the Dampier Strait, an area well known for its abundance of marine life. While the most popular dive sites you might hear about here include Cape Kri, Sardine, and Chicken reef, there is a much less-dived and truly incredible reef to be found, Neu Reef.
Neu Reef is an extensive reef system comprising two main sloping reefs with a shallow sandbank connecting the two. Because of the location of the dive site, you will be treated to masses of fish swimming over the reef slopes. This site has it all, from turtles, barracuda, parrotfish, and reef sharks. The reef is an impressive combination of rock formations rich with colourful hard coral and significant soft coral growth. The openings and overhangs shaped by the rock formations are home to many species of marine life, and it is often possible to spot a Tasselled Wobbegong Shark or two relaxing here. The soft coral growth towers above you as you make your way to the lower reaches of the reef slopes, and when looking up, you can imagine being in a field with the tree-like sea fans gently swaying with the water movement.
The two reef slopes offer an incredible diving experience, but the connecting sandbank makes this site more attractive. While this area might seem very unassuming from the distance as you cross the patch to reach the connected slope, you can spot large schools of barracuda slowly swimming into the current. A natural and easy hunting ground for these predatory fish. This dive site, for many, will be enough to take an already incredible dive to the next level, but this dive’s crowning point is found hiding in the sandbank below.
The bank sits at a shallow 12 to 15 meters and is largely protected from the stronger currents that can sweep through the Dampier Strait, making it the perfect habitat for the elusive Papuan Garden Eels. These small eels can be seen as far as the eye reaches and from a distance look like single stalk soft coral swaying in the current, but in fact, these eels are using the water movement to feed on the plankton and other micro-organisms transported in the water. As you approach the eels, they will retract into their hiding holes, and this can be quite a comical sight to behold as you swim over the sandbank. It is possible for those who are patient to get a closer view and even snap a picture or two. By settling on the sandbank and not moving, the curious eels will one by one start popping their heads and eventually a significant length of their bodies out of the holes. This sighting is one of the best spots to spot these incredible critters.
Neu Reef is genuinely one of the best-kept secret dive sites in the Raja Ampat area. Still, it is crucial to dive with a guide or instructor who is very familiar with the dive site as it can easily be missed or not dived in its entirety when you drop in on the wrong spot or during the wrong current. But, on the other hand, when dived right, it truly will leave your mind blown in the best possible way.