While Raja Ampat offers incredible diving experiences year-round, most divers prefer to visit the area between December and April for the famous Manta Ray encounters. With the large number of divers and liveaboards that flock to the area during this time, it can become very crowded on famous dive sites, with many dive operations sticking to these sites to give guests the best opportunity to see the Mantas. While it is true that this is an incredible experience, and should be on everyone’s bucket list, many are missing out on what Raja Ampat has to offer during the so called “off-season”. Here are a few favourites.
The tranquil Alyui Bay lies in the north of Waisai, with incredible beaches and scenery hiding some of the least dived areas in the whole of Raja Ampat. One of the best in the area is White Wall, a gently sloping reef that gets its name from the soft coral sponge growth that covers large parts of this dive site. Usually dived in a medium current this dive site offers the opportunity to appreciate the sponge growth while schools of Fusiliers pass you by.
While in the area give the Atlas Pearl Farm in the bay a visit. Visitors are treated to a guided tour of the facilities, to see how the pearls are grown, and then could purchase a pearl of their own.
Located near Batanta Island, to the south of Waisai, you find the small island known as Wai. This picturesque island offers visitors an incredible beach experience, with white sand beaches and crystal-clear water. However, the best reason to visit the island is to see what lies beneath the water’s surface. The island is surrounded by an intricate reef system, with a rich ecosystem providing many stunning dive sites that are home to a huge variety of marine life, from large schooling fish to pigmy seahorses. Wai island is the perfect place for a day trip soaking up the sun and diving, there is even a World War II P47 to explore for the wreck lovers!
Located in the west of Raja Ampat you can find the famous Piaynemo viewpoint in the Fam Island group. This is a ‘must see’ stop on any trip to Raja Ampat, but why not pair it with some incredible dive sites. While most divers will be familiar with Melissa’s Garden, the area is home to many other incredible dives. Starting off with Keruo Channel and Keruo Wall. Both these sites are home to barracuda and other schooling fish, while the reefs are covered in incredibly colourful hard and soft coral. Slightly to the north you will find the sloping reefs of Galaxy and Barracuda. As the names suggest, both these dive sites offer divers the opportunity to see masses of fish move through the area in stronger currents. While both are best dived under these stronger current conditions, the surface is appropriate for non-divers, or the less experienced, to snorkel at the foot of the Piaynemo viewpoint.
Equator Islands and Kawe
When visiting in the off season, why not take a day trip to the Equator Islands and Kawe. Besides having the bragging rights that you have crossed the equator in a boat, you also could swim on the equator, an experience not many can say they have had. Whilst in the area, take the opportunity to dive some of the most remote and impressive diving sites in the northern Raja Ampat region.
Eagle Rock may not look like much from the surface, but this pinnacle hides one of the most diverse diving sites you can imagine. The pinnacle serves as a cleaning station for mantas during the manta season and, on occasion, they can even be found here in the off season. The impressive black corals and masses of fish, including Snapper, Fusiliers, Napoleon Wrasse and Barracuda, make this dive site an incredible experience year-round.
Another hidden gem of the area can be found at Chango. Most will give this tiny pinnacle, with a few lonely trees and bushes, no heed but at Chango you will find an incredible labyrinth of boulders, swim throughs, and crevasses, all while you are surrounded by masses upon masses of fish, from Jacks to Bat fish.
While this is only a short list of dives, and adventures, that are great for the off season in Raja Ampat, the area offers many more opportunities to be explored in ‘Raja Ampat in the Off-Season PART 2’.