Why visit Raja Ampat
If you’ve landed on this post on Waisai Raja Ampat, you are probably planning a trip to the Islands of Four Kings in Indonesia – Waigeo, Batanta, Misool or Salawati, for a trip of a lifetime.
Raja Ampat islands, an archipelago located in West Papua, are renowned for some of the most vibrant and abundant coral and fish species in the Coral Triangle and attract scuba diving enthusiasts from all over the world.
If you have been to anywhere in the Coral Triangle, you may have an idea of just how spectacular the underwater world is in this part of the Pacific.
But if this is your first time to this remarkable destination, brace yourself because your world will never be the same after Raja Ampat!
Even though Raja Ampat gained notoriety as providing some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, the islands also offer alternative attractions like bird watching, trekking, waterfalls, and island hopping tours.
Raja Ampat is also home to some endemic species such as the Tasselled Wobbegong shark, the “walking” shark, and Birds of Paradise (Cenderawasih), making it a unique paradise destination in Indonesia for adventurers and nature lovers alike.
If you enjoy getting off the grid and exploring remote islands, welcome to this comprehensive travel guide to Wasai Raja Ampat. Read on for tips on transportation, activities, and accommodations around the island of Waigeo.
About Waisai Raja Ampat
Waisai is a town located on one of the four islands that make up Raja Ampat – Waigeo.
Waisai and Sorong, located 70km (~48 miles) apart across two islands, are the two major transportation hubs in Raja Ampat.
While there are no international airports in either Waisai or Sorong, most travelers heading to Raja will first fly into Sorong from Jakarta or Makassar, and continue on their journey.
If you are starting a liveaboard cruise or a resort holiday on nearby islands of Salawati, Misool or East Batanta, you will likely to be collected in Sorong.
You will need to travel further to Waisai (see section below on How to Get to Waisai for transportation details) if your final destination is Waigeo Island or surrounding islands of Pulau Mansuar, Pulau Kri, Gam, or West Batanta.
If the Insta-famous Piaynemo is on your bucket list, it’s best to base yourself in Waisai area and book a day trip.
Even though Sorong is a bigger town than Waisai, there is not much to do in or around Sorong.
If you are exploring the stunning islands of Raja Ampat in search of crystal clear turquoise blue waters and breathtaking beaches, it’s best to head to Waisai where you can access more land-based accommodations and tours.
What to Do in Raja Ampat and around Waisai
1. Raja Ampat Diving & Snorkeling
If you have read my other posts, you may already know that I’m an avid scuba diver and a huge fan of liveaboard diving.
After having done nearly 2,000 dives in SE Asia alone, I can attest that Raja Ampat fully lives up to the hype. No trip to Raja Ampat would be complete without snorkeling or scuba diving to experience the world-class marine biodiversity!
There are many diving opportunities scattered across Raja Ampat, from basic thatched homestays with an attached dive shop to large eco resorts such as Papua Paradise where you can book an all-inclusive dive packages.
But for an ultimate diving or snorkeling experience, go with the liveaboard!
If you have never experienced this awesome adventure in the sea, I wrote a post about what it’s like to eat, dive, and sleep on a liveaboard – check out this post for a glimpse into liveaboard scuba diving.
Not a scuba diver?
Not only is Raja Ampat an amazing snorkeling destination, but Indonesia also has some of the best liveaboard cruises tailored specifically for snorkelers!
Check out some of the beautiful Indonesian Phinisis for your next trip to Raja!
2. Tour the Untouched Islands and Jungles of the Four Kings
Once you reach Waisai Raja Ampat, you will see that there is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, return to the basics, and appreciate the simple things in life.
Aside from the magnificent underwater world, there is an enormous nature reserve waiting to be explored around Waigeo. If you are making a land-based trip to Raja Ampat, contact some of the local guides to take you on an off-the-beaten-track adventure around the jungles of Raja.
On my last trip to Waisai Raja Ampat, I booked a day trip to Kalibiru and witnessed one of the most jaw-dropping views I had ever seen: a turquoise colored freshwater river that was streaming out of the ground!
I had never seen anything like it in my life. This river alone was worth a trip to Waisai if you asked me!
You can, of course, visit one of the tourist hot spots like Pianemo as well. It takes about 1.5 hours from Waisai area to reach Piaynemo on a boat – you can book with a tour in town or, if you book a Raja Ampat liveaboard, the itinerary typically includes this popular surface interval stop.
Don’t forget, Waigeo and Batanta are known to be the home to two species of Canderawasih (Birds of Paradise) which you cannot find anywhere else on the planet. Not only are these birds colorful and beautiful, but they also make interesting sounds that are distinct, and vibrate through the dense jungles.
Sign up for a bird watching tour to get a glimpse of these rare creatures!
Where is Waisai Raja Ampat
Waisai is a town located on Waigeo, which is one of four islands that make up Raja Ampat. Waigeo is the capital island of Raja Ampat and is the access point to many homestays and dive resorts located on the island as well as nearby islands.
Located about 70 km/48 miles northwest of Sorong across the sea, you will need to take a domestic flight or a public ferry to reach Waisai. See the section below on transportation details.
How to Get to Waisai Raja Ampat
Step 1: Fly to Sorong
You can reach Sorong Indonesia (SOQ) on domestic airlines such as Garuda, Lion Air, Sriwijaya or Batik Air from Jakarta, Makassar, Manado, and Surabaya. If you are traveling from Bali, your flight will likely connect in Makassar.
Find a Flight to Sorong
Depending on your arrival time, you may need to stay overnight in Sorong before continuing to Waisai. I have stayed in the Fave Hotel more than once and can’t recommend it enough. The service has been fantastic, the room has been clean and comfortable, and the food was decent considering the location.
The 5-minute taxi ride to the Fave Hotel costs IDR 100,000 (USD 8), so if you are keen on saving money, it’s an easy walk from the airport.
Step 2: Sorong to Waisai
From Sorong, you will need to either fly or cross the sea to Waisai.
Flight: There are very limited flights from Sorong (SOQ) to Waisai airport (RJM), so it can be challenging to arrange international flight travel with Waisai as a final destination. It may be easier to take a ferry from Sorong to Waisai, which is available twice daily, seven days a week.
Ferry: Various Bahari Express ferries leave daily at 09:00 and 14:00. A ticket costs IDR 100,000/person each way.
The Sorong harbor is about a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the airport (and Fave Hotel that I recommended above). Don’t expect to find Blue Bird Taxis in Sorong – you will need to grab a local driver at the airport, who will charge a flat rate of IDR 100,000 per ride.
The ferry ride takes about 2 hours to Waisai. The sea conditions between Sorong and Waisai is generally smooth – I have never encountered rough seas but if you are sensitive to motion sickness, take some Dramamine with you.
While the seats on the ferries are comfortable enough, bathrooms consist of a squat toilet in a closet so be prepared.
There are some snacks and beverages for sale aboard the ferry, but the selection is severely limited. I would recommend that you either eat before departure or pack decent snacks with you.
Things to Know about Waisai Raja Ampat
- You need to purchase a marine park entry permit (IDR 1,000,000) per foreign visitor (above 12 years old) at Waisai harbor. The permit is good for 1 year
- Everything is more expensive in Waisai than in Sorong, as most things are imported.
For example, a simple nasi bungkus (rice wrapped in a banana leaf with small side dishes) costs IDR 50,000 in Waisai, which costs a third of that price in Bali. Since there are no metered taxis in Waisai, you also have to pay a flat rate of IDR 100,000 – 200,000 for a distance that would cost less than half that in Bali.
If possible, buy things like toiletries and snacks in Sorong or before you leave for Raja Ampat. There are no shopping malls or supermarkets in Waisai – only local markets where you can pick up basic (Indonesian) toiletries, snacks and drinks.
- Waisai and neighboring islands are VERY basic. Unless you are staying in luxury resorts, expect to make friends with insects, sleep on a mattress on the floor, shower out of a bucket and eat local food (mainly rice and fish) while in Raja Ampat. In this region of Indonesia, you will not find western restaurants or convenience stores as you would in Bali (at least not quality ones).
- Despite the tropical environment, the weather is surprisingly cool, particularly in the mornings and evenings. You will rarely see accommodations offering air conditioning, as it is not necessary. A light jacket or a windbreaker will come in handy.
- The Indonesians communicate primarily using WhatsApp. If you plan to make contacts with your homestay or tour operators, I’d recommend that you purchase a local SIM card and download the app for ease of communication.
- Expect limited internet connection and sporadic access to electricity, particularly if you plan to stay on smaller islands outside of Waisai. There are constant brownouts in Waisai, and most homestays provide limited power (g. between 6 pm to midnight) using a generator.
- Take enough Rupiah with you to last the duration of your trip in and around Waisai. Most establishments in Waisai only accept cash (even homestays).
Where to Stay in Raja Ampat
I once stayed in Hotel Maras Risen in Waisai town, as it was conveniently located near the harbor. But I honestly cannot recommend this hotel. The bathroom was absolutely disgusting (there was blood spatter on the wall), and they didn’t even provide toilet paper. Instead, I will refer you to other (and better) accommodations:
Alter Native Stay starting at $100/night for 2pax for full board
Constructed with local natural resources, the stilt huts built over the water are simple but charming. You have a stunning view of the ocean right from your balcony, with a house reef within steps from the shore. The 2 double room huts share a bathroom, but the one large “family hut” has an ensuite bathroom. The homestay is located about a 30-minute ride from Waisai harbor.
Waiwo Dive Resort starting at $250/night for 2 pax for full board
Located on a beachfront property in Waisai, the great thing about Waiwo Dive Resort is that you don’t have to travel far from the harbor. With an onsite dive center, restaurant and spa, it’s a perfect destination if you are looking for convenience, relaxation, and activities all in one package.
Islands Near Waisai:
Gam – Yenbainus bungalow starting at $138/night for 2 pax for full board
The bungalows are built over the water with direct access to the ocean – you can snorkel right off of your balcony! The rooms are simple but carefully designed for comfort, and with only 3 rooms on the property, you feel like you are on a deserted paradise.
The toilets and shower are shared but what you will remember is the experience of falling asleep to the crashing waves and waking up to a stunning sunrise over the horizon.
Pulau Kri – Raja Ampat Bungalows $60/night for 2pax for full board
If you enjoy relaxing on the beach, connecting with nature and swimming with schooling fish, head to this little paradise heaven. When I went snorkeling around Pulau Kri, there were so many marine life including reef sharks and turtles, I didn’t want to get out of the water!
With a reef within steps of your bungalow, you won’t believe what you get for the price here. Contact the homestay to arrange a short boat transfer from Waisai. There are dive centers on the island if you are keen on going deep!
Pulau Mansuar – Raja Ampat Dive Lodge starting $289/night inclusive of full board
If you are looking for something that resembles a bit more of a western style, you will love this resort that offers 24-hr electricity, air conditioning, a wifi connection, ensuite bathroom and a western food menu at the onsite restaurant. Centrally located to some of Raja Ampat’s top dive sites, this Dive Lodge is a perfect choice if you are looking for a fantastic diving holiday.
Just be sure to contact them and confirm your diving package ahead of your arrival.
Are you excited to start planning your trip to Raja Ampat yet?
I hope so because it’s a true paradise that you will continue to dream about even after you return home – at least I do!
Did you find this travel guide helpful in planning your next adventure? Let me know in the comments below!
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