If you have never heard about Raja Ampat you are in the same boat as I was. As soon as I had however, I knew I had to go there. Raja Ampat has the most bio-diverse dive site in the world and is a collection of incredible, remote paradise islands.
Although not as expensive as you may think, the bad news is it is never going to be as cheap as say the Thai islands. The good news? It isn't just for live aboards – I do however use the word 'budget' lightly here.
To access Raja Ampat you need to go via Sorong in West Papua. Makassar and Manado airports in Indonesia fly there and you can connect to these from Bali / Jakarta or Singapore easily enough. The flights are the most expensive part so book them early! Garuda, Express Air and Sriwijaya operate to Sorong.
The ferry from Sorong to Waisia is two hours and costs 100,000 IDR - It leaves daily at 2pm so get your flight in before hand.
Your home stay will usually pick you up from there and take you to your Island.
The main accommodation options are huts at home stays. This isn't somewhere you just turn up to and hunt down the best deal. Get used to booking by text and whatsapp but know the phone signal on the island means you might have communication delays.
I stayed at Yenkoranu dive resort on Kri. As there was 3 of us we payed for a larger private hut with an extra bed for 1million IDR per night.
If you are two people you can stay in one of the basic shared huts for as little as 200,000 IDR each per night.
This also includes three meals a day so is not bad value!
For other accommodation options and more tips make sure to check out this site.
Food / Other Expenses
Simple. No shops = No expenses!
Beer (Large tin Bintang) costs around 50,000 IDR ($5/£2.50) on the Island and is probably going to be warm for sunset after a day of no power on.
Trips around the islands are probably going to be your biggest expense after the flight and costs will vary depending where you stay. The famous view point of Wayag is pretty far and expensive, how ever the view point pictured at Fam island is nearer (still two hours!)
Expect to pay around 1million IDR for a trip if the boat is full, due to the remoteness fuel prices are steep here.
Diving / Snorkelling
The best time to visit for Diving is around Nov/Dec when the Mantas head to the cleaning stations and Orca whales can be seen. Dolphins swimming past the boat is no surprise either.
At out home stay we paid 350,000 IDR per dive ($35/£18) with our own equipment, it was 450,000 for those hiring equipment. Cape Kri on Kri island was the most incredible dive of my life – it has according to some surveys the most diverse marine wildlife in the world.
The currents can be crazy so I would recommended getting your advance level before arriving in case they decided after your test dive not to let you down. I had my first out of air experience here in a 30 meter down current... Not fun!
Entry Cost: All those going to Raja Ampat will need to by the conservation tag for 500, 000 IDR ($50, £25) either from the port on arrival or the hotel opposite the airport
Getting there: Boats: Another route of getting around the larger islands and saving big bucks are the Pelino ferry. These big boats can take a day to get between destinations and usually leave once every few weeks but can be dirt cheap and great to hang out with local life – visit www.pelni.co.id.
Electric: Is limited to generates for a few hours each night.
Shops: Forget it. Bring whatever you need or pick it up in Sorong before coming.
Phone Signal: Blissfully very limited. Switch off!