Pictures of Raja Ampat islands (West Papua) from outside the water
Raja Ampat, located in West Papua (Indonesia) and known also as Irian Jaya, is not only spectacular for the immense biodiversity found into its waters, but also for the beautiful landscape out of the water, dominated by large domes of limestone overlooking pristine lagoons and reefs.
The cruise to Raja Ampat starts from Sorong, the main gateway to West Papua in Indonesia, hosting a regional airport linked to Jakarta and Bali via Makassar with daily flights.
During the night, the yacht hosting the snorkelers for this 12-day expedition cruise to Raja Ampat, is anchored in some paradisiacal bay and secured with ropes to the walls of some limestone island.
The landscape of Raja Ampat islands is generally dominated by rocky islands of limestone, that can be considered like raised mini-atolls. The waters all around often have an intense greenish-blue color, depending on the seabed and the chemicals contained in the water.
Another anchor in a paradisiac bay of Raja Ampat.
In Raja Ampat you will not find only rocky limestone islands with vertical mountain walls, but there are also small islands with " classic" tropical beach made of fine white sand and not seeing human's footprints for many consecutive months. A cruise to West Papua is the only way to get to these deserted and timeless places, since they are far away from any hotel or resort. I really hope that Raja Ampat will remain unspoiled and will not be affected by mass tourism, like happened to Maldives and other tropical paradises which are now completely ruined by excessive building.
In the left picture, our guide makes an inspection to the snorkeling site, before bringing the group there.
Heaven above ... heaven under.
Limestone rocks creating coves with protected beaches in the middle of Pacific Ocean. As you may have already notices in the many photos of Raja Ampat published on this page, the weather appears to be very variable and, like in many other islands throughout the Pacific, a day without a cloud in the sky is extremely rare. The best time to visit Raja Ampat runs from October to December, when the sea is calmer and the amount of rainfall is statistically lower than the rest of the year. During this period, you can expect more or less 40% of hours of sunshine and 60% of hours of clouds, with a few weak and short downpour. The weather can change abruptly within a few hours, and a morning with rain can suddenly turn into a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Sometimes, while snorkeling, you are caught by the magnificence of the landscape above the water and it worth taking off the mask to better enjoy the view.
The limestone rocks have at their base an indentation caused by the erosion due to tides, currents, and the chemical action of sea water. Often, the best place to snorkel is directly into such indentation (just be careful not to bang your head to the ceiling in case of waves) from where a vertical wall descending into the abyss, begin.
The vegetation of Raja Ampat includes the Nephentes, carnivorous plant with modified leaves that work to trap their prey.
In Raja Ampat, during the same cruise and within a few kilometers away from each other, at least 3 different environments, that are home to diverse ecosystems, can be easily observed:
1. (top pictures) the brackish environment of the inner bays, with little flow of sea water and the presence of fresh water coming from the hinterland. This ecosystem is dominated by mangroves and some species of corals (mostly soft), with fish that you can not find elsewhere
2. (middle pictures) the large island lagoons, protected by the reef, but with normal flow of salt water (other types of corals, sea squirts, anemones with clown fish, many invertebrates)
3. (bottom pictures) the ocean reef directly exposed to currents and waves. Here you can find larger reef fish, often in school of hundreds of individuals, sharks, tuna and turtles.
Wayag photos. The islands of Wayag, a few tenths of a degree north of the equator, is probably the most scenic area of Raja Ampat and, in my opinion, this destination should not miss from the itinerary of any cruise, even if you go to Raja Ampat only for diving or snorkeling. Wayag is dominated by hundreds of limestone islands, some no larger than a car, covered in lush vegetation and surrounded by a lagoon whose colors vary from emerald green to turquoise.
Raja Ampat photos. A walk of about 20 minutes, above a steep path that should be climbed with the help of hands, allows you to have a spectacular view of Wayag islands from the top. This is Raja Ampat at its best.
Other photos of Raja Ampat showing a salty environment dominated by mangroves.
During the cruise to Raja Ampat, we got the opportunity to visit a cave full of bats, as West Papua is not only corals and fish.
Pictures of bats. The cave has a quite low ceiling and is often necessary to walk on all fours on the very slippery guano (droppings of bats) to be able to penetrate the innermost depths of the cave. Meanwhile, dozens of bats will fly around you.
On a wall of the cave, a snake hanging down is capturing and eating some bats.
Small bat eggs (about 1cm in size) and some newborn chicks.
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