White sandy beaches, lush green jungle, and beautiful coral gardens – these are just a few things you can expect to experience when you go liveaboard diving in Raja Ampat. Located off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia, Raja Ampat is one of the most biodiverse marine environments in the world. But choosing the best liveaboards in Raja Ampat can be a challenge!
Raja Ampat comprises over 1500 islands situated on the equator, forming part of the Coral Triangle. With over 500 types of corals, 1500 species of fish, and 700 species of mollusks – the area is a playground for divers. From tiny critters like pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs to larger reef sharks and giant groupers, Raja Ampat has something for everyone.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at liveaboards in Raja Ampat and cover everything you need to know before booking your trip.
Raja Ampat is a paradise for liveaboard divers. The variety and abundance of marine life are unparalleled, with something new around every corner. Not to mention the stunning scenery, deserted beaches, and majestic limestone karst towers providing a backdrop to your dives.
If you’re a keen diver, you likely already know what a liveaboard vacation entails. But, if you’re new to the concept – a liveaboard is a dive cruise. You’ll stay onboard the liveaboard and travel from one dive site to the next, experiencing all of the best spots in Raja Ampat. This makes it much more convenient than booking and traveling to individual dive sites.
To help you understand why Raja Ampat liveaboard diving is so great, let’s take a closer look at the top benefits.
The diversity of marine life in Raja Ampat is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Raja Ampat is located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and has previously been labelled a ‘species factory.’ The currents in this area bring together fascinating creatures from both oceans and create a unique ecosystem.
When experiencing Raja Ampat diving, you’ll get to see incredible creatures like manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and thousands of fish. You may even be lucky enough to spot the rare dugong or sea turtle during your dives. It isn’t just sea life you should look out for – Raja Ampat is also home to some magnificent shipwrecks.
Raja Ampat is known for having some pretty strong currents. While not always ideal for beginners, these currents create exciting drift dives and bring in fascinating sea creatures. Along with the current, you’ll also find crystal-clear visibility and a range of depths.
Because of the strong currents in some sites, many divers prefer to book liveaboards in Raja Ampat. While these currents are not always present, it does help to have an expert dive guide to hand. The captains and divemasters onboard will know the best conditions to dive in and make sure you’re diving safely.
Not only is the underwater world in Raja Ampat breathtaking, but the views from above are no less impressive. Most liveaboards will stop at certain islands or bays during their trip, and you may even have the chance to explore these beautiful places.
Raja Ampat is technically in the wilderness, so it is far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This means you get to experience peace, tranquility, and clear night skies.
As the currents can be pretty intense, Raja Ampat is more suitable for experienced divers. While this may not be the best news if you’re a beginner, it does mean that seasoned divers will be in the company of others with similar skill sets.
The liveaboard crew will also be experienced and knowledgeable, so you’ll have someone to ask if you need help.
Raja Ampat has only recently begun to grow in popularity as a dive destination. With this comes more and more dive resorts, but which is better – Raja Ampat liveaboards or dive resorts? Well, what it really comes down to is affordability and the desire to explore.
Liveaboards are typically more expensive than dive resorts as they provide accommodation, meals, and dives in one package. Dive resorts, however, can be cheaper but do not have the same level of convenience as a liveaboard. Not to mention the number of dive sites and experiences you will miss out on when staying at a dive resort.
Ultimately, it depends on your budget, preference, and the type of experience you want – but if you can, always go for a liveaboard. You simply cannot beat the all-inclusive experience and convenience of exploring Raja Ampat from the comfort of a liveaboard.
We all now know just how wonderful a Raja Ampat liveaboard diving trip can be, but there are some things to consider before you book.
Raja Ampat may be comprised of various islands, but 4 main islands dominate the area – Misool, Salawati, Waigeo, and Batanta. Although, for diving purposes, Raja Ampat can be split into three distinct regions. The best way to explore all of them is by taking a liveaboard.
You should ensure that your liveaboard covers all the key locations you want to dive into to make the most out of your vacation! Most of the liveaboards in Raja Ampat depart from Sorong, a city close to the western tip of Papua. From here, your chosen liveaboard can explore the following areas:
Probably the most remote of the three regions, the northern area is home to some of the best dive sites in Raja Ampat. These include shallow coral gardens, coastal reefs, deeper walls, and plenty of marine life. Wayag Island and Kawe Island are two iconic locations here.
The central area is home to some of the most famous spots on Raja Ampat – including the Papua Paradise Eco Resort. Fam islands, Kri Islands and Friwen Wall are also popular dive sites here. Muck dives (when looking for critters in the sand) are also an option.
The southern area of Raja Ampat is home to one of the main islands – Misool. There are plenty of shallower reefs, as well as some deeper areas and channels. Boo Island, Sepele Rock, and Gampi are some of the awesome spots you’ll find here.
Most of the Raja Ampat liveaboards are traditional wooden boats known as Phinisi. These boats can range from 15m to 30m long and often come with single or double cabin rooms. These liveaboards feature large sails, which are raised during crossings and help provide an authentic seafaring experience.
Don’t let the conventional appearance of these traditional boats fool you. They often come with modern amenities, such as air-conditioning and hot showers, so you can still enjoy the comforts of home.
Modern liveaboards are also available in Raja Ampat and can offer a more luxurious experience, with more space and additional extras. These boats are usually bigger than the traditional wooden ones, are made from steel, and can often accommodate up to 20 people.
Depending on the length of your chosen trip, you can expect to explore up to 4 dive sites per day. Most liveaboards also offer night dives, which are great for spotting nocturnal marine life.
The trips usually last around 10 nights, but there are shorter options from 4 days or longer up to 12 days. The variance in lengths of each journey means that you have plenty of options to choose from.
The whole point of going Raja Ampat liveaboard diving is to get the most dive time possible. Many trips offer up to 4 dives per day, varying between the many exciting diving spots. When searching through the various Raja Ampat liveaboards, check the total number of dives specified each day. You can usually find this information in the itinerary, alongside the things to do and the locations you will visit.
Whether you’re just starting your diving journey or have several logged dives already, you should ensure that the liveaboard you choose is suitable for your skill level. Many liveaboards in Raja Ampat state a minimum of 50 dives for divers to join, but this can vary from boat to boat.
It’s your responsibility to ensure you meet the requirements specified by the company, and if you’re unsure – check with them before booking.
Almost all liveaboards, no matter where you are in the world, require you to have dive insurance. You should always ensure that your chosen provider has adequate coverage, as accidents can happen – also when you’re in the water. You may need to show proof of your insurance before boarding the liveaboard, so make sure you take it with you!
We recommend DiveAssure – the leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.
Some divers are nitrox certified, meaning they can use a type of air that is enriched with additional oxygen. This allows them to stay down longer – especially on repeated dives (which you will have on a liveaboard), this is a game changer!.
If you’re a nitrox certified diver, you’ll be happy to know many Raja Ampat liveaboards offer nitrox. If you are not certified, you can sometimes do a quick course and become certified while on the liveaboard – so don’t let that stop you!
If you’re not planning on bringing your personal scuba gear, renting equipment is an option. Most liveaboards have their own dive equipment that you can rent for a small fee, and this usually includes everything you need for Raja Ampat liveaboard diving.
There is technically not an off-season in Raja Ampat. This is because Raja Ampat falls on the equator and has a tropical climate. Year-round, the weather is usually pleasant yet humid – with an average temperature of 89°F (31°C) during the day. As for the water conditions, you can expect excellent visibility and the surface temperature to remain at a steady 84°F (25°C).
Raja Ampat’s tropical climate does mean rainfall is inevitable throughout the year – and some months are wetter than others. With this in mind, the best season for liveaboards in Raja Ampat would be October to April. These are typically the driest months; although rain may occur – it will be much less frequent than the rest of the year.
Every liveaboard you book will have a set itinerary. Most of the liveaboards in Raja Ampat will take you around the islands, exploring some of its well-loved locations. As Raja Ampat islands are far apart, most itineraries will focus on the central area, alongside either the north or south. If you choose a longer Raja Ampat liveaboard diving trip, you may have the opportunity to explore further afield.
This is one of the best itineraries for Raja Ampat liveaboards, as it covers many wonderful dive sites. During this trip, you’ll get to explore the Southern Passage, situated between the islands of Waigeo and Gam Islands, as well as some incredible coral reefs at Dampier Strait. You will continue traveling north for additional dives before returning to Sarong.
Misool, located in the south of Raja Ampat, is home to some of the most renowned and beautiful dive sites in the area. This itinerary includes the famous Boo Windows alongside the Darma and Pelee islands. You would also likely visit Dampier Straits at either the start or end of your journey, with the itinerary ending back at Sarong.
Booking onto almost any liveaboards in Raja Ampat is not cheap, and the costs for each trip can vary. However, you will usually pay over $3,000 per person for a 10-day trip. The type of boat does not seem to make much of a difference in Raja Ampat. In fact, the traditional phinisi boats outprice many of the steel yachts – with some costing up to $7000 a week.
Of course, the longer you stay onboard, the more money it will cost. You’re looking at around $1600 for a 4-day excursion, which may be more than enough time for some divers.
We know you’re ready to book your dream liveaboard diving trip in Raja Ampat – so let us help you out. Here are four of the best liveaboard boats in Raja Ampat that you can choose from.
Length: 30m Width: 7m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 5 Maximum capacity: 10 guests Rental Gear: Yes
Prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! The Calico Jack Liveaboard was built by hand using traditional Indonesian sailing boat principles in 2014. This liveaboard is a fantastic way to explore the wonders of Raja Ampat – with a focus on the northern and central regions. Trips on Calico Jack can span up to 12 days, with as many as 4 dives per day.
The friendly crew members ensure that each guest is safe and comfortable throughout their journey: enjoy air-conditioned cabins, an outside dining area, a diving platform, free internet, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment. Not to mention the tasty food options available to you – there’s something for everyone (including a full board option) and free soft drinks too!
Length: 33m Width: 8m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 7 Maximum capacity: 14 guests Rental Gear: Yes
La Galigo, a traditional Phinisi sailing boat built in 2012, offers the ultimate cruise around Raja Ampat. This luxurious liveaboard has 7 en suite cabins, each with its own private balcony and TV. A fully equipped outdoor common area is perfect for taking in magnificent ocean views while soaking up some sun.
Adventurous travelers can spend 6 to 12 days exploring the islands surrounding Raja Ampat, with plenty of stops to enjoy activities such as snorkeling and diving. Onboard amenities include a bar, BBQ, camera charging points, and an indoor saloon; you won’t have to worry about sustenance. Snacks are also provided all day long, plus vegetarian/vegan food options. If you’re looking for the ultimate getaway experience, La Galigo should be on your list!
Length: 45m Width: 9m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 14 Maximum capacity: 20 guests Rental Gear: Yes
There’s no better way to explore the incredible wonders of Raja Ampat than with a trip on board the Blue Manta. The ship is a sturdy, steel-hulled vessel specially built for divers – so it can easily withstand all types of sea conditions. On board, guests will be both well-fed and well-looked after. Three chefs serve up 5 meals a day – plenty for even the hungriest divers! Plus, the ratio of 4:1 between guides and divers assures you’ll always have personal attention whenever needed.
Those who want to capture every second of their journey will also find convenience in the indoor camera room equipped with charging stations. And if that wasn’t enough, the experienced crew always ensures a comfortable stay, offering aircon cabins and features like massage facilities and laundry service. With 8 to 12-day trip options available, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience diving in Raja Ampat.
Length: 30m Width: 7.5m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 7 Maximum capacity: 14 guests Rental Gear: Yes
With all your needs catered for, the luxurious Pearl of Papua will give you the vacation of a lifetime. Dive straight into the waters around Raja Ampat with their experienced dive staff, fully kitted-out rinse tanks, and dedicated camera table. Then come back to relax in one of their air-conditioned cabins!
Satisfy your food cravings with the professional chef’s fresh gourmet meals or take a trip to their leisure deck and enjoy luxury living at its finest. Take advantage of the daily housekeeping available and many food choices! Last but not least, choose from multiple trip lengths, including 11-day trips around both the north and south of Raja Ampat.
Packing your bag for a liveaboard trip shouldn’t be too tricky, as most of your needs will be taken care of on board. But there are some set items you will need to bring with you. Such as:
- Diving certification and dive logs
- Diver insurance information
- Bank card or local currency (for when you leave the liveaboard and to pay for your visa on arrival)
- Diving gear (if not renting)
- Diving equipment
- Surface marker buoy (SMB or DSMB) – some liveaboards require you to bring your own markers
- Passport and travel paperwork
- Medications (if needed)
- Warm weather clothing
- Insect repellent
- Towels (while most liveaboards will provide you with towels, bringing an extra one can pay off)
- Sun protection (sunscreen/aftersun, sunglasses, hat)
- Toiletries (toothbrush, deodorant, etc.)
- Camera equipment (if using)
- Water bottle
- Entertainment (books, puzzles)
- Electronics (phone, charger, laptop/charger)
- Specific dry bag for wet items
Taking a trip around the beautiful islands of Raja Ampat will create lasting memories you will never forget. With some brilliant liveaboards in Raja Ampat to choose from, you can be sure to find one that works perfectly for you.
Before you know it, you will be exploring the bio-diverse reefs, swimming with whale sharks and manta rays – and enjoying the luxurious amenities that come with the Raja Ampat liveaboards!