With so many great dive sites in Raja Ampat it can be difficult to compile lists of the best without leaving a few off. Right in the middle of the coral triangle, nearly every site in Raja is spectacular. On a recent liveaboard trip, we visited dive sites that had something appealing for everyone, from macro critters to huge schools of fish, colorful and healthy coral reefs, sharks, turtles, mantas and dolphins. Our boat visited these sites based on their topography as well as biodiversity and aquatic life, so whether you’re land-based or on a liveaboard, you should be able to visit some of them on a trip. With all that said, and knowing that we’ve surely missed a few, here are our picks for five great dive sites in Raja Ampat.
The route our Dive Damai liveaboard took for this article
North of Waigeo
Located in the Dampier Strait, this site is a sloping reef/ridge and usually features a mild uni-directional current. You’ll find large schools of fish in the blue including jacks, snappers, and barracuda. On the reef you’ll find schooling sweetlips, bumphead parrotfish and surgeon fish as well as an abundance of macro critters like nudis.
This seamount is also located in the Dampier Strait and the name is apt, as many of our group had a truly magical dive here. The currents can be strong, but this creates more fish activity and contributes to amazing visibility. Jacks and barracudas hang out on top of the mount, and you’ll likely spot wobbegong sharks as well. Abundant napoleon wrasse and oceanic triggerfish add to the wide-angle action.
South of Waigeo
In the Yangefol region, this dive site is a jetty on a sloping sandy bottom. There are patches of rocks and reef on the sand, with most of the site ranging from 80 feet (24 m) and shallower to the jetty. Current is minimal at this well-known site, home to wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, giant clams and curious batfish. As you ascend to the shallows and dive underneath the jetty, you’ll be encircled by thousands of schooling baitfish, which makes for a mesmerizing end to the dive.
The sites near Misool can be weather-dependent if diving from a liveaboard due to the distance you must travel. You can of course also dive them from the land-based Misool Eco Resort. As Magic Mountain is a seamount dive and exposed to strong currents, you’ll usually need a reef hook to dive here. It’s famous for manta sightings as it’s a cleaning station, but even if there are no mantas around you’ll see schooling jacks, big-eye snappers, napoleon wrasse, blacktip and grey reef sharks and occasionally dolphins, among other reef fish. Hook in and pay attention, because Magic Mountain is an exhilarating dive.
Like a seamount, this site is comprised of four pinnacles that drop to 130 feet (40 m). There are frequent strong currents here as well, but that brings in the life. This site features schooling barracudas, smaller schools of jacks, scorpionfish, napoleon wrasse and huge potato groupers. The pinnacles themselves are dramatic structures, with vibrant colors and corals and good visibility as well.