Raja Ampat, or Four Kings, refers to the four main islands in this group: Batanta, Misool, Salawati, and Waigeo. The island group is off the Bird's Head Peninsula of New Guinea. The coastal town of Sorong is the gateway to the Four Kings.
Except for one small resort, diving in these islands is possible only from liveaboards. We generally leave from Sorong and head north toward Waigeo or south toward Misool. The diving is exceptional. The islands are sparsely populated. Destructive fishing methods aren't a major problem here so most reefs are thriving.
The best feature of these islands is their diversity. Over 3000 species of fishes and over 300 species of corals have been identified here. Seas from the Philippines, Maluku Islands, and Australia meet here to support an incredibly prolific and diverse assortment of marine life. In addition to the non-stop fishes, there are oddities like Wobbegongs, giant clams, and a variety of critters.
Strong currents are good for drift diving and isolated lagoons are great for muck diving. Walls, coral slopes, and patch reefs are terrific for all-around diving. Island topography, too, is varied. There are coral cays and granite islands with steep walls. Some areas have hundreds of rock islands similar to those in Palau. Others are surrounded by mangrove forests. This area is not to be missed.
The best time to dive the Raja Empats is March to May and August to November, although the season is from March until December. Rainfall is well distributed throughout the year. December to February is generally overcast and July to August is windy. Water temperatures run from 26°-32°C (82-94°F) and are most often 28°-29°C (86-88°F).
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Kri has several sites and Cape Kri is one of the fishiest. The fish numbers and variety are truly amazing. The site is current dependent. Generally it's a steep slope with beautiful coral growth, lots of reef and schooling fishes, including the giant Queensland Grouper.
Sardine Reef has really giant clams at 10m (33ft) but it's all about non-stop fishes here. There's a resident school of bumphead parrotfish in the shallows, colorful soft corals and plenty of critters.
Kaboei Bay Rock Islands
The bay is a labyrinth of rock islands. Visibility isn't great but this is a great place for macro and finding odd nudibranches, mollusks and the pictured dragonet. Bat caves and skeletons are found on some of the islands.
This is a drift dive through a narrow channel near Waigeo. Look for archerfish among the mangroves, orange cup corals, seahorses, and percula clownfish.
Several sites near Fam have stunning coral growth. Sponges and soft corals add color and fishes keep it going. Sites include walls, sloping reefs, and muddy bays.
Misool is awash in fish life and huge sea fans. Caverns and boulders mark several sites. The schooling fishes seem endless and pygmy seahorses live in less than 10m (33ft). Some sites are current dependent.