Monday, November 23, 2020

Raja Ampat Snorkeling Season

This is now a good time for snorkeling in Raja Ampat. Starting from October, November, December, January until June, the waters in southern, and western region of Waigeo are relatively calm. The sea around Kri, Mansuar, Arborek and Batanta as well as Misool is calm. Local people can enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the coral reef of the islands.

tropical reef fish in Mansuar and Kri island
Diagonal Sweetlips (the ones with yellow tail) in Yenbuba strait of Raja Ampat

Domestic tourists from cities and towns can now travel to Raja Ampat to enjoy snorkeling. However, they have to take rapid test. Laboratories or hospitals that provide the tests will issue letters which state that their holders are not infected with Covid-19 virus. 

In general, the number of visitors traveling to Raja Ampat is still low. Foreign tourists are still banned from visiting Indonesia. We are hopeful that in 2021 this country will be opened to international travelers again.

Snorkeling sites in eastern region of Waigeo such as the Waim and Mamiaef islands are great places for those who want to enjoy snorkeling in islands that are not crowded with a lot of tourists. This can also be seen in coral reef areas inside Kabui bay. 

Most of the beach resorts, and homestays in Raja Ampat are empty or do not operate in full capacity. I highly recommend that visitors bring their own snorkeling equipment such as snorkel, mask, and fins as well as underwater camera if they can enjoy their holiday in Raja Ampat or other places in West Papua. 

traveling to Waigeo island
Wilson's Homestay in Raja Ampat

As a tourist guide, I organize a combined snorkeling and rainforest tour to Raja Ampat and mainland West Papua. Because I was born and grew up here, I know this province well. If you are interested in taking such tour in 2021, and want me (Charles Roring) to organize your trip, please, contact me by e-mail to: peace4wp@gmail.com or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Dive Resorts in Raja Ampat are trying hard to survive

Dive resorts in Raja Ampat are trying hard to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic. Indonesian government have not allowed foreign tourists to travel across this country to prevent more infections among its citizens. Local government of Raja Ampat regency opened their territory for domestic visitors again on 22 August 2020. The number of visitors traveling to this archipelago is still lower than before the pandemic. Owners of dive resorts and homestays in Raja Ampat are facing difficulties in paying monthly wages of their workers and in doing maintenance of their accommodation and other service facilities. 

Raja Ampat archipelago is one of the most important destination in the world for marine tourism because its waters have got the highest marine biodiversity.

The lack of tourists in Raja Ampat waters, according to reports from workers who decide to stay in beach resorts during the Covid-19 pandemic, actually brings positive impacts to the marine environments. More big marine animals such as manta, and dolphins can now be seen on the surface of the sea closer to islands. However, some people who see the phenomenon says that ecotourism brings positive impacts to the environment because local people can generate income. They will preserve coral reef and rainforest. 

Also read: Dive Resort in Raja Ampat

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Birds of Paradise Raja Ampat

Paradise birds such as Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra) and Wilson's Bird of Paradise (Diphyllodes respublica) can be watched in Waigeo, Gam and Batanta islands. Glossy Manucode (Manucodia ater), another species of bird of paradise whose feather is plain black, lives in the whole territory of Raja Ampat. They are not considered as important target by birdwatchers. Visitors usually choose Waigeo because they can easily go by fast passenger ferry that go back and forth between Sorong city and Waisai town twice a day. 
Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra) is watched in the coastal area. I often see the male and female birds at Warduwer beach where they eat fruits especially in the mornings and late afternoons (before sunset). For Wilson's Bird of Paradise (Diphyllodes respublica), it lives deeper in the rainforest. We must wake up early in the morning, usually at 04.00, and do long trip into the forest to reach its dancing site or display ground.
Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra) in southern region of Waigeo island
Red Bird of Paradise
Wilson's Bird of Paradise in Waigeo island
Wilson's Bird of Paradise (Diphyllodes respublica)
Several places have become an important birdwatching destinations in Raja Ampat. Saporkren is the famous one. For me, personally, I organize my tours to rainforest close to Kabui bay. I combine this rainforest birding trip to this site with snorkeling and sightseeing tours by boat. There is no road that we can use to reach the birding ground. So, we use motorized boats. I also organize birding trips to eastern and north-eastern regions of Waigeo. Usually, the birdwatching trips to this places are combined with village tour, riverwalk tour, swimming, and turtle watching activities. Tourists like them because they could  meet local people, watch birds and enjoy the beautiful nature of Raja Ampat.
Dutch lady was enjoying snorkeling to see coral reef and tropical fish.
Snorkeling in Raja Ampat
For other species such as Lesser Birds of Paradise (Paradisaea minor); Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise (Seleucidis melanoleucus); and King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius), they can be found in Salawati and Misool islands. However, because these birds can be found in mainland West Papua, most tourists watch them in the mainland. 

Birdwatching in Mainland West Papua
From Sorong city, tourists can take a 4WD car to Klasow valley and enjoy birdwatching in the villages of Klatomok, and Malagufuk. Klatomok is more suitable for elderly people or those who cannot walk for hours in the jungle because it is a roadside village. Because birding activity is carried out in rainforest, I cannot fully guarantee that visitors will be able to see all the target birds that I mention above. There are other birds that live in Klasow valley including Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Northern Cassowary, Lowland Peltop, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Blyth's Hornbill, and a lot more.
Another alternative is Tambrauw regency which is located further to the east. It takes around 5 hours to reach Fef which is the capital of the regency. I highly recommend that tourists go birding accompanied by birding guides who really know the areas. Ayapokiar village located deeper in Tambrauw mountains is the destination for avid birders.


Tambrauw is a great destination for birdwatching. Visitors should travel in a group of three to four people to share the cost of transportation.  Another alternative of traveling to Ayapokiar is by plane from Manokwari city to Kebar, tourists need to continue overland to District Senopi and then by 4wd car from Senopi to Ayapokiar. Susi Air operates Cessna Caravan 208 between Manokwari and Kebar several times a week. Tickets can be bought at the airport. There is a good guesthouse in Ayapokiar so visitors could stay in the village for several days and do day tours to the forest. The road in this remote mountainous region is empty. It is a very nice birdwatching site.

Also read:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Raja Ampat in July

July is the month where a lot of travelers want to go to Raja Ampat to spend their vacation. As a matter of fact the sea is full of waves particularly in south and central regions of the archipelago. I used to guide a Dutch lady in July. We went to southern region of Waigeo and stayed at a homestay near the entrance area to Kabui bay. Although the sea was quite protected, we could still experience waves. Snorkeling was possible only in the morning. Sometimes,  We did a tour by a motorized wooden boat around Kabui bay. The waves were quite strong. We used outrigger boat. We went to karst in the bay to see the scenery and enjoyed some birdwatching. Waves hit us from the bow when we were heading back to the homestay. All our clothing was wet. The boat crews was busy taking out water from inside the hull using a small water dipper.
Orange-skunk anemonefish, Three-spots Dascyllus and damselfish
Orange-skunk Anemonefish
Although the wind and the waves were quite strong at the beach, when I did freediving at a depth of 2 to 5 meters, the visibility was quite good. I could still make pictures of coral reef and marine life. I used a small action camera Brica B-Pro 5 Alpha Edition. It was not the best camera for underwater photography but it was good enough for snorkelers who want to have an affordable underwater photographic device.
Karst in Kabui bay of Gam island
Karst inside Kabui bay of Raja Ampat
For those who want to explore the tropical rainforest in Raja Ampat, july is a perfect month. Orchids, tropical plants, reptiles, mammals, birds and insects can be seen while we walk in the jungle. As a tour guide, I organize birdwatching tour to Raja Ampat all year round, even in late June, July and September when the waves are big. There are a lot of birds that we can watch including Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Great-billed Parrot, Violet-necked Lory, Red-cheeked Parrot, Spice Imperial Pigeon, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Hooded Butcherbird, Beach Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Willie Wagtail, Torresian Crow, Pacific Swallow, White-breasted Woodswallow, Wimbrel, Brahminy Kite, White-belly Sea Eagle, and a lot more.
Birdwatching activity can be done using binoculars, and spotting scope.
North coast of Wageo island Photo by Charles Roring
North coast of Wageo
Which places you could visit in July?
You could visit places in Raja Ampat that are not directly exposed to sea current and waves that come from south-east or south-west directions. So, doing land tours in Waigeo, Salawati or Batanta will be ok. However, transport vehicles are not always available especially for big boats that go to Salawati and Batanta. Regular passenger ferry go to Misool, and Waigeo. There are also ships that go to Kofiau. Coastal villages in northern region of Waigeo have got calm waters in July, August and September. It is a suitable place for swimming, fishing, and wildlife watching in the forest.
Booking
The spread of Covid-19 around the world is still going on. If the threat of this virus has stopped and tourism activities can be continued again, anyone will be allowed to visit Raja Ampat again.
If you are interested in traveling to Raja Ampat and want me to organize your tour and accompany you, please, contact me (Charles Roring) by e-mail to: peace4wp@gmail.com or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180

Also read:
Raja Ampat Birds
Snorkeling and Watching Birds of Paradise in Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat beach