Accommodation options in Raja Ampat are growing fast (some people worry that it’s too fast and lacking regulation) and can be divided into three options: high-quality dedicated dive lodges, homestays and liveaboard dive boats. Land-based accommodation is for the most part spread across the islands of Waigeo, Kri, Arborek, Gam, Batanta, Mansuar and Misool. Kri is the most centrally located.
These upmarket lodgings typically include stylish bungalows with private bathrooms, delicious restaurants and professional dive instruction, and they are often booked up weeks or even months in advance. They typically offer packages including ‘unlimited’ diving (up to four boat dives per day within about 10km, plus house-reef dives), accommodation, meals and Sorong transfers on fixed days of the week. Transfers from Waisai are also possible. More distant dives, equipment rental and transfers on nonstandard days cost extra. Most dive resorts offer cheaper rates for nondivers.
A growing number of much-less-expensive ‘homestays’ are opening up on several islands – the majority on Kri, Gam and Arborek. Few of them are actual homestays but groups of purposely built palm-thatch huts close to or even over the water. Several now have private bathrooms but most just have separate, shared mandi.
They all offer snorkelling, birdwatching and other outings. Three (mainly fish-based) meals a day are usually part of the deal. Homestays will normally pick you up in Waisai if you contact them a day or two ahead (best by phone, SMS or WhatsApp), typically for 1,000,000Rp per boat return-trip to Kri, Gam, Arborek and increasingly more distant places. Boat outings can cost anything from 400,000Rp to 1,500,000Rp, or even more, depending how far you go.
The Waisai Tourist Information Centre connect you with homestays, or visit www.stayrajaampat.com, which lists all homestays and includes contact details, rates and reviews. A warning: tourism is a relatively new industry here, and operators often have little experience or training. Many are poor stewards of the environment, failing to manage waste sustainably and illegally hunting lobster and coconut crab to serve at mealtimes.
The ultimate Raja Ampat experience could be cruising around on a Bugis-style schooner specially kitted out for divers. Some 40-plus Indonesian- and foreign-owned liveaboards do regular one- to two-week dive cruises, usually starting and ending in Sorong. Some itineraries combine Raja Ampat with Maluku, Teluk Cenderawasih or Triton Bay (Teluk Triton) south of Kaimana. Most boats carry 12 to 16 passengers and some are luxurious, with air-conditioned cabins and en-suite bathrooms. Most cruises run between November and April, when Raja Ampat seas are calmest. It typically costs between US$300 and US$500 per person per day. A few recommended operators include:
Grand Komodo (www.grandkomodo.com) A long-running Indonesian operation, which has multiple liveaboards operating year-round and is among the least expensive.
Seven Seas (www.thesevenseas.net) The Seven Seas is probably the last word in Raja Ampat liveaboard luxury.
Shakti (www.shakti-raja-ampat.com) Well-established, quality operator.
Pindito (www.pindito.com) Beautiful boat, cruising in a beautiful place.
Ambai (www.indocruises.com) Excellent operator around Raja Ampat and elsewhere.
Samambaia (www.facebook.com/samambaialiveaboard) A magnificent phinisi ship with modern trappings; accommodates 14 passengers.
Those intent on spending less should look into budget liveaboard KLM Insos Raja Ampat, which takes up to nine passengers (and no fewer than eight) on multi-day diving trips to highly desirable, far-flung sites and islands. Barefoot Conservation also operates a lower-cost liveaboard for volunteers.
See www.cruisingindonesia.com or www.diverajaampat.org for lists of high-quality operators.