If you have never heard about Raja Ampat in Indonesia you were in the same boat as me. As soon as I had, however, I knew I had to get there pronto.
The best thing is, exploring Raja Ampat on a budget IS possible…
I think the pictures speak loud enough why.
Raja Ampat Indonesia on a Budget
What I struggled with planning this trip was the time/cost and trying to find out information about it. It seemed to be too remote and too expensive to be possible on a budget but undeterred I booked a flight, spent a few days texting random phone numbers to try to work out accommodation then headed off to find my paradise.
Here’s how you can doRaja Ampat ‘on a budget’ for under £300. That is for a week in paradise, without diving and if you are already in Indonesia… Becoming obvious yet? Yes, this will not fall into the same ‘Budget’ as much of SE Asia, however, the extra dosh is worth every penny.
It’s a bit lengthy, but if you are planning a trip I hope this gives you some of the info I couldn’t find. If anyone else has been and has any more up to date budget tips please add into the comments below!.
*IDR Prices correct, currency conversion is estimated
To access Raja Ampat you need to go via Sorong in West Papua. Makassar and Manado airports in Indonesia fly there and you can connect to these from Bali / Jakarta or Singapore easily enough.
Garuda, Express Air and Sriwijaya airlines operate flights there. My advice, book in advance. I paid £170 for my flights with Garuda but this was relatively last minute flying from Bali.
The ferry from Sorong to Waisia port (on the main island in of Waigeo) takes about two hours and costs 100,000 IDR (10$, £5. This leaves daily at 2 pm (usually 11 am on Saturdays), an additional ferry is usually scheduled for 9 am on Monday/Fridays. The ferry times to return are the same.
Your home stay will usually pick you up from there and take you to your Island. We stayed on Kri and paid around 80,000 IDR ($8/£4) pp each way to get there.
Stating the obvious – if you are coming from outside Indonesia your flight costs are going to be the main killer here.
The reality is a lot of the amazing Scuba Diving in Indonesia will involve a few, slightly more expensive flights. Even if you opt to go scuba diving in Wakatobi (another incredibly diverse and rich marine life location) or simply the Gili Islands, getting there is usually going to be a big chunk of the cost.
Tip: Trying to tie up the flights and ferry’s is a bit of a challenge. Unless you want to spend a night in Sorong (My advice, don’t) you need to give yourself some time for delays etc. This will probably mean arriving a good few hours before the flight/ferry so head to the hotel opposite the airport for some food and wifi to kill time. Following a four hour period of being detained in Immigration (even if you are flying domestic and have a Kitas/Driving license etc you must show a passport in Papua) we ended up staying the night and spending around £50 for a basic hotel room for 3 people.
The only real accommodation on most the Islands are huts at home stays. These can range from ‘Luxury’ eco resorts to more basic accommodation. The main Island of Waigeo also has a few concrete accommodations.
We stayed at Yenkoranu dive resort on Kri. As there was 3 of us we paid for a larger private hut with an extra bed for 1million IDR per night ($100/£50).
Get The LP Guidebook
Grab the print or e-book before you travel to Indonesia.
If you are two people you can stay in one of the basic shared huts for as little as 200,000 IDR each ($20/£10) per night. This also includes three meals a day so is great value! Visit the website for contact details. We found texting the easiest communication.
As internet signal and phone signal is limited don’t be surprised if it takes a day or two and even then you only confirmation is a text message saying ‘Ok. Pick up Tuesday’. It’s all part of the adventure.
*Note the prices we paid varied slightly some higher and some lower than the current website. Email for an updated quote in advance
For other accommodation options and more tips make sure to check out: www.stayrajaampat.com
Food / Other Expenses
A simple one really. If there are no shops, there are no other expenses. Our accommodation rate included all our food so it was pretty impossible to go over our planned budget.
Beer (Large tin Bintang) costs around 50,000 IDR ($5/£2.50) on the Island and is probably going to be warm for sunset after a day of no power on. As a true brit, we planned a head and brought some from Sorong with us to save.
The only place I had seen photos this beautiful in SE Asia before was El Nido Palawan, another paradise you can’t miss on this side of the world.
Trips around the Islands are probably going to be your biggest expense and costs will vary depending on where you stay. Wayag ended up being out of budget on our trip as we were so far away. The cost of fuel is high here hence the price. From Kri Island where we stayed, this was the cost per person of each trip based on 8 people on the boat.
Fam Island: 1million IDR ($100/£50) – A full days trip takes you to the Fam Islands, where this view is reason enough to visit:
A smaller version of the famous Wayag view. We also dived Fam Wall here (extra cost) which we weren’t too impressed with. Mellisa’s Garden is meant to be a great dive site here but alas the current wasn’t on out side. We stopped at beautiful beaches to eat, visited the Island of Arborek (My favourite!) and snorkelled there where a ball of Sardines were already waiting under the pier and found a shop! Manta Sandy is on the way back and in seasons you can snorkel here and watch them all float below. Its around 2 hours each way and we left just after Sunrise and back before Sunset.
Wayag: The famous ‘view’ of all the beautiful green covered rocks sticking out the water would have set us back around 2million ($200/£100) though would be cheaper from the main Island. In the end, the boat wasn’t full so the cost would have shot up for everyone else planning to go. It was also a 5 hours trip each way with only a few hours in Wayag to snorkel and do the trek to the viewpoint. It’s on my list for next time now I know how to go around it.
Diving / Snorkelling
The best time to visit for Diving is around Nov/Dec when the Mantas head to the cleaning stations and Orca whales can be seen. Dolphins swimming past the boat is no surprise either.
At out home stay we paid 350,000 IDR per dive ($35/£18) with our own equipment, it was 450,000 for those hiring equipment. The local dive sites around Kri were brilliant and included the boat and a guide with 4/5 divers per group. To go further afield additional fuel costs need to be added on. Cape Kri on Kri island was the most incredible dive of my life – it has according to some surveys the most diverse marine wildlife in the world.
Warning: The currents here can be crazy. I had my first out of air experience at 33 metres after getting sucked into a down current only 16 minutes into a diver. Im an PADI advanced diver however I have never experienced full on current dives. There are also some calm dive sites here and the current changes regularly but my advise: bring a reef hook and try and get some current experience before heading here.
LET ME SEND YOU MY BEST INDONESIA TIPS…
Snorkelling is another incredible option here. From the house reef of our home stay at the end of the pier, we had schools of fish, turtles and reef sharks swimming around you. It was honestly better than much of the diving I have done in my life.
Entry Cost: All those going to Raja Ampat will need to by the conservation tag for 500, 000 IDR ($50, £25) either from the port on arrival, or the hotel opposite the airport – [UPDATE: I have been informed by a reader as of March 2016 the park cost is now 1Million IDR]
Getting there: Boats: Another route of getting around the larger islands and saving big bucks are the Pelino ferrys. These big boats can take a day to get between destinations and usually leave once every few weeks but can be dirt cheap and great to hang out with local life – visit www.pelni.co.id for timetables and bookings (Side note: The waters around Indonesia can be crazy and it’s not unheard of for boats to regularly sink or go missing though these bigger ferrys are generally seen as pretty safe).
Electric: Expect on many of the smaller Islands to be running on a generator, potential having electric as little a day as from Sunset to 1 am, though many runs throughout the night.
Shops: Forget it. Bring whatever you need or pick it up in Sorong before coming. A few islands like Arborek have small shops but you might be an hours boat ride away. Waisai
Phone Signal: Limited, I had no internet and some times no signal so enjoy the peace and silent of no outside world!
Raja Ampat Indonesia is a true paradise, I just hope it stays that way!