Un­der­wa­ter Beauty

Leave the ev­ery­day world be­hind and es­cape to the sea.You can rule over your own un­der­wa­ter king­dom of colour­ful coral and ex­otic fish.

Maxx-M - - WHAT TO DO - Text by An­nisa | Pho­tos cour­tesy of In­done­sian Tourism Author­ity

Raja Am­pat

Raja Am­pat, or Four Kings, is a be­witch­ing ar­chi­pel­ago in the ex­otic eastern reaches of In­done­sia, in West Pa­pua’s Sorong re­gency. The four main is­lands are Salawati, Misool, Batanta and Waigeo. Raja Am­pat is a mag­i­cal des­ti­na­tion of un­touched nat­u­ral beauty. From above it is a blend of blue, green and sil­ver wa­ters, lap­ping at golden shores. But where it re­ally comes alive is be­low the wa­ter, a king­dom of coral reefs and marine life seen nowhere else on earth. The name Raja Am­pat comes from an an­cient story about a woman who found four eggs. From the eggs hatched four princes. Af­ter they grew up, they be­came the kings of Salawati, Misool, Batanta and Waigeo is­lands. Vis­i­tors to Raja Am­pat are also treated like kings, with a choice of in­ter­na­tional-stan­dard ho­tels and re­sorts such as Raja Am­pat Dive Re­sort, Sorido Bay Re­sort, Kri Is­land and more. There are also home­s­tays avail­able for trav­ellers on a limited bud­get. To reach Raja Am­pat, fly to Sorong from Jakarta, Sin­ga­pore, Manado or Makas­sar. Flights are of­fered by a num­ber of air­lines in­clud­ing Mer­pati Air­lines, Ex­press Air, Batavia Air­lines and Lion Air. From Sorong it is about 70 kilo­me­tres by sea to Raja Am­pat.

Banda Is­lands

The Banda Is­lands are a group of small vol­canic is­lands float­ing in the mid­dle of the crys­tal blue Banda Sea. The area around Neira Is­land, Vol­cano Is­land, Ai Is­land, Syahrir Is­land and Hatta Is­land is a marine park of stunning beauty, with wa­ter so clear you can al­most gaze down to the seafloor. Banda is in Cen­tral Maluku re­gency. From Ambon city, the area can be reached by ferry. Banda Sea teems with marine life, in­clud­ing 350 species of fish, some so an­cient that they al­most date back to the time of the dinosaurs.The va­ri­ety of coral is even more im­pres­sive, with 432 dif­fer­ent types. The Banda Is­lands sit above a trough of wa­ter that de­scends to a depth of

6,500 me­tres. It is an un­der­wa­ter par­adise where divers will come face-to-face with Man­darin fish, Napoleon fish and so much more. And when you are tired of the sea, as if that were pos­si­ble, ex­plore the is­lands, which have gor­geous beaches and some of the old­est her­itage build­ings in In­done­sia. Get­ting to Banda takes some plan­ning and trans­porta­tion is not avail­able ev­ery day. The first step is to fly into Ambon with Mer­pati Air­lines, which usu­ally has flights on Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. But the sched­ule is known to change and flights do get can­celled, so call ahead be­fore you leave for the air­port.

Der­awan Is­lands

The Der­awans are a string of golden green is­lands that lie shim­mer­ing off the coast of East Kal­i­man­tan. One of the largest is­lands is Der­awan, which gives the ar­chi­pel­ago its name. Der­awan can be reached from Ba­lik­pa­pan by plane. The flight takes about an hour and be aware that you will be in a small plane. If trav­el­ling through Sa­marinda, take a ship to Tarakan Is­land and then to Cape Redeb. The trip takes about two hours but is ex­tremely pleas­ant, with great sea views and the chance to spot fish. Der­awan has a sandy, shal­low la­goon that is over­grown with coral and seaweed.There are a num­ber of popular dive spots in the area, in­clud­ing the Chan­nel En­trance, Coral Gar­dens, Tur­tle Town, Sandy Ridge, Manta Run, Sher­wood For­est, Manta Pa­rade, Manta Av­enue, Eel Ridge, Light­house and The Rock­ies. Just imag­ine tak­ing the plunge and find­ing your­self swim­ming with a school of manta rays. San­galaki is an­other is­land in the chain and is a nat­u­ral par­adise. There are man­grove forests, coral reefs and more. This is a world of nat­u­ral won­der, and you can spot plenty of pro­tected wildlife, in­clud­ing green tur­tles, hawks­bill tur­tles, bar­racu­das, dol­phins and even whales. To reach the Der­awans, fly to Tarakan and then head to Berau on the main­land. From Berau to Der­awan you will cruise along the Berau River, the main artery in the area for mov­ing goods and peo­ple. You will float through man­grove forests that teem with mon­keys, snakes and more. It will take about an hour to get past the man­grove and then head out to sea to­wards the Der­awans. Der­awan Is­land has a choice of ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­clud­ing Der­awan Dive Re­sort, Maratua Par­adise Re­sort and Nabucco Is­land Re­sort. If you are look­ing for some­thing a bit more rustic, try Los­men Fam­ily.

Bu­naken Is­land

Bu­naken has be­come al­most syn­ony­mous with scuba div­ing. Bu­naken is lo­cated off the north­ern tip of the is­land of Su­lawesi, and is part of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Manado. Bu­naken Na­tional Marine Park extends over an area of 890 square kilo­me­tres, of which only 3 per cent is land, in­clud­ing Bu­naken Is­land, as well as the is­lands of Manado Tua, Man­te­hage, Nain and Siladen. The wa­ters of Bu­naken Na­tional Marine Park are up to 1,566 me­tres deep in Manado Bay, with tem­per­a­tures rang­ing be­tween 27 and 29 de­grees Cel­sius. The area is famed for the di­ver­sity of its un­der­wa­ter life, in­clud­ing coral, fish and sponges. There are even gi­ant clams that you can spot if you are lucky. The south­ern tip of Bu­naken Is­land is cres­cent shaped and the wa­ters just off­shore are a mag­net for free-swim­ming lar­vae. There is just so much marine life to ex­plore, and you might even come face-to-face with a go­bie fish, with its great, bulging eyes. Bu­naken Na­tional Marine Park is just a kilo­me­tre or so from Manado city. From Manado’s port you can catch a speed- boat, which de­part fairly reg­u­larly. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is not a prob­lem with a choice of ho­tels and re­sorts, in­clud­ing Bu­naken Beach Re­sort, Lorenso Cot­tages Bu­naken and Bu­naken Sea Gar­den Re­sort.

Waka­tobi Is­lands

In Southeast Su­lawesi are the Waka­tobi is­lands. The main is­lands in this marine park are Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, To­mia and Bi­nongko. There is also a sprin­kling of smaller is­lands like Tokobao, Hoga, Tolan­dono, North Lin­tea, South Lin­tea and Kam­p­e­naune. Wangi-Wangi is the largest of the is­lands, cov­er­ing about 150 square kilo­me­tres. “Wangi-Wangi” means fra­grant and the name comes from the many cloves on the is­land. Waka­tobi fea­tures a clus­ter of colour­ful coral reefs.There are at least 25 groups, in­clud­ing fring­ing reefs, bar­rier reefs and atolls. This is a snorkeler’s par­adise and whole days can be spent glid­ing over the sur­face of the wa­ter, drink­ing in all the colours. Waka­tobi is at the heart of the Coral Tri­an­gle, the great­est col­lec­tion of coral in the world. There are 942 marine species and coral reef to be found in the Waka­tobi is­lands. The div­ing here is good all year, but the weather is par­tic­u­larly gor­geous be­tween April and De­cem­ber. To reach Waka­tobi in the past re­quired trav­el­ling to Makas­sar or Ken­dari, the cap­i­tal of Southeast Su­lawesi, by plane or ferry. Then you had to catch an­other plane or ferry to Bau-Bau be­fore mak­ing the fi­nal jump to Waka­tobi. But now there’s Mata­hora Air­port on Wangi-Wangi Is­land. Susi Air has 10 flights a week be­tween Ken­dari and Waka­tobi, and the flight only takes about 45 min­utes. Once there you can stay at the Waka­tobi Dive Re­sort, Patuno Re­sort Waka­tobi or any of the home­s­tays op­er­ated by res­i­dents.

Raja Am­pat

Sengigi Beach

Der­awan, East Bor­neo

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