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