Pristine beaches, unmatched island views and fascinating local life – the 10 best islands in Raja Ampat set themselves apart from 1,500 others in the archipelago.
Located at the heart of the world’s Coral Triangle, it doesn’t matter where you plunge for a dive or snorkel in Raja Ampat. Almost every corner of this archipelago is worth discovering, with promises of rich wildlife and glorious views. To make the best of your time and resources venturing off this massive collection of islands, we’ve curated the 10 best to explore in Raja Ampat.
Among Raja Ampat’s endless vistas of islets shooting up from the sea, Wayag Islands is one of the most beautiful to behold. The karst formations are incredibly picturesque, mantled by lush vegetation that descends all the way to the surface of the turquoise sea. Some protrusions are hikeable for sweeping views of the archipelago – or instead, you can put on your gear for a fruitful dive or snorkel.
This unassuming, sleepy small island is actually one of the busiest hubs for diving and snorkelling in Raja Ampat. The north shore is especially dotted with oceanfront homestays, offering Kri’s famed reefs and underwater vistas right outside your bungalow door. Another unmissable highlight of Kri Island is Yenbunba, a village of fishermen. Many of these people are friendly enough to show you their traditional spear-piercing fishing techniques.
With its pristine shores nestled in a remote location, Yeben evokes a private island vibe that soothes the soul. You don’t even have to dip underwater to be amused by colourful fish roaming around vibrant coral reefs, because the water is breathtakingly clear (although you’re welcome to do so). Don’t forget to blink as the boat takes you around the flawless “Mirror Ocean”, as it’s affectionately called.
Thanks to plenty of jungle and hilly landscape, wildlife enthusiasts can usually spot colourful birds of paradise on Gam Island without even trying. The southern coast however, is lined with traditional beachfront homestays near lively local villages. Kabui Bay is an exotic sought-after nook on the northern side of Gam, popular for kayaking and dolphin watching.
This island boasts undeniable natural charms in the form of green-covered limestone, idyllic white coast and opulent blue waters. The lush jungle is home to endemic birds of paradise, while the shore is where you’ll find indigenous tribes who welcome sharing their stories and fascinating ways of life. The vast open sea surrounding the island tucks in a wealth of marine biodiversity unseen by many.
Waigeo is the biggest and among the most developed islands in Raja Ampat. This island will most likely be the very first spot you set foot upon when arriving from Sorong by ferry. However, Waigeo is more than just your gate to paradise. Travellers tend to stick around longer on this island to take photographs of its panoramic features, immerse themselves in local life at Arborek Village, or explore more of the plentiful diving spots.
This island is located on the far-flung southern side of the Raja Ampat archipelago, adjoining the vast and thriving Seram Sea of the Moluccas. That location puts Misool on a migratory route for big marine creatures, such as whales. Above the surface, turquoise water, gorgeous limestone and mangrove forests abound as far as the eye can see. Misool also has ancient caves to explore in the area, alongside luxury resorts (if that’s to your taste).
An increasing amount of tour operators are adding the small hidden gem that is Rufus Island to their itinerary, mainly for its gorgeous hidden lagoon enclosed by karst formations. To say that the water is clear as glass would be no exaggeration, layered with gradients of blue, fenced by verdant greenery – as if keeping this blissful spot a secret. Aside from swimming and chilling by the beach, hiking is a rewarding activity to do on this island, culminating in a sweeping view of the lagoon below.
Salawati isn’t exactly the prima-donna of the Raja Ampat archipelago, but the island has some unmissable attractions for nature lovers and history buffs. Hidden inside the dense sago forest are old WWII bunkers standing intact as if untouched by time. Endemic creatures like the famed Papuan rainbowfish can also be spotted playing around the corals that hem this island.
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