Best Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews 2020

If you’re looking for Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews that are brutally honest, up to date and accurately compare different itineraries, amenities and extra activities, this is the page for you. 

There’s dozens of Raja Ampat liveaboards out there and they all vary in terms of price, route travelled and overall vibe.

Some are cheap and affordable; more like backpacker hostels on water, whereas others are huge and luxurious vessels featuring spas, massage services and luxury cabins.

Also, did you know that Raja Ampat is divided into three distinct diving regions, each with their own unique charms and characteristics?

Whether you scuba dive around part or all of Raja Ampat – as well as if you venture onwards to other parts of nearby Indonesia within the same trip, will all depend on which liveaboard you choose. 

We’ve covered all of this and more below. Let’s dive in:

raja ampat scuba diver

For an all encompassing description of Raja Ampat diving – the different regions, what divers need to know, geography and history of the region, etc: CHECK OUT THIS GUIDE TO RAJA AMPAT DIVING

Mid Price Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews:

Top Pick!

Available Trips:

Central & North, Central & South, Central + North & South, South & Ambon, South & Triton Bay

  • Stylish and featuring great amenities; Ambai offers a greater variety of diving routes than any other choice. In addition to diving the very best of Raja Ampat, guests can enjoy many extra activities such as watersports, treks, village visits, massages and beach bbq’s. 
couples

Available Trips:

Central & South, South & Ambon, South & Triton Bay

  • Stunningly furbished, Carpe Diem takes small groups of up to 8 guests, making her an ideal option for those who prefer a more intimate setting. This, combined with the incredible cabins and romantic wooden interior, makes Carpe Diem the best choice for couples. 
coolest cabin

Available Trips:

North, South, Central + North & South.

  • A traditional Phinisi Vessel, La Galigo is the cheapest mid-price Raja Ampat liveaboard; yet has the coolest master cabin of them all. It features a private balcony, private lounge, TV & PS4 player and enormous bed. Besides Ambai, La Galigo is the only other mid-price liveaboard to venture to the far northern Kawe and Wayag islands. 
Non-divers

Available Trips:

Central & South, South & Triton Bay, Ambon + South + Triton Bay, 

  •  Another traditional Phinisi Vessel, Calico Jack is perfect for groups with non divers as she offers many cultural land excursions, kayaking and massages. There’s a range of great diving trips available, including a rare chance to explore South Raja Ampat, Triton Bay and Ambon all in the same voyage!
SOCIAL VIBES

Available Trips:

Ambon + South & Central, South & Central, “Biodiversity Special”: South Raja + Spice Islands

  • A large and modern liveaboard, Mermaid II has stylish and comfortable social areas, resulting in all round friendly vibes! It’s a great option for large groups with space for 18 guests. There’s a range of trips available including a rare chance to explore Raja Ampat, Ambon and Indonesia’s other Spice Islands. 
FAMILIES

Available Trips:

Central & South Raja Ampat, Raja Ampat + Ambon & other spice islands. 

  • A sleek, stylish and modern yacht; Solitude Adventurer is great for families or friends as there is a quad cabin. This is also a very good option for those wanting to go on shorter trips. Besides Mermaid II, Solitude Adventurer is the only other liveaboard to offer the chance to explore Raja Ampat, Ambon and the other spice islands in the same itinerary. 

Raja Ampat Regions & Liveaboard Routes

map of raja ampat dive sites
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/baligraph/6531834253

Raja Ampat is a sprawling archipelago with many potential routes for liveaboards to travel along.

Generally, each liveaboard offers several itineraries that vary in length and explore some or all of the regions of Raja Ampat. Of course there is variation between different liveaboards in terms of specific dive sites and the order in which regions are visited, but all Raja Ampat liveaboard routes can be divided into one of the four following categories of itinerary:

  1. Central & North Routes. 

     

  2. Central & South Routes.

     

  3. Central, North & South Routes

     

  4. 1, 2 or 3 plus additional areas of nearby Indonesia.

     

What are the diving regions in Raja Ampat like and what other parts of nearby Indonesia can you also explore during your Raja Ampat liveaboard safari? Let’s take a look. 

Central Region (aka Dampier Strait):

The oceanic current of the Indonesian throughflow is at it’s most concentrated as it passes between the islands comprising central Raja Ampat (namely Waigeo, Batanta, Mansuar and the Jef Fam islands), resulting in bountiful reefs, many large pelagic fish and an abundance of adrenaline pumping drift dives.  

Generally, central Raja Ampat is seen as the absolute best part of the archipelago to spot large groups of manta rays! At the right time of year, it is also the most likely region to spot marine mammals like whales, dolphins and dugong. Furthermore, there are large numbers of reef sharks, reef fish and turtles found throughout most dive sites. 

There are several great muck diving sites around the more sheltered parts of Batanta as well as a number of caves to be explored within the bays of Waigeo and the Jeft Fam Group, in addition to several great wreck dives throughout.

When scuba divers first came to Raja Ampat, it was the central region that they explored first! Subsequently, it is the most well known region. Because it is also the most densely populated region of Raja Ampat, most dive resorts are based around here.

Generally, all Raja Ampat liveaboards explore the central region before going on to explore the other regions.

North Region (aka Wayag Islands):

The waters off Waigeos western side present a number of sites that allow divers to see a diversity of both large and small marine life within the same dive.

There’s several great dives in Sal Pel Bay where one can encounter sailor shrimps, cuttlefish and nudibranch among the various bommies whilst seeing large fusiliers, napoleon wrasse and reef sharks swimming through the open waters around them. 

Northern routes travel further to the uninhabited Kawe island where there’s a network of underwater boulders and tunnels awaiting exploration by adventurous divers amidst manta rays and endemic tasselled wobbeogng sharks. 

At the northernmost point of Raja Ampat are the iconic Wayag islands, which are comprised of a range of very dramatic jungle coated cliffs. Without a doubt this is the most stunning part of the entire archipegalo, from an island point of view!

The Wayag Islands are also uninhabited, being a National Park; but you can visit them ranger station there. One need only wade knee deep into the water around the ranger station to encounter many friendly reef sharks. 

South Region (aka Misool):

Comprised of Misool and the many tiny islets surrounding it, Raja Ampat’s deep south is the most mysterious and least explored of all it’s regions. New dive sites are still being discovered here!

The southern region is perhaps most known for it’s many sharks which include reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, whale sharks and hammerheads. This is also the best place for seeing big pelagic fish like giant grouper, great barracuda, sweetlips and tuna. 

Around Misool, the blue water mangrove lagoons make for a unique diving experience – things get even more surreal upon swimming in one of the three freshwater ponds on Misool, that are filled with non-stinging jellyfish. 

Furthermore, there are several shallow dives over stunning coral gardens here, devoid of current, making them some of the few dive sites in Raja Ampat that are beginner friendly. These are a great place for spotting pygmy seahorses, pipefish and various cephalopods!

+ Other Regions in Indonesia:

A few Raja Ampat liveaboards offer trips that explore central and southern Raja Ampat, before journeying onwards to discover diving in another part of nearby Indonesia, usually either:

  • Triton Bay – located on the south side of mainland papua, Triton Bay is a great place for whale sharks, soft corals and many large pelagic fish.

  • Ambon Island – of Indonesia’s Maluku Province is further down south from Misool. Rarely visited, it’s a great place for reefs and sharks as well as a cultural land excursion. 

QUICK COMPARE of Mid Price Raja Ampat Liveaboards:

Get Best Price: Liveaboard:  Great for: Longest Itinerary:Shortest Itinerary:
Click HereAmbaiSunsetAmbaiWater sports, couples, longer trips14 days9 days
Click HereCarpe DiemSunset view of the carpe diem liveaboardSmall groups, friends, short trips10 days6 days
Click HereLa GaligoLa Galigo liveaboard next to jungle covered beachBigger groups, couples & luxury cabin. 12 days8 days
Click HereCalico JackPhotographers, small groups, non – divers.12 days9 days
Click HereSolitude AdventurerSolitude adventurer sailing past rocky pinnacles.Single travellers, big groups, long trips13 days8 days
Click HereMermaid II Single travellers, long trips, non divers.16 days9 days

For an all encompassing look at what Raja Ampat is like – both to dive and as a place in general, as well as info on diving season, how to get there and an in depth breakdown of the various diving regions, check out this article! Or keep reading below, for a very brief synopsis:

Raja Ampat Diving Season

Raja Ampat has a set diving season! Do take note that when reviewing liveaboards, although many say they operate year around, outside of raja amapt diving season most (but not all) relocate to Komodo. It’s therefore crucial to know when the best time to dive in raja Ampat is

October-April: This is the best time to dive Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat has notoriously unpredictable weather that can lead to some tricky scheduling headaches.

However, your best bet for spectacular diving is typically from October to April, when there is much less rain and incredible visibility. This is also one of the best times to see mantas in the area!  

May – September: This timeframe marks the time when the wind begins to pick up drastically in the Raja Ampat area, and rains become much more frequent.

Together, these two aspects can seriously hinder diving; many liveaboards relocate to the Komodo National Park area for this chunk of the year.

How to Get to Raja Ampat

First of, you need to get to Sorong. There’s no direct international flights here, but you can fly in via Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon (some liveaboards leave from Ambon!) or Manado. It’s also possible to fly there from Bali, with a stopover. 

We recommend going with one of the following airlines: Lion Air, Xpress Airways, Sriwijaya Airlines, Nam Airlines or Garuda Indonesia.

Generally speaking, a return flight from Jakarta will cost around $450- $600. Flights from Bali should cost aroudn the same. 

Click Here for our favourite place to book cheap flights with some excellent last minute deals. Do note there are not ATM’s in Sorong so make sure you have plenty of cash before hand!

Fortunately once you’ve reached Sorong there’s no need to concern yourself with any of the rest of getting to Raja Ampat. That’s because to make life simple for their guests, most liveaboard operators offer transfer services from Sorong Airport and hotels directly to and from their vessels. Nice!

What it's like diving at Raja Ampat

An east Indonesian province, Raja Ampat is an island archipelago that shatters away from the north western tip of New Guinea.

The four main islands aka “The Four Kings” are Batanta, Misool, Salawati and Waigeo. 

In addition to these, there’s also over a thousand smaller islands, cays and shoals that make up Raja Ampat.

Due to the low human population here, most of these islands are uninhabited and draped in lush jungle that make for stunning scenery.

But it is the crystal clear waters around these islands that attract scuba divers who are looking for a truly exceptional experience.  They’re literally teaming with life. How much?

Let’s find out:

liveaboard vessel cruising between islands
Papua Scuba Diving Review

What Lives in Raja Ampat?

Hover Over This Picture to Find Out!
A lot! Marine Surveys indicate that Raja Ampat has the Highest Marine Biodiversity of Anywhere in The World. 75% of All Existing Hard Coral Species are Found Here! It is also home to 5 endangered Marine Turtle Species, 13 Marine Mammal Species including the Dugong, Numerous Shark Species from Common Black Tips to Rare Wobbegong and Hammerhead Sharks Over 1000 Reef Fish Species, 700 Mollusk Species including 6 Giant Clam Species, Countless Crustaceans and is a favourite haunt for Whale Sharks and Manta Rays!
diver exploring cave
Wreck covered in coral and surrounded by lion fish

The range of diving to be had at Raja Ampat is absolutely phenomenal.

Numerous American and Japanese shipwrecks rise up from the sea bed at many of the best dive sites, relics from World War 2.

Frequently occurring currents also allow for adrenaline blasting drift dives.

This is why for many of the raja ampat liveaboards previous dive experience is required – although some are beginner friendly. 

Add to that a spectacular range of wall dives, macro critters awaiting their pictures to be taken, cave dives and numerous incredible night dives…

…and it’s easy to see why Raja Ampat is a truly special diving location. 

This is just a brief description. You can find out much more about Raja Ampat diving here. 

Video credit: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/

Raja Ampat Budget / Rate

There’s an insane variety fo scope between how much you can spend on a liveaboard around Raja Ampat.

Not only are there vessels to suit every budget; you can also pay different amounts on each vessel, depending on which accommodation option you choose.  

Of course, some vessels also embark on much longer diving trips than others, so those trying to save cash should consider a shorter route. 

If you skip back up to the the reviews on this page, you’ll see we’ve covered mid range liveaboard cruises but we also have separate articles reviewing the best liveaboards in raja ampat for those on a low budget…as well as an article specifically for glamorous luxury vessels!

Although it’s nothing to do with Raja Ampat Scuba Diving, our friends at Culture Trip have a great article on how to save money whilst travelling in Indonesia. 

indonesian rupiah

4 of Our Favourite Dive Sites at Raja Ampat

Penemu Island

Located to the South West of Batanta, this a gem of a diving area within the Raja Ampat area that is home to some of the region’s largest concentrations of schooling fish.

These fish include schools of fusiliers, batfish, trevallies, and jack fish, and are often found in the highest numbers near the South Penemu area that features a massive coral-encrusted pinnacle. If mentioning corals piqued your interest, then head to the east side of the island, where massive walls and slopes abound.

All are covered in vibrant hues of coral formations and may even have a few grey sharks and mantas nearby! Melissa’s Garden is also an ideal location to view endless coral formations arrayed throughout a massively spectacular reef system.

 

Diving in Raja Ampat showcases incredible marine biodiversity

Arborek Island

Located on the edge of the Dampier Strait, the tiny fishing village of Arborek reaps the benefits of the healthy marine and reef life within the strait. Diving below its famous pier, you’ll see huge colonies of coral firmly entrenched on the pier’s posts, while massive schools of jacks swirl left and right.

As you head deeper towards the small but healthy reef, pipefish and cuttlefish will slowly appear to greet you. The healthy populations of giant clams, skeleton shrimp, and hermit crabs nestled amongst the vibrant corals make for a beautiful, diverse, and wildlife-filled dive!

Fish swarm around a pier in Raja Ampat

Manta Ridge

This is one of the best dive sites in the Raja Ampat area for you to spot several mantas at the same time, and enjoy many other reef dwelling fish. The cleaning stations along the reef are crewed by countless trevallies, that rush in to attend the huge mantas as they gracefully glide into place.

You can typically expect to see five or so mantas in a single dive, but some divers may be lucky enough to see up to 20 or 30! As you head into deeper waters around the reef, bump head parrot fish, black tip reef sharks, and blacklips can all be seen in abundance! Graceful sea turtles are often spotted at this site too.

Diving with Turtles in Raja Ampat Liveaboard

Cape Kri

The coral encrusted wall that makes the cape is a beacon to massive schools of trevallies, sweetlips, and bannerfish, that are almost overwhelming as you get lost in their swirling mass. The incredible coral formations along the wall are equally mesmerizing and add splashes of color to the deep blue of the surrounding ocean.

If you take the time to examine that blue water a little more closely, you’ll likely spot grey reef sharks, barracuda, tuna, and possibly mantas! Cape Kri is an ideal dive site for big fish viewing, which can be balanced by the beautiful nearby corals!

Raja Ampat Diving brings you face to face with incredible coral

Raja Ampat: The Four Kings

Raja Ampat Liveaboard from far away

Raja Ampat – ‘the four kings’ – is indeed a jewel of Indonesian diving that has something for just about every diver out there; from incredible coral reefs and their attending small fish and marine life – such as pygmy seahorses, cuttlefish, and nudibranchs – all the way to large pelagic fish that include mantas, reef sharks, sea turtles, and wobbegong sharks.

The region comprises the four primary islands of Misool, Batanta, Waigeo, and Salawati, but also includes hundreds of small islands, seamounts, and reefs that are all ripe for exploring!

Batanta

raja ampat diving cruises are in one of the most beautiful places in the world

One of the famous ‘four kings’ for which Raja Ampat is renowned, Batanta departs from the stereotypical vibrant coral and colors of the region and instead opts for near endless opportunities for muck diving!

The black sand bays that populate this area allow you to get up close and personal with the macro sea life – pipefish, octopus, nudibranchs, and seahorses.

Raja Ampat Diving Cruises show you all maner of strange creatures
Also: Wobbegong Shark!

It is an ideal location for you wildlife photographers out there! Just be sure to stick close to your guides as they will know the best spots to look for the critters.

diving in raja ampat brings you face to face with some of the world's best marine biodiversity

Misool

Birds eye view from Raja Ampat Liveaboard cruise

Another of the ‘four kings’ that make up the Raja Ampat area, Misool is famous for remarkably rich reefs that are abundant in beautiful nudibranchs, colorful platax, and distinct bump head parrot fish.

The island owes its beautiful coral to its proximity to the Indonesian Throughflow, which facilities a massive flow of nutrients, in turn, feeding the hungry coral, sponges, and fans that add their vibrant reds, oranges, and pinks to the ocean.

raja ampat scuba diver

This throughflow also brings giant schools of majestic mantas and sea turtles to the area. Misool is also an excellent location to experience the rare opportunity for mangrove diving in crystal clear water at the Blue Water Mangroves.

Scuba Diving with Manta Rays in Raja Ampat

Dampier Strait

raja ampat scuba diving
And this is Just Under a the Pier at Arborek Island, Dampier Strait!

This area includes the stretch of water just to the north of Batanta Island and is host to the Indonesian Throughflow that we mentioned earlier.

The sea is narrowed due to the nearby landmasses, and physics dictates that the water velocity must increase as the flow area decreases – voila, we have the throughflow!

The increased water velocity churns up rich nutrients from deep in the ocean and brings them to the surface, much to the delight of the reef systems in the area.

Scuba Diving with Huge Shoal of Fish during Raja Ampat Liveaboard

In fact, you’ll notice distinctly healthy and vibrant coral life on the throughflow-facing reefs, complete with stunning gorgonian fans, sponges, and vibrant corals that all form a painter’s palette of reds and oranges.

The healthy reef life, in turn, attracts plenty of trevallies, bump head parrotfish, and sweetlips for you to snap pictures of. Be sure to look towards the ocean side, however, as you’ll spot lurking barracudas, grey reef sharks, and mantas aplenty.

Whale Sharks in Raja Ampat
Not to Mention: Whale Sharks!!

Diving Squad Debriefing

And there it be! We’ve reviewed the very best raja ampat liveaboards for every budget, trip length, travel style preference and all else in between.

Raja Ampat is undeniably one of the best and most popular destinations to scuba dive in the world right now and with extremely good reason.

No matter what kind of liveaboard experience you’re looking to have in raja ampat, you’ll now be fully equipped with all the knowledge you need. Give yourself a big, wet slap on the back. Diving Squad Out. 

Written by:

Alex

Alex

Scuba fanatic. Travel ecstatic. Erratic. The name's Alex.