Best Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews 2020


January 1, 2020

Squad! At ease for your Raja Ampat liveaboard reviews. So, you want to embark on a scuba diving safari around the fabled Raja Ampat but you don’t know which dive tour is going to be the right one for you.

Totally understandable! There’s dozens of Raja Ampat liveaboards to choose from and they all vary in terms of price, route travelled, boat facilities, extra activities and overall vibe.

Some are cheap and affordable; more like backpacker hostels on water, whereas others are huge and classy vessels complete with spas, massage services and luxury cabins. Fortunately there is something for everyone.

 To find your dream dive safari around raja ampat, you have two options:

  1. Read our brutally honest, up to date Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews

  2. Send us an email, listing your diving experience, budget and additional preferences – we’ll assign a member of our team to you within 24 hours.
best raja ampat liveaboard trip
raja ampat scuba diver

For information on what it’s like diving at Raja Ampat, descriptions of the best dive sites, diving season and how to get there,  check out the info section below!

Mid Price Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews:

Top Pick!
  • A stylish liveaboard with great amenities; in addition to diving, Ambai also lets guests enjoy watersports such as water skiing and kayaking; as well as massages, treks, village visits and BBQ beach parties.
  • Stunningly furbished, the Carpe Diem takes a maximum of 8 guests, making it ideal for those wanting to be on a dive safari in a small group. Without a doubt, this is the best choice for couples. 
coolest cabin
  • A traditional Phinisi Vessel, La Galigo is the cheapest of our mid-range Raja Ampat Liveaboards; yet it has the coolest master cabin of them all.
  •  Another traditional Phinisi Vessel, Calico Jack is perfect for groups with non divers as she also offers cultural land excursions, kayaking and massages.
  • A large and modern liveaboard, Mermaid II has exceptionally stylish and comfortable social areas. It’s a great option for large groups with space for 18 guests. This also results in an extremely social envioronment. 
  • A sleek, stylish and modern yacht; Solitude Adventurer is great for families or  as there is a quad cabin. Also a good option for those wanting to go on shorter length trips. 

Quick Comparison: Best Raja Ampat Liveaboards (mid-price):

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

What it's like diving in 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. You can read more about these four main islands HERE.

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 life?

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. 

For more information about Raja Ampat Diving, you can check out our Top 4 Raja Ampat Dive Sites HERE!

Photo credit:

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.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard Routes

map of raja ampat dive sites
Photo Credit:

Raja Ampat is a large archipelago with dozens of potential liveaboard routes. Which route your liveaboard embarks upon depends on several factors – such as weather, month and the length often trip. 

You can find out which routes are available for any particular liveaboard by reading about it on the review page. 

Most Raja Ampat Liveaboards depart from the coastal city of Sorong; the largest Province in the Indonesian Province of West Papua and still attached to mainland New Guinea. Click HERE for how to get to there!

Northern Voyages:

North of Sorong, are the remote waters of the Dampier Strait; some of the best dive sites here are located around Waigeo, Wayag and Fam Islands. 

Northern Voyages are superb for  Macro Diving; making them an underwater photographers dream as well as Manta Cleaning Stations and fast currents which equals epic drift dives. The waters around here are also some of the best for spotting Marine Mammals like Dolphins, Whales and Dugong!

Dugong with Yellow Pilot Fish Spotted around Fam Islands

Southern Voyages:

Down South of Sorong lies the Bana Sea, where several visually stunning volcanic islands are located; the waters here are renowned for their great visibility which allows divers to easily marvel at the insane diversity of coral species and reef fish found here.

This is also the location of Misool, one of the four kings. The blue mangrove waters near Misool are home to several excellent dive sites, including several underwater caves waiting to be explored by thrill seekers. 

This is a haven for big species like Hammerhead Sharks, Wobbegong Sharks as well as Giant Barracuda and other large Pelagic Fish.

Diver marvelling at Wobbegong Shark
Rare Wobbegong Shark blowing away Diver in the Bana Sea

Generally Speaking, the Best Raja Ampat liveaboards; like those we’ve reviewed here, include both Northern and Southern Voyages on their itineraries, although shorter trips may predominantly or only feature North or South Voyages.

We’ve shown which itineraries are available for each liveaboard in the Raja Ampat Liveaboard Reviews Section as well as the Quick Look Comparison Table. 

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

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!

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!


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


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. 

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