Thi Duong

The Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat is paradise for divers and beach-lovers

Heaven of a thousand islandsor an underwater Amazonare some nicknames given to Raja Ampat, an archipelago in Indonesias West Papua Province. Comprised of 1,500 islands, the archipelago offers stunning scenery and pristine conditions, making it a dream destination for snorkelers and divers.

The name Raja Ampat, meaning Four Kings, was derived from a myth. Legend has it that a woman sailed across the sea and was stranded on an island in Raja Ampat. There, she found seven eggs, four of which hatched to reveal kings, who went on to rule the four largest islands in the archipelago: Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo.

Nestled in the Coral Triangle, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor, Rajat Ampat boasts the richest marine biodiversity of the world. The archipelago is home to over 1,300 colorful fish species, over 700 mollusk species and a coral reef spanning 180,000 square km. The sea water is very warm with average temperatures of 28 to 30oC. The natural landscape is further adorned by sapphire blue lagoons, mangrove swamps and perennial forests.

What makes these islands even more fascinating for visitors is their emptiness. Isolated from mass tourism, Raja Ampat has retained its wild beauty. The visitors who reach this isolated region feel like theyve found paradise.

Raja Ampat is a dream destination for divers, with 70 percent of the worlds coral reefs concentrated here. Visitors can kayak to explore countless islands, venture into caves, hike through lush jungles, fish, or simply relax on the velvety white sand beaches. Its also possible to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles.

For divers, the best time to visit Raja Ampat is between mid-October and mid-December  when the skies are clear and the seas are calm. Trips to this archipelago can be arranged via Jakarta, Bali or Singapore.

While Raja Ampat boasts many uninhabited islands, visitors can still find comfortable accommodation, including high-end resorts. The archipelago lies far from the mainland and getting there is time-consuming, but each year, Raja Ampat draws more and more visitors. If you love tropical oceans and beaches, start planning a visit to this natural wonderland.