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Scuba Diving With Dive into Raja

Until fairly recently, the only way you could scuba dive the remote region of Raja Ampat was by dive liveaboard. This was primarily due to the difficulty of building, procuring materials and hardware, electricity, and the ability to service and upkeep the necessary components of a land-based dive operation.

That, though, has all changed. Building a dive resort in the Papua region is still challenging, although things have become more straightforward. Because of this, dive operations have started to flourish. Adding to the increasing patronage of resorts has been the not unsubstantial increase in the price of dive liveaboards, which spend the months of October to April in the area. Previously, I partially owned a liveboard that first plied the waters of Raja Ampat in 2009. 

Back then, a 10-night trip cost you around 1888 euros. Now, for a similar standard of liveaboard, you should budget around 5500 euros for the same dive cruise. This inflation of dive cruise costs has had divers looking for alternative means to scuba some of the best diving on the planet.

Having only dived Raja Ampat from a Phinisi yacht, this would be my first experience scuba diving the region from a land-based operation. I was keen to see how it compared to the liveaboard experience.

After researching dive resorts in the area and considering several factors, such as location, cost, quality of service, and hardware, I decided to stay at Waiwo Dive Resort and dive with Dive into Raja Ampat, which operates in conjunction with the resort.

Dive into Raja Ampat

The DIRA team is comprised of dive professionals with decades of experience in the industry. The owners have previously managed some very notable dive liveaboards and resorts. Of special mention is Kungkungan Bay in the Lembeh Strait, one of the world’s most highly regarded dive resorts during its time. The team also partners in and manages one of my favourite dive resorts, Dive into Lembeh. ‘DIL’ has been servicing divers in comfort and style in the strait since 2016 and sets a benchmark for dive resorts worldwide.

In 2019, the team decided to expand the operation from Lembeh and the now-defunct Dive into Ambon into Raja Ampat, combining the best macro destination on the planet with the world’s most abundant and biodiverse marine environments and habitats.

Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, things were more complex initially. Travel restrictions kept divers away, and dive tourism plummeted in Indonesia. Building up a dive operation, its prerequisite hardware, and dive boats took a lot of work in this economic situation. Still, they pulled through and have had a couple of very promising seasons, along with rave reviews.

Arriving in Sorong airport, Dive into Raja | Infinite Blue Dive TravelGetting to Dive into Raja Ampat @Waiwo Dive Resort

Recently, a greater array of flight routes has opened to give you access to Sorong, where you will begin your Raja Ampat adventure. You can get to Sorong from Manado in north Sulawesi, which can be flown to from Singapore, Bali, and Makassar. 

You can also fly into Sorong from Jakarta. Many routes first head to Jakarta before flying to Sorong. Although this option may sound counterintuitive, the flights are usually overnight, meaning you can sleep on the plane and arrive in Sorong at 6:15 in the morning.

Once in Sorong, you will be met by a representative of Waiwo Dive Resort, who will transfer you to an upscale hotel to rest, wash up and have a bite to eat at the restaurant. While you are resting, a VIP public ferry ticket will be procured for the next leg of your journey.

There are two public ferries a day from the port of Sorong to Waisai on Waigeo, which take approximately two hours to travel. If you arrive in Sorong on the overnight flights, which generally touch down at around 6:15 am, you should be able to make the first ferry. If you arrive later, perhaps on a morning flight from Manado, you will hop on the 1 pm boat, arriving at 3 in Waisai.

You will be transferred from the hotel to the ferry, and your luggage will be stowed onboard. Once you arrive in Waisai, stay put until a porter, organised by Waiwo, comes onboard to help you and take your luggage to the waiting car. The 15-minute drive from the Waisai pier to the resort is the final leg of your journey to scuba diving paradise.

Land-based or Liveaboard

Having planned to dive in Raja Ampat, you must decide whether you will do this from a liveaboard or dive resort. Having dived Raja by liveaboard several times, this was my first R4 dive adventure from a resort. My immediate positive considerations for land-based diving were:

  • Cost: A Raja Ampat dive resort can be considerably more economical than a liveaboard.
  • Timing: Not being bound by embarkation and disembarkation times, scheduling your dive trip becomes much more manageable.
  • Weather: If there is bad weather, this will affect your planning less. Your trip won’t necessarily be shortened or cancelled. And being on stable land during windy periods would be appealing.
  • Comfort: Although I appreciate the rocking of a boat, some do not, and with land-based diving, there will be no rocking through the night or early morning ocean traverses.
  • Photography: Having a well-appointed workstation for your camera gear is a joy. Liveaboards often need more space or utility (although many are still sufficient).
  • Alternative activities: Sometimes, taking a break from diving and trying something new is pleasurable and worthwhile. You can more closely experience the local, vibrant Papuan culture or check out the wildlife. This is not easy to do from a liveaboard and is itinerary-dependent.

How Does Dive into Raja Operate?

At Dive into Raja, you can dive twice or three times a day, with a night dive possible for an extra charge. Diving on the house reef is free of charge during daylight hours as part of a dive and stay package, but it must be dived with a buddy.

If you choose two dives per day, you will be back at the resort for lunch. If you dive three times, you will return in the late afternoon, and lunch will be eaten on the boat. All surface intervals will be on the boat, beach, or picturesque sandbar.

The boats are scheduled to depart at 8.00 am, which gives you plenty of time for breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the lush, primary jungle trees and the beach.

Nitrox fills are available for an extra charge and are highly recommended, especially if you are diving many consecutive days of multiple dives. Also, if you are diving with a camera, Nitrox gives you that extra bottom time, allowing you that perfect capture.

The Dive Boats

Dive into Raja operates three large, comfortable day-diving speedboats. Two four-stroke 250 HP engines power each. These ensure you get around the marine park safely, quietly, and efficiently. Importantly, they have less negative footprint than a pair of noisy, smokey two-stroke engines.

The dive boats are undoubtedly the most comfortable among the Raja Ampat dive resorts. Many other dive operations provide small canoe-like boats with 40 HP engines and sitting room only. The considerable size and amenities of the DIRA vessels provide pleasant, stable and quick travel and plenty of space to rest during surface intervals. You can also safely and comfortably rest on the rooftop of the boats while travelling between sites, watching the undeniable beauty of the marine park and islands pass by.

Entry is by backroll from the side of the boat. Pick-up is easy. The crew helps you with equipment, and a reasonably simple ladder climb back aboard. 

Diver Ratios at Dive into Raja

Dive ratios are extremely important for not only your enjoyment but also your safety. Raja Ampat can have some pretty formidable currents, and knowing how to dive the sites at the right time and to be in the right place will markedly affect your experience.

Luckily, DIRA maintains a great 1:4, which is very good compared to the industry standard. Generally, though, this ratio was even better. It was almost 2:1 during my dives. The dive guides were experienced, and their understanding of the dive sites and environmental conditions was apparent. This attention to guiding culminated in some extraordinary dive experiences. The day out to the Fam Islands, diving Melissa’s garden and the Keruo channel, was up there with some of my best scuba experiences.

The Passage with Dive into Raja | Infinite Blue Dive Travel

Which Raja Ampat Region?

One of the primary considerations when choosing between a dive liveaboard and a dive resort is which dive sites you can visit. This was certainly on my mind. It is a long way to get to R4, so you want to make the most of it. The cool thing about Raja Ampat is that there are so many amazing dive sites you will need a very long dive holiday to scuba them all. This also means you shouldn’t be too upset about not making it to every one of them; there will be something to return to next time.

While liveaboards run itineraries diving both the north and the south of Raja, you must decide between the north and the south when choosing a dive resort, as distances will constrain you. In the south, dive sites are more well-known for the abundance and health of its coral, such as that at Boo Window. The north is better known for its currents, healthier fish populations and exciting diving. It is by no means a slouch on the coral front, as a day of diving around the Fam islands and the Passage will bear witness to.

If I had to choose one, triggerfish pointed at the ear; I would choose diving in the north. I have had so many incredible moments underwater there. Diving near dusk, somewhere near Mioskon, with huge schools of many different kinds of fish hanging out, expectant for dinner, their movement in the water column creating fish thunder, was a very special moment. Luckily, Waiwo Dive Resort is situated in the north on Waigeo Island.

Manta Ray, Manta Sandy diving with Dive into Raja @ Waiwo Dive Resort | Infinite Blue Dive TravelThe Dive Sites

Dive into Raja divides the diving in the north into two general areas. The closer sites are included in your dive package cost. The further ones require a small surcharge and a minimum number of divers to make the trip. Luckily, the main manta sites are now included within the closer sites, so you do not incur a surcharge.

The best of the closer sites:

  • Mioskon
  • Mike’s Point
  • Sardine Reef
  • Cape Kri
  • Chicken Reef
  • Blue Magic
  • Friwinbonda
  • Manta Ridge
  • Manta Sandy
  • Yenbuba Reef and jetty
  • Wai Island

The best of the further sites:

  • Mayhem
  • Citrus Ridge
  • Arborek Jetty
  • Melissa’s Garden
  • Keruo Channel

Special dive excursions

Dive into Raja can also arrange special three dive excursion days for a small surcharge and a diver minimum number. These give you a superb opportunity to do some of the best diving in the Birds Head Seascape, enjoy some iconic scenery, or experience some local Papuan culture. Here are a couple of examples:

Three dives: The Passage, Melissa’s Garden, and Keruo Channel, combined with climbing to the platform at Piaynemo. Leave at 8 a.m. and return around 5 pm.

Three dives: Citrus Ridge, Mayhem, and Arborek Jetty, combined with an excursion on the idyllic Arborek Island. Depart at 8 am and return around 5 pm.

If you have another exciting combination of dive sites you would like to explore, get in touch, and we can help you arrange it.

Waiwo Dive Resort

When choosing your dive resort in Raja Ampat, consider the price to quality and service balance. Many resorts in the area play the remote, so high prices for absolutely shocking accommodations, service and food game. Remember, on the islands, you are bound to full board packages; there is simply nowhere else to go. They have you by the short and curlies; some will take advantage of it.

This is where Waiwo Dive Resort steps up, with a very good quality to-price balance. The resort is nestled in the lush primary jungle and faces a beautiful white sand beach. They do not claim to be the most luxurious resort in the Birds Head Seascape, but they are very comfortable, a cut above many, and constantly seeking to improve. You can see they are actively investing money back into upgrading the rooms, restaurant and private jetty.

The resort has 17 rooms in four categories: waterfront, Sea View Wide, Sea View Macro, Sea View Duplex, and Garden View. All have hot water showers, air conditioning, and a jug for hot water, tea, and coffee. The waterfront rooms also have mini-fridges with soft drinks, beer, snacks, and hot and cold water dispensers.

Notably, the mattresses are comfortable, and the bedding is fresh and clean, which is, surprisingly, a huge leap above some of the resorts I witnessed on Waigeo, given competitors’ prices.

I stayed at Waiwo Dive Resort in one of the waterfront rooms. The room design is wonderfully thought out, with a large area for storing luggage and clothes. The huge bathroom had a great hot water supply that happily didn’t lose pressure.

The bedroom had a large, king-size bed, a comfortable inner-sprung mattress, and crisp, clean linens. On one side of the room was a day bed/lounger, and on the opposite side was an ample-sized desk for working.

The crowning glory of the waterfront room is the large glass doors and windows that open out to the balcony. The balcony sits above the beach, and at high tide, the sea almost reaches it. This means you can listen to the gentle sound of waves breaking as you fall asleep at night—nothing you could ever tire of!

Food at Waiwo Dive Resort

The dive and stay packages at the resort are full board, meaning you will be served breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in the airy restaurant that also faces the sea. If you are out diving, lunch will be served on the boat. There is also a constant supply of coffee, tea, and biscuits in the dining area.

Food is served family-style, meaning you will have a selection of dishes to choose from, usually accompanied by rice. Breakfast can be ordered to your preference, and fresh tropical fruit is always available. I found the food selection to be varied and fresh, and importantly, the restaurant kitchen is constantly seeking to improve. If you have any preferences or suggestions to share with the staff, they are very happy to listen and accommodate.

Vegan meals at Dive into Raja @ Waiwo Dive Resort | Infinite Blue Dive TravelInclusivity, Vegan and Plant-based Food

This is the biggie! Raja Ampat is not widely known for its inclusivity regarding vegan diver diets. You will generally hear the line, ‘Very sorry it is so difficult to source many things here’; this is a general response, meaning we don’t give a toss, and you will eat french fries a lot while you are stuck with us. This is a poor excuse; many vegetables can be bought, tofu and tempeh are easily sourced, nut milks are readily available, and now, with more flights into Sorong, it is possible to fly in protein alternatives. The biggest question is whether the operator wants to try.

I can report with gastronomic happiness that Dive into Waiwo honestly does make an effort to accommodate your diet. I did not go hungry during my time there. I always had a selection of vegetables for meals alongside differently prepared tofu, tempeh, fresh fruits, and occasionally a vegan dessert. The wonderful, lively operations manager and owner, Tika, provided me with oat milk for my coffee and ensured my preferences were well cared for, and I am sure she will do the same for you too.

Other Activities That Can be Arranged With Waiwo Dive Resort

You can’t dive all the time—perhaps you can—but visiting some other attractions on Waigeo is also recommended. The resort can arrange a trip to Kali Biru (the Blue River) or bird watching to spot one of two species of bird of paradise.

  • The trip to Kali Biru involves a stunning river journey in a boat, a small jungle walk, and a refreshing swim in a river, the source from a spring in the jungle and coloured blue by the stones, substrate and sunlight.
  •  Birding involves an early morning call and a drive into the jungle. There, you will trek to one of two locations to spot either the Red Bird of Paradise or the Wilson Bird of Paradise.

To organise, chat with Peter or Tikka when you are there, or contact us, and we can package that into your dive trip.

The People Who Will be Taking Care of  You

Dive into Raja @ Waiwo Dive Resort have a great team to care for you during your visit. The wonderful people you will probably have the most contact with are Tikka and Peter, the resort managers, and Sonly, the dive operations manager.

Tika and Peter have been on Waigeo for a considerable period and provide great advice on the area (Tika has a stash of oat milk if you run out). If you feel like extra company at the end of days diving and a few drinks, Peter and Tika will happily oblige. Sonly is a highly experienced dive manager and instructor who ensures everything runs smoothly and your dives will be something to remember forever (he will dance with you if asked).

My first Full Land-based Dive Trip to Raja Ampat in Conclusion

Having decided to give an R4 dive resort a dive holiday shot due to the price, timing, location and weather concerns, my timing was on the cusp of the season change. I went with Dive into Raja @ Waiwo Dive Resort. I chose this operation for its pedigree, fantastic reviews and great price point to service balance.

I discovered an awesome resort that is constantly improving and striving to be better. The experienced and professional dive operation runs extremely smoothly and safely with the most comfortable dive speedboats in the Birds Head Seascape.

The resort is very inclusive, with a well-appointed selection of rooms, and the restaurant kitchen works hard to provide a good selection of cuisine, ensuring you won’t go hungry.

For your next land-based dive holiday to Raja Ampat, Dive into Raja and Waiwo Dive Resort should be high on your list of operators. If you have any questions or would like more information regarding your perfect dive package to Raja Ampat, don’t be shy—get in touch with us.

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