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Heaven on the earth

Raja ampat-Pretty much heaven on the earth

If you’re a diver, you probably already know Raja Ampat is as close as you’re ever going to get to heaven on earth. The beauty of Raja Ampat’s marine environments is that they are so diverse, rich and accessible that you don’t have to be a diver to be enthralled by the ever changing kaleidoscope of form and color beneath the region’s waters.

There’s a huge range of ocean life able to be explored on a single lungful of air. Even pelagic species like manta rays can be found close to shore in waters shallow enough for them to be seen by simply donning a mask and snorkel and floating on the surface… though there’s nothing quite like taking a breath and getting down amongst them!

Even if you can’t swim at all, Raja Ampat’s tides make it possible to see an amazing range of marine animals. For a few hours every day coral reefs and sand flats emerge from the ocean and can be explored with ease. Coral, fish, rays and octopuses, squid, snakes, jelly and starfish – the shallows and pools created by the outgoing tides are almost as rich as the open ocean.

Above the waterline, the myriad islands of the archipelago present ornate landscapes conjured by wind, wave and rainfall from an ancient limestone. Draped in dense tropical forest and fringed by mangroves, the islands’ baroque topography creates ecological niches every bit as diverse and rich as those beneath the waves.

Resounding with bird and insect calls, sheltering birds of paradise, cuscus and countless other forms of terrestrial life, the jungles of Raja Ampat abound in trekking opportunities and still offer the chance of encountering creatures and plants yet to be entered in any scientific taxonomy.

Raja Ampat’s cultural heritage is rich and diverse too, ranging from neolithic shell middens and prehistoric cave paintings, through relics from the era of the Four Kings who once ruled here and gave the region its name, to remnants of a more recent history such as the cave bunkers and seabed wreckage remaining from the Second World War.

There’s a lot to see and do in Raja Ampat, but at the same time, you couldn’t pick a better place to get away from it all. Between the jungle’s dawn bird chorus and the ocean’s reflected sunset glow there’s nothing but the calm passing of another day, lost in a tropical island paradise…

Where: Right on the water at Sawinggrai Village, Pulau Gam

Accommodation: Six Rooms

Price: To be advised

Owner: Pak Yesaya Mayor

Mambefor is the Betew name for the Red Bird of Paradise. Pak Yesaya offers guided trips to see these birds gather at dawn every day to call from a hilltop tree not far from his home stay. He can also organize treks deeper into Gam’s jungles interior if you’re up for an intrepid exploration.

Mambefor Home stay is one of the few where you can see a wide range of Raja Ampat’s marine life without even getting wet. Turtles, giant clams, phosphorescent night-time critters, reef sharks and schools of fish so colorful they make flocks of macaws look drab – you’ll see them all from the jetty Mambefor is built on. The home stay has been built right on the edge of the reef’s drop off – you can sit and watch the tidal race swirling around the pilings while schools of tame fish churn the water, feasting on Pak Yesaya’s regular handouts.

There’s an awesome view across the strait to Pulau Mansuar and the more distant Pulau Batanta, where huge thunderheads grow each afternoon to catch the day’s last light before setting the night time horizon a flicker with silent lightning.