This Indonesian diving destination puts others to shame

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This article is a response to a Stuff Nation Assignment encouraging readers to share their journeys to hard to reach destinations before the Covid-19 pandemic. We acknowledge current restrictions make international travel to many places not safe at the moment. We can dream though, right? (

OPINION: The highest concentration and diversity of marine life on earth is found in Raja Ampat, a part of eastern Indonesia, near the island of Papua.

Known as diving’s final frontier, it’s one of the most exciting, remote, and expensive spots to explore underwater sights.

While not too far from New Zealand as the crow flies, reaching this exotic destination requires at least one connecting flight on an Indonesian airline. Usually via Jakarta to Sorong Airport, and then another two hours on a ferry to the island of Waigeo.

Encountering reef sharks, turtles, manta rays, cuttlefish, parrotfish, and swarms of other rare and colourful creatures darting amongst resplendent coral formations, is a pretty normal for a 40-minute dive in Raja Ampat.

Many fish species can be found below the surface in Raja Ampat | NICK ASHLEY/SUPPLIED

The warm, sheltered, and shallow waters make diving easy and safe, and snorkelling also provides a great vantage point.

Post-dive, the Meridian Adventure eco resort provides the perfect place to relax poolside, basking in the tropical heat with a cocktail, before enjoying an excellent steak from the restaurant, and marvelling at a stunning sunset.

The above-water scenery is also a sight to behold | NICK ASHLEY/SUPPLIED

While Raja Ampat is virtually unknown outside of diving circles, the above-water scenery is also impressive.

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Day trips include jungle trekking to spot the aptly-named Bird of Paradise, relaxing in an impossibly crystal-clear river that puts New Zealand to shame, and viewing breathtaking limestone formations. 

Raja Ampat is hard to reach, but worth the effort | NICK ASHLEY/SUPPLIED

Seeing few fellow tourists and little, if any, pollution is a jarring contrast to the degraded state of some other more popular island resorts.

In this sense, discovering the pristine state of Raja Ampat is also as much about discovering what can and has gone wrong elsewhere.

I left not only with some unforgettable memories, but also, a renewed understanding of the fragility of these marine ecosystems, and the need to protect and preserve what’s left before it’s too late.

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