If you’re a scuba diver, you’ve probably heard about Raja Ampat. And probably in the most glowing terms.

Raja Ampat, which means four kings – in reference to the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Waigeo, and Batanta – consists of over 1,500 tiny islands and cays, creating countless, stunning dive sites. 

It’s found in Indonesia, specifically the province of West Papua, right in the heart of the Coral Triangle.

Studies have shown that this region has the highest marine diversity anywhere on earth due to its serendipitous location at the meeting of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

It’s not surprising then, that is so frequently cited as one of the best dive sites in the world.

aerial shot of raja ampatThis diversity is plainly visible in the vibrant coral reefs, so clearly thriving in these crystal clear waters. They hold a myriad of macro creatures and play host to volumes of fish that seem unreal. 

More of a pelagic lovin’ kinda diver?

No problem, you can also find hammerheads, schooling pelagic fish, turtles, mantas, dolphins, and whole hosts of sharks. Yeah, it’s that good. 

Considering that the landscapes above the water are just as beautiful as those below, we strongly recommend a liveaboard to take you on an adventure into “The Last Paradise”.

To summarize, the best liveaboards in Raja Ampat are:

Comparison

gaia love liveaboard
Price Capacity Rating
$$$ 22 9.6
blue manta liveaboard
Price Capacity Rating
$$ 22 9.9
carpe diem liveaboard
Price Capacity Rating
$ 8 9.7
tanaka liveaboard
Price Capacity Rating
$ 14 9.7

Why go on a liveaboard?

man backflipping off a boatLiveaboard cruises are one of the best ways to dive in many locations. Jumping on one of these vessels is like taking a luxury hotel with you – except you get to dive straight into a new dive site each morning! They eliminate long speedboat rides to sites and replace them with sedate and picturesque travel. 

Many liveaboards offer up to 5 dives a day and are the ultimate convenience as your food, drink and accommodation are taken care of for you. And after a long day of diving, you can kick back and relax with your fellow divers under the stars, with a beer, before being rocked to sleep by the motion of the ocean. Not sure about you, but we’re sold! 

man on a yachtThere are many different types of liveaboards to choose from and they come in many different shapes and sizes. Luxury or budget, pure diving or inclusive land excursions, small groups or crowds of divers – the choice is yours! If you need any more convincing, check out our ultimate guide to liveaboards here.

Liveaboards are undoubtedly the best way to explore Raja Ampat. They allow you to visit remote areas of this unspoiled wilderness and dive in some of the richest dive sites, nestled deep within the paradise islets and cays.

Best Liveaboards in Raja ampat

Here are the very best rated liveaboards in Raja Ampat below. Let’s dive in…

tiare cruise liveaboardTiare Cruise is a wooden phinisi style boat, capturing traditional Indonesian charm. She caters to just 12 divers in 6 ensuite cabins which also features individually controlled air conditioning, hairdryers, water and essentials – including a thoughtful “shore kit” which consists of a hat, towel, suntan lotion and thermos.  

There is an air-conditioned lounge where you can socialize with your fellow guests and enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks. All meals are freshly prepared onboard and can be catered to different dietary requirements. They are served in the lounge or on the alfresco dining area on the main deck. If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to chill out, enjoy the shaded Bow Lounge or comfortable sundeck. 

tiare cruise liveaboardOther facilities include the massages and kayaks onboard which are available for guest usage. Conveniently, there is also free wifi available. There is a nearly 1:1 guest to crew ratio, meaning that there will always be someone on hand to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

The dive deck is shaded and provides both complimentary nitrox, DIN adaptors, and side mount capabilities. There is a dedicated camera room for maintenance and care of your precious equipment. Two dive tenders make travel to and from the dive sites simple and quick. 

The Tiare Cruise sails Indonesia, visiting Komodo National Park, Raja Ampat, East Flores, the Banda Sea and the Forgotten Islands. She visits Raja during the season between October and April.  

Pros
  • Dedicated Camera Room
  • Complimentary nitrox and wifi
  • Small Groups
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Alcoholic beverages are extra
AC
Yes
# Divers
12
Wifi
Yes
Nitrox
Yes
Drinks
Extra
Price
High

Visit Website

gaia love liveaboardGaia Love is a stunning, 40m long liveaboard vessel that caters to 22 guests in 11 beautiful cabins. Each has a private ensuite bathroom, storage and AC. They are all very spacious, averaging 20 square meters. The cabins on the top deck also have large ocean view windows and small, private balconies. 

The inner salon and dining area is modern and stylish, with a full entertainment system and dining area. The external decks provide both shaded and sunny areas to kick back and relax between dives or enjoy the al-fresco bar at the end of the day. 

gaia love liveaboard camera roomThe dive deck at the rear of the yacht has capacity for 28 divers so there is abundant space and individual gear stations to make kitting up super easy. The two skiffs will drop you off at the dive sites. There are plenty of rinsing stations including a specific camera one and a dedicated camera room for maintenance and editing. Nitrox is available, for an additional fee.

Gaia Love visits the best diving locations around Indonesia. These include the Banda Sea, Komodo National Park, Alor and Raja Ampat.

Pros
  • Camera Room
  • Beautiful, modern design
  • Extremely luxurious
Cons
  • Extra for alcoholic beverages
  • Extra for nitrox and wifi
  • Expensive
AC
Yes
# Divers
22
Wifi
Extra
Nitrox
Extra
Drinks
Extra
Price
High

Visit Website

blue manta liveaboardBlue Manta is a 45m long, steel-hulled liveaboard which was built to withstand any conditions the ocean could throw at her and will deliver a stable, comfortable ride. 

The 14 cabins can cater to up to 22 divers at a time, ensuring there is plenty of space. Each is beautifully furnished and features an ensuite and individually controlled AC. 

Food is a big deal on the Blue Manta and chefs prepare 5 fresh meals a day, including fresh bread with breakfast. 

blue manta liveaboard dive deckDiving on the Blue Manta is stress-free and well thought out. The large dive deck has individual gear stations and complimentary nitrox. The groups are kept small at a ratio of 4:1 to ensure that all divers get the most out of the dives. Photographers will love the specific rinse tanks and a dedicated camera room with blow-dry stations and computers.

Blue Manta sails around Indonesia year-round, visiting Komodo, the Forgotten Islands, Alor and Raja Ampat. With a 1:1 ratio of crew to passengers, your trip is sure to be a memorable one.

Pros
  • 5 Fresh meals a day
  • Small dive groups
  • Camera room
Cons
  • Extra cost for wifi
  • Extra cost for alcoholic beverages
AC
Yes
# Divers
22
Wifi
Extra
Nitrox
Yes
Drinks
Extra
Price
Avg

Visit Website

carpe diem liveaboard

Carpe Diem is a small Phinisi style yacht, ideal for small groups or anyone who wants a more personal experience. 

Carpe Diem can accommodate just 8 guests in 4 beautiful cabins which are built from warm, curved wooden paneling, creating a cozy atmosphere. All cabins have soft natural lighting and a soft ocean breeze. They are also fully decked out with ensuite bathrooms and AC. 

The social areas include the saloon which has a large, family-style dining table where guests will enjoy the freshly prepared local food. Dietary requirements can be catered for with advanced notice. The exterior decks provide amazing views of the spectacular scenery and have comfortable seating and pillows for sunbathing between dives or stargazing at night.

carpe diem liveaboard deckThe dive deck is small and shaded with a dive tender available for easy transport to dive sites. All diving equipment rental is included in the pleasingly low price tag. The diving groups are kept small and are led by experienced dive sites with extensive local knowledge. 

The Carpe Diem visits Raja Ampat from November to April and Komodo, Ambon, and the Banda islands for the rest of the year.

Pros
  • Equipment rental included in price
  • Small group sizes
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • No nitrox
  • No wifi
  • Extra cost for alcoholic beverages
AC
Yes
# Divers
8
Wifi
No
Nitrox
No
Drinks
Extra
Price
Low

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tanaka liveaboard

Tanaka is a gorgeous traditional Indonesian Phinisi that makes an impressive sight as she sails through Indonesia with her billowing white sails. 

The small compliment of 14 divers is accommodating in 5 cabins – with the choice of doubles, triples or the 4-bed master suite. All are beautifully decked out in warm wood paneling and beams for a cozy feeling. They all feature individually controlled AC, ensuites, storage space and bathrobes. 

The social areas include two dining areas where you will enjoy the freshly prepared meals. The main deck also features shaded seating areas with beautiful panoramas of your surroundings as well as a sundeck fitted out with bean bags and mattresses, ideal for sunbathing between your dives or enjoying a beer as the sun goes down. 

tanaka liveaboard cabinThe dive deck is convenient and shaded, with a dive tender for easy transport to dive sites. Nitrox is available for an extra fee. There are also kayaks and paddleboards available for those who want an extra adventure, and massage service for those who want to relax!

Tanaka visits all the very best sites in Indonesia, including Raja Ampat from November to February and Komodo National Park for the rest of the year. 

Pros
  • Beautiful, traditional wooden design
  • Small group sizes
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Extra for nitrox
  • Extra for wifi
  • Extra cost for alcoholic beverages
AC
Yes
# Divers
14
Wifi
Extra
Nitrox
Extra
Drinks
Extra
Price
Low

Visit Website

When to go to Raja Ampat

Like much of Indonesia, the weather in Raja Ampat is seasonal and can be tempestuous. Whilst some boats operate all year round in Western Papua, most liveaboard operators only run cruises from October to April to avoid the rough seas and rain of the summer months. However, Komodo, Banda and Cenderawasih Bay all have excellent diving at this time of year. Click here to find out more about diving in Indonesia.

manta ray in raja ampatThe water temperatures are warm all year round in Raja Ampat, with 27oC in the “off” season between May and October and a balmy 30oC between October and April. The warm waters cause plankton blooms which attract huge numbers of manta rays

Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat

We have already mentioned the marine biodiversity of Raja Ampat, but it is worth mentioning again. It guarantees to surprise even the jaded diver, with over 500 species of corals alone and the reefs are kaleidoscopic in their beauty. Visibility can be variable depending on the plankton blooms but the average is around 25m.

Marine life

The population of sharks in Raja Ampat are a big draw and you can see many different species. Black and whitetip reef sharks are most common but you can also see the more unusual, like the bizarre looking wobbegongs as well as intimidating hammerheads. Cenderawasih Bay is also famous for the up-close-and-personal encounters with friendly whale sharks, who have scavenged the local fishermen’s nets for centuries. 

wobbegong shark in raja ampatFour different types of turtles – green, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherbacks – live and nest here each year. Manta rays are common in Raja Ampat and upwards of 30 individuals can be seen in the warm, winter months when they flock here for the plentiful plankton. Pods of dolphins often accompany dive boats and even pop up on some dive sites, a pleasant surprise for divers. In some locations, you might catch a glimpse of the odd whale or even an orca! 

The variety of macro species is a big draw for many photographers. Few diving destinations in the world have this range of macro critters hidden within the rocks and corals. Pygmy seahorse, ghost pipefish, nudibranch and frogfish are just some of the incredible species. 

Difficulty

Raja Ampat diving is suitable for a wide range of abilities but the best dive sites do sometimes feature fierce currents and deep profiles. It is possible to find dive centers in Raja Ampat to undertake your Open Water Course, though we recommend arriving already qualified – so you can make the most of your trip! It is also not possible to take part in many liveaboards as a beginner diver.

Diving with nitrox is a great idea when scuba diving on a liveaboard. Not only does it allow you to stay longer at depth, but it makes you feel less tired after multiple dives due to the higher proportion of oxygen. Some liveaboards run nitrox courses but most require you to already hold a certification.

aerial shot of raja ampat

Routes

The majority of liveaboard cruises in Raja Ampat depart from and return to the coastal city of Sorong, which features one of the few airports. It is not an international airport, but there are regular flights from Jakarta. 

The most common destination for liveaboards is the island of Misool as it is surrounded by stunning coral reefs, caves and fascinating mangroves which are just begging to be explored. 

Many itineraries encompass other areas of Indonesia, particularly Ambon, the Forgotten Islands and the Banda Sea, which all have superb, pristine diving and dramatic volcanic landscapes. Longer itineraries sometimes sail from locations further afield, like Komodo National Park.

 

Conclusion

Liveaboard diving in Raja Ampat is some of the best in the world. 

Not only does it have the highest level of biodiversity anywhere on earth, but it is also mind-bendingly beautiful. 

And with all these excellent vessels to choose from – what are you waiting for?

Explore Raja Ampat Liveaboards Now!

 

 

Rachel Thannhauser Administrator

Rachel is a divemaster and full-time writer from Southampton, England. She loves the ocean, CrossFit, cooking, and travelling as much as possible – pandemics allowing!

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