Located to the northwest of the New Guinea island of Indonesia, the Raja Ampat archipelago is comprised of over 1,500 small, beautiful and isolated islands. It’s also considered part of the Coral Triangle which contains the richest marine biodiversity on Earth. Its beauty, diversity and abundant marine life is what makes a Raja Ampat liveaboard trip the ultimate dream of any diver. 

When it comes to what you can see underwater, Raja Ampat surprises even the most well-traveled diver. Diverse is the best adjective to describe this place. It has soft corals, hard corals, caves, WWII wrecks, drop offs, shallow reefs, black and white sand bottoms, currents, calm waters, macro diving and big fish. In other words, if you don’t like diving here, you might not like diving at all!

Diving in Raja is not for budget travelers. However, most of the expenses are related to logistics and transportation, not the diving itself. However, if you are going to pay to come all this way, you better get to dive and explore what the islands have to offer and that’s when a liveaboard is your best option.

Being a prime destination for scuba diving, there are many diving liveaboards operating in Raja Ampat. To help you choose the right boat for preferences and budget, we’ve put together this quick guide that shows you the best boats and some things to consider when it comes time to book.

For more of our liveaboard recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

Caribbean |  Bahamas | Belize | Cuba | Turks & Caicos

North Pacific |  Galapagos | Guadalupe | SocorroCocos

South Pacific | Australia | Palau | Fiji | French Polynesia | PNG | Solomon Islands

South East Asia | Komodo | Similan | Tubbataha | Sipadan | Burma

Red Sea & Middle East | Egypt | Sudan | Oman | Djibouti

Indian Ocean | MaldivesSeychelles

 

 

 

 

 

QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST RAJA AMPAT LIVEABOARD TRIPS

CALICO JACK  (Overall)

KIRA KIRA  (Budget)

BLUE MANTA  (Photographers)

DAMAI I  (Wrecks & Whalesharks)

MSY WAOW  (Luxury)

PINDITO  (Extended Itineraries)

 

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST RAJA AMPAT LIVEABOARD BOATS 

 

 

 

RAJA AMPAT LIVEABOARD REVIEWS

KIRA KIRA

Photo Credit: Kira Kira Liveaboard

BEST FOR → BUDGET

With a maximum of 8 guests onboard, this is one of the region’s most relaxed boats. If you can forgo a few creature comforts, it is without a doubt Raja Ampat’s most affordable option, too. Small dive groups, family style meals, and a flexible dive schedule complete the casual atmosphere.

 

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PINDITO

© Copyright by Tomas Reich, used through Pindito Liveaboard

BEST FOR → EXTENDED ITINERARIES

For many liveaboard divers, Raja Ampat is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If 10 days in the park just isn’t enough, this boat’s incredible 17-day journey might be your top pick. With four dives a day and free Nitrox on offer, this is an excellent value for adventurous divers with time on their hands.

 

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BLUE MANTA

Photo Credit: Blue Manta Liveaboard

BEST FOR → PHOTOGRAPHERS

Individual camera rinse tanks, a state of the art indoor photo production room, blow-dry area, cabins equipped with extra charging stations, and small dive groups make this boat the region’s best pick for divers traveling with camera equipment. The best part of diving on this vessel is spending time with other photographers and veteran divers.

 

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DAMAI I

Photo Credit: Damai I Liveaboard

BEST FOR → WRECKS & WHALE SHARKS

This boat operates more trips to Cenderawasih Bay than any other. And, their diverse itineraries include options that focus exclusively on Cenderawasih’s whale sharks and wrecks or combine the region with a classic Raja Ampat itinerary. This boat also offers support for tech, sidemount, and rebreather diving.

 

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CALICO JACK

Photo Credit: Calico Jack Liveaboard

BEST FOR → ALL AROUND

One of the region’s top-rated boats, the Calico Jack offers a wide variety of trips in Raja Ampat. Itineraries range between 6 and 12 nights, exploring some of the park’s most remote northern and southern dive sites. And, with only 10 guests onboard you are guaranteed plenty of personalized service. This liveaboard is an excellent choice for charters and groups of divers traveling together.

 

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MSY WAOW

Photo Credit: MSY WAOW Liveaboard

BEST FOR → LUXURY

If you’re looking to get pampered, you’ve found the right boat. Spa services, chef-prepared meals, daily housekeeping, and free internet make the vessel feel more like a hotel than a liveaboard. Modern and dedicated camera facilities make this a favorite among photographers, too.

 

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HOW TO CHOOSE A LIVEABOARD IN RAJA AMPAT

Every diver is different just as every boat is not the same. Depending on your preferences, budget and schedule, some liveaboard trips might suit you better than others. The following are some important aspects to consider when choosing a boat for you and your dive buddies.

 

WHAT MONTH OF THE YEAR YOU PLAN TO GO?

Liveaboards operate in Raja Ampat between October and April, which is the dry season in Indonesia. However, it’s possible to dive between May and September, as liveaboards tend to go further east to Cenderawasih Bay, where you can dive with whale sharks in sheltered dive sites.

The visibility gets reduced between October and April when the plankton blooms, but that also brings greater numbers of manta rays to the area.

 

WHAT MARINE LIFE DO YOU WANT TO SEE?

If you’re coming to Raja Ampat to see some specific marine life, you don’t need to worry about what specific month you come.

Most of marine creatures can be spotted throughout the year. However, remember this is pure nature and you’re not diving in an aquarium. When it comes to wild animals, you always need a bit of luck to spot them!

 

LOOKING FOR SOME EXCLUSIVITY OR REDUCED GROUP SIZES?

Raja Ampat is a remote place so you can expect dive sites to be uncrowded. However, there are some liveaboards that cater to smaller groups. Tiger Blue is one of them. 

 

WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?

Liveaboards in Raja Ampat range from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the type of boat, duration of the trip and itinerary. Particularly, there are many possible itineraries and trip lengths, so make sure you check them out when comparing several operators.

Also, don’t forget to check what fees are not included in the price of the trip before you book. There is normally a “Port & Park fee” that is not included (around $200 – $250) and some liveaboards also charge for nitrox, hotel tranfers and fuel surcharges.

Did you see any boat that interests you? In the following section you’ll find the main features of each boat has with a link to check the latest prices and availability. 

 

 


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DIVING ITINERARIES

Raja Ampat is a large geographic area, and there are endless possibilities for liveaboard itineraries in the region. Where your boat goes will depend on the season, trip duration, price point, and goals of the divers onboard.Many liveaboards venture outside of Raja Ampat, and not only during the monsoon. If you’re hoping to pack a little bit of everything into your trip, look for “best of Papua” itineraries. These routes visit historic WWII shipwrecks, Papua’s pristine reefs, and the famous whale sharks of Cenderawasih.

 

TRADITIONAL

Traditional routes in the park include northern itineraries, focusing on the remote waters north of Sorong and southern courses exploring the area around Misool. Both options are excellent for experienced divers and offer a variety of environments like reef and muck.

 

NORTHERN

Northern voyages exploring the Dampier Strait are perfect for a wide-angle photo safari, fast-moving currents, and manta cleaning stations. Divers can expect plenty of big fish, and all around challenging dive conditions. Visibility in this region varies greatly.

 

SOUTHERN

Southern trips around Misool often voyage into the Bana Sea and take on world class macro “bug hunts” around Ambon. The south is known for up-close encounters with wildlife of all sizes, including hammerheads in the Banda Arc. High-speed currents, rare wildlife, and quickly changing dive conditions define this stunning region.

 

 

 

VIDEO – SCUBA DIVING IN RAJA AMPAT

 

 

 

BEST DIVE SITES IN RAJA AMPAT

CENDERWASIH BAY

Though not officially a part of Raja Ampat, this marine park is visited by liveaboards during the monsoon season. The main attraction is a guaranteed chance to dive alongside feeding whale sharks. But, historical WWII wrecks and vibrant coral reefs make the region 100% worth a visit.

 

THE FAR NORTH

If you’re serious about spotting a pygmy seahorse, these northern walls are a good bet. Multiple species reside here, with some individual fans housing groups of six or more. This area is also reliable for nudibranchs, clingfish, squat lobsters, and crinoid shrimp. Photographers should plan for an extra-tiny macro shootout. Consider a snoot for super macro shots. A photographer’s favorite site, The Passage, is one of this region’s most spectacular.

 

THE FAR SOUTH

The Banda Sea, and Raja Ampat’s most southern sites are some of the region’s most remote. These waters are an excellent place to spot large pelagics like hammerheads and mantas. But, anything can happen out there including encounters with orcas, dolphins, and whales. Photographers should plan for a wide-angle adventure featuring plenty of schooling fish, and supersized subjects. The most dived site in this region is Boo Rock.

 

DAMPIER STRAIT

This stretch of cleaning stations promise manta sightings on nearly every dive, often in large numbers. You should expect strong currents at this shallow site, and most operators secure their groups with reef hooks. Photographers should plan for non-stop wide-angle action. Popular dive sites include Manta Ridge, Manta Sandy, and Sardine Reef.

 

MISOOL

With some of the best visibility in Raja Ampat, this region is a great place to take in the intense biodiversity of Indonesia’s coral reef. It is also a favorite for photographers in the park. Great hammerhead sharks patrol in deep water, while the shallows are home to a stunning variety of coral and reef fish. If the current allows, slow down and search for macro life. Ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, and flatworms are among the most exciting finds. Misool’s best-known dive sites are Kaleidoscope and Fabiacet.

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