Often described as one of the most extraordinary environments on the planet, Raja Ampat is as remote as you get – located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on West Papua. The name translates as ‘Four Kings,’ referring to the four main islands of Misool, Batanta, Waigeo and Salawati, which are in turn surrounded by approximately 1,500 wild islands with pristine beaches and sheer limestone cliffs plunging into aqua seas.
Above water, the islands’ cultural heritage is diverse, with prehistoric cave paintings and relics from the era of the Four Kings who once ruled here, while more recent history is demonstrated in cave bunkers and seabed wreckage from World War II. Intrepid visitors can trek through the jungle, learn about traditional kampong life in local villages, visit sea turtle rookeries and pearl farms and explore the coastal mangroves by sea kayak. Resounding with bird calls, the Raja Ampat archipelago houses the largest number of freshwater bird species in the region; parrots, hornbills, lorikeets, marbled frogmouths and the famous bird of paradise to name a few.
Beneath the surface, Raja Ampat is recognised as the world’s most bio-diverse marine ecosystem with 1,200 species of fish including legendary Manta, 550 species of hard and soft coral, and 6 of the world’s 7 species of sea turtle. In 2006, 50 new species were discovered on a researchers’ trip to the Bird’s Head Peninsula region, and every year fascinating and previously unrecorded creatures are discovered here.
Raja Ampat remains one of the last untouched corners of the earth, and makes for a magical trip for anyone looking to get away from the daily grind and relax in a naturally beautiful environment, comprising a massive total territory of 9.8 million acres over land and sea.
WHEN TO CHARTER A YACHT: Raja Ampat is best visited between November and April.