Raja Ampat reached our list thanks to National Geographic. Because a certain photo from a place called Friwen Wall made us dream about it. And we dreamt and dreamt until Raja Ampat actually became an obsession. But there was one thing holding back our thrills: the distance! Getting from Romania to Raja Ampat was definitely no piece of cake! Because when you look on the map and search for Raja Ampat, you kinda get dizzy (it’s pretty much the end of the world). However, we decided not to give in! On the contrary, we decided that we would spend our birthdays nowhere else but in Raja Ampat!

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A glimpse of paradise

A Paradise Called Raja Ampat

Ever since we left home 5 months ago, we met two types of tourists: the ones that would raise an eyebrow upon hearing about Raja Ampat, and the ones that have been there and instantly got sparks in their eyes. One of them got stuck in my head. We met a British guy in Nepal and somehow I got to mention to him that we would reach Raja Ampat:

“Oh, my God! It’s the most beautiful place I’ve been so far! It’s freaking magical, special! It’s really hard to describe it in words!”

I smiled and asked him what exactly got him so hooked on Raja.

“I really don’t know, it’s just special!”

Little did I know then that this would be my exact feeling as well. That Raja Ampat is a special place, hard to be described in words.

In case you are wondering where the heck is Raja Ampat, it’s time to leave the mystery aside. Raja Ampat is an archipelago made of no less than 1500 islands in the Indonesian Province of West Papua. But what really makes these islands so special is what lies hidden in the water. It’s a place famous in the whole world for its marine biodiversity, sort of any diver’s paradise. It’s also a paradise worthy of kings because actually, Raja Ampat means the Four Kings (Raja = King and Ampat = four). According to the local legends, one king for each one of the four main islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool.

Reaching Our Home Away From Home

How did we get to Raja?! Well, with tons of patience and after three flights (we were coming from the Philippines and we flew Cebu – Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur – Makassar and Makassar – Sorong). Out of these the last one was with the most silent aircraft I’ve been in my life – a Canadian Bombardier CRJ1000. Then we had to take a three-hour ferry from Sorong to Waisai, followed by another half an hour on a small boat. But when you get to Waisai, you really forget about any problems, you just look around and can only pinch yourself, to make sure you are not dreaming.

Here we are in Waisai, the port from where all the tourists get picked up by their accommodations and taken on all the little islands. We leave the ferry behind and run to hide from the rain and to find Melki, our host on Gam Island. He is the owner of Yenros Homestay, our home for our stay in Raja. You have two options of accommodation in Raja – you can either choose to stay in a resort or opt for a traditional homestay, with basic facilities. We chose Melki and his homestay and we sure made a good choice! We manage to find Melki in the crowd fighting to take cover from the rain. He smiles to us in a very peaceful way: Welcome to Raja Ampat! This is how it is here, it rains and then it rains again!

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The Raja Ampat sky after the rain

After an hour we manage to cheat the rain and to reach Melki’s small boat. We immediately understand why we really had to wait for the rain to calm down. Our little boat has no rooftop whatsoever and most likely we would have reached the shore swimming. A short balance session and we hop in the boat, ready to rumble! However, my mind is focused on a single thing. I don’t know how to get my hand in the water faster to check if the rumors about the water’s temperatures! Oh, yes, they are true! It’s a freaking soup this water, it’s warmer than the outside temperature! We are at the crossroads between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and it seems they really get along warmly.

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The islands start to unveil before our eyes

Melki starts the engine and we head towards Gam. It’s like turning on a dream. The clouds seem to have descended from their usual celestial homes, they seem so low that you can actually touch them. The water is so calm it gives us the impression we are rowing on a lake rather than the ocean. The sky mirrors the water and gives us optical illusions. I see some weird birds somewhere in the distance. But they kind of move in a weird way and seem to float on the water. Yep, our eyes are playing with us. They are definitely not birds, but actually dolphins! Our welcoming committee in Raja Ampat paradise!

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Locals speeding in a classic Raja Ampat boat

Let the Dreams Begin

All around us there are islands. Each one is greener than the one next to it. Every now and then we spot a shy beach, but with white sand and tall palm trees in the background. This is how we were welcomed by our beach as well. A beach we will get to call home for the following days. Melki slows down the engine and turns the boat toward the beach. We made it! I look in the water and can barely believe how crystal clear it is. It’s just that I don’t get to see its sandy bottom, but the tons of corals and fish hiding beneath us. Now I understand why we were told that our life would depend on the tide. The corals are so close to shore that to be able to swim over them the water needs to be high.

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Our beach on Gam Island

Our mighty boat reaches the sand. We jump enthusiastically on the white soft blanket and we really don’t know where to look. The verdict is obvious: we have reached paradise! We pass the palms on the beach and get to see the small traditional huts. Here is where we will spend our next days. In a modest hut a few steps away from the beach, with the sound of waves constantly playing in the background.

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This is how a perfect beach looks like!

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Traditional Papuan huts on Gam Island

We instantly realize that time will pass slower in the following days. Because everything seems so peaceful that you are under the impression that everything is in slow motion. We don’t feel like doing anything, we surrender to the Raja Ampat spell. We drop our bags in our room and we wait for my favorite moment – the sunset. And right as I was expecting it, here the sunsets cannot be disappointing. We sit on the beach and admire the sky’s game of colors. Every now and then a colorful bird flies above us and plays sharp sounds. We close our eyes and breath deeply! So this is how paradise smells like!

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Our view from Yenros Homestay on Gam Island

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Oh, yes! I forgot to mention that you can enjoy the view from a hammock!

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Kids playing in a small fishing boat

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Our home sweet home on Gam

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Game of colors before sunset

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Waiting for the sunset

 

***TO BE CONTINUED***