Raja Ampat’s homestay operators are steadily developing the training, experience and resources necessary to satisfy the diving community’s demand for a cheaper alternative to the region’s foreign owned resorts and liveaboard boats.
At present only the following homestays have their own equipment and compressor:
- Corepen Homestay
- Daroyen Village
- Koranu Fyak Bungalows
- Kordiris Homestay
- Lumba Lumba Guesthouse
- Wobbegong Dive Adventures
- Yendebabo Homestay
- Yenkoranu Homestay
Regardless of which homestay you stay at, diving in Raja Ampat can be arranged in conjunction with the Raja Ampat dive shops listed above. Additionally, Arborek Dive Shop on Pulau Arborek provides diving for Arborek Homestays and visitors to Arborek.
Raja Ampat is extremely remote and medical support services in the event of a serious diving accident are extremely limited. Of particular concern are the following:
First Aid Oxygen supplies are limited: Not all homestays have first aid oxygen available in their dive boats. A supply is based at Wobbegong Dive Adventures on Kri, but is not unlimited and may require travel from a dive site to use.
There is no hyperbaric chamber in Raja Ampat: A chamber has been installed at Waisai hospital, but is not certified for use by any inspection body and at last report was not compliant with international standards. Expert advice recommends that the chamber not be used and that any diver requiring hyperbaric treatment be evacuated to Manado. Note that specialist flights that maintain the patient at sea level pressures are required. Such flights are extremely expensive and usually require upfront payment. Be sure to check that your dive insurance covers the costs of these specialist medevac flights!
Equipment maintenance may be lacking: Thorough equipment checks are essential, as maintenance may be lacking. Be sure to check that tanks are in test.
If you’re considering diving with Raja Ampat homestays, please consider these risks and read the additional important safety information below.
Even though most homestays do not have their own dive equipment, all those based in the Dampier Strait can arrange dive trips with the homestays listed above, or with other local dive centres. Dampier Strait homestays include all those on Kri, Gam, Arborek and the south coast of Waigeo.
Another alternative (if you are part of a group of experienced divers and have your own equipment) is to hire a reputable local dive guide and boat and dive independently.
Raja Ampat can be a challenging dive environment and is not recommended for beginners or inexperienced divers. The Dampier Strait in particular, where many of the operators listed on this site are located, generates very strong currents as ocean tides channel huge volumes of water through its confines. In November 2015 an experienced diver had a fatal accident at Chicken Reef in the Dampier Strait – the first that we’re aware of in Raja Ampat. The exact cause of the accident is not currently known – see this facebook post for the details and updates.
As a qualified and experienced diver, you will be aware that wherever in the world you dive, you do so at your own risk, whereby you and your ‘buddy’ are responsible for each other’s safety. This is particularly the case in Raja Ampat, where extensive professional dive centre management experience is yet to be developed and basic emergency equipment is not widely available. None of the homestay operators have insurance to cover you in the event of a serious accident – so you will need to arrange your own personal dive insurance that provides for specialist emergency medical evacuation. (See the above “Vital Considerations” note about the Waisai decompression chamber.) Divers Alert Network is one example of a supplier of such insurance.
Are you experienced enough to be safe? Here are two PDF resources to help you determine if you have the minimum necessary open water skills to be confident of your safety when diving in Raja Ampat:
Diving safety in Raja Ampat
Unless you’re a master diver with a wealth of experience in challenging environments, don’t consider diving Raja Ampat without an experienced guide who is familiar with the conditions at your proposed dive site.
It’s imperative you do your research before choosing a dive guide. Consult as widely as possible with other divers and only commit to a guide recommended by those you trust. Tidal forces in Raja Ampat generate strong and unpredictable currents (including powerful downdrafts and upwellings) and ignorance of local conditions and hazards could put your life in danger. There are no hospitals in Raja Ampat capable of treating the injuries and complications that can result from a serious diving accident.
Raja Ampat is extremely remote and for safety’s sake, it’s imperative you plan non-compression dives and take a conservative approach to safety stops and controlled ascent. There’s more than enough to see within no-decompression limits and the nearest hyperbaric chamber (at Manado in Sulawesi) is much too far away if something goes wrong.
Our Raja Ampat Health and Medical FAQ has more about the region’s hospital services and health considerations.
Current best practice to avoid decompression sickness (DCS) should always be followed.
It would be especially foolish to ignore this in Raja Ampat! Here are the current guidelines:
1. Bring a dive computer, make sure you understand the computer and how to use it and use it on every dive. Never push your computer to the limits of available no decompression stop time, particularly if you are doing repetitive dives over multiple days. If your computer tells you to do one or more mandatory decompression stops, do the stops! (Don’t assume the computer isn’t working right, or that it’s ok to skip the stop as long as you stay at roughly the same depth as the other divers in your group.)
2. Limit your speed of ascent. Limiting speed of ascent may be the most important (and easiest) way to reduce the risk of DCS. Traditionally, divers in the US were trained to limit their rate of ascent to 18 meters/min (or 60 feet per minute). There are still people who think that is the rule, but in fact 18 m/minute is way too fast. Over the past decade, a number of certification agencies have cut that in half, teaching students to limit ascent rates to 9 m/min.
In reality, however, 9 m/min is still too fast, and it misses the point that the maximum speed of ascent change according to depth – the shallower you are, the slower you need to ascend. That’s because the relative change in pressure per meter is much higher at shallow depths than when the diver is deep.
Here are the latest guidelines on ascent:
|MAXIMUM ASCENT SPEED|
(METRES PER MINUTE)
(Note that this is still more conservative than the older 9 m/min)
|6 – 9||3 m/min|
(Really slow down ascent speeds as you reach depths of 10 m or less)
|0 – 6||1 m/min|
(Stretching that final ascent from 5 m to the surface to last five minutes is harder than it sounds)
3. Always make the first dive of the day the deepest, with each subsequent dive in the same 24 hour period having a maximum depth that is shallower than the previous dives. If a “reverse profile” is unavoidable, make sure the difference from the maximum depth of the later deeper dive and the earlier shallow dive is no more than 5 meters.
Do you want to know more about the latest research behind the above recommendations? Read these source PDF documents:
- Dive Computer Use in Recreational Diving: Insights from the DAN-DSL Database
- The Trouble with Bubbles – this is an in depth technical analysis of the physics and physiology of decompression, the nature of decompression sickness, basic decompression theory, including a good discussion of “M-values” and “gradients”, both of which are tricky. That leads into a discussion of bubble models of decompression, deep stops, and Bruce Weinke’s RGBM decompression model (this is the one emulated in Suunto and some other dive computers). This document provides the basis for the new recommended maximum ascent rates quoted above.
Finally, a quick check list:
- Check that your travel insurance covers you for specialist emergency medical evacuation in the event of a diving accident.
- Equipment checks: When using rented equipment, take special care to be thorough when doing your pre-dive checks – we’ve heard reports of inadequately maintained equipment being supplied by some operators.
- Bring a dive computer – you’ll get much more out of your stay (and be much safer) if you do.
- Dive within your limits. There is so much to see in the 5m-18m range that there is rarely a need to go deeper.
- Double-check with the dive guide that you and your group (which may include divers that you do not know) have understood the type of dive, the likely profile and the intended pick up point. Help the dive guide by sharing responsibility for all the divers in your group.
- Review the usual hand signals with the dive guide and others in your group, to ensure that you can be easily understood when at depth.
- Don’t forget to purchase a Raja Ampat Marine Park entry tag
- Have a good (or bad) experience? Want to make a recommendation? Do it in the comments section below or on the relevant homestay page. We welcome all honest feedback and your fellow divers, your hosts and dive guides will benefit from your input.
Raja Ampat Diving Code of Practice
Always observe the provisions of the Raja Ampat Diving Code of Practice which has been developed to protect Raja Ampat’s unique marine environment and maximise your safety. Speak up if you see those provisions being ignored by operators or fellow divers! We encourage you to post your personal observations and any concerns in the feedback section of the relevant operator’s page on this site – here’s how that will make a difference. You’re also welcome to forward reports to us privately by email.
Learning to dive in Raja Ampat
SSI and PADI courses from fully qualified instructors are available at Raja Ampat homestay dive centers. See this news article for more info. Some resorts also offer PADI/SSI courses.
Best time to dive in Raja Ampat
You can dive Raja Ampat at any time of year, but best conditions are between October and April. Sea temperatures are warm (between 24 and 30°C) all year round, so light wetsuits are usually best. Wetsuits or lycra swimsuits are definitely recommended, because you’re almost certain to encounter waters rich in stingers (nematocysts) at some stage. See our Raja Ampat weather page for more detailed climate information.
Where are the best dive sites in Raja Ampat?
Some old hands say that the best dive sites are yet to be discovered. But in the meantime there is such a wealth of great sites to choose from, that some divers become quite overwhelmed with the choice. One good tip is to listen to the local dive guides and boat crew. They know the currents and the seasons and can usually guess which sites are a good bet in any given conditions. And remember: the best dive site is the one that you can relax and enjoy because you are well-prepared, diving within your limits and have confidence in the people around you.
If you fancy some background reading, Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock’s book Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, which covers all of Raja Ampat, Cendrawasih Bay and Triton Bay is highly recommended. The book describes over 200 dive sites in excellent detail, including GPS coordinates, dive profile and photographic recommendations. The book also has a wealth of other essential and background information. Check it out at their Secret Sea Visions website.
Although out of print, Burt and Maurine’s earlier book Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, is also a great resource and is still widely available in Indonesia – check the airport, Periplus and Gramedia bookstores for copies.
For more about diving in Raja Ampat and the wider Bird’s Head Seascape, see birdsheadseascape.com’s diving pages.