Snorkeling in Raja Ampat

Seen snorkeling in Raja Ampat: nudibranch Nembrotha kubaryana

Raja Ampat has a deserved reputation as one of the best places in the world for diving and underwater photography, but the snorkeling in Raja Ampat is also among the world’s best. The range of habitats and marine life in the ocean’s top few metres is just astounding. Even better, most accommodation in Raja Ampat has fantastic snorkeling available right at the door. Virtually everything you can see diving in Raja Ampat can also be found at snorkeling depths.

Some homestays offer snorkeling equipment for hire, but it’s best to take your own – you won’t want the experience diminished by ill fitting fins or leaking masks.

All homestays have good snorkelling available at the door: Selecting the “Good house reef” filter on our accommodation page  will quickly return the best of them.

Safe Snorkeling

It’s worth noting a few safety issues to be aware of when swimming or snorkeling in Raja Ampat…

  • Currents: Most places have extremely strong currents when tides are running. Fins are a must if you don’t want to be a cork in the stream. Keep checking your position relative to the shore – especially if you don’t have a guide. Conditions can change quickly.
  • Reef protection: Look. Don’t touch! That includes walking over coral to enter the water. As well as the damage done to corals by handling or crushing underfoot, coral grazes or cuts are notoriously prone to becoming infected. Some species can also sting you quite badly. You shouldn’t attempt to handle any kind of marine life. There are many small and pretty animals on the reef that can do you a lot of harm. Blue-ring octopus, cone shells, lionfish – it’s a long list. They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.
  • Marine animal hazards: There’s a more in depth look at this subject in our health and medical FAQ. As long as you follow the “don’t touch” rule the only animals you’re likely to have a problem with are jellyfish. Many of them are virtually invisible. Wearing a lycra skin suit is the best method of protecting yourself from these and Raja Ampat’s other main risk…
  • Sunburn: Sunscreen and/or lycra protection is a must. Snorkeling in Raja Ampat is so good that a couple of hours can go by like a blink of the eye. You’ll never regret the snorkeling, but you’re bound to regret being fried so badly you have to stop.
  • Dehydration: It seems wrong that you can become dehydrated while spending all day in the water, but you can. Remember to drink!
  • Go with a guide: Guides will keep you safe – and will point out a host of things you’d probably otherwise miss. For safety’s sake, you should at the very least make sure your hosts know where you plan to go and when you expect to be back.

Snorkeling in Raja Ampat

If you like to get off the beaten track and the idea of being the first (and only!) snorkellers of pristine reefs, consider Batanta or West Waigeo.  Visitor Chris Jennings’ photo below shows the clear waters and rich submarine gardens to be found near Manyaifun in West Waigeo.

snorkeling raja ampat

If your budget won’t allow the extra travel costs required to reach Batanta or West Waigeo, there’s also plenty of excellent snorkelling to had around Friwen, and at Kri’s west end and southern shore. The Yenbuba Jetty area on Mansuar has a host of different marine environments and is always teeming with fish, small sharks and turtles. At low tide you can cross to Mansuar from Kri’s west end. The Mansuar homestays of Mangrove, Koryau Kayem and Yendabon are quite close to Yenbuba, and also offer the chance to see Raja Ampat’s famed walking sharks which inhabit the nearby mangroves.

Batanta: A snorkeling wonderland

The homestays at Batanta all have superb snorkelling at the door. Batanta’s reefs are as rich and pristine as West Waigeo’s, and there are also the added attractions to be found in the region’s seagrass prairies. Including dugongs! Read more about Batanta here. 

Snorkeling Gam’s blue water mangroves

Nudibranch Homestay near the village of Sawinggrai on Gam Island is built on a shore protected from the currents and waves of the open ocean by a belt of mangroves. Most of Raja Ampat’s mangroves are known as blue water mangroves because, unlike the majority of mangroves elsewhere in the world, they don’t grow on deep mudflats and the waters they stand in are free of silt and river-borne sediments. The more remote and wild Korbekwan Homestay in western Gam also provides marvellous blue water mangrove and coral reef snorkeling.

Gam’s mangroves grow in water that’s almost crystal clear and they shelter (among a lot of other life) a nudibranch population consisting of an extraordinary number of species. Snorkeling the mangroves there is truly an amazing experience. Juvenile fish glitter like bright jewels in the shafts of sunlight that penetrate the shadowed world of the trees’ roots. Sleeping epaulette or “walking” sharks can be found and are so laid back in the daytime you can approach to within arm’s length (don’t touch!) without giving them fright.

In the seagrass beds between the mangroves and the island’s shore, strings of tiny bubbles stand like silver spirals and three metre long worm-like Synaptid seacucumbers forage amid the fronds while Archer fish patrol the edges of the mangrove stands, hunting insects on the roots above the waterline and panicking the shoals of smaller fish hiding beneath the trees. It’s a world of magic our cheap camera and poor video technique can’t possibly do justice to:

If you prefer snorkeling coral reef rather than seagrass beds or mangroves, both Nudibranch and Korbekwan homestays have that too. Emerging on the seaward side of the mangrove belt, you’ll pass from the sheltered and shadowed confines of the trees to open water a stone’s throw from the reef dropoff. The coral  is dense, vibrant , healthy and teeming with fish. The ocean, even on a calm day, seems really energetic after an hour or two spent exploring the quiet waters of the mangroves.

If the tide is running there’s a really strong current along the edge of the dropoff which makes for perfect drifting past the panoply of reef life and colour. Although the tide’s full flow is pretty much impossible to swim against, the only danger it presents here is the risk of becoming so entranced by the spectacle that you lose track of time. If you’re staying at Nudibranch or one of the other homestays near Sawinggrai, a fabulous long drift can be had on a rising tide by walking the coastal path west to Kapisawar village. Enter the water at Kapisawar jetty, then drift all the way back to Sawinggrai. Be sure to stick close to the dropoff as you approach Sawinggrai so you can exit the current at the jetty there, or at the Nudibranch Homestay bay just to the east of the jetty. Be ready! It’s all mangroves east of the homestay bay, and if you miss it, someone with a boat will have to come and rescue you. (It’s always a good idea when snorkelling without a boat or guide to let your hosts know where you are going and when to expect you back.)

Map: Raja Ampat dive sites for snorkelers

The map below shows just a few of countless great snorkeling spots in the central Raja Ampat region. Most of these are well known dive sites with great stuff to see within snorkelling depths. The house reef at almost any place you choose to stay will more than likely also have great snorkeling.

Many of the location coordinates marked on this map are from Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock’s book Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat. Check their Secret Sea Visions website for the latest version of this book, which – apart from describing over 200 dive sites in great detail – has a wealth of great information on Raja Ampat and the rest of Indonesia’s Bird’s Head seascape.

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  1. MMurphy on

    Hi,
    Lovely site…thanks for all the wonderful info! Wondering if there are places without strong currents for a beginner snorkeler like me? And would it be possible to find a guide to take my teens snorkeling…..don’t want to let two 13 and 15 year olds who are also beginner snorkelers off on their own. They are good swimmers though.

    1. You’re welcome MMurphy :)

      With the exception of some sheltered bays, almost everywhere in Raja Ampat experiences quite strong tidal currents when the tide is in full flow – but currents are only really a problem if you need to swim against them.

      All homestays provide boats and guides for snorkelling, so – regardless of what the tide is doing – you and your teens should be quite safe if you always go with them.

      The risk is when snorkelling or swimming without a guide or boat nearby, being caught unawares (which is easy if your eyes are on things below the surface!) and being carried away from where you need to come ashore. If snorkelling or swimming from your homestay beach without a guide, it’s safest to time your activity to coincide with the turn of the tides.

      1. MMurphy on

        Thanks a ton for the quick response! Now I just have a figure out a place to stay….cheers!

  2. Jimmy O on

    Four of us are coming next May,2018.
    We are staying in Waiwo Dive resort. We just like to do snorkeling.
    Are we able to snorkel without using the boat? My wife is very sensitive to boat ride because she get sea sick . Or any place where the wave is not too much? Are we able to book a snorkeling trip by the hour? How much is the cost?
    Thanks.

    1. Hello Jimmy

      Stay Raja Ampat supports community owned businesses and we don’t know anything about resorts. You need to ask Waiwo these questions.

  3. Sophia Krul on

    I would like to make a snorkeling trip to Raja Ampat but not staying in a resort but with a boat trip. Wich company do you recommand? And is it possible to have a gide by snorkeling? Do I have to take my own snorkeling gear and cloths or is it aboard (good quality)?

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    1. Hi Sophia

      All homestays in Raja Ampat offer snorkelling boat trips, and most have excellent snorkelling available right off the beach. You’ll find liveaboard style snorkelling trips here. Both homestays and the liveaboard options provide guides.

      It’s best to take your own snorkelling gear so you don’t have any problems with sizes or equipment condition.

  4. Manuel on

    Hey,

    We are coming to Kri next month, And I was wondering if a lycra or even a wetsuit is mandatory or just recommended while snorkelling or if it is necessary at all.

    And what about snorkel fins? Necessary for the strong currents? Or not even recommended?

    Cheers,
    Manuel

    1. Hi Manuel

      A wetsuit is unnecessary as far as water temperature goes, but protection against tiny stingers is not a bad idea. Fins are highly recommended. Currents are strong enough in many places that even with fins you would not be able to swim against them.

      1. Manuel on

        Hi,

        Thanks for the help.

        So what do you recommend as protection against the tiny stingers? Wetsuit? lycra? And what is your experience in buying this gear (Fins and stinger protection) in Indonesia? In Sorong? or on Java? Or elsewhere?

        Cheers,

        1. You’re welcome Manuel. Lycra would be more comfortable. Fins are readily accessible in Sorong and elsewhere in Indonesia, although large sizes are rare. Don’t know about lycra. If you want them, it would be much easier to purchase both at home and bring them with you.

          1. Manuel on

            Thank you so much! This helps a lot.

            Cheers,

            Manuel

  5. Ines on

    Hi guys,
    Thanks for your wonderful site, it’s a great help! Just a quick question: if all goes well I’ll be going to Raja Ampat in November but I’d really like to try and see the mantas. Is November a good time? Is there a “manta season”?

    1. You’re welcome Ines :)

      November should be good. Mantas are usually around at the well known Dampier Strait sites between mid-October and mid-May. (They can also be seen at other times of the year around Meos Manggara.)

  6. Noi on

    Dear Sir,

    I am planing to visit Raja Ampat for 5 days 4 Nights. My team love and can only Snorkeling (Good Snorkeling Places as well as manta place)

    Could you please help us a good plan to aim this?

    Noi

    1. Hello Noi

      The information linked from our step by step guide provides all the information you need to plan a snorkelling trip in Raja Ampat. See the screencast linked at 5. for how to find places with good snorkelling.

  7. Robert Teytaud on

    Hello All –
    This is a great Site – thanks to the authors for making this info available! Wondering if anyone can comment on the quality (and ease of access) of the snorkeling at the “Raja Ampat Biodiversity Resort”, located near the NE tip of Gam Island? Compared to other locations? How about currents?

    Much Appreciated,
    Bob

    1. Thanks Robert :)

      The resort you’re asking about would have very similar snorkelling to the homestays whose beach it shares. See the photo galleries and info on Batu Lima, Yenanas Paradise and Monkairi pages. Tidal currents on the east coast of Gam are not as strong as on the south coast, but you do need to take note of them.

  8. Sonja Rasmussen on

    Hi, I am coming to Sorong for a kiveaboard start Jan 9th 2018, but I arrive 7:00 on the 6th. So I am trying to find out which would be the best snorkle place closest to Sorong, with the easiest to/from transport, as I only have a short time and want to optimise my time while on land.
    Thank you in advance for your input.
    BR Sonja

  9. MariaD on

    Hi, we are planning to visit RA at June (I hope), 5-6 days, only snorkelling. And I have impossible choise betveen Gam and Kri)) We want to see mantas (many mantas)) , I’ve read about Pulau Yefnadi (place with many mantas) at Sunset Homestay page, but can’t find it on the map. And can’t find prices to this place at another Homestays. Maybe you know smth about this or alternative manta points? And, so, what would you reccomend; Gam or Kri, if we need perfect snorkelling (with home reef too) and many budget (!) mantas? ))))
    Thank you for this webpage. It’s really brilliant.

    1. Hi MariaD –

      It really doesn’t matter whether you stay at Gam or Kri in regard to seeing mantas. There are many locations where you can snorkel with mantas. All homestays know of them and can arrange trips there. Of more concern is the timing of your trip: Mantas are usually around from mid-October to mid-May. Going in June doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see any, but the chances of doing so are much higher during the season.

  10. Hartung Hoffmann on

    We are planning to visit Raja Ampat end of July, first half of August. Here my little snorkeling questions:
    -crocodiles: where is the biggest risk/ which places/reefs should be avoided?
    -windy season: the southern coastlines of Kri or Gam can be more affected by waves and wind, is this right? Bantana and Birie should be better/less risky? How about the North western coastline of Waigeo or the Eastern parts of Gam?
    – Are there areas which are difficult to snorkel due to heavy currents

    Due to safety my tip for all snorkelers: get a inflatable buoy as freedivers use it, there you can rest always, you are easy to be seen and you are fixed with a line. Never dive alone. Hart.ng

    1. Hi Hartung –

      It’s best to ask your hosts about crocodiles – they will know better than us!
      If the June-Sept windy season follows historical patterns, then coastlines sheltered from southeast winds are better at that time of year.
      When the tide is running there are strong currents almost everywhere more than a few tens of metres offshore.
      The risk from all of the above can be minimised by going snorkelling with your hosts. It’s always best and safest in Raja Ampat in the company of a local guide.

  11. Riayu Putri on

    Hey i have plan to got to Raja Ampat this year but i’ll only do snorkelling not diving (too bad), kindly advice where’s the best spot for snorkelling to see the beauty of Raja Ampat coral reefs and fishes and everything :)

    All the best!

    1. Hi Riayu –

      All homestays have excellent snorkelling at the door. Some say Kri is best, but Gam, Arborek, Batanta and Manyaifun are easily as good. Regardless of where you go, you won’t be disappointed!

  12. Uwe on

    I will be snorkelling in Raja Ampat and I wonder if a neoprene shorty is sufficient as a protection against jellyfish. Or would you recommend that I should get a long suit even if I only will be snorkelling?

    1. Hi Uwe –

      Yes, a shorty should be sufficient. The jellyfish you’re most likely to encounter are almost invisible, are not dangerous and (assuming you’re not allergic in any way) are not dangerous. In our experience, they are more of an annoyance than painful.

      1. Sara on

        Lycra is really good to wear if it is any box jelly fish around. When I was in Philippine I was wearing thin/light lycra clothes, leggings and a skirt, and had vinegar with me (in a plastic zip-bag) to use as a first aid (the box jellyfish are a deadly jellyfish….). I don’t think this species is so common, but I think that wearing lycra in the sea in Raja Ampat is a good idea, if you love to “safe-up”. What do you think? It can also protect me from the sun . Do you have any idea how common it is in the area, or what season it is more common?

        1. We’ve never heard of anybody encountering box jellyfish in Raja Ampat Sara, but Irukandji type stingers are known to inhabit the entire Indo-Pacific tropics, so it we imagine it would certainly be possible to run across them.

          We don’t believe they are common in Raja Ampat, but that’s only because we’ve never heard any reports of them. We don’t have any information about seasonality in Raja Ampat.

          Wearing lycra is a good precaution for both the reasons you mention, and also because there’s no western standard medical care available in the islands.

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