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Dive Review of Papua Explorers Resort in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Papua Explorers Resort: "Paradise Found!", Nov, 2015,

by Sandy Falen, KS, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 27 reports with 16 Helpful votes). Report 8639 has 3 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Raja Ampat. Utter the name among experienced divers, and you'll likely receive wistful expressions and whispers of "someday" in response. Knowing well that life's surprises can easily make "someday" vaporize, I steeled myself for the arduous travel, sucked up the extra expense, and booked that fantasy trip to the legendary "Four Kings" archipelago of Indonesia.

Papua Explorers (PE) is a relatively new, intimate dive resort on Gam Island - a two-hour boat ride from Sorong, in the West Papua Province of Indonesia. Getting there takes some fortitude: I crossed the Pacific in a 13-hour haul from Dallas to Tokyo, quickly followed by an 8-hour flight to Jakarta, site of my first overnight stop. The next afternoon, I boarded a 2-hour, Garuda Air flight to Makassar, on the southern end of Sulawesi, and made my second overnight stop. Early the next morning, another 2-hour Garuda flight deposited me in Sorong, where I was greeted by PE rep and escorted to a modern hotel where I could relax, have breakfast, use wifi, and wait for the other incoming guests to arrive. At the appointed noon hour, we were all whisked to a nearby harbor for the 2-hour crossing to Gam Island. I thought it was a fine omen when our boat was greeted along the way by dozens of cavorting dolphins — the largest single pod I've ever seen. It was definitely a sign of good things to come.

As we approached our destination, the view of PE's 14 overwater bungalows, open-air restaurant, dock and dive shop did not disappoint: it is every bit as beautiful as the photos on the website. The "welcoming committee" included a large contingent of PE staff and traditional Papuan music. Guest information forms had been completed and provided electronically prior to travel, so only signatures were required, along with certification cards, dive insurance cards, and passports. No filling out long forms! Why doesn't everyone do it that way?

After a brief orientation and a tasty lunch, we were escorted to our Papuan-style, over-water bungalows. The stunning view of the ocean and neighboring islands is maximized by an entire wall of windows and doors that slide open to the large veranda. I spent a lot of topside time swinging in my hammock or reclined in one of two comfy lounge chairs… or observing the clown anemone fish, Picasso trigger fish, striped catfish, and other shallow water residents surrounding my bungalow.

I stayed in one of the two smaller (but still generously sized) bungalows among the 14 available. Selecting the smaller accommodation allowed me to avoid the dreaded single supplement, which I thought was thought was a great deal and a rare offer among dive resorts. I found the room spacious and equipped with everything I could want: comfortable king size bed with mosquito net/canopy, two nightstands, large desk, armoire, side chair and table, water cooler, hot water pot for coffee and tea making, ceiling fan, and small table fan. Electrical outlets (there were plenty) were European style 2-pin, so take an adapter or two. The bathroom was roomy, with a large vanity, on-demand hot water shower, and toilet. The entire bungalow and its furnishings were made locally with natural hardwoods and palm thatch. It was lovely, atmospheric, and superbly comfortable. There is no air conditioning, and none was needed.

The dive schedule includes a 2-tank morning boat that departs at 8:00, and a single-tank afternoon boat at 3:00. Dusk dives on the house reef were available for the asking, and night dives are scheduled as requested. Surface intervals on the morning boat were spent at one of many lovely beaches or at a local village pier, accompanied by hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, and snacks such as homemade donuts and fresh coconut. Boat rides typically ranged from 10 to 25 minutes.

PE has six boats in its fleet, and they put no more than six divers on a boat. My happy group included four fun Aussies and a gentleman from Japan. All were experienced, well-traveled divers who spent eight days discovering the reefs of Raja Ampat together, and all had the same reaction: We were, as one of my new friends so aptly phrased it, gobsmacked.

In thirty years of diving the Caribbean and the Pacific, I have simply never seen anything like Raja Ampat. I didn't think such reefs existed. The diversity of coral species, the quantity of healthy hard and soft corals, and the variety and sheer abundance of fish life has to be seen to be believed. Rather than drifting along "hunting" for fish to photograph, I was visually bombarded with more fish than my eyes and brain could register. My head was constantly spinning, and it was often impossible to figure out where to look. My favorite site was Cape Kri, a veritable fish soup with every tropical species I had ever heard of (and some that I hadn't), shooting past me in the lively current. At Otdima, the top of the reef is a rocket ride of a safety stop: we flew over a non-stop expanse of healthy hard coral that seemed the length of at least two football fields. A reef hook seemed like a grand plan, but it was nearly impossible to find any dead coral in which to plant it! I didn't complain about the inconvenience.

The first boat dive of the 9-day run, at Ransiwor, included yellow leaf scorpion fish, an enormous field of lettuce coral, baby sweetlips, and a "rare" tasseled Wobbegong shark. The Wobbegong may be rare in other waters, but we spotted them almost daily, and sometimes 2-3 on a single dive. At Kubaran, an enormous school of at least 40 bumphead parrotfish thundered across the reef like a herd of buffalo.

Constantly present on the reefs of Raja were huge spadefish, moray eels, puffer fish, angel fish, bigeyes, coral groupers, anemone fish, and adorable juvenile yellow trunkfish. Clouds of fairy anthias and fusiliers adorned the reef with color and constant motion. Swarms of glassy sweepers were tucked under coral ledges near tightly-formed schools of sweetlips. Blacktip reef sharks were frequently seen cruising along the edge of the reef. Turtles, greens and hawksbills, rested on the reef and floated on the surface. Huge schools of jacks formed virtual walls of fish. Smaller bait fish massed in clouds, their assembly frequently broken by attacks from by larger predators, including dogtooth tuna and flying formations of barracuda. On the tiny end of the fish spectrum, the dive guides were able to point out pgymy seahorses on several occasions. (A magnifying glass is a great bonus to have in your bc pocket.)

If you visit Raja Ampat, don't miss the chance to dive the Passage, the channel between Gam and Waigo Islands. This narrow passage effectively forms a "river" and a unique micro-climate, where divers enjoy can a ripping ride and an occasional detour into side pockets of swim-through caves and gorgeous soft corals.

The diving here ranges from slow and relaxing to mask-ripping currents, with more of the latter — so the conditions here are more suited for experienced divers. Water temps were delightful — usually 80 to 82, although we hit some thermoclines now and then.

Service was outstanding. There were always two dive guides in the water, and often there two boat crew topside, as well — all to care for only six divers. The guys were genuinely warm and were always there to help divers gear up, hand down a camera, lift up your gear after the dive, steady you as you climbed back on board, and hand you a cup of fresh water. Out of the 23 dives I completed during my stay, there was only one that was a disappointment - and the response to my concerns was met with professional consideration and an exemplary effort to make my last dive impossible to forget — and it was.

Service in the dining room was also exceptional. Buffet style meals were served at 7:00, 1:00, and 7:00. Freshly made snacks were available every day at 5:00. The food, while not gourmet, was varied and tasty. Fresh fish was fantastic and beautifully prepared. There were always vegetarian options, as well as beef or chicken, fresh baked breads and rolls, salads, vegetables, fresh fruit, desserts, coffee, and tea. Beer, wine, and sodas were available at an additional charge.

If you plan a trip to Raja Ampat, figure on a two week schedule. This place is too far and too special to stay less than ten nights. I could have shaved one overnight stop off my outbound travel itinerary, had I been willing to fly a domestic airline other than Garuda. My research, and recommendations from Indonesian natives, convinced me not to consider another carrier. On my return trip, only one overnight stop was required, in Jakarta.

The reservation process was easy, with good communication via email. You'll prepay your entire PE package price by wire transfer, in Euro, prior to travel. Payment by credit card was not an option. If you're nervous about that, buy travel insurance. Study their add-ons (special dive itineraries, bird watching trips, etc) on their web site, and plan on carrying enough cash to pay for them and any tip you wish to add, at the end of your stay. They accept Indonesian Rupiah, Euros, or US dollars. I got some Rupiah at an airport ATM when I first arrived in Jakarta, just for mad money while I traveled to & from my destination. I didn't need them at all at PE.

Wifi is available in the common areas, but not in the bungalows, so unplug and enjoy your surroundings. You must have dive insurance, and there is a recompression chamber about 45 minutes from PE. Take an SMB, and a reef hook if you have (I borrowed one from the shop but I'll buy my own before I return). The rental gear is limited here -- come prepared with your equipment in good condition, and some backup items (mask, computer), if possible. Nitrox is available and included in the package price, and the mix was usually 32%.

Raja is in the malaria zone, so consult your doctor about anti-malarial drugs well in advance of travel.

This wasn't a cheap trip, but Papua Explorers is an excellent value for the caliber of diving, particularly when compared to the well-known liveaboards that ply these waters. We saw them daily, diving the same sites we were -- so you'll get liveaboard diving without the liveaboard price or confinement.

As a diver of thirty years, I can say absolutely that this was the finest diving of my life. I can't imagine having missed this experience. I'm already looking at the calendar and contemplating a return.

Websites Papua Explorers Resort   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Most of the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Palau, Sulawesi, Kosrae, Fiji
Closest Airport Sorong Getting There You have to want to get there enough to make the effort: Tokyo, Jakarta, Makassar, then Sorong was my route.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 80-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 2
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dives are limited to one hour. They ask divers not to go below 90 feet and to avoid deco.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments There is a very nice camera room next to the dive shop and dock. No special facilities on the boat.
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Report currently has 3 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By kathleen lynch in galveston, TV at Nov 15, 2015 07:53 EST  
Good report. May I ask how long the boat rides to the sites were? Tthankyou
By report author: Sandy Falen in KS, US at Nov 15, 2015 10:43 EST  
As noted in the last sentence of paragraph six, most sites were 10-25 minutes. The Passage is a longer trip of around 45 minutes each way. The water was flat and the boat rides delightful, with stunningly beautiful scenery.
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