Written by Missy Johnston
Sunset in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia
The world has many beautiful places to visit. Often these beautiful places attract millions of tourists every year, making what would otherwise be a peaceful, hidden paradise a little less serene and tranquil. Then there are the beautiful places that still remain that few people know about that retain what makes them so unique and alluring.
One such place is the Raja Ampat section of West Papua, Indonesia, which is best explored and enjoyed by private yacht charter. Charterers find their own little slices of private heaven in secluded anchorages on the island of Misool and are treated to the unique Indonesian culture in places such as Arborek Village.
The history of this area has not always been tranquil and beautiful, but the past has forged a strong and resilient people with a vibrant and active culture.
Here is why everyone should consider embarking at some point in their lives on an Indonesia luxury yacht cruise through the islands of West Papua.
Past History of West Papua, Indonesia
Early inhabitants of West Papua, lived in the area for thousands of years in relative isolation from the rest of the world, and especially from Western culture. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that West Papua became a colony of the Netherlands. This isolation, and the resulting unique culture and strong ethnic traditions, served the West Papuan islanders well for thousands of years. Though the Dutch government colonized Indonesia, it recognized how culturally and ethnically different the people of West Papua were from the Dutch people and culture and agreed to let West Papua declare independence in 1961.
Indonesia has not officially recognized that independence, but the people of West Papua continue to thrive in their culture and their traditions.
Raja Ampat Islands
Local mythology has it that long ago a woman found seven magical eggs. Four of these exploded and became the four islands of Raja Ampat, which means “Four Kings” in the Indonesian language.
The Raja Ampat island chain is a very peaceful and stunningly beautiful archipelago. Tranquil turquoise water and lush trees above the surface give way to coral reefs bursting with life just under the water.
The area is known as the Coral Triangle and hosts a National Marine Park where hundreds of coral formations provide a home for unique marine species. All of Raja Ampat—and Misool Island in particular—is excellent for diving and snorkeling.
Raja Ampat is also a bird lover’s heaven. It is home to many exotic species, including Birds of Paradise. Waigeo, Gam, Kri, Mansuar and Urai are the most popular parts of Raja Ampat for bird watchers, but the whole area is a bird habitat.
The local food in Raja Amput consists of freshly caught and grilled seafood, fresh vegetables, and unique spice blends (mild and hot) that will tempt any palate. A popular specialty is Papeda (sago starch porridge) which is served with savory and spicy yellow fish soup.
Hawksbill Turtle on Coral Reef. Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Misool Island, one of the Four Kings of Raja Ampat, is a gorgeous island full of sculpted limestone rock formations. It doesn’t feature the same beach opportunities as the other islands in the chain, but it offers breathtaking jagged cliff sides and thick, lush vegetation. Among those cliff sides are great stone caves that feature drawings and engravings created more than 5,000 years ago.
Because Misool is so remote—even by the already remote standards of the rest of the Raja Ampat islands—it sees few outsiders. Locals have an incredibly strong and unique culture, filled with folk dances, island cuisine, and a deep love and appreciation for the blessings of nature.
Speaking of nature, scuba divers love to take advantage of Misool’s legendary dive sites. Kaleidoscope, Jamur, and Fiabecet are a handful of examples, but the area provides plentiful opportunities to see marine creatures in their natural habitats. White tip sharks, bamboo sharks, manta rays, clownfish, and bright, colorful coral formations are right below the water’s surface.
The Misool Private Marine Reserve is considered to be a model for preserving biodiverse oceans. Much work has gone into taking care of existing coral reefs and creating new ones, which ensures an optimal environment for marine life.
October through March are the best times to visit Misool Island, as well as the other Raja Ampat islands. The rest of the year is monsoon season, where intense tropical downpours are almost a guarantee.
Arborek Village, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia
The marine habitats around the Raja Ampat islands are very appealing, but there is as much to explore on land as there is at sea.
Arborek Village is a prime example of how the Papuan people honor their culture and traditions while welcoming Western travelers.
West Papuans have established Arborek Village as a deliberate tourist stop. Here they welcome visitors, share stories, while vacationers enjoy the stunning natural beauty and their rich traditions, while preserving their treasured way of life elsewhere. They receive the benefits of tourism in exchange for providing tourists with a rare glimpse into traditional Papuan life. Charterers enjoy songs, dance, and local stories while they dine and spend time with the locals. In return, the locals ask them to respect their clear rules for the preservation of their environment.
Villagers work hard to keep their marine park in pristine conditions and prevent over-development of the area and keep their villages with their unique way of life and culture intact all to be seen and enjoyed on a private yacht charter of Raja Ampat out of Sorong, Indonesia.