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Raja Ampat - July 9th-18th 2012
After reading many posts and researching our trip to Raja Ampat (specifically Waisai), I thought I would share our experience with other readers. I hope this information is of help to you. Our total trip price for two people from Sorong to Waisai is at the bottom.
Traveling to Raja Ampat can easily be done on a budget and people do not have to pay a fortune if they don't wish to. There are other less expensive options to choose from besides overpriced hotels and homestays (Marcy's & Najwa/350,000 rupiah per night), overpriced resorts (Waiwo & Raja Ampat Divers Resort/450,000 rupiah per person per night), and very over priced live aboard dive boats (US$3500-$4000 per person for one week). The last option will take you to the BEST dive sites perhaps around, but you will pay dearly for it. Of course, if you have the money, do it up! To do this on a budget only takes a little bit of extra effort, of course, but most definitely worth the savings.
Our main reason to travel to Raja Ampat was for diving and to focus our monies towards diving. We started in Sorong, purchasing our RA Marine Protected Areas tag from the Meridian Hotel across from the airport (500,000 rupiah) (I've also read it can be purchased at the airport and somewhere in Waisai but not too sure where) (UPDATE - RA Marine Protected Areas tag is increasing to 1,000,000 rupiah for foreingers effective August 2012). Sadly purchasing this tag is not enforced as no one checked to see if we had the tag once in Waisai, and we did not meet any other visitor who had purchased the tag (it is suppose to be bought by both foreign and Indonesian visitors). We are happy that we did get it with the hope that the money will make some difference to Raja Ampat, but there is no evidence of this.
We jumped a taxi on the road in front of the Meridien to the harbour for 40,000 rupiah. This can be done for less money very easily, just a heads up. The boat from Sorong to Waisai was 120,000 rupiah and takes approx. 2.5 hours (leaves at 2:00pm).
Once we arrived to Waisai, we took an ojek to Marcy's and Najwa Indah (because they were the cheapest hotels that we had seen from other postings) to check them out. Both were much more then we wanted to pay (and you didn't seem to get much for the price)and they didn't seem interested in bartering their prices down, so we moved on (they also both looked completely empty). This is when we came across Surya Hotel (cost another 10,000 rupiah from Marcy's, but probably only 20,000 from the port). We checked out the rooms at Surya and we were happy to find clean comfortable rooms that match the other hotels and are superior to the home stays for 150,000 rupiah per night. The rooms contain two single beds, fan, bathroom.
Surya Hotel is run by the nicest and most sincere Indonesian people that we have met, two brothers from Sumatra. We only dealt with Michael as the other brother (Frans) was away at the time we were there. They run a store on the first level that supplies much of Waisai and the other islands with goods (so there is no need to go far for snacks, drink, etc.) and it is only a 20-25 minute walk to the market to buy fresh fruit and veggies. There is a great warung (15,000-30,000 per meal) only 15 minutes walk away (but there are lots in town). Michael rents 4 rooms at an unbeatable price and we were able to negotiate for a lower price since we were staying for 9 nights. Michael also speaks fluent English and Chinese and is well versed in Japanese, and is a knowledgeable guy to speak to about many things.
We did 10 dives total over 4 days at Waiwo Dive Resort. We had all of our own gear minus the BCD, so we were able to negotiate 320,000 per dive (normally 350,000 if you do 9+ dives; 550,000 for a single dive). We would take an ojek each morning to Waiwo (15 minute drive) and on the return, we would usually be picked up on the road by a truck once we started walking for free. We eventually bought packs of cigarettes as a thank-you to the drivers that would pick us up (if we gave them money it would just go towards cigarettes anyway). The only side note for diving from Waiwo is that you don't go to the far away sites such as Manta Point (you can if you pay extra though), but we were also there in the off season so it wouldn't have been worth the extra money.
So, you see it is possible to do Raja on a budget, you just need to explore a little bit. Of course there are other islands to go to as well, but these homestays and resorts are pricey as well. Plus once you are at these places there isn't much else to do. At least in Waisai there is a town (albeit a small one) that you can explore and meet more local people than if you were isolated at a homestay. For us, and I am sure many others, this option suited us fine and we had a great stay in Raja Ampat. Also, saving money on accommodation/food lets you put it towards things like SCUBA diving, boat trips to Wayag, etc.
Taxi from Meridian Hotel (walking distance from airport) to boat to Waisai - 40,000
Boat from Sorong to Waisai - 2 x 120,000 = 240,000
Waisai port to hotel Surya by ojek - 2 x 20,000 = 40,000
Hotel to Waiwo Dive Resort by ojek - 50,000 one way
Accommodation for two people - 1,000,000
Diving - 2 x 9 dives x 320,000 = 5,760,000
Food & Drinks (approximately) - 100,000 x 9 days - 900,000
Boat from Waisai to Sorong - 2 x 120,000 = 240,000
Approximate total - 8,000,000 - 8,500,000 rupiah
Contact Info for Surya Hotel - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (remember that response time for email inquiries might not be immediate) or telephone/text message
+6285658232442 or +6281344363030
There is a new option Marley Beach Bungalows starting from Rp.300K comfortable, clean, western managed bungalows with a little house reef. On the main island so you can go and so stuff in the village like banking, local market, Faster internet, 3G now in Waisai and go to some of the different restaurants like Chaya Bone . They rent motorbikes for 100K a day so you are not stuck in one spot.