Kri Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
This is our second trip to Raja Ampat, and to Kri Island. We came here last year (also in February) and loved it so much we had to come return this year! This second trip was particularly special as this is where we got engaged! Guillermo planned an amazing surprise proposal for this trip, on a private beach with no one around – it was just perfect!
It is not an easy place to get to, however, that’s part of what makes it amazing – you will not have to share this amazing archipelago with groups of tourists. We already live in Asia (Singapore) and it took us over 13 hours to get here; 3 flights and one boat.
We flew from Air Garuda both times from Singapore. The first time we flew Singapore → Jakarta → Makassar → Sorong. This time round we flew Singapore → Jakarta → Manado → Sorong.
The first option reduces your total journey time by around 6 hours, however, it is much more tiring as you fly throughout the night with a few hours of transit between each flight (and the domestic airports in Indonesia are very basic, with not much to keep you entertained). The second option includes an overnight stay in Manado, allowing you to arrive in Raja fresh and able to enjoy the day (when we flew overnight the first time we fell asleep as soon as we reached the resort and wasted the entire day).
Once we arrived in Sorong staff from Papua Diving (the company that owns Kri Eco Resort) were waiting for us to take us to a nearby hotel for a complimentary breakfast. The breakfast was decent, but nothing special, however, sitting on the rooftop terrace where it was served felt very relaxing after a long voyage. Papua Diving takes all of its guests here whilst they await their boat transfer to Raja. This allows you to meet guests that will be staying with you at Kri Eco Resort or at the sister resort, Sorido Bay.
The boat ride to Kri Eco Resort takes about 2 hours, and both years on these boat rides we were lucky enough to see pilot whales. The first year it was one huge pilot whale that was slowly passing by our boat, and the second year we were greeted by a pod of about 50 pilot whales – such an incredible experience. We got to watch this pod for about 5 minutes before they all disappeared under the water. As if the whales weren’t enough, both years we had dolphins following our boat, joyfully jumping out of the water.
We spent one week at Kri Eco Resort (you can choose from 1 week, 10 days or 2 week packages there), and it was heaven, just like last year. The packages include 3 meals a day, which included of plenty of veggie and vegan options and sustainably sourced fish. Guests can pick from three types of bungalows: (1) the most basic ones (890 euros per person, for 7D8N), with the smallest rooms and located on the jetty with shared bathrooms, (2) the mid range one (1,089 euros per person, for 7D8N) located on the shore with shared bathrooms, (3) and the most luxurious ones (1,357 euros per person, for 7D8N) located on the shore with a balcony that looks out onto the ocean and with private bathrooms.
Both years we have stayed in the mid range ones (this year we got 15% off because it was our second visit), which comprises of a decent sized bedroom and porch overlooking the house reef (with a little ladder you can climb down to get into the water). The bathrooms are not located in your bungalow but 1 minute away, and shared with the other basic and mid-range bungalow guests. We found this really strange the first time, and it took some getting used to, but it actually wasn’t a big deal in the end. The same applies for the showers – the water is a mixture of fresh and salt water, so it does leave a slight salty residue on your skin/hair.
The resort has a terrace on the jetty with beanbags and hammocks where you can relax in the shade (the sun is so strong in Raja that after a few hours of snorkelling / swimming reading in these hammocks felt like heaven), and watch the sunset at night just before the bell for dinner is rung.
There are also volleyball court, where Guillermo played with the locals on their day off on Sunday, as well as kayaks and paddleboards. We kayaked to a nearby sandbed in the middle of the ocean. It was pretty difficult to get there and back with the strong currents that surround it (takes under 30 minutes each way), but it was well worth it to feel like we had our own private island in the middle of the ocean.
The diving / snorkelling
The diving and snorkeling is amazing in Raja, we found it even better than in the Great Barrier Reef. Kri Eco resort has a house reef that you can explore from jumping off the jetty. Snorkeling around the reef we saw sea turtles, an octopus, black tip reef sharks, a school of about bumphead parrotfish crunching on coral, moray eels, and endless number of coral and starfish.
The highlight of our diving trips was Manta Sandy, where we sat on the floor at 17m down and watched about 10 oceanic mantas (4 meters wide) come get cleaned at this famous “cleaning station”. There were also a lot of mantas on the surface of the water and we were able to snorkel with them while they fed. The other dive sites we loved included Cape Kri, Blue Magic and Sardine Reef where we saw numerous black tip sharks, wobbegong sharks, turtles and various schools of fish.
Another snorkelling/dive site we would highly recommend is “the passage”, a waterway between Gam and Waigeo, which is filled with soft corals of every colour.
The surrounding areas
Marine life aside, Raja has some incredible landscapes. One of our favourites, Hidden Bay, is a bay of mangroves with bright green water. Unfortunately, the bay has a resident saltwater crocodile making it too dangerous for people to snorkel there, but observing it from the boat is impressive enough.
Near hidden bay are Mushroom Islands, which are steep limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation that looks like big mushrooms. You can swivel around these by boat and take in the natural beauty.
One of our favourite spots in Raja is the viewpoint at Kabui Bay to see breathtaking views of the typical Raja Ampat islands (the ones you see when you Google-search Raja Ampat).
The viewpoint is owned by a local homestay and you have to pay a small fee (we don’t remember how much exactly, but less than 10USD) and climb to the top (wear shoes that hold – no flip flops). This viewpoint really leaves you in awe and is a must do when in Raja.