I barely know how to begin when I describe the Papua Paradise Eco Resort in Raja Ampat, but let me start at the beginning.
As one of our favorite Fuqua couples (Gloria & Brian) is also enjoying the expat life in Jakarta, Indonesia, we decided we had to figure out a way to meet up, and with diving in common it was easy to narrow down our destinations. We’d both heard of Raja Ampat, but the more we researched about it, the more glorious it seemed. Only 3 problems: 1. Getting there, 2. Limited Hotel selection, 3. Limited information on 1 & 2. But when we came across Papua Paradise Eco Resort we knew it was a match made in heaven because they answered so many of the questions for us.
First, the glowing reviews of this place are unparalleled, plus they laid out all of the details about flights, boats & arrangements that it made it seem fairly simple. (Still was a bit of a puzzle, with flights only a couple times per week, limited boat transfer days, unexpected flight disappearances, required in-transit overnight stays, etc.) I mention all this to emphasize how remote the area is. While annoying logistically, these travel hurdles make the islands feel even more remote and untouched. Luckily, having our own personal travel agent, Brian Helminski, made the process even simpler! Not to mention, we had 2 more travelers on our trip! Dave, also fellow Fuquan, and his gf, Kristen.
No way anything can go wrong with handwritten plane tickets... I'd say about 5 people claimed to have seat 21C after I was already sitting in it
After 2 flights from Bali, our driver picked up the whole 2DiveCrew and took us to the pier for the Papua Paradise boat to the resort. Now, this dock is a little dingy, but luckily Papua’s boat was geared up for the last leg of our trip, an hour at sea. All along we kept joking that “the website photos were fake, there are no bungalows, we can’t go scuba diving, etc.” But once the line of bungalows tucked into the jungle appeared on the horizon (right corner), we knew we were destined for a magical experience.
The resort is located on the shore of the uninhabited island of Birie, Raja Ampat. I will say, I feel incredibly lucky for all the places I’ve been in my life, including some stunning beaches, scenery, islands, etc. However, I can say, without a doubt, this is the most remote location I have ever visited. The resort is the only one on the small island and only houses 16 bungalows. We didn't see anyone else during our time here with the exception of another local family at one of our dive rest stops on a different island. While the resort does make an effort to provide for activities outside of diving, it’s really all about the ocean. No pool, no real beach, no spa, but you never for a second miss any of those things. It’s beyond serene.
Here’s a typical day:
8:00am: depart for morning dives
8-11am: 2 dives and submerse yourself in underwater heaven
11:30am: return to resort for lunch & afternoon nap
2:00pm: another dive adventure
5:30pm: dusk dive: when all the night creatures come out! :)
8:00pm: laughing til in hurts while playing Catchphrase
8:00pm: laughing til in hurts while playing Catchphrase
#2DiveCrew (stolen from Brian)
Just a couple highlights:
- Raja Ampat ranks as #1 for underwater biodiversity. There are more marine species here than anywhere! And in a more condensed area, meaning it constantly feels like you're swimming in an aquarium.
- Leah & Chris made the whole process simple and seamless with every dive. With never more than 4 divers to guide and always pointing out all the things we never would’ve seen on our own.
- Things we saw on our dive (we didn’t take our GoPro, but luckily Dave & Brian took some amazing shots / videos. I’ll be sure to share those later! For now, you get the book & internet pilfered pics….
- So many corals types!!! Unreal! [75% of all known coral species in the world]
- Nudibranchs aka. neon flat worms. Apparently, there continues to be new discoveries of different species of these little guys, and divers in the area have an obsession with finding them all! (There’s even a Flickr page dedicated to these suckers: The Flatworms Pool, at which point I learned there is a significant difference between a Flatworm & a Nudibranchs, which people can get snippy about...)
- Starfish galore
- Sea turtles
- Mantis shrimp (apparently they have the most advanced eyes, but not enough brain capacity to process all the details their eyes can see)
- Nemos! aka. Clownfish (actual dive pic stolen from David Watts' fb page!)
- While there was no Wally this time (first photo from Great Barrier Reef), we did see a school of these big guys! Bumpheaded parrotfish.
- Tropical fish heaven. I kept saying I felt like I was in an aquarium. There were bold and beautiful fish EVERYWHERE! Above, below, in front, next to. It was so fun. [1,430 species of reef fish in Raja Ampat.]
- It wasn’t necessarily about the big guys, but really just the abundance of everything
- The bungalows were situated above a shark nursery. Meaning, every morning, afternoon, dusk, we could peak over our balcony and see sharks swimming below (black-tipped reef sharks)
- The “house reef” was crazy amazing! In our downtime we spent snorkeling just a hop off the dock. We even did a scuba dive off the house reef.
- I had a cloud obsession. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen clouds in Shanghai. What I didn't take in underwater photos I MORE than made up for in sky photos (see below)...
- Aside from our amazing & experienced hosts: Leah & Chris, the resort trains & employs locals from the Raja Ampat villages.
- Everything is eco-friendly and the resort does their absolutely best to minimize any impact to the natural ecosystem: eco soaps, minimal waste, reusable energy sources, etc
If you are looking for a new diving spot to try out, this is absolutely worth the trip. I can’t speak more highly of the Papua Paradise Eco Resort in Raja Ampat. YOU NEED TO VISIT HERE!!!
For more pics, visit one of our guides: Chris Hamilton’s Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chphotographic/ He has fancy equipment and the pics are unreal! But they are real because we saw it! :) (I’ll also send a link out to the Watts/Helminski pictures & blog soon!)
Gloria taking it all in...
a little dusk snorkeling
sudden scuba storm
adios Leah & Chris! Thanks for everything!
Gloria, Brian, David & Kristin, let's go again!