Kofiau Island in Raja Ampat : A Diver’s Paradise

” … when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent. ”  – Dave Barry

Off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea in Indonesia’s West Papua province lies a unique little island among the Raja Ampat Archipelago or Four Kings Islands. Kofiau Island is the smaller and least visited amongst the major islands in Raja Ampat, the world’s coral diversity bull’s eye. This island is comprised primarily of raised coral limestone and some volcanic hills covered in low lush rainforest, all offering a wealth of nature & beautiful scenery. If you ever wanted to go where few others have been, head this way. There are 43 islands in Kofiau totaling 55,735 acres of land and 206,802 acres of marine area. While Kofiau’s tropical rain forest is home to the endemic and rare Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher, Kofiau Monarch and Kofiau Green-tree Python, its marine life boasts some of the highest marine diversity recorded anywhere on the planet.

Kofiau islands villages, Raja Ampat
Kofiau islands villages, Raja Ampat (Source : seacology.org)

In the past, the illegal dynamite fishing and poisonous chemical fishing caused a lot of damage to the coral. As part of the preservation of natural resources in the Raja Ampat region, two international institutions named CI (Conservation International) and TNC (The Nature Conservancy) have been set up on the island of Kofiau, which is one of seven MPAs (Marine Protected Area) in the Raja Ampat Archipelago.

The Kofiau island in Raja Ampat
The Kofiau island in Raja Ampat (Source : panoramio.com)

With so many islands making up Kofiau, the three original villages are all located on smaller islands off the coast, while new villages have only recently been developed on Kofiau Proper. The people in these villages, namely Deer, Dibalal and Tolobi are provided with sports equipment, elementary-school and teaching supplies, a solar-powered refrigerator and basic medical equipment for their health-care centres in exchange for over 41,000 acres of no-take Marine Protected Area (MPA) for 10 years.

ACTIVITIES

There are no tourist accommodations on Kofiau Island but you can stay in the villages, or just cruise around the Archipelago and go island or dive-spot hopping on one of the many scheduled cruises available from Sorong or Bali.

Swimming and sunbathing on the beaches, snorkeling, diving and underwater photography in marine-rich coral reefs. Take care not to damage the coral anywhere in these areas which are more likely no-take zones. Exploration by dingy, shore hiking, beachcombing.

Diving, Kofiau island
Diving, Kofiau island (Source : indonesia.travel)

Take an adventurous hike to an inland lake opposite Deer Village. Hopefully if you’re lucky, somewhere along the way you may witness the dance of the dazzling red bird of paradise, or glimpse a slithering Kofiau Green-tree python, or catch the flapping of passing hornbills, or hear shrieks of the crested cockatoo.

To the southwest of Kofiau Proper lie a group of flat sandy islands, including Walo where a couple of recognized dive spots await your exploration. There may even be more.

GET THERE

It takes six hours by flight from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia to Sorong in North West Papua. You may also fly to Sorong from Bali.

At Sorong, join a tour by pinisi boat from there to Kofiau, or charter a boat or yacht from the Papua Diving Resort. Scheduled trips with full service (most on live-aboards) are organized for visiting the area.

Tips

The Raja Ampat area, which includes Kofiau Island, is an all-year-round destination, but the best time is October to November.

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