Among the wonderful Raja Ampat Islands, Waigeo is the largest of the archipelago’s four main islands. Waigeo is also known as Amberi, or Waigiu, located in the West Papua province near the town ofSorong. The three other largest islands in this cluster are Salawati, Batanta and Misool. On Waigeo is the town of Wasai, capital of the Raja Ampat regency, located in the west of the island.
Waigeo is home to a wide range of attractions. It is also the easiest island to reach by public transport, though exploring its full diversity still remains a challenge. Pulau Waigeo offers diving, rock islands, scenic bays walled in by towering cliffs, a jungle interior offering good birdwatching, and the cheapest accommodation options in all of Raja Ampat. All in all, it’s the perfect place to start your exploration of the Raja Ampat cluster.
Waigeo has a wild and jungly interior, much of which is still largely unexplored and inaccessible. There is a large variety of animal species which have made their homes in these jungles. The world renowned crimson Bird-of-Paradise is found here, together with opossums, snakes, tortoises, frilled and giant monitor lizards, plumed herons, and honeyeaters.
One of the most popular attractions in Raja Ampat is the deep sea diving and snorkeling as this is a location with an astonishing amount of marine life. Dive in and swim among the colorful fish groups along the coral reefs. At a depth of approximately 30 meters along the Waiwo Beach, you may get the chance to see white tip reef sharks as well as the black tip reef sharks that are commonly spotted sleeping and sometimes patrolling the blue waters depths.
Aside from diving, Pulau Waigeo has also been bragged as a place for excellent underwater photography due to its bio-diversity and exotic sea creatures. The list of species spotted include a huge variety of nudibranch species, sea dragons, blue-striped flagtail pipefish, pygmy sea horses, green sea turtles, giant napoleon wrasse, and Indian lionfish. There is also an abundant growth of corals and sea fans here that serve as homes for large groups of small fish.
There are some hotel resorts and many home-stays available at Pulau Waigeo, many of which are located directly on the beach.
Although small in size, Pulau Waigeo is full to the brim with adventures and fun excursions to be had by all. Listed below are some of the popular spots of interest on Pulau Waigeo, along with a description of the place and activities available:
Capital of the Raja Ampat Regency, Waisai is a small, laid back little town with a definite untouched feel to it. This is not surprising considering that it was established as the regency’s capital just a couple of years ago. While initial impressions of it may not be luxurious, Waisai does offer travelers the widest range of accommodation options in Raja Ampat, at the lowest prices anywhere on the islands, plus a good range of budget places to eat. Available here are also places to arrange boat charters for touring other islands within Raja Ampat.
A short drive to the west of Waisai, you will find Waiwo Beach. There are rental motorbikes available from Waisai to take you to this beach. This is the easiest excursion from the town as it is the closest and very easily accessible. There is good snorkeling off the long pier here, as well as lots of fish which are very accustomed to human interaction so they will swim right up to your hand if you are offering food. There’s also a good resort for overnight stays with very reasonable prices. Diving gear can also be rented at the tourism office in the resort. If you have more time and are looking to further explore the Raja Ampat cluster, Waiwo is an excellent starting point.
For a quick look about the surrounding jungles, you can hire rental motorbikes to take you up one of the 2 roads that penetrate the hills west of Waiwo, though these roads are not in very smooth condition and walking might be a better option.
The small island of Saonek, just south of Waiwo is home to what used to be the main town of the South Waigeo region before Waisai was established. Nowadays it is a very quiet and peaceful place, but retains the slight feel of a colonial atmosphere with its old traditional houses. There’s also good snorkeling off its wharf.
West of Pulau Saonek itself, close to Waisai’s harbour, is the smaller, uninhabited island of Saonek Munde. It has a nice little beach and a paved hiking trail leading to a monument on the island’s forest-covered “peak”.
About an hour east of Waisai by rental motorbike, you will find 2 waterfalls in a small patch of protected forest. The closer one is visible from the roadside, but the more interesting, multi-tiered one lies a few kilometers deeper into the forest and requires some local knowledge to locate. The fresh water pools here offer a refreshing alternative from swimming in the salty sea water. If you happen to come after the heavy rainy season the waters here are likely to be higher and the falls fuller while during the long dry period this waterfall is at times reduced to as little as a small trickle.
Mayalibit is a large, narrow bay with towering cliffs and looks uniquely different to most of the other bays on Pulau Waigeo or even in the Raja Ampat area due to its great size. This rich, mangrove-lined bay has long been known as a feeding, breeding and nursery ground for fish and home to a school of unidentified species of white dolphin. The area is also an important cultural and spiritual area for the indigenous Mayans of Raja Ampat.
In order to fully explore this bay and take in its full experience, it is recommended to hire a boat which will come with an experienced guide to take you around and explain the sites. There are many small islets, cliff burial sites and several villages as well, which will be difficult to find and explore without someone who knows the area and its history.
This large bay in southwestern Waigeo is the closest place to Waisai where you will be able to catch a glimpse of those amazingly shaped rock islands which Raja Ampat is famous for. They are scattered right around the bay, and come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes. Kayakers could spend days exploring this bay, while if you are only here for the day it is also a complete rewarding outing in itself.
This long bay is located in the west of Pulau Waigeo. Like Mayalibit Bay, it has towering cliffs on its side and it also has a cliff burial site. Deeper inside the bay a is a huge pearl farm that can be visited. This bay offers secure protected waters for the oysters to mature until the pearls are developed.
Birdwatching and Hiking
Waigeo is probably the most interesting island in Raja Ampat for birders, as it is home to both endemic species of the Bird of Paradise, and to the recently rediscovered brush turkey. For the first two, the easiest place for a sighting is to head to the village of Saukorem betwen Waiwo and Kabui Bay. As for the brush turkey, it is usually seen in the hills east of Mayalibit Bay.
If you are going bird-watching you will invariably be doing some hiking as well, including up rather steep hills. Local guides could lead you further up into the mountains too if you would like to venture further off the beaten path. Trails in the area are, for the most part, quite narrow and considerably steep, so it is advisable to have a guide, or someone who has a pretty good knowledge of the area. Sel Pele Bay is also located at Waigeo Island.
The easiest way to get to Raja Ampat is to fly to Sorong from Jakarta or Bali with transit in Makassar or fly by Silk Air from Singapore to Manado and on to Sorong. Domestic Travelers can also fly via Makassar or Manado. Regular flights from Manado to Sorong are offered by Lion Air and Citilink. From Jakarta or Bali, Merpati, Express Air and Wings Air operate daily flights with stopovers in Makassar and/or Manado.
From the Jefman Airport in Sorong you can rent transportation to take you to the Sorong port where you will find several boat options available to take you to Waisai on Pulau Waigeo. The boat ride should take approximately 2 – 3 hours to reach Pulau Waigeo. From there you can hire a motorbike to take you to your homestay or hotel.