Our journey to Raja Ampat started with a flight from Denpasar to Sorong, with an overnight stopover in Makassar. We spent the night in the airport waiting for the connecting flight to Sorong at 3am. We also traveled forward in time again, as Papua is 7 ahead of Cape Town, as opposed to Bali, which is 6 hours ahead.
When we arrived in Sorong, we got a taxi to the harbour, where we caught the ferry to Waisai. At Waisai we met our host Musa, who transported us on his longboat to his homestay. The longboat journey took about 2 hours through rough seas and heavy rain, so when we arrived at Dugong Homestay, we were completely drenched.
We were the only guests at Dugong Homestay on Batanta island, so we literally had the entire beach and walk-able part of the island to ourselves for 8 days. Our accommodation was a wooden beach hut on stilts situated on the beach, so at high tide, the water would be under the hut. In true island style, we had a hammock on the balcony, and the room consisted of a mattress on the floor, with a large mosquito net.
We would sit on the balcony and watch the baby black tip reef sharks and other fish swim directly below us in the crystal clear blue water. On our first evening there, we had not even been in the water yet, and we had already spotted an octopus, a sea snake, black tip reef sharks, a blue spotted stingray, and walking sharks. All this from just sitting on our balcony and walking along the beach looking into the water. The sea was filled with so much wild life that we were very excited to go snorkeling the next day.
There is nothing on the island except for the homestay, with the beach huts, so there is nothing but dense jungle behind. No shops, no restaurants, no stores, literally nothing but jungle. This meant that there was no noise pollution from other people, only the sounds of nature all day and night. As soon as night began to fall, the sound of frogs started to get louder and louder. We thought from the level of noise there would have to be hundreds of them behind us in the jungle. We went to investigate and were excited to see loads of red eyed, green tree frogs in the trees all over the place. We had only ever seen frogs like this in books, so it was awesome to see them in real life.
Apart from the frogs, there was loads of huge ‘locust like’ insects that would make a loud sharp hissing sound, and there was also loads of crickets. Combined, the sounds coming from the jungle each night, as well as the sound of the waves lapping under the house was really loud, but relaxing.
Some other interesting wild life we saw was the abundance of large spiders and ants everywhere, but they tended to keep to themselves, so we didn’t have any problems. We also had some resident fruit bats flying around every night, so we had the brainiac idea of offering them some fruit in a ‘banana trap’, so that we could get a closer look at them. We would break a banana into pieces every night, and place the pieces onto the balcony. Sooner or later we would hear the flapping of a bat, as it would circle the hut, until it eventually would land, steal some banana, and fly away again. We used this ‘trap’ to take some pictures of one of the bats up close while he was stealing some banana.
When you don’t have a tv or internet connection, you create your own nature programs to watch! The only downside to being so close to nature, is that we were eaten alive by mosquitoes.
The main reason for our visit to the island, was for the amazing snorkeling at the house reef, and the surrounding islands. We were not disappointed at all. Some of the other islands we visited for snorkeling while at Dugong Homestay was Way island, Urun island, and Dayan island. Every day we had some rain, but there was also opportunity to snorkel, and every day we saw amazing fish and coral.
One of the days Musa took us for a boat trip to the Mangrove forest, where we stopped and hiked to a waterfall. The mangrove forest was beautiful and creepy at the same time, we enjoyed it a lot.
Snorkeling every day was amazing….the water was crystal clear and bright blue, and we could see an unbelievable amount of beautiful corals and fish every time. We would have a great moment with each snorkel, from shark sightings, to sting rays, nudibranchs, moray eels, turtles and other amazing fish.
Being the only guests, we felt like we were on our own private island. Musa was the only other full time inhabitant, and he would leave us to our own devices until we wanted to go to another island, or somewhere where we needed transport. Every day we were served breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner meals, which were all ‘island style’ vegetarian. So lots of rice and noodles dishes!
During low tide we would go strolling along our beach looking for signs of life….we would watch the mud skippers skimming across the water, the strange molluscs cruising through the sea grass, and also do some bird watching. There was large cockatoo birds that would come and make a noise while they ate the nuts from the tree above our hut, and also a few other king fisher and other types of interesting birds that would come to eat the baby fish at low tide.
We also enjoyed ‘treasure hunting’ every day, where we would walk along the beach trying to find beautiful unbroken shells. The beach is so pristine that all the ‘good’ shells are still available to find, so we got many cowry and other awesome shells on our treasure hunting missions.
The beach was always interesting….there was always something to look at, even if it was just the many hermit crabs and other little critters running around. The bigger crabs tended to come out at night, so we would do a night time beach walk every night to see who was out and about.
View the video!
Watch the video below of some of our snorkeling at Dugong Homestay and the surrounding islands.