Indonesia is well known for its outstanding diving, and nowhere more so than Raja Ampat. This 15,000 square mile area of diving heaven encompasses 1,500 islands off of West Papua. With reefs teeming with over 1,500 species of coral and 500 species of fish, this is an absolute goldmine for underwater photographers. Read on for our quick underwater photography guide to Raja Ampat.
Where to Dive
Depending on what kind of photography you like, there are different dive sites you should definitely visit. Papua Paradise Eco Resort runs day trips to the Fam Islands, The Passage and don’t forget you can also spend time on the resort’s house reef where Dugongs sometimes visit.
You can work out an itinerary of dive sites that interest you most, but you will never be disappointed in Raja Ampat. Each dive site holds pristine and often rainbow-coloured coral, incredibly abundant marine life, and sights you may never have seen before.
If you like getting up close and personal with your subjects, you’ll love Raja Ampat. Most reefs have some form of macro life – gobies, pipefish, frogfish, and nudibranchs.
There are several bays around Batanta Island, just a short boat ride from Papua Paradise, where ghost pipefish, octopus and many different types of nudibranchs thrive. It’s also not uncommon to see a variety of pygmy seahorses while diving as Raja Ampat is home to at least 5 species.
Also keep an eye out for the gorgeous flasher wrasse, including one endemic to Raja Ampat. These fish often display later in the afternoon.
There are endless opportunities for photograph pelagics and large schools of fish as well. Grey, whitetip and blacktip reef sharks can be seen at most dive sites and are fabulous photography subjects. If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, the tassled wobbegong shark is a strange looking bottom-dwelling shark with incredible camoflague.
Manta rays are quite common in Raja Ampat, especially at Manta Sandy and a local spot close to Papua Paradise Eco Resort. You can easily spend hours with the mantas and other kinds of rays, who are rarely bothered by divers and underwater photographers.
Large schools of fish of all different species with a crazy variety of colours, sizes and shapes shoal around the islands. Every dive spot offers a new photography opportunity.
Of course it’s not only the marine life that is photogenic. The variety of habitats is also mind-blowingly diverse. Every dive is a new adventure into caves, shallow reefs, mangroves, white and black sand, drop-offs, seagrass beds and a banquet of coral.
Some of the most incredible photographs come from the stunning array of coloured corals that create a dreamlike backdrop. The pretty-much constant sunshine from above is the perfect setting for photographs to really shine.
What Equipment to Take
You’ll need to be prepared with macro and wide angle equipment or a compact camera that can do both. For super macro species like pygmy seahorses, you definitely want to have a diopter for magnification.
Light-wise you may need a set of strobes to enhance the colours of the reef. They are also useful for deeper darker dives where the natural light can’t reach as well.
You also want to make sure you have plenty of extra memory cards and batteries to make the most of your time underwater. What could be worse than running out of battery power or memory on a once-in-a-lifetime dive!
This is just a brief guide to underwater photography in Raja Ampat, but we would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the subject. Just leave us a question in the comments below and we’ll get back to!