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Meeting the People of Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is an archipelago of islands off the western tip of West Papua. Many of the islands are tiny and uninhabited, but there are tribes of people spread throughout the archipelago.

Tribes, Culture and Religions

Tribes, Culture and Religions in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

The majority of the people in Raja Ampat are from the Asmat tribe. They are generally traditional fishermen, living in small villages some distance from each other. There are also many people of the Biak tribe and you might come across Batanta people if you visit Batanta Island for the waterfall trek.

These societies are mainly Muslim and Christian, and live harmoniously between these two religions. You may see churches and mosques while traveling in Raja Ampat. Sunday can also be a day of family and community for the Christian community, so be aware that things may slow down a little on this day.

However, the tribes often keep their pre-Christian/Muslim beliefs as well and still practice many ceremonies and traditional arts such as dance. If you get the chance to watch a ceremony or dance, it is an unforgettable experience. The colours, costumes, sounds and sights of these traditions are once-in-a-lifetime spectacles.

The People

The People of Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

The people of Raja Ampat are generally happy, welcoming people, and are happy for you to see their way of life. The children love having their photos taken and spend much of their free time playing and splashing in the water. They will happily perform tricks and jumps off the piers for you to photograph.

Papua Paradise Eco Resort offers a tour of Arefi Village, which is the closest settlement to the resort. On this tour you will meet people going about their daily business and learn a little about their simple, but fulfilling way of life.


Meeting the People of Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

There are several languages used in Raja Ampat and many tribes also use their own dialects. It is common for people of the same tribes to use their mother tongue rather than Bahasa Indonesia. However, when speaking to someone from another tribe, they are likely to use the Indonesian language, which is used country-wide.

English is not widely spoken, but you should always be able to find someone who can speak enough to get by. Many people will be excited to practice their English with you, so even if you can speak some Bahasa or have a guide, it’s a great opportunity to learn a little about these welcoming people.


Sago Desserts Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

Unlike most of Indonesia, where rice is the staple carbohydrate, the people of Raja Ampat eat sago. This is prepared from the pith of the sago palm in a number of different ways. Cassava roots and leaves are also widely eaten. Obviously with such an abundance of fish, seafood is the staple protein. Chicken, tempeh, and tofu are also eaten.

You will probably be offered some of the delicious sweet snacks while visiting the villages of Raja Ampat. Most desserts are made from sago and bananas feature highly in most sweets. Have them with strong black coffee for breakfast to get you going in the morning and as an energy boost during village tours or treks.

A Special Experience in Raja Ampat

Meeting the People of Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

Raja Ampat is a magical place, where nature takes the spotlight. It is however, also home to many wonderful people who are worth taking the time to meet. These people come from a mix of tribes, with age-old traditions that won’t be found anywhere else in the world.

If you’d like to learn more about the people of Raja Ampat, leave us a comment below.

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  1. Ruth Beckett
    April 9, 2018

    We have been talking about Raja Ampat for several years and hope to come in December 2019/January 2020. I am studying cultural anthropology and would like to learn more about the different tribes and people. Maybe learn a few Indonesian words before I visit.

    • Papua Paradise
      April 16, 2018

      Hi Ruth, this sound pretty interesting. We are sending you an email with more information about our resort, location and tours you could do around Raja Ampat to discover more about the tribes and culture of this unique and remote archipelago off of West Papua.

      • Luca
        July 21, 2021


        I am Luca, 53, from Italy… I am cultural Anthropologist too… I’ve lived with URAK LAWOI (Badjo laut) who are animist and speak a bahasa dialect. If everything will be OK with covid situation, I will arrive in Raja Ampat in the end of december.
        I would like to know if a mix of Austronesian and Papuan tribes?


  2. Kim
    July 23, 2022

    Hi! Are there local made goods to buy from the wonderful people?

  3. July 7, 2023

    Looks like a rare beautiful corner of the asia/pacific and the world. Hope it does not get spoiled by over tourism.

    Waigeo and surrounding islands are very reminiscent of not too distant Palau islands to the north in Micronesia.

    Will try to visit one day

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