Raja Ampat is a remote region of West Papua and therefore has an amazing selection of endemic species. Over 35 species of fish and up to 40 corals are endemic to this region. Some of these species are very rare, some can be seen often while diving in the region. If you’re diving in Raja Ampat you can definitely hope to tick at least a few of this incredible species off your ‘to see’ list.
Papuan Garden Eel
This species is a relatively new discovery, only having been classified for the first time in 2010. This small Heteroconger species hides in the sand and in dens in the sea floor. They are only around 60cm long, hence the difficulty in finding them.
For your best chance of spotting a Papuan Garden Eel you’re going to have to dive at around 15-20 metres in Cederawasih Bay or in the clean white coral sand in the Kaimana region. You’ll also need to get very close to the sand, stay very still and be extremely patient.
Mantis shrimp are found in many regions of the world, but there are actually an incredible 8 endemic species of mantis shrimp found in Raja Ampat alone! Many of these mantis shrimp are incredibly colourful and amazing to photograph.
Look in burrows and on sand and rubble slopes at around 25-30 metres for these critters. They should stand out thanks to their rainbow of armor.
Raja Ampat Epaulette Shark
Raja Ampat is well known for its ‘walking’ sharks and this one just happens to be endemic. These sharks are bottom feeders that like to use their fins to ‘walk’ on the seabed even when the water is deep. They only measure around 1.25 so they are a far cry from the type of sharks you might be used to seeing on TV but they are impressive nonetheless.
You’ll usually find these sharks in the shallows, sometimes at just a metre or so down. The Papua Paradise Eco Resort house reef and Arborek Jetty are favorite places to spot these unique creatures.
Tasseled Wobbegong Shark
Another strange and unusual species that is only found in Raja Ampat is Eucrossorhinus dasypogon. This is a type of carpet shark that flattens itself to the ocean floor waiting for prey. It doesn’t have to do much except open and close its mouth rapidly as the vacuum it creates sucks its dinner right in.
Another amazing fact about wobbegongs is that they are ovoviviparous. This means that the female incubates her eggs in her womb, but the babies hatch still inside the uterus and are then born alive. Incredible right!?
Above the water there are also endemic species to be found. On the island of Waigeo, and possibly Batanta, you may see Spilocuscus papuensis, a type of marsupial in the family Phalangeridae. Both genders of this species are whitish with black spots unlike other species that differ from male to female.
This species is protected because of the very small area it is found, but they are still quite common. You can trek in the jungles of Waigeo and Batanta where they are seen in the trees.
Birds of Paradise
Of course this list isn’t complete without the famous birds of paradise. Raja Ampat is home to Wilson’s Bird of Paradise and the Red Bird of Paradise, which are found nowhere else.
Birding tours to see both of these species can be organized through Papua Paradise Eco Resort and you can also read more about them here: Papua Paradise Tours
There are many more endemic species in Raja Ampat not mentioned here, so book a trip and discover them for yourself! Are you a nature lover that would enjoy searching out these species? Let us know in the comments below which one would be your most exciting find.