Even before we landed in Sorong, the Pianemo Islands visuals of what is in store for next few days teased us. Tiny islands scattered in the sea like jewels thrown in the ocean. In the turquoise blue ocean with a periphery in emerald green and stripped of white sand, they are mesmerizing. As soon as we landed the freshness in the air told us we are away from the big bad polluting world. However, the island we had to stay at and the islands that we had to explore were still far away. Speedboats were going to be our mode to travel between these islands.
Sorong is the closest airport to go to Raja Ampat. Most flights connect via Makassar. To go to further islands like Pianemo Islands you have to use speedboats.
Wasai Island – Raja Ampat
Our first half day at Raja Ampat was spent at Wasai Island with the school kids to celebrate the Taman Bacaan Pelangi that literally means Rainbow library. This is an initiative that provides libraries in remote areas and introduces kids to the world of books.
We spent an hour with the children in groups and in trying to interact I discovered so many things. They call their teacher – Guru, a Sanskrit word that has lost its relevance in India. I asked the children what do they want to become when they grow up – they wanted to become teachers and join the police. This is so different from what I hear in India – where it is always Doctors, Engineers, Pilots and these days actors. What children want to become when they grow up is such a reflection of what is respected in the society.
The children had a big surprise for me – none of them knew a word of Hindi, but they all could sing Bollywood songs flawlessly. When I asked them to ask me anything – they had few words that they wanted to know in Hindi, I guess to make some sense out of the songs they hear and sing.
These kids gave me an insight into the future of Indonesia.
Walk to meet the Bird of Paradise
Early morning at 4 AM we took a small boat ride to reach the village of Sawinggrai. From here we trekked to the hilltop to reach a point where the bird of paradise can be sighted. Even that early in the morning, it was hot and humid. As we sat below the large tree surrounded by other large trees, we were sweating profusely. In the silence of the jungle, we could hear a lot of birds but could hardly see one. It is usual in thick forests as birds have enough to hide behind.
Finally, the bird of paradise made an appearance, still camouflaged by leaves of the tree. From any angle, I could capture only a part of it. I could make out its colors from one angle and its long tail from another. Here is an image by fellow traveler Michael Turtle who managed to click it the day after.
Wow! The red bird of paradise – found only in two places on the planet, both small islands in Raja Ampat in Indonesia. The special thing about this bird is the two long tails you can see coming out behind it. I got up at 4:30 in the morning and took a boat to one of the islands, then trekked up a mountain to a patch where they come around sunrise. I was lucky enough to see a few of them playing around together in the trees – and I got some nice photos of them. #WonderfulIndonesia #travel #indonesia
My later readings on the bird tell me that this was one of the most hunted birds here. Hope this has stopped now.
However, back at our lodge, I could hear the sound of a hornbill in my room. I decided to take a walk and find it. It made me run around a lot but eventually gave in. I was happy at least I could catch one of these prized birds of Raja Ampat.
Raja Ampat is a part of the coral triangle that has the richest marine bio-diversity on earth.
The small village of 36 families has a nice jetty that allows you to see the corals and fishes in the clear waters.
We sat on the staircase close to the water. A small ball of dough was good enough to attract hundreds of fishes in a flash. I threw small bits in water and watched the fishes run after it. I tried holding the dough in my hand slightly inside the water and the fishes were ready to eat my hand. Played smart and made a long tube-like dough and dipped it in water with my hands outside. Fishes joined forces and snatched it from my hand.
I think it was one of the most relaxing time on my Indonesia trip when I played with the fishes, feeding them, watching them move around swiftly and admired their vibrant colors.
Next day at the same jetty I would see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.
Raja Ampat is an archipelago of roughly 1000-1500 islands. If you take a speedboat and move around in the sea, you can see few hundred of them. Most of them are uninhabited. Some of them are just an outgrowth standing tall in the middle of blue waters. Others are slightly bigger and can be hiked. The ones which are inhabited too have people living on the edge of the island, close to the sandy beaches.
Raja Ampat is a heaven for divers.
We started from our Raja Ampat Dive Lodge towards the famous Pianemo islands. Having read nothing about it I had no expectations. However, the boat rides till now from Sorong to Wasai and from Wasai to our lodge had given me a sense of the natural beauty of Raja Ampat islands. After about 30 minutes of boat ride, a bay started opening up.
We found ourselves surrounded by big and small islands. Some of them so small that it seemed that we can pick them and take them home. The rugged stone surfaces peeped from the vegetation. Some of these islands had wooden platforms built around them for the visitors to stand comfortably. The small huts on these platforms looked like homes straight out of a dreamland.
Our boat stopped at one of these islands and 5 of us were asked to get down and explore the island. You see, the island cannot accommodate more people than this. The boat kept moving between the islands offloading some of us. In the end, it parked near a relatively bigger island and those of us still on the boat were offloaded. We were at the Laguna Bintang or the Star Lagoon. This is the popular tourist spot to see Pianemo Islands.
Small curio shops, mostly selling items made of seashells lined the edge of the island. Coconut water was the only drink available to all the people who came by big and small boats here. Some of us climbed the steep wooden staircase to be at the vantage point from where the whole lagoon can be seen. Others adorned their diving gear or snorkeling gear and got lost in the colorful underwater world of Pianemo islands.
I chose to climb the stairs. As luck would have it, it started raining, so we had to do go up and come back quickly. At the top, the view of the Pianemo islands surrounded by the ocean was breathtaking, to say the least. It was like jewels thrown in the blue Raja Ampat sea. My eyes and my camera wanted to soak in the view.
Best of Nature
Though the view of Pianemo islands is what this ride we would remember for, I was equally intrigued by the nature of ash gray rocks here. The marks of water can be seen on the rock. It seems the air and water play a lot with the stone. The erosion has created interesting patterns on the rock faces. The trees still manage to grow through them.
After spending some time around these aesthetically placed Pianemo Islands, we were back to our Raja Ampat Dive Lodge. The day had given us a lot of memories and visual images to cherish for the rest of the life. I was sure I was going to dream of those colorful fishes and yes, I did dream of them.
Video of Star Lagoon at Pianemo Islands in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Watch the video I managed to capture during my trip to the Star Lagoon at Pianemo islands in Raja Ampat in HD mode for best effects. Subscribe to my YouTube channel IndiTales to view all my Travel videos.
The next day turned out to be even more exciting, but that is a story for another day.
Recommend you read following travel blog on my travel to Indonesia.
- Borobudur Temple – Heritage Jewel of Indonesia.
- Visiting wonderful Indonesia – First Impressions.
- Arborek – Glimpse of heaven called Raja Ampat in Indonesia.
- Storytelling ruins of Prambanan Temple, Java, Indonesia.
- Top 10 Bali Souvenirs to pick – Shopping in Bali, Indonesia.
- Kota Gede – Walk through the charming old town of Yogyakarta.