The sun rises and sets at 6:30am and 6:30pm every day along the equator all year, every year where two stunning archipelagos of unique life and great marine biodiversity tempt adventure seekers to experience their natural wonders. Every sunrise and sunset is an inspiring and life-affirming sight to behold even if it only flirts with our senses for a fleeting moment at the center of the planet.
On opposite sides of the globe sit the Galapagos, that Darwinian ecological mecca of rugged volcanic terrain and highly adapted animal life, and it’s lesser known sister nation in Natural Selection, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Raja Ampat sits at the heart of The Coral Triangle and is home to the most diverse, exceptional and plentiful underwater species of coral and marine life in the world. So stunning, it has been dubbed “Heaven on Earth” for its paradisiacal beauty.
“Bucket” lists and “Top-Islands-to-Visit” lists and “Best-Adventure-Ever” lists abound with tales of these two exceptional island groupings. Both have played an integral role in determining the scientific basis of natural selection, both are best explored by boat, both are made up of incredible volcanic landscapes and vistas and both, of course, have some of the most stunning underwater life on the planet. You need not be a professional diver or bird-watcher or scientist to enjoy what these two famous archipelagos have to offer. An internal yearning for beauty and adventure is all that is required.
So, how do you decide where to go?
If you’re lucky enough to have already visited the Galapagos look no further then Raja Ampat for your next great adventure. If you’re still deciding between the two here are a few good reasons to bump Indonesia up to the top of your list because for all their similarities they are two very different experiences. Raja Ampat is without a doubt one of the least visited but most memorable adventure destinations on our planet where there is still tremendous opportunity to for authentic experiences. The country is 17,000 islands strong and occupies a distance similar in breadth to the United States. Raja Ampat is among the easternmost island groupings with a high season from November to March.
1) Indigenous Cultures
Indonesia is home to hundreds of diverse ethnic groups and indigenous cultures many of whom live and work as they have for hundreds of years. Whether you’re taking in a spice market, watching local dancers, looking at ancient cave art or playing with a group of young children it is the constant smiles and good humor of the local people that complete any trip to Indonesia.
2) Coral, Coral and More Coral
These aquamarine waters thrive with over 75% of the world’s known coral species and the largest diversity of marine fish life to be found anywhere on the planet. Earning its top billing as the epicenter for marine biodiversity, this vast region of marine protected areas encompass over 12,000 square kilometers of reef.
3) Wildlife and The Wallace Line
You need not be a seasoned bird watcher to appreciate the dazzling birdlife that brought Alfred Russel Wallace to this region over a century ago. The unsung hero of the work behind “The Origin of the Species”, Wallace observed a clear “line” through Indonesia which identified species to the west as Asiatic and to the east as Australian in origin. Asiatic or Australian, witnessing the curious bobbing, flapping and weaving display dance of the Red Bird of Paradise, hearing the shrieks of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and the loud whooshing wing beats of Hornbills in flight is truly spectacular.
4) Adventure, Education AND Relaxation
In a single day you may venture into the waters of a pristine marine lake which is home to these rare stingless jellyfish, motor up an inlet looking for indigenous wildlife with an expert guide, then relax on deck with a good book or ply the waters on a stand-up paddleboard or sea kayak.
5) Tropical Paradise
Seriously, this is the island nation with Bali as its hub, the very definition of island paradise. The vast Indonesian skies are bright and blue reflecting on gin-clear waters which wash up on long stretches of uninhabited white sand beaches. How does that sound?
Keeping it wild,