Photograph by Daniela Dirscherl, Getty Images
An emerging island Eden in Indonesia
Raja Ampat has been dubbed the Amazon of the Oceans. Is that hyperbole? Not really. There are single reefs here containing more species than the entireCaribbean. A mini-archipelago of rain-forest-clad islands, cays, mangroves, and pearlescent beaches off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia, this marine frontier brims with life. Expect close encounters with recent discoveries such as Raja Ampat’s walking shark and pygmy seahorse, along with more familiar creatures—manta rays, leatherback turtles, and bumphead parrotfish. Not to mention three-quarters of all known coral species.
The scenery proves just as spectacular above the surface. On Wayag, steep limestone karsts drenched in jungle bisect a cobalt lagoon. Tree canopies filled with rare birds offer lofty theater. It’s well worth rising at 3 a.m. to witness the amorous, flamenco-like mating dance of the endemic red bird of paradise.
Remote doesn’t mean rough here. Cruise the region aboard an upscale conversion of a traditional phinisi schooner or stay at a hideaway such as Misool Eco Resort, with its swanky overwater bungalows. Diving is the draw, but kayaking and trekking are picking up. This is nature at its most vivid, above and below the water. —Johnny Langenheim