Islands with a Difference – Part 2 - Orlando / Florida Guide
Florida Guide > Travelling
RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA
This island is situated in some of the world’s best diving waters and has an area of 46, 000sq km.
Raja Ampat means Four Kings, which is deceptive seeing as more like 1, 500 islands make up this remote archipelago off the North West coast of Papua. It is certainly fit for royalty though, made up of magnificently shaped landscapes and clear, turquoise seas. The islands themselves vary enormously: some are barely a bump of jungle cloaked karst; some rise out of the blue like clusters of mushrooms; others, such as Waigeo and Misool, are larger. It is these ones that are ideal for homestays with local Biakese people and hikes to rock art and ancient cliff burial sites.
However, it’s the region’s waters that really draw bold travellers. Raja Ampat is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and, according to Conservation International, has the highest marine diversity in the world. In all 75% of the world’s coral species have been recorded here, along with 1, 430 species of reef fish and six of the world’s seven marine turtle species. A good way to see all on offer is to go on a ‘liveaboard’ dive trip as it is an excellent and efficient way to navigate these waters. Good dive sites include Sardine and Chicken reefs, where snappers and fusiliers mass, and The Passage, off Waigeo, a good shallow dive amid mangroves and soft coral. If you want to go then October to April is the best time. The weather is drier, the seas calmer and underwater visibility greatest. Flights to Sorong in West Papua are the gateway to Raja Ampat, from Jakarta it takes 4hrs, Makassar is 2hrs and Manado is 3hrs. Ferries also link Sorong to Waisai the capital of the archipelago and take about 3 hours.
So why have I included this 640sq km often much criticised Balearic island?
You just have to see past the one blemish to understand what you are missing. Just because a 30km stretch of Mallorca’s coastline has been ruined by package high rise hotels and clubs, the entire island gets written off.
However leave the blighted Bay of Palma and you will discover an island of monasteries, mountains, historic ports and untouched coves. The Sierra de Tramuntana, looming over the Balearic isle’s north-west, is the wildest area. Here you can hike along a network of trails of varying difficulty. Maps for these trips are available in the capital Palma and the pretty town of Sóller which is the best base for mountain ventures. Also in the north, head to the tiny, tumbling village of Deià, where poet Robert Graves is buried. Make sure you take your binoculars to the Parc Natural de s’Albufera, a wetland wonderland for birds; and explore the Roman ruins of Pollentia, which date to the first century BC.
Spring and autumn are the best times for hiking and quieter beaches. Almond trees bloom late January to early March making this area very scenic. Cosmopolitan Palma is open for city breaks year-round with many airlines flying from all over Europe in about 2 and a half hours.
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