Upon arrival on our liveaboard, we decided to spend two days in the infamous Wayag Islands. Wayag is a raised reef bed from millions of years ago with multiple faults running through the rock. There are hundreds of sinusoidal shaped white limestone islands, topped with dense jungle. The white sandy substrate accentuates the turquoise waters and the white limestone, making this place one of the most photographed places in Raja Ampat.
We wanted to settle into this place, and let the beauty of these islands set the tone for the rest of our trip. We awoke as the sun rose slowly from behind the limestone islands, casting a warm pink hue to the world around us. We spent our two days here exploring by kayak all the nooks and crannies we hadn’t paddled before. One morning, ten black-tipped reef sharks lazily swam around the liveaboard, investigating the boat and the kayaks. One afternoon we braved a short but arduous hike to a lookout point to take in the whole islands from a birds eye view. From this vantage point, the turquoise waters stood in stark contrast to the whites of the islands and the dark green foliage.
On our last evening in Wayag, we went for a sunset paddle. As the sun began to set behind the ocean horizon, we rafted up to enjoy each second as the glowing orb slowly sunk below the horizon. We paddled back to the boat admist incredible pink and orange sunset hues.
Equator Island lies on the Equator, and we circumnavigated this unique Island. About 8 km in circumference, this island is incredibly diverse and makes for an amazing paddling experience. From caves, to hidden lagoons to winding mangrove pathways, this island is one of the highlights of the trip. We finished this paddle with a swim in a turquoise coloured lagoon with tall white limestone walls all around.
Towards the end of the trip, we focused on Kabui Bay, which is located on Waigeo Island. This large bay is home to hundreds of limestone karst islands, and has many unique paddling opportunities. In the afternoon as we set anchor in the northern section, someone spotted Manta Rays! We quickly all ran on deck and watched as these rays swam back and forth feeding in the bay’s currents. Our afternoon paddle coincided with the Manta Ray’s visit, and we sat in our kayaks as the Manta Rays continued to feed around us, unconcerned with our presence. This was the first time in all our years in Raja that we had the opportunity to paddle with Manta Rays, and it left us all humbled by their grace, beauty and calming presence.
We continued on our paddle into the maze of limestone islands of North Kabui. Even after 8 years of paddling in this area, we still discover new things every year. This year, our goal was to paddle every nook and cranny in search of new secret passages between islands. After three dead ends, we finally discovered the secret passage we had been looking for! This beautiful narrow passage wound its way past smaller islands, through lagoons, and finally back out to the main bay of Kabui. As we paddled back to the Liveaboard for the night, we watched as the sun set behind layers of whispy clouds, that turned from white to pink to orange and finally red. We watched as the stars slowly became visible as the night sky darkened. Back on board, laying on the top deck in sun chairs, we marvelled at the myriad of stars, listened to the sound of tropical birds in the jungle, and basked in the comfort of our vessel.