I always feel a sense of home when I am finally sitting under the thatched roof of our first homestay in Raja Ampat. The whole homestay is on raised walkways over the water, creating a symphony of ocean sounds. The array of tropical bird calls in the jungle canopy adds to the symphony. I sit under the shade of the thatched roofed lounging area, and watch as the sun begins to set in the west. The sunset hues become more and more vibrant, as the glowing red orb descends behind the jungle. The sunsets here seem to last forever, and I begin to settle into the slower, easier pace of island life.
Seven of us are soon gathered around the thatched roof dining shelter, with an incredible spread of Indonesian dishes before us. Freshly caught fish, chicken, spinach like vegetables and rice adorns the table. We eagerly tuck into our meal, knowing that the days to come will require good sustenance. We fall asleep that night to the sound of ocean waves below, tropical birds above, and the occasion gecko calling in the night.
Dawn comes quickly in Raja Ampat, and by 600 am the day if fully alive. Today we start our kayak adventure, and everyone is excited to begin the journey. After a quick pack of our kayaks with our camping equipment and days worth of food, we launch our boats in the calm waters. We paddle past Sauendarek village, where children wave, teenagers fish from docks, and adults head out for a day of fishing. We soon leave the activity of the village behind us, and are back to the sounds of a tropical paradise. We paddle beneath the undercut of the limestone shoreline, seeking shade as the sun begins to gather strength. We marvel at the clarity of the ocean waters, seeing 15m into the waters below. Iridescent blue fish, bright pink coral, chocoloate chip sea stars are some of the sights from the depths.
Our campsite for the night is on small island, with a perfect white sand beach that faces west. The drop off 10 m past the beach, is filled with so many fish, coral, turtles and back tipped reef sharks that we spend hours in the water marvelling at the life around us.
As darkness descends, we gather around our camping dining area, with a solar string of lights casting a beautiful glow around us. We enjoy a refreshing lime juice and salty chip appetizer, as our meal cooks on the camp stove. We eat dinner under the stars, and retire to bed early.
Our trip alternates between camping and homestays, allowing us both the joys of camping and the “luxury” of basic accommodation. Each homestay location is unique, offering very different activities. One of our homestays boasts a large cave through an old limestone riverbed. We spend a good hour exploring the cave, communing with cave swallows and bats, and marvelling at the stalagtites that have been growing for millions of years. Another homestay boasts incredible snorkelling, with nudibranchs, sea horses and the very occasional dugong. Each homestay family is incredibly hospitable, and proud to show us the sights and sounds of their traditional land.
We spend hours in the water each day, snorkelling at the best sites along the trip. From Nemo Island, which boasts up to 170 clown fish, to Friwin Wall- a deep wall which is home to thousands of fish and hundreds of coral species. The snorkelling is world class and never ceases to amaze all guests.
Our trip comes full circle as our last night is spent at the same homestay as our first night. We go for another snorkel in the calm waters, enjoy our traditional Indonesian dinner, and once again fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, tropical birds, and the occasional gecko call. We luxuriate in the memories of the simple life, of daily exercises, fresh air, hearty food. We cherish the time spent away from screens and electronics, where the natural world is our everything. We are content and happy.