lunedì 4 luglio 2016

RAJA AMPAT TRAVEL DIARY (updated April 2016)

Here our first post in English. Please be kind with us and feel free to correct us :-)    
General info on Raja Ampat: 
1. www.stayrajaampat.com  - general info + guesthouses 
2. On the island there is nothing else than the guesthouses: bring all what you need, that means repellents and sunscreen. Water and food are provided. 
3. It is expensive, but staying there 5 days is affordable for all travellers we met, so far. Please consider that prices include loads of food. If you don't participate in the trips, you do not have any other expenses.  Please, take into account that if you have a special diet they can cook what you want for you BUT they need to go to Waisai to buy food. This implies higher costs for them and more sea pollution. 
4. Look for our tips 
5. Snorkelling: Kri island or Aborek (more developed island)
 
 
Hi there from our bamboo hut on the beach! Updates They will be posted online once we go back to civilization. The flights were pleasant, since we both like flying, with the exception of the very small seat for Matteo, poor thing.
 
 
First flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur with our beloved Ariasia, where we have slept… more or less. Then, stopover of 6 hours in Kuala Lumpur and time passed quickly enough. This airport is a bit sterile with no life, but sleeping on the floor make it earn some brownie points. Second flight - Kuala Lumpur - Makassar: given the number of people who were coughing and expectorating, the crew has even don the surgical mask, first time we saw it :)  In Makassar, we slept (surprise, surprise !!) at the hotel Ibis Budget rather than on the ground, although it is local habit to sleep on the ground where they continuously spit.
 
TIPS
Makassar ATMs - If you are not afraid of paying commission fees, Makassar airport is full of ATMs. Anyway we do not recommend to use them, since the maximum amount you can withdraw is too low for this destination.
 
For the first time we have tried to bring cash with us to change and we do not regret it. The best option is to have US dollars or Euros because they get the best rates.
Indonesian Visa - Indonesian VIsa is free of charge if you land in the following airport
We did not pay the Visa in Makassar, perhaps because we stay 10 days only but we did not ask (of course :-))
Makassar airport - This airport is considered international but in fact, it is small and you will not find anything outside what you really need: money changer, ATMs and some "restaurants". You cannot enter in the departure zone without ticket nor too early, If you are in the transfer area, no problem you will sleep comfortable on the carpet (spitted).
We got up at an ungodly hour, around 2:30am, in order to catch the next flight to Sorong. It was a bit funny because they boarded our flights and the one to Jakarta through the same gate at the same time!!!  
 
Oh, we flew with  Sriwijaya air and we still don't know if we can recommend it or not..the seats are like camping cot very close to each other and the (inside) windows are falling apart but meals are more abundant than Airasia. Once we landed, we dribbled the taxi drivers, thanks to Matteo's researches, and we headed to the tourist office to pay the expensive environmental fee of Raja Ampat. For further information please visit this website  http://www.stayrajaampat.com/ 
If you don't speak English, please learn it, because here they speak either Indonesia or English. The tourist information centre is just in front of the airport (exit street) http://www.stayrajaampat.com/ultimate-raja-ampat-guide/information/raja-ampat-marine-park-entry-permit-tag/
Our ferry to Waisai was to leave at 2 pm, therefore we waited eating junkfood as we did not find any "boxroom" for a meal.   
Sorong harbour
 We paid the taksi 30,000 Rupie from the airport to the harbour, but we were 10 minutes outside the airport.
 
The seats on the ferry were the shortest/smallest ever seen on the planet! Silvia almost fitted and Matteo had the knees on his mouth.
Once we reached Waisai, we met the guy of the guesthouse. At the jetty, there was a man cheking Raja Ampat pass, so please pay it because it seems to be of great importance to them and we really hope they are using the money to sustainably develop the area. Last effort: finally the trip with the small boat from Waisai to Kri island, after three travel days from Sydney!     
 
TIPS
Payments: Paying the accommodation and the transfer from Waisai in advance through Paypal is very useful, due to the fact that costs of the stay are high and banknotes are devaluated a lot. We wanted to avoid going around with rolls of banknotes :)          Instead, avoid to pay snorkelling trips and transfers in advance (except for the packages) because you will always find someone else to share the trips with.
Equipment: The majority of the guesthouses have snorkelling and diving equipment but Silvia’s tip is to wear anti-UV clothes since you are in equatorial zone.
Niveau: Snorkelling is for both beginners and experts but not for people who are afraid of depth and sharks. Actually, you can snorkel in the shallow water but it is unavoidable to break corals. We want to highlight again to not touch corals and fishes because you will harm them!         
We cannot personally speak about diving but everyone was satisfied. Little worry: please be careful of the dive master you choose, that means the guesthouse you choose…we heard some unpleasant stories.
Once we reached the guesthouse, 
we had dinner and immediately some other guests offered to go to Wayag, the reason Silvia came here! The decision has been very hard, above all because the expense was extremely high (double than we thought) and we did not have enough cash. To cut the long story short, we denied.
1* day - wake-up at 7:00 am because it is compulsory to have breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 am… We want to explore the sea bottom, so we walked till the long jetty at the end of the beach and the first thing we saw …guess what? four or five sharks! After 10 minutes Matteo went into the water and wondered about that         
 

The sharks created an anxious situation for Silvia and a stressful one for Matteo. But Matteo did it again: he convinced her to go into the water. Once she was in, nothing (almost) could stop her ans she was extremely happy to see corals and fishes everywhere and even the view of sharks did not worry her.

We continue swimming and suddenly we met a sea turtle, Matteo’s dream! Unfortunately, he made too much noise to call Silvia and the turtle run away.

After lunch, we tried, let’s say we really concentrate to understand the rules of the board game “Zena 1814”…which came from Genova to Sydney and to Raja Ampat (we should be sponsored ahah). Anyway, we failed to comprehend the purpose of the game.

   
Matteo photography skills!
2* day -  Fam and Pyanamo (view point) and Aborek trip, simply amazing. The guide was nice, better than the morose of our guesthouse. We first stop at Melissa Garden, where there are many corals, especially of spiral shape.
Then, we headed to Pyanamo, Fam’s view point: what for a view! Unfortunately, our camera made some jokes to us and our pictures don’t do justice to this place.
     
On the view point, we chatted with this “aged boy”, who was part of our group. He has also been in Australia for two years and he is from the opinion Australians are strange. This was our field: we started to explain our inventory anti-Australia and he agreed on everything, adding we does not want to go back even though he is an Australian citizen.
We had lunch close to a beautiful lagoon but sometimes there are crocodiles, so nobody wanted to swim there!
  Once in Aborek, we had no words…more than beautiful! Small fishes can be seen from the boat and under the jetty it is a marine paradise. In fact, we saw the most amazing corals and we still hope people do not touch these precious things. They were colourful and big: purple, yellow, pink, green and ochre. We also saw three lionfishes and as you know they are poisonous. We cannot explain our emotions but it was like us being a fish! There were also some enormous shells, funny ones because if your hand goes very close to them, the shells close. 
 
After dinner, the other guests show us the pictures of Wayag. In comparison to Fam, it is very similar, a little bit bigger and with a nicer view. The water is the same, it just depends on the colour of the sky. We did not regret a moment to not have been there. They also had to stop three hours on an island in order to let the rain stop.  Of course, they liked it but they were not super-iper enthusiastic about.
 
3* day - Wake-up at 7:00 am, thanks to the cackling hen (another guest).Around 9:00 we went to the long jetty to see if there were any sharks but not this time :( Neverthless, some sharks greeted us from safe distance. Matteo jumped into the water and after counting 5 sharks, Silvia (incredible!) reached him without being forced from anyone. The following pictures are not the best ones, even if we changed camera but the visibility was not really good.
 
 
In our opinion, there is no need of buying an expensive camera like GoPro for taking underwater pictures. A waterproof case is enough. We found a universal one, IPIP8 (link) until 12meters deep, for 20 Euros.  If you only snorkel , this is more than enough. Instead, if you dive there are some universal …for 40 Euros on ebay (some Germans recommended it last year). Our pictures are of low quality because we do not have this kind of equipment…..
And because Silvia prevents Matteo to getting too much close to this lethal and dangerous creatures.
While Matteo was taking care of the camera, a shark as big as Silvia, swam about 3 meters underneath us! After seeing other sharks, Silvia went back and Matteo run into another sea turtle, who after trusting Matteo went out to breath for three times. Obviously, the camera was with Silvia.           
In the afternoon, we went to the view point, that means a small place on the top of the island whose path is quite untraceable and only few locals knows the starting point.
We are aware of not giving you exciting updates, but in this corner of the world, if a coconut falls from the palm is a big event, and after our last months, we really enjoy being here!
4* day - It is Matteo’s birthday (31) and Silvia has prepared a small surprise for him. Finally, Matteo can try the real coconut water from the fresh picked coconut! The gift box is really nice, what inside? Various items Silvia found in Sorong.. it is the deed that counts ;) Matteo is really happy with his new fresh wipes, toothpaste, biscuits, ovomaltina and coconut!!
We leave for another snorkelling around the island and we see more or less ten sharks of various sizes and a group of giant fishes following our direction. Today another turtle visits us and we, both, can see the turtle breathing.
 
5* day - Together with two Belgian and a French woman, we reach Friwen Wall. Just a small break to describe this 50-year old lady: first time, we met her at the tourist office in Sorong, where she was irritated because the officer was late (maybe she did not understand, she was in Asia) and she continuously walked in a circle. She tried to have a small conversation with us, but we did not like her, so we just answer monosyllabically. Obviously, we found her on the boat from Waisai to Kri (just the three of us). The positive thing is that, thanks to her body shape, she repaired Silvia from the rain..bhuahahah. The two Belgians, who look much quieter than us and nice people and they speak French, so they could communicate well with her, they said: "that woman is disoriented, eh”. To cut another long story short, the French woman almost put herself in danger because of the strong current (even if, the guide repeated many times to stay behind the wall..and she did not listen to) but luckily there was a boat who “rescued” her.
Friwen Wall is a wonderful place, the best regarding corals! Fishes are also nice, but maybe better in other spots of Raja Ampat. Silvia is luckier to spot animals and this time it was a sea snake 50 cm far from her! It is lethal, so she thought: “Do I take a picture or do I run away?” Guess what she did! Then, she called Matteo in order to push him away because he did not see it and only for you, readers, once she was “far”, she took a picture         
 
Matteo started to be in pain with his ear and the Belgians said it could be an ear infection, so they offered him a little bit of antibiotics.  We had a terrible night because of Matte’s pain and the annual meeting of rats under our bed!
6* day - The guide tried to call a doctor for Matteo but after three hours, nobody was telling us what was going on. Both of us were very sad to leave that paradise!!
 
Matteo: Raja Ampat was like a half of paradise because after a few days the beauty of the sea and of the sea life balanced the annoying situation of sleeping in a humid and dirty place and the use of salty water to have a shower. During the daytime I forgot the discomfort of the night and viceversa. 
Silvia: It was a positive experience in a wonderful and magical place, except for the ugly and revolting rats under our heads, which I cannot get used to.  
 
Both of us will repeat the experience 1000 times!
 
We decided to get on the boat in order to reach Sorong, hoping to find a doctor. The hope journey! Firstly, we reached Waisai on their small boat; secondly our ferry to Sorong was delayed of two hours and 30 minutes before departure time, there was a heavy rain so we got all wet. The substitute  ferry instead of having the seats, had a lot of bunk beds with probably some scabbialetal virus (Matteo even thought to be on the wrong ferry) and it was overcrowded. Hence, we preferred to sit on the floor together with motorbikes, with big rice packages and with hateful smokers. After few hours, they proposed to sleep on the beds and a guy even brought us a mattress, but those had been turning on the floor together with spit…so we kindly declined the offer.
 
SORONG - First of all, here we are like VIP! Locals stop us to take pictures, shake our hands, posing questions and everybody is calling us “Mister” and “miss”.
Once we have boarded we avoided taxi drivers and walk for about 10 minutes towards the city centre. Then, we stopped a taxi to go to our hotel (Hotel lido 88…recommended!). We had a quick shower and then, to the doctor, let’s say to the otolaryngologist, where they did not want to accept us due to the late arrival. Thanks to a kind and caring gentleman, who spoke English, we could explain our situation (7 hours to reach Sorong…) and they accepted us. After us, there were anyway people waiting (…?!!?). Can you believe it? We could go directly to the specialist!!
A few people speak English, so we found it hard to discover tourist attractions.
The only things are to visit are: wharf and a pink church with and interesting architecture. If you need something, you have to ask for SAGA supermarket. Instead, if you wan to see the market, you have to take a taksi and ask for TOKO SAHABAT. Locals, when you ask for fruits, send you to SAGA but it is much more expensive and westernalized.
For dinner, instead, you can go along the wharf and choose one of the many street food. The only vegetarian dishes are sweets and fried things.
 
For a doctor: opposite the middle of the wharf, you can find a clinic. From there, they will send you to the right place. One doctor's appointment costs about 20-30$, while medicines are a little bit more expensive than Europe, maybe because of the “single-portion”. For example, if the therapy is going to be for 5 days, they will give the exact amount of medicine for those days. We still do not understand if it is positive or negative.         
 
Now,  we are waiting for Matteo’s recovery and hopefully he will get better before our departure for…
 
 
See you very soon and be careful not to get ripped of from taxi drivers! One way is always 5000Rupias.

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