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Raja Ampat – or “Four Kings” as you may also call it – is a playground for adventurers, professional divers and – the most important for us – underwater photographers. Imagine corals of all colours, exorbitant schools of fish and a surreal beauty of nature that will fascinate you from the very first moment. All of this can be found in this wonderful and yet quite unknown and untouched 40.000 square kilometre archipelago of Raja Ampat.
Melanie Benz • OM-D E-M1 • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO
It seems as if no one has ever been here before and this is no coincidence. Raja Ampat is located in the so-called coral triangle of Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, the centre of aquatic biodiversity. Consisting of around 1.500 small islands it is a perfect dive spot for everyone not afraid of a rather long journey and interested in a huge biodiversity. In an expedition in 2002, experts of the “Nature Conservancy” counted 505 types of corals and 828 types of fish at this magical place – this is impressive! For diving enthusiast, the most popular attraction of Raja Ampat will probably be the huge manta populations that can be found due to the nutritious region with high currents. If you take a dive between October and April, you will almost guaranteed encounter huge populations of mantas here. Surely, this is the perfect spot to fill your memory card with stunning images of manta rays.
David Benz • OM-D E-M1 • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm 1:2.8 MACRO • PT-EP11 • PPO-EP01 • 2 x UFL-3
Though there might be so many beautiful dive sites to discover in Raja Ampat, there are a few special ones you should have heard of. Cape Kri, for instance, is one of these spots that made Raja Ampat such a dream location for divers and photographers. It is perfect for everyone loving to be surrounded by hundreds of fish. Wrasses, tunas, groupers and barracudas will enclose you and swim above your heads. Diving here means effortlessly gliding with the current through a swirl of endless colours. But a well tared dive here and handling the camera at the same time is a real challenge. Not only for beginners! Still, this is not everything Raja Ampat has to offer. Manta Sandy, a little reef with a various cleaning stations, is the perfect spot to view mantas up to six meters long. A little further, nearby Arborek Island, you can experience the real kind of underwater photographer’s paradise: around 200 people are living on this 7,5ha small island that seems to be taken straight from a picture book. This is the “place to be” for divers, snorkelers and free divers. The schools of fish you may encounter here take the word swarm to the next level. Take your fisheye lens and catch the impervious curtain of fish!
David Benz • OM-D E-M1 • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 Fisheye PRO • PT-EP11 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3
If you’re up for a real adventure, you should also make a trip to “The Passage” – a densely wooded world encircled by the jungle. Diving here is definitely a challenge. And so is taking underwater photographs! The tidal range causes such a strong current that diving seems like a roller coaster ride. Surrounded by mangroves, you find a lot of nice caves and coral gardens providing a little break from the current – and a nice home for aquatic nurseries like juvenile barracudas or clown fish. The pink hard and soft corals are some nice colourful spots in the otherwise very green scenery where you can’t really make out the border between onshore and offshore. In sum, Raja Ampat is a place where divers of every kind and level will get their needs and wishes met. This jewel of nature is a royal place where everyone can feel like a real underwater explorer and – of course – shoot the best possible underwater photos.