Anchorages in Raja Ampat

We spent 7 wonderful weeks in Raja Ampat. It is an ocean paradise that is off the beaten path typically taken by cruising boats moving beyond the Pacific. We’ve been told that only 20 boats a year visit this area!
Jenna and I found it hard to find information on anchorages in Raja Ampat, so we decided to pull together a blog post that documents where we stayed over the last 2 months. We hope to help our friends following us down this path in the years to come. We also want to thank Brick House, Totem, Nalukai, Ocelot, and everyone else who shared information with us. We couldn’t have done this trip without your help.
Sorong is not pretty, but it has excellent wifi and good provisioning at the Saga Supermarket. Victor Sapura ( is your man here and can help with diesel, propane, beer, and locating parts. We anchored at 00.53.172S, 131.15.600E in 70 feet of mud and plastic. This is near where the liveaboards (local dive boats for tourists) anchor and is close to the pier that the fishermen use. You can leave your dinghy at the pier when you head into town, but it is best to do so after 10:00 AM. The local fishing fleet brings their catch in during the early morning and the pier becomes quite crowded.

This is a very sheltered spot in the mangroves on a little channel between Yangello Island and the southwest tip of Gam. The channel itself is deep and navigable. We tied up at 00.30.722S, 130.27.315E using multiple long lines off our bow and stern. Excellent snorkeling along the channel, and the green water snorkeling in the mangroves is a unique experience. Around the corner is a small beach with a beach hut where kids can play and where grownups can make a beach fire. Excellent spot where we spent several nights.
This is a small island 5 miles north of Yangello and is owned by the Raja4Divers resort. The Navionics chart shows Pef as being a single round island, but there is actually a deep lagoon in the middle of the island, and this lagoon has 2 moorings maintained by the resort.  The moorings are at 00.26.556S, 130.26.625E, and a good waypoint for making your turn into the lagoon is 00.26.822S, 130.27.006E. The resort charges ~$20 US per adult for using the mooring, but in return encourage you to use their facilities (wifi, laundry, snacks, happy hour with complimentary beer.) We were short of cash (very few working ATMs in the area) and spent 3 nights there in return for taking the resort’s guests and staff out on a sunset sail. The kids enjoyed swimming in the lagoon until we saw the crocodile that was caught nearby. Jenna and Mellia had one of their best paddleboards ever, navigating the spectacular gumdrop islands in the lagoon. It was a great stop, and the people at the resort were quite friendly to cruisers.
This island is a nature reserve on the northwest corner of Raja Ampat. We spent a week here. It has it all: mountains, gumdrop limestone islands, beaches, protection, coral, and no people. We spent 5 nights anchored off a beach in 50 feet of sand at 00.09.738N, 130.01.954E. We spent our last night on a mooring ball at 00.09.827N, 130.01.485E. The photo Jenna posted to the blog on Christmas shows Sophie on this mooring and was taken at the summit of a mountain hike with a trail maintained by the local park service. This place is a must visit for anyone coming to Raja Ampat. Like Pef, the Navionics charts for the area fail to show the giant lagoon in the middle of Wayag. Some useful waypoints for navigating into the lagoon are 00.10.150N, 130.00.738E; 00.10.238N, 130.01.197E; 00.10.164N, 130.01.352E: and 00.10.139N, 130.01.455E. There are 2 mooring balls maintained on the island. The first one is visible as you follow this track into the anchorage, and the second one (the one where we spent a night) is off to starboard in its own little bay as you follow the route in.
We spent multiple nights anchored off Friwin at 00.28.142S, 130.41.645E. There is a current here, but there is good holding and some excellent snorkeling around Firwin itself and around some little rocks to the north. There is also a strong mobile data signal here. Great spot.
waisaiWe never spent the night at Waisai, but stopped here multiple times to provision and collect passengers. It is a new town being built by the government to support the tourist industry in Raja Ampat and is NOT the Waisai that appears on the Navionics chart. This Waisai is spread out over 3 bays along the southwest coast of Waiego. The western bay (00.25.982S, 130.48.075E) contains the ferry terminal and little else. There is no ATM and no provisioning. There is a floating dock where you can tie up a dinghy on the east end of the bay. It is linked to the ferry terminal by a 300 meter long covered pier. Make sure you follow the channel markers as you head into this floating dock! The ferry terminal itself is a concrete pier. I was able to pick up a guest and his luggage/supplies cache there, but it was a little hectic. The middle bay of Waisai (00.25.831S, 13.49.422E) is where we anchored when we stopped there. It’s the location of the town and is on the mouth of a river. Be careful of the river bar at low tide. We tied the dinghy up at a concrete pier with black and yellow stripes located at the mouth of the river on the left hand side. Next to this pier is a shack that will sell gasoline and diesel. Then there are 4 blocks of small shops selling hardware and dry groceries. There is an ATM that worked once and didn’t work once. The biggest store is located in the Raja Ampat Hotel. They had bread along with frozen beef and chicken. Waisai’s eastern bay is where the public market is located. I don’t have a waypoint but it was a 4 minute dinghy ride from our anchorage off the main town. You can see a line of blue-roofed buildings behind the mangroves on the left side of bay, and there is a small wooden pier where you can tie your dinghy. Look out for the shallow coral approach at low tide. The produce in the market is excellent, better than what we saw in Sorong. The also have eggs but no bread. No ATM. But great provisioning.
“Christmas Bay”
Christmas BayAfter Waisai, we joined 6 other boats for Christmas in the big bay that opens up on the southern side of Gam. I believe it is called Besir. We now call it Christmas. Our anchorage was at 00.30.444S, 130.33.690E in 60 feet of water. We entered the harbor via the easternmost entrance. Be careful to head a good way into the bay before turning towards the anchorage in order to avoid a reef that extends northeast from one of the islands. This anchorage was selected because it was large enough to hold a small holiday fleet. There was no beach or coral nearby, but there was great swimming among the boats. There was also good paddleboarding and kayaking around the islands at the mouth of the bay. I saw some LARGE fish there while snorkeling along the abandoned pier on the west side of one of these islands.
Kabui Pass
This excellent anchorage is located at 00.25.380S, 130.34.218E at the eastern mouth of the narrow channel that separates Gam from Waiego. We approached from the northeast and anchored among some gumdrop islands in 60 feet of water. The pass offers excellent drift snorkeling that is best done near slack tide to avoid strong currents. Beautiful spot.
Eastern Batanta
We spent a night in this unnamed anchorage as a convenient stopover between Waisai and Sorong. 00.46.485S, 130.53.301E. It was surrounded by mangroves and seemed to collect garbage carried by the currents flowing out from Sorong. Not a pleasant spot but it helped us cut a long passage into two shorter ones.
This is an excellent stopover on the Selat Sele for boats heading south from Sorong on their way to Misool. There was a strong south setting current in the channel and a 10 knot opposing southwesterly breeze, so we motored up to 01.22.911S, 130.59.864E to avoid the breeze. The entire channel was deep, and the anchor set quickly in the mud. Nice stop.
We anchored in this exposed area off the east coast of Misool for 2 nights in order to celebrate a birthday for one of the Per Ardua kids without being underway. 01.53.472S, 130.26.905E. I think it offers more protection in the southeast monsoon than in the northerlies we were getting. We felt we were dragging most of the time and had to set our anchor twice. At one point I was swept away by the current while attempting to swim the 20 meters between Per Ardua and Sophie. Peter tried to rescue me in their inflatable kayak but the current was too strong. Jenna had to lower the dinghy in order to retrieve me and get me baclk onto Sophie. Don’t go here.
But DO put your trolling lines out after you depart Teleme. Maybe you, too, can pose for some gunshots.
GO HERE INSTEAD! This anchorage ranks right up there with Wayag as our best stop in Raja Ampat. We stayed here for a week with 2 other boats, spending 3-5 hours a day snorkeling the coral walls. Our best drift snorkeling ever. It’s a small protected lagoon with limestone cliffs that ascend 30-100 meters into the air. These cliffs descend another 30 meters underwater. We used long lines to tie bow and stern to opposite cliffs. 02.01.494S, 130.40.427E. Tens of thousands of fish. Spectacular coral. A very large poisonous snake! A scorpion fish! Glow-in-the-dark jellyfish! Completely protected. No town, but there was a small fishing camp on a beach around the corner. The fishermen pretty much left us alone. We could have stayed here forever.
Misool Eco Resort
As I mentioned in our last post, Per Ardua’s mooring line separated 2 hours after they stopped here. Several other moorings have failed here in the last few months. We spent a nervous night on the resort’s last remaining mooring at 02.14.791S, 130.33.478E.  Other cruisers had a good experience here, and there apparently are some deep anchorages nearby. The people at the resort were quite friendly, but we can’t recommend stopping here until they fix their moorings.
So that’s it.13 stops from November through January. Some of the best cruising of our lives. Can’t you just tell how happy we all are?

Goodbye, Raja Ampat. We will miss you.

Sophie has slipped the mooring cable at the Misool Eco Resort and has begun a 200 mile sail that will get us to the western side of Ambon Island. Currently motorsailing at 7 knots at the location of 02.15.550S 130.25.336E. We’ve spent the last 6 weeks in Raja Ampat, and it has been a highlight of our entire cruising adventure. We will miss this special place a lot.

We left the anchorage at Balbulol yesterday morning. We spent a week there and loved every minute of it. We snorkeled the coral walls for 3-5 hours every day. Jenna took 5,000 pictures with her GoPro. She even tied it to a 10 foot long string and lowered it down for coral and fish close ups. We saw tens of thousands of fish and an amazing variety of coral. We even saw what turns out to be the world’s most deadly sea snake. It’s 5 feet long, 2 inches thick and has black and white stripes on top and a white belly below. I first stumbled across her while snorkeling for lobster. She was in a little cave, and when she saw me she slowly got into a cobra pose and looked poised to strike. My fear was making me want to swim away, but my utter fascination was drawing me in closer.

I now understand snakes.

We experienced a couple of hiccups while tied to the walls in Balbulol. Our genset overheated and then stopped. It turns out we had sucked a couple of plastic bags into the raw water strainer, and this blockage caused the genset impeller to lose all 13 of its blades. When we disassembled the genset’s heat exchanger, we discovered 25 impeller blades there. Obviously the tropical ambience of the lagoon put the impeller blades into the right mood, and they multiplied as a result.

I also got a bit of a leg infection when I scraped against some coral while hunting lobster. I never actually caught any of the little suckers, because they scoot way back into their holes when you try to grab them. But my leg hurts a lot, and my daughter Sara-the-nurse-practitioner has put me on a couple of antibiotics. I’ll be fine.

The three boats left Balbulol at first light yesterday, with Sophie and Per Ardua heading 15 miles south for the Misool Eco Resort. We caught the world’s smallest mahi mahi on the way. It was only a foot and a half long, and he swam away vigorously when we released him.

The Misool Eco Resort has a good reputation with cruising boats who have visited there, but we had a terrible experience yesterday. The staff was quite friendly, and the facilities looked great. Steve snorkeled the wall and saw some huge fish. They even let us use their incredibly slow wifi for free and let the girls play on their beach.

Our problem was with their mooring lines. Sophie and Per Ardua were both moored in a little pass with a bit of a current directly in front of their pier. Per Ardua’s mooring line … dissolved and separated 3 hours after they tied on to it. Fortunately I was at the bar with Steve and Mellia watching the girls play on the beach when I noticed Per Ardua drifting close to their dinghy dock. Peter was on board, and I called him on the VHF. He came up on deck and realized the boat was simply drifting in the eddies of a passage with reefs and cliffs 20 meters away on either side of him.

They could have lost their boat.

Fortunately it was 4:00 in the afternoon and Peter quickly got his engine on and the boat under control. Sue, the resort manager, was very nice and said there was another mooring a mile away at Kalig Island, but Steve and I went over in our dinghy and could only find some wall ties. Perhaps that is what they meant. The resort’s mooring up on Yilliet Island, which our friends have used in the past, broke a month ago. The resort also had another mooring around the corner on Batbitiem Island, but that appears to be gone as well.

So Per Ardua decided on the spot that their best option was to leave for an overnight sail heading upwind for a sheltered anchorage on the west side of Misool. Since the sun was setting, they really had no other choice.

Sophie was on the mooring that their provisioning ship uses, and after Per Ardua left I dived the line as far down as I could. I couldn’t see the mooring block — we are in 25 meters of water — but the line was 1.5 inch nylon and looked new.

Nevertheless, we were in a bit of a rolly channel, and at times Sophie’s transom was only 20 meters from a cliff. Dinner last night was a quick bowl of pasta, followed by the movie Battleship (which was an excellent choice given our predicament … think board game + aliens + Rihanna with machine guns) followed by an uneasy night with the anchor alarm on.

The Misool Eco Resort seems like a nice place, but if they want cruising boats to use their moorings, they need to regularly dive them and inspect them. Most of us would be happy to pay a mooring fee.

And we won’t let the events of the last 20 hours shape our view of Raja Ampat. Best place ever. On to Ambon.

Best Anchorage Yet

Sophie is currently tied to the cliffs in the lagoon of the island of Balbulol of the east coast of Misool in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Per Ardua is rafted next to us, and Ocelot is tied up on the other side of Per Ardua. I think this is our best anchorage yet in Indonesia.

We spent two nights anchored near Mustika, the place where we stopped after catching the six Spanish mackerel. It was not a good anchorage, at least during the northwest monsoons here, because we were exposed to a northerly wind. There was also a current that was so strong I was swept away in an attempt to swim the 20 meters between Per Ardua and Sophie. Peter tried to rescue me in an inflatable kayak, but the current was too strong for him to pull both of us. Jenna had to drop our dinghy and zoom 300 meters to rescue me. She was a little worried. I was enjoying a swim. The highlight of our stay was Sam’s 10th birthday party on Per Ardua. He loved his multimeter and tested the resistance of every component on his family’s boat. They served up homemade pizza, and somehow a bottle of Jameson’s managed to disappear. It was a fun night in a bad anchorage.

Balbulol is simply spectacular. 02.01.494 S. 130.40.429E. We are in a small cove surrounded by cliffs that run 30 to 100 meters high. It’s totally protected here with no swell and little wind. The water beneath us is 35 meters deep, hence the need to run lines fore and aft to attach to the cliffs. A coral reef clings to the cliffs as they run straight down underwater. Actually, they don’t run straight down, they run inward creating caves and coral overhangs. There is great diversity of coral and many large fish. I saw this grouper-like thing that was 4 feet long and must have weighed hundreds of pounds. I also saw a shark, but she was on the small side.

We will spend up to a week here. Leo finally finished up his oral report last night and has completed 4th grade. We are spending 4-5 hours a day in the water. We have plenty of fresh produce, fish, beer, and cheese. We are listening to classic 70s rock, including Foghat, Boston, and Heart. Nothing is broken, and the boat is clean.

After I write this, I think I will go back in for another swim. Then maybe a nap. Then I might go for another snorkel.

Things are pretty good right now.


Sophie celebrated the New Year with a bunch of WHAMS! today, catching SIX Spanish mackerel (and keeping four) during our 45 mile motorsail southwest from the western tip of Papua to an anchorage on the east coast of Misool (01.53.503S, 130.26.986E).

As I’ve mentioned recently on this blog, I’ve been worried about reports that there are no more fish between here and Thailand, with the exception of potentially catching a Spanish mackerel around Misool. But not today, baby. We had 3 lines in the water: a 3 inch squid on the pole, a rapalo on a 30 meter meat line, and a big marlin squid on a 10 meter meat line.

The rapalo KILLED it today, catching four fish in an hour. We have never caught fish with that lure before, and I had even been thinking about getting rid of it. But no more.

The carnage started when our guest Steve Schufreider pointed back at the rapalo and said “I think we have a fish.” I didn’t even bother to look up and said “No, that’s just the diving movement of the lure,” (knowing full well that the rapalo simply doesn’t catch fish.) I’m quite smart, you know.

Steve then said “Well, what’s that thing splashing on the surface?”

It was a 14 pound Spanish mackerel on the rapalo. We got it on board, bled it with the rope Melissa gave us, cut it up and then vacuum sealed it into 5 freezer meals plus lunch. Just as I was about to start cooking the fish for lunch, Steve said “I think we have another one.” It as on the rapalo again, and just as I started pulling it in the reel on the pole started to go wizzzzzz. Two fish at the same time! The first Sophie Double Takedown of 2015! We got both fish on board, and just as we had finished bleeding these two fellows (now using both ends of the rope Melissa gave us), there was ANOTHER fish that hit the rapalo.

Four Spanish mackerel in 30 minutes, ranging from 6 to 14 pounds.

I took the three new fish, cut them up, vacuum sealed them, and added 9 more meals to the freezer. Spanish mackerel is delicious, and we are looking forward to sharing it with our friends when we reach Bali next month.

But I was pretty tired after landing and processing four fish. I had also disassembled and fixed a toilet earlier this morning. I am not complaining at all. I actually like this adventure we are on.

But when Steve said “I think we have another fish on the rapalo”, quite frankly I had no interest in landing it. But this gal was a JUMPER. She lept out of the air multiple times, so I got her within 10 feet of the boat and yelled for Jenna to get the camera. I was hoping she would jump one more time. She did, we didn’t get the photo, and she spat the hook. But I am calling it a landed fish because I had the leader in my hand.

At this point I didn’t want to deal with any more fish. 15 meals in the freezer is a good day, and we were approaching our anchorage and needed to clean the boat. So I reeled in the the line on the pole and put away the meat line that was trolling the rapalo. I was too tired to deal with the big marlin lure and figured I’d deal with that at the anchorage. Besides, a Spanish mackerel would never hit a lure that big.


Steve said “Jamie, I think there’s a lot of splashing coming from that last lure. I think we might have another fish.” I didn’t even bother to look up and said “No, that’s just the splash coming from the concave head of the lure,” (knowing full well that a smallish Spanish mackerel would never hit a big marlin lure we were using as a teaser.) I’m still quite smart, you know.


It was a four pound Spanish mackerel that had attacked a lure half its size. I pulled him in and let him go, because he was too small and we had caught enough fish for one day. I put away the last meat line and we headed towards the anchorage. No more fishing for the day!

But then we started to pass multiple bait balls with diving tuna beneath them and attacking birds on top of them. After passing the fourth ball in 10 minutes, I turned to Steve and said “let’s put a line back in.” (I have self-control issues you know, but at least I am aware of them.)

We trolled around and through another 8 bait balls but had no luck. We then made it to our anchorage, dropped a hook, and waited for Per Ardua. They track us closely on AIS when we are underway together, and they now know that when Sophie starts doing Crazy Ivans it’s because we are fishing.

The anchors on both boats are now down in a calm spot surrounded by coral. There are craggy jungle-covered limestone mountains covering 180 degrees of our horizon. We’ll be making pizza tonight on Per Ardua to celebrate their son Sam’s 10th birthday. He doesn’t know it yet, but we are giving him our backup multimeter as his birthday gift. He is really into learning about marine electronics, and we all know that this gift will make him very happy.

Fish. Tropics. Calm Anchorage. Sharing with Friends. 2015 is getting off to a pretty good start.