Diving & Snorkelling Safety
The majority of visitors that come to Raja Ampat do so to experience the magnificence and diversity of marine life the region has to offer. When entering the seas in the Marine Park, remember you are entering a marine wilderness, and it is extremely important to respect the natural forces that exist, follow the guidelines and regulations of the Marine Park, and also those that are provided by your guide and/or tourism operator.
The below are guidelines for your own safety, and are the minimum safety expectations from anyone entering the water in Raja Ampat.
Please also refer to ‘CLEANLINESS, HEALTH, SAFETY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY GUIDANCE FOR INDONESIA’S DIVE INDUSTRY – Health Protocols to Prevent and Control the Transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) August 2020 Edition’
Raja Ampat, in particular the Dampier Strait, is a narrow body of water lying between the vast Pacific and Indian Oceans. This corridor sees and immense volume of water is moving through this narrow space with each turn of the tide, leading to incredibly strong currents. Raja Ampat is known for it’s strong currents (including down currents), in particular around full moon and new moon. It is essential that current checks occur before each and every dive or snorkel so as to ensure the dive/snorkel plan fits with the current state of the sea, and that each individual knows how to behave in strong currents, including down currents, so they, and others in their group remain safe throughout the dive.
PLEASE NOTE: not all dive sites are suitable for all divers.
There are dive sites within Raja Ampat that are only suitable for experienced and capable divers, who are comfortable with strong currents. A professional and experienced dive guide will do their utmost to take care of you, however, do not place yourself, your dive buddies or your dive guide at risk by opting to do a dive you are not capable of.
Locations in the Dampier Strait known to have very strong currents:
Cape Kri: at falling tide with strong current, including very strong down current if surfacing in the wrong location.
Chicken Reef: rip (side) current during strong falling tide which has a tendency to sweep divers off the reef and into open water
Manta Ridge: Manta Ridge is becoming increasingly popular and overcrowded, yet remains a difficult dive site for the inexperienced or unaware. Mantas aggregate on this ridge because of the strong current, and the viewing point requires the use of a reef hook. Divers must be aware of the procedure upon releasing a reef hook into a strong current, as the ridge quickly drops away with a strong down current to 70+ meters.
Mikes Point: strong down currents at the drop point on falling tide.
Throughout Raja Ampat there will be other locations with strong current, at any time you feel unsure or uncomfortable due to currents, inform your dive guide.
Dive guides are there to provide you with an enhanced experience and to keep you safe. Always use a professional local guide, they know the area better then you and understand conditions well. Please always follow your guide, listen to and respect their instructions regarding diving and snorkeling. Let them do their job!
Check Your Gear
Especially when scuba diving; regardless of who you are diving with, a local homestay or large resort, it is important that YOU check your own gear before each dive. Different operators will have different systems and standards for servicing and maintaining their gear, and it is essential that you take a few moments before each and every dive to check your gear. Those few moments can literally be a life saver!
Decompression Sickness (DCS)
Decompression Sickness is a disorder directly related to scuba diving, in which nitrogen dissolved in the blood and tissues by high pressure forms bubbles as pressure decreases. The outcome of an undiagnosed, poorly diagnosed or mistreated DCS can be life threatening, or result in lifelong harm or debilatation. In Raja Ampat dive centres should only participate in “no-deco dives” (non-decompression dives); do not put your life, or of the life of others are risk by participating in recompression dives!
Know what DCS it is, what the symptoms are, and how to avoid it.
Hyperbaric/Decompression Chamber – Waisai:
+62-951-3173358 (Ext. 102)
Know Your Limits
Raja Ampat is number 1 on the bucket list of many divers and snorkelers, but do not overlook basic personal responsibility in order to dive it. If you know you are not as physically fit you should be for particular dive sites or multiple dives per day, or that you are not comfortable with currents – don’t do those dives; request different dive sites more suitable to your abilities. No ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday is worth injuring yourself or someone else from overstepping your physical/mental limits.
Learning to Dive in Raja Ampat
Previously, Raja Ampat was the playground of experienced divers seeking to dive one remote and beautiful reefs. Now, as Raja Ampat’s international profile and reputation grows, more and more people are coming to the region to learn to dive during their holiday. However, when taking this decision, it is important to consider that when learning to dive, you will be spending a lot of time doing theory on land, practicing confined skills on a sandy bottom where there is not much to see, or concentrating on buoyancy, kicking and breathing – all of which meaning you are less aware and missing out on truly experiencing the stunning marine life Raja Ampat has to offer. If you only have a limited amount of time, or if the above is of concern, it may be worthwhile considering learning to dive and practicing your skills prior to arrival in one of world’s premier dive locations.
In addition to this, as beginner divers find their buoyancy and confidence, there is of a tendency to be less aware of physical surroundings, leading to damage to corals through kicking, touching or holding. If you decide to learn to dive in Raja Ampat, please be extremely mindful of your surroundings, so as not to damage the very same environment your have travelled to see.
Always consider weather conditions when diving or snorkeling. Raja Ampat can experience harsh weather conditions during the months of July – Sept. And whilst continuous monsoonal rain is rare, strong winds can result in rough seas and big waves. Whilst this may not necessarily affect the underwater conditions, rough surface conditions can mean boat rides can be rough or even dangerous, as can entry or exit into the water.
Specialised scuba Diving insurance (DAN or equivalent) is mandatory for anyone who intends to scuba diving in Raja Ampat
Dive Plans & Briefings
All tourism operators and organizations offering diving and snorkeling must provide you with a briefing before each dive/snorkel – even if it is a site you have been to before. If you do not receive a briefing ASK for one. If you do not understand your briefing, do not be afraid to request more information!
These briefings are there to make sure everyone knows what they are doing, where they are going, and has the best experience that they can whilst being safe.
When you enter the water in Raja Ampat, you are entering a marine wilderness. There are things that can cut, bite, scratch or sting you, with potential lethal outcomes. Refer to “Wild Animals – Land and Sea” for more information. But as a general rule of thumb, don’t touch, keep your distance, and remain calm.
Emergency Action Plan
Make sure you are familiar with the Emergency Action Plan of your diving operator. In some instances, for example if you are staying with a local homestay, this may not exist. In this instance, at least familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers and locations (found here).
First Aid & Oxygen
Similar to the above, be sure your diving operator has first aid supplies, and/or bring some with you. With respect to oxygen, your diving operator should have oxygen at their Dive Centre, and on all dive boats in sufficient quantities to be able to administer the oxygen for the time needed to arrive at a location for further treatment.