We’re very excited to visit Wayag as we’ve heard so much about this iconic northern area of Raja Ampat. While we were back working in Sydney we gazed enviously at the photos from our cruising friends who’d come this way and dreamed of the day we could be here. And now we are!
Wayag is about 100NM north of Sorong, so we break the trip up by doing overnight stops at Besir Bay on the south side of Gam Island (rapidly becoming a favourite anchorage) and then the picturesque channel between Batangpele and Minyaifun Islands.
But before we get to Wayag we have a line to cross. No, it doesn’t involve insulting each other, it’s the other line. THAT line. The equator. It’s my third and Bruce’s fourth time by boat, so we’re getting a bit blasé about the whole deal – but it’s a good excuse to crack open a beer and send a small libation Poseidon’s way.
Wayag doesn’t disappoint. It’s simply stunning, comprised of hundreds of limestone karst islands creating a maze of waterways and inland lagoons nestled in clear blue coral-filled water.
Early morning is my favourite time, just as the sun’s rays are creeping over the tops of the peaks. It’s absolutely quiet and still, as if the world is holding its’ breath before the day starts. Surrounded by towering cliffs reflected in the stained-glassy water it feels like we’re in the midst of a giant natural cathedral. There’s even an organist in the guise of a crow, letting out his soulful “Cawwww” that echoes around the anchorage.
There’s plenty of places to anchor here, and plenty of room. Unfortunately “Jams” are just leaving as we arrive, but it means we can take their prime spot off a beautiful sandy beach. It’s idyllic, but it turns out not quite so private as we initially thought – it’s also the preferred site for the live-aboard boats to celebrate their final night in Wayag. Depending on the budget, these range from all-out swanky setups complete with tables, chairs, fairy lights and candlelit dinners, to the basic beach barbecue with guitars around a bonfire. It’s quite entertaining so we’re happy to stay put. Apart from the tourist boats, there’s very few other yachts here – ‘Sarabande’ are here when we arrive and pass on their local tips, but they’re heading back to Waisai, so as far as we can tell it’s just us and another Swiss yacht in the next bay.
We spend a week soaking up the atmosphere, exploring the waterways by dinghy, snorkelling and kayaking, and of course doing the obligatory climb up Mt Pendito. It’s steep and the last section is definitely challenging with ropes to assist the climb but we make it up (and down, just as daunting!) and it’s definitely worth it for those glorious views.
We do a couple of dives at “Bommie Bowl” and “Ridge Rock”. We don’t have accurate tide data for this area, so getting the timing right for slack tide continues to be a hit-and-miss affair (mostly miss). We’re quickly discovering that trying to gear up in the water is hopeless – by the time we’re ready to descend we’ve drifted off the dive site, so the only way to do it is to gear up in the dinghy, drive up to the entry point and do a ‘negative’ entry (backward roll off the boat, no air in the BC, straight down to the bottom). It’s a pain to have to tow the dinghy but it’s the only way to do these dives safely. As elsewhere in Raja Ampat, the coral and fish life are extraordinary, it’s just not easy to photograph them when you’re flying along in the current! We see blacktip reef sharks, turtles and masses of fish of every variety. I spend most of my time after each dive poring over our identification guidebook, trying to find yet another new-to-me fish. It’s certainly a diver’s paradise here in Raja Ampat and we’re only just beginning to scrape the surface of the hundreds of possible dive sites. I think we could be here a while…