If you’re heading to Raja Ampat, Batanta is the first large island you come to after leaving Sorong. We often use it as an overnight stop on the way to the other islands, but this time we thought we’d spend more time exploring the north coast of Batanta itself. And what a gem we discovered!
Our first stop after our encounter with the Indonesian navy is one we know well – we call it “finger bay” as it’s a long narrow inlet lined with mangroves, totally protected from wind and waves. Nobody lives here, so it’s just us and the birds and the bats. It never disappoints, and the sunsets are gorgeous.
Next stop is “waterfall bay”. Again, we’ve stopped here once before, but only for one night enroute to somewhere else. This is a big bay which is well protected from the south and has good mud holding on the eastern side in 15-20 metres (a ‘shallow’ anchorage by Raja Ampat standards!).
Our quest is to find the waterfall that many people have told us about. The rain has other ideas, and keeps us boat-bound for a couple of days, but finally the weather clears and we set off in the dinghy down a little channel in the mangroves.
Someone has put a lot of time and effort into making this a tourist-accessible site. There’s a jetty, and then a solidly built walkway through the mangroves, and finally a short walk through the forest to the waterfall.
With all the recent rain it’s quite spectacular. Apparently there’s a second waterfall above this one, but it requires scrambling over wet, slippery, muddy rocks to get there. We’re getting wise in our old age and think better of it.
Our next excursion takes us past the currently closed Papua Paradise Resort – our hearts go out to all these tourist businesses that have been slammed by Covid – as we head west towards the end of the island.
There are lots of suitable-looking bays that could be potential anchorages, but most turn out to be too deep, or are taken up by pearl farms. Finally, we find a great little spot tucked in amongst the mangroves. We haven’t seen any crocs here, but I’m sure they’re around, so we admire the view from above the water.
The next morning, we have a visit from Irwin, a lovely young man who runs the nearby homestay with his family. He has a little bit of English, and with my dreadfully inadequate Indonesian we manage to have a bit of a chat. Again, they’ve had no guests for 18 months so they survive by selling fish to the Sorong markets. It’s not an easy life, but you wouldn’t know it from that big smile.
Our final destination is the north-west tip of Batanta, where a few dive sites are marked around the island of Dayang. We drop anchor in a big sandy patch off a small homestay/village. What an idyllic spot!
We meet Hans, who lives here with his wife and parents. His family own much of the surrounding land, so he kindly gives us permission to stay and explore. He crewed for a while on another Aussie’s boat, so he has a bit of English which is a bonus, and he’s just a lovely, lovely guy.
While here, we get to do a few dives – the only drawback is the strong currents flowing around the islands. Our first dive is very short, more like an express ride, so no chance to take photos! The other two dives we do with Hans, and while not being the most spectacular dives we’ve ever done, there’s plenty of healthy coral and fish life.
During our stay we get to meet Hans’s extended family, his aunt and uncle, brother (or maybe cousin?) and kids who all live in the larger village about 1/2 hour away. We spend a lovely afternoon ashore with them (‘Mr Google’ translate comes in very handy) and later they come aboard Toucan which they declare is just like a city apartment.
They’re all delightful people who’ve made us feel very welcome. This is going to be a tough place to leave!