In the north east of Indonesia is Irian Jaya, the western half of the island of New Guinea and now referred to as West Papua. At the westerly end are a cluster of small islands known as Raja Ampat. For a very long time, few people had heard of them as almost no-one lives there and only visitors were scuba divers.
In 2001, Australian scientist, Dr. Gerald Allen, took an expedition there and in a single one-hour dive, spotted 281 different species of fish and registered 950 species overall. The news soon got out and scuba diving liveaboards started travelling north to see what was there.
And there's plenty – schooling fish, soft and hard corals, crustaceans, cephalopods, even a couple of small wrecks. Bigger pelagic fish are not so abundant (this may be seasonal) but there are several known manta ray feeding stations. The landscapes are spectacular, limestone pinnacles ringed by turquoise lagoons with birds everywhere, huge fruit bats and butterflies that flit past the boat.