Since we only were in Raja Ampat for a limited number of days, we tried to do and see as much as possible of this stunning area. Our schedule was pretty packed, for the most part, consisting of a lot of island-hopping (Waigeo, Piaynemo, Arborek, but more on that later) and other activities. Of course, we also made sure we had enough time to relax on the nice beach at the Kordiris Homestay and enjoy the festive atmosphere of Christmas.
So, on our second day in Raja Ampat, we started our adventures very early. We woke up at around 4 o’clock in the morning to go bird watching on the nearby island of Waigeo to find the Cendrawasih Merah, or the Red Bird-of-Paradise. It was still quite dark when we got up and our first surprise was finding out that the boat we reserved was not available at the time. Instead, we had to take a local longboat to the other island.
The Longboat To Waigeo Island
Now, the longboat is a very traditional boat and for inexperienced seafarers like us, travelling by one was quite an adventure on its own. The local Papuan people are absolute experts in using it and manage to keep the perfect balance throughout the worst of weathers. For us, however, the boat was extremely wobbly, especially when filled with six people. The hardest part was getting everyone in and making it out from the shallows into the open water without getting wet.
Because we took a slower boat than planned, we arrived a bit later at Waigeo Island. The boat trip was quite an interesting and beautiful experience in itself because the sun slowly rose while we were on the water. It was stunning to see the light slowly illuminating the clear blue waters and the green emerald islands around us. The stars slowly disappeared and everything lightened up as morning came.
The Hike To The Bird-Watching Spot
Once we landed on the beach of Waigeo, our local Papuan bird-watching-guide was already waiting for us. Since we were a bit late, we immediately set out to go to the bird watching spot. To reach this place, you will have to hike up a steep hill on a muddy path through the rainforest for approximately 45 minutes. You definitely have to wear comfortable walking shoes (although the local guides wore either flip-flop sandals, or just walked barefooted) as you have to climb over some rocky parts, traverse roots of trees, walk over slippery leaves, and muddy pools of water.
Not long after we departed, the extreme humidity of the rainforest hit us. I can safely say, that after walking through this rainforest for a half hour, I have never sweated that much in my life. Like walking in a sauna. It was a great experience, though, and the rainforest on Waigeo Island was so beautiful. There is so much lush, unique, and stunning dense vegetation on these islands that I could spend hours just walking around there and taking in the surroundings. I especially loved the green ferns growing in various places in such large amounts.
Another fantastic surprise was there were not many mosquitoes in the rainforest! We were all lathered up in anti-mosquito spray, but despite it being the rainy season, we were not bothered by mosquitos or any other insects at all. Even at the Kordiris Homestay on Gam Island, we were never really troubled by mosquitoes that much.
One of the best things of the whole trip was meeting the pets of our bird watching guides: a cute pig named Mandos and a dog named Warti! We were so surprised that our main guide had a pig following him around. The pig, who turned out to be female, accompanied us, squealing and grunting, for the whole duration of the trip. She was amazing and absolutely hilarious and had no issue climbing over rocks or run through the forests that cover Waigeo Island. She came over to greet us or give us a sniff or she would just run up ahead, knocking you almost off your feet, trying to look for certain roots and plants. She was so sweet, funny, and well-trained. Later on, the guide would play with her and say: “Mandos nangis”, which means something like “do cry Mandos”, and she would eventually make a squealing noise. It was ridiculous and hilarious. A very unexpected highlight of our trip to Raja Ampat.
The Red Bird-Of-Paradise (Cendrawasih Merah)
The best time to go bird watching on this island is in the early morning around sunrise and late in the afternoon before sunset. During these times, these exotic birds are most active. Walking through the forest, we heard the most amazing and beautiful bird calls. Unfortunately, I did not bring my larger zoom lens, so my photos could not capture the birds from up close, but along the way we did spot several white cockatoos sitting in a tall tree.
We eventually reached the bird spotting place. Luck was with us as the famous animal that we especially wanted to see was already there: the Cendrawasih Merah, also known as the Red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra). We could see it from afar, but with the binoculars of our guides, we could easily observe them. It was especially beautiful to see one male bird, complete with his beautiful colours and long tail, on a single very clearly visible branch of a tall tree, courting a female bird-of-paradise through a unique dance. The dance movements and body language of the bird was just remarkable and we could observe it so clearly. Just an amazing time. Not to mention that we would hear the bird calls echo through the forest.
The Way Back
After resting for a while and observing the bird-of-paradise, and deciding to head back to the beach, we first visited a nearby viewpoint. A hike of about 20 minutes brought us to a place with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. We could see the sea south of Waigeo Island, and Gam Island and Batanta Island were also visible in the distance. It’s just stunning how each of these islands in Raja Ampat is completely covered with lush and green vegetation. Like green emeralds floating in the ocean.
Having filled our heads with images and memories of the amazing Cendrawasih Merah red birds-of-paradise and the spectacular views of Waigeo Island, and it being late already, we made our way back down the steep hill. This seemed more challenging as the forest floor was slippery with mud and leaves. Upon arrival at the beach, we met a bunch of local Papuan kids who were playing around. They were snacking on freshly sliced mangos by dipping them in, strangely enough, chicken stock powder (Royco, for those who are familiar with that brand). This is the first time I have seen this combination. Perhaps even worth a try. A Papuan friend later told me this was actually quite common in that area. There happened to be an absolute giant mango tree on the beach, and every so often a mango would fall, which would make the kids race to be the first one to pick it and cut it up with a knife.
After a good 20 minutes of resting and enjoying the early morning atmosphere, our boat arrived to pick us up and we headed back to the Kordiris Homestay to grab our bags and snorkeling gear and set off to explore the seas and other islands in Central Raja Ampat.