Trip Report Pulau Pef - Little Raja Ampat Trip Report

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Dan

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Summary

Let me start with a question that I always ask to myself about my last vacation trip. Is it worth the time & money to travel half around the world to dive in Pulau Pef and staying in Raja4 Divers Resort for a week? The answer is absolutely yes!

For those of you who just want to get a quick overview of what Pulau Pef & Raja4 Divers Resort are all about, their promotional video pretty much sums up my experience there:


For the rest of you who want to know more about our experience there, please read on.

Background
A quick search of previous Pulau Pef trip reports in Scubaboard, I found swiss_nomad & xariatay have written similar trip reports more than 4 years ago, here: Trip Report: Raja4Divers

For more recent general information about the resort, please browse Raja4 Divers webpage here: Pulau Pefs dive resort in Raja Ampat, Indonesia - Raja4Divers

In this recent trip report I would not reiterate the swiss_nomad & xariatay reports. Instead, I would just add on what were not mentioned previously & share our recent experience diving & snorkeling there.

Why Pulau Pef?

One of the reasons we selected Pulau Pef is its location. Pulau Pef, as shown in Figure 1, below, is in the center of Raja Ampat. It is just off the west coast of Gam island, 15 km NW of Pulau Arborek (Manta Sandy), 22 km NE of Pulau Penemu (Melissa's Garden), 12 km W of The Passage, a narrow passage, separating Pulau Gam & Pulau Waigeo. Those distances are within 2-boat morning dives from the resort.

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Figure 1: Pulau Pef map
(courtesy of Raja4 Divers)

Pulau Pef and its surrounding areas are often called Little Raja Ampat. It is indeed the case from what I have seen above & under water of other Raja Ampat areas in my 4 previous trips (2 liveaboards and 2 resorts) from Missol to the south, Wayag to the north, Fam to the west and Kri to the east. The pictures above are some of the highlights during our stay in Raja4 Divers Resort. More pictures can be seen here: Dropbox - Pef

Itinerary
On May 6 to 22, 2016, 6 of my buddies & I travel to Indonesia for 2 weeks of land touring, diving & snorkeling in Bali & Raja Ampat. We flew from Houston to Denpasar, Bali, with Singaporean Airlines, via Moscow & Singapore, leaving Houston on Friday the 6th and arriving in Denpasar on Sunday the 8th. We stayed 6 days in Bali to tour Bali & to do some divings & snorkeling in Tulamben & Padang Bay (Padangbai), before going to Raja Ampat. On Friday the 13th, with fingers crossed, we flew with Garuda Airlines to Sorong without a hitch. From Sorong to Pulau Pef we rode Raja4 Divers boat. A more detail itinerary is shown in Table 1, below.

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Table 1: Indonesia Trip Itinerary


Going to the Resort

The Raja4 Divers crew meet us in Sorong airport & took care of our luggages. We met 4 other divers there going to the same resort, a couple from Switzerland & a newlywed couple from Mexico on their honeymoon trip to Indonesia.

The crew took us from Sorong airport to the harbor to ride their speed boat to Pulau Pef. After 3 hour boat ride, we passed a narrow passage separating Waigeo & Gam islands, which is one of exciting dive sites, boringly called "The Passage", a shallow & can be fast current dive, which reminds me of the "Shotgun" (Golden Passage) dive site, a narrow passage between Gililawa Laut & Gillilawa Darat in Komodo. Those dive sites you don't want to miss when you are there.

Upon arriving in Pulau Pef pier, the rest of Raja4 Divers crew welcome us to the island with life music of Papuan song & dance, gave us freshly cut young coconut as a welcome drink and gave us a tour of the resort. Everyone was smiling. I felt my vacation just began & it's time to wind down, relaxing after the long flight & boat ride, having a good rest for a week of exciting divings.

The Bungalows
As you see in the promotional videos, previous report pictures, the bungalows are spaciously constructed with thatched roof & open air vent to take advantage of natural sea breeze to cool the room (hence, no AC). I'm a spoiled brat, who is used to sleep in AC room, especially during the summer heat of Texas. During our stay there, the weather was not cooperating with us. No cool sea breeze happened. The stale humid warm-air made the sleep unbearable. Fortunately, the resort management was nice enough to provide an electrical fan to blow over my bed during the night.

During my stay there, I shared the bungalow with another single diver who was there before I came & willing to share the bungalow with me for his 2nd-week stay. There were also another couple there who stayed for the 2nd week. So the resort was full with 14 customers at the time. I was told that a new bungalow for more than 2 people to share was added and its construction almost complete. So in the future they should be able to accommodate more than 14 customers.

The diving
House reef diving is unlimited. They provide daily 2 morning & an afternoon boat dives plus a night boat dive. They are very organized like a Swiss watch. All boat diving are planned the nite before, written in bulletin board in front of the restaurant, on the way to the air-conditioned camera & computer room. Any changes in the dive plan due to weather condition or any last minute request from the divers will be updated in the plan sheet & confirmed by DM to all divers an hour before the boats leaving to the dive sites. Dive briefing would be conducted about half hour before getting into the boat. The blue dots on the Raja4 Divers map (Figure 1) indicate the dive sites where we went during the trip. Table 1 also shows the dive site names, numbers & dates of the dives took place.

At the end of the trip everyone received a personalized summary sheet listing dive sites, dates, times & guides who took us. This list had helped me a lot in updating my logbook at the end of the trip during the 3.5 hour boat ride back to Sorong.

Returning Home
On the last day in the resort, some of us, including me, have a dive in the Passage in the morning. The weather was also kind to us to give a few hours of bright sun to dry off my dive gears. We also had enough time to pack our stuff, to have a nice lunch and to settle the bills. Before embarking the boat we had a good bye party with life music, singing Papuan song, dancing, hugging & saying good bye to the crew. When we arrived in Sorong, the crew took us to 4-star Swiss-Belhotel Sorong (included in the trip package cost) for a nite stay before taking us to the Sorong airport for our return flight home on the next day.
 
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AlMitch

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Yup that's what I thought.
But hey if you "have" to go to a resort R4D is not a bad option! :wink:

I'm also a bit of spoiled brat when it comes to AC (although in Singapore it is a necessity ALL year round!!) and I've also been given the whole "oh we dont need AC, there is always a cool sea breeze" story only to have sweat dripping from every pore of your body at 1am because there is not a breath of wind!! Not pleasant! And even less pleasant when you have a 7month old who then refuses to sleep! So until my boys are older we have a "Must have AC" policy for dive resorts.

Thanks for the trip report and pics.
 

chillyinCanada

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Must have A/C! Not an option for me to go without.
 
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Dan

Dan

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Forgot to add a couple of manta pictures from Manta Ridge, near Arborek Island, 45 minutes boat ride from Pef. This site, including Manta Sandy & Arborek Jetty are must visit dive sites when you are in Raja Ampat.

I like muck diving too. Night dive under Arborek jetty is in my top list to muck dive on my next trip to Raja Ampat.

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chillyinCanada

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Beauty!!
 

scorpiofish

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Nice report with the itinerary detail. How long was the layover in Makassar? Where did you stay? I've done the Houston-Moscow-Singapore route. It was packed full in coach and brutal. So, was Manta Ridge ripping? I have a shot there with 14 mantas in it. I also got sucked down in a little vortex/eddy after I surfaced. Is was a popular site on one of our trips.
 
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Dan

Dan

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Thanks! I spent the whole weekend to write it. :D

The layover in Makassar was 8hrs & 25 min outbound & 4hrs & 15 min inbound. We took Garuda Airlines on the outbound, 5/13/16 GA620 16:20-18:50 DPS-UPG, 5/14/16 GA698 03:15-06:30 UPG-SOQ. On the inbound we took Sriwijaya Airlines 5/21/16 SJ571 10:45-12:00 SOQ-UPG, SJ727 14:15-15:25 UPG-DPS.

To kill the outbound 8+ hr layover time in Makassar, we had a quick dinner inside that nice little-airport & stayed in the d'Prima airport hotel, 2min walk from the terminal to the hotel. A nice, clean-bed room for $22/night. I managed to have a $20 1-hour massage, nice warm-shower & a short rest in AC room there. d'primahotel by Home In Airport Makassar | Mobile Homepage

Our Singapore Airlines flight wasn't full, some of us were able to get the whole row of 3 seats empty to lie down flat for a good nap. The food was good, the service was excellent, plenty of movie selections to entertain us. For $850 Houston-Denpasar roundtrip I have no complains whatsoever. I'll do it again next year in November.

Wow 14 mantas! Lucky you! When I was there Manta Ridge's current wasn't ripping, but it kept my hook stayed firmly on the rock so I could free my hands to take good pictures & videos of the mantas. Unfortunately we only saw 2 mantas that day. No Darth Vader (the cool all black colored manta that we fondly name it). I saw it 6 months before, including a Blue-Ringed Octopus (see the pictures, above).
 
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