Situated about 45 minutes (in good weather) by speedboat from the rather dusty, industrial port town of Sorong, Papua Paradise Eco Resort is a very convenient gateway to the sights of the Raja Ampat Regency: Fam, Cape Kri, Manta Sandy, Arborek Jetty, etc. It’s also nice and close to Sorong – as opposed to Misool, another resort with excellent online reviews. Our flight from Makassar (where we’d spent the night) departed at 5am so we appreciated this proximity, as we’d also spent about three hours on arrival hanging around hot and rather listless, at a local hotel in Sorong, awaiting our speedboat transfer.
The boat crew – led by the unflappable Captain Sius, a Raja Ampat native – helped us load all our luggage onto the speedboat, then as the resort’s jetty became visible, we realised there were a heap of smiling staff standing there, singing and beating on drums, waiting to welcome us, including the general manager, Johann.
We received a delicious cold drink, a refreshing wet towel and a short briefing about mealtimes, as well as how to book excursions before we were shown to our rooms and our bags came by wheelbarrow shortly thereafter. The view from our Superior Bungalow was spectacular, with a seagrass meadow behind it and sunsets over coral reef in front of it. It was in this seagrass meadow (with rather long grass) that we saw two dugongs on two separate occasions. These super-shy and very rare creatures are elusive, so keep very quiet if you see one – your footsteps on the boardwalk above them are enough to scare them off, let alone yelling for others to come have a look.
Inside the traditional Papuan-themed bungalow is a four-poster bed with mosquito netting, turned down beautifully each night by helpful, friendly staff. There is a comfortable cushioned lounge nook to one side, perfect for afternoon siestas, as well as a generous deck with sun loungers and more seating – ideal for drying wet clothing, reading and generally just lying around watching colourful marine life play as the sun slips away.
The ensuite bathroom is open-air so expect plenty of birdsong as you bathe beneath the rainshower. We were woken each morning to the plaintive calls of wagtails or the quacking of shore ducks and just once, to the squawking of handsome red-crested palm cockatoos. The hot water was slightly temperamental – but we were miles from civilisation so I wasn’t complaining! There was also complimentary laundry service – very handy given I travel super-light, and my clothes came back smelling a lot nicer than if I had just hand-washed them!
Beside the ample wardrobe with a safe was a small tea/coffee station and fridge. There was also an urn filled with cool drinking water, and two stainless steel canisters so you could eschew reef-harming plastic bottles. These you could keep as a souvenir.
Papua Paradise suffers from a serious plastic pollution problem, as does all the rest of Raja Ampat and the world. The resort employs at least two staff – including the lovely Arie – who spend most of their time fishing out discarded trash from the seagrass beneath our villa. We helped on several occasions pick up plastic bags, cups, spoons, and I even found a discarded syringe on one of my rubbish-hunting forays.
Whilst piecemeal removal isn’t going to solve the overall problem of pollution, I think everybody can do a little bit by removing rubbish, and by not using one-use products (such as bottles, plastic bags and even cotton buds). I think talking to locals about the implications of plastic waste (in a non-judgmental manner) is also helpful. On our trip, I found out from various locals that there was no waste disposal available anywhere in the region, so locals simply throw their rubbish into the ocean.
By expressing our dismay at seeing such a beautiful place (and their home) marred by trash, some of the crew and staff joined us in picking up trash too – not wanting to disappoint their visitors. We made this activity entertaining by setting large piles of the stuff (shoes, bottles, ciggie packets, bleach bottles, you name it) alight on various idyllic sandbars as well as on a leafy island that served as a bat refuge (and rubbish tip, it seemed!).
Our friends also took one of the big orange plastic kayaks available at the jetty off to a nearby beach – this looked like great fun, but unfortunately, we only had enough downtime from diving to explore the two excellent house reefs with snorkel and mask. My only pro tip: stay longer than a week!
One of the best things about Papua Paradise was their policy of limited group sizes to four (for most dive excursions). This meant excellent personal attention from the dive guide and crew, as well as the flexibility to stay as long (or as short) as you wanted at any site, as most of the boats had just our group on board. During our stay, we only experienced one trip – to Fam – where there were twelve guests on the boat. However, our group of four was always looked after our guide – the excellent Ezra.
The Wilson’s Bird of Paradise trip was restricted to just two people at a time. You can read about this experience here.
Another major benefit offered by Papua Paradise is that it is close to a manta ray cleaning station (off Wai Island) so you don’t have to jostle with divers from other resorts in Raja Ampat for a vantage point. In any case, all the points of interest are no more than 2 hours away by speedboat. Read about our favourite dive sites here.
On all excursions at Papua Paradise, the staff were very friendly, helpful and there were always dry towels, fresh drinking water, tea, coffee and snacks (chocolate doughnuts nearly every time!) on every boat, no matter the duration of the trip.
On day trips, lunch was picnic style with three options: sandwiches (rolls), rice or noodles (your choice, made the evening before). All were very yummy and served in generous portions. Being mostly vegetarian and partial to the resort’s freshly baked rolls, my lunchbox always comprised of sliced onion, tomato, lettuce, a slice of cheese, a couple of spicy cubes of tempeh and a hardboiled egg. My companions often had mi goreng, or rice with tofu or tempeh and stir-fried vegies. Of course, there were always the ubiquitous Indonesian sauces – kicap manis, chilli and also mayonnaise on board – as well as fresh fruit.
At the restaurant, meals were served by kind, friendly waitstaff who never forgot our drink orders after day 1 (the options being iced water or iced tea with sugar or without). They also always made sure my partner and I had a big plate of veg options – usually fried tempeh or corn fritters (and once, an eggplant parmigiana) – in addition to whatever else was on the big buffet table.
Desserts were fabulous – chocolate mousse, lemon cake, fresh tropical fruit including rambutans, purple dragon fruit and the curious snake fruit – and as one of our friends had a birthday during our stay, we were treated to a huge, luscious chocolate cake served by a chorus of waitstaff. They sang “Happy Birthday” but switched to a cheeky Indonesian song afterwards which translated to “Cut the cake, give us cake”” afterwards. Too funny. We also ordered a nice bottle of white on our final day – can’t remember the label, but it was good, crisp drinking!
Comment: The only thing that I have to comment on is how much floating plastic garbage ends up in the resort’s seagrass (where the dugongs hang out) but this is no fault of the resort! Would I come back? YES! YES! YES!
For tips on how to reach Raja Ampat, read this post:
For our favourite dive sites, read this:
To find out more about seeing the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise, visit this page: