Avoid Bali Crowds At This Little-Known Indonesian Archipelago With Such Surreal Beauty

The Indonesian islands are unlike any other place in the world. However, most tropical islands lag far behind Bali in terms of tourism, thanks in part to unbelievable beaches and luxurious resorts. As such, Bali is extremely crowded and has taken its place as an influencer destination overrun with designated "content creator friendly" Instagram area and tourist traps. Even Hollywood movies set in Bali are filmed in other tropical locations. It is all very off-putting to those trying to escape the crowds and find a bit of peace on their vacations.


Luckily, Indonesia is made up of a staggering 17,500 islands. Most of these are small and wild, but plenty beg for exploration. Off the northwestern tip of Bird's Head Peninsula in western Papua New Guinea is the majestic Indonesian archipelago Raja Amput. Overflowing with beauty in and out of the water on its four main islands,  Raja Ampat is also known as the "Four Kings" — Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool — along with approximately 1,500 smaller islands. The surreal beauty and experiences in Raja Ampat are what you would hope to find in paradise, making it an ideal alternative to Bali.

What to check out while exploring Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is overflowing with natural wonders and amazing sights, and there is a logical explanation for why the islands are so rich in flora and fauna. Raja Ampat is in the heart of the Coral Triangle not far from Australia and New Zealand. The Triangle forms where the Pacific and Indian oceans meet and creates an absolutely amazing biodiverse ecosystem. While visiting the islands, you won't have to wait in long lines, like at Bali's high-traffic, "tourist-trap" sites. You also won't have many of the comforts us Americans are familiar with, like Wi-Fi, streaming channels, or plenty of electrical outlets. This is not a posh spa resort, but more so a rugged and real adventure somewhere stunning and overlooked. The magnitude of the natural biodiversity is thanks to the overlooked part. 


Here you can climb the tallest hill, Pianemo Hill or Little Wayag, as it is lovingly known, by following the trail of 250+ wooden steps meticulously placed among the gum trees. This is a chance to capture the perfect panorama of a surreal aquamarine ocean dotted with small scattered islands. Another amazing experience you should consider is a trip to Heart Lake in Misool, which is enchanting with its clean turquoise water and small beach — perfect for some soul searching or some serenity. Stairs are located near the lake and leading up to the highest point, allowing you to capture a photo of the entirety of this body of water. 

Some of the most diverse coral reefs in the world

The underwater scene in Raja Ampat is one of the most diverse areas of the world and has over 1,400 species of fish while boasting so many types of known coral reefs — more than 550 to be exact. As part of the Coral Triangle region of the ocean, the waters surrounding Raja Ampat's islands are home to an unparalleled array of additional marine life. While enjoying the beauty of the rainbow-colored coral, divers are also able to swim among some really neat marine life like, passing green sea turtles, adorable pygmy seahorses, amazing mantis shrimp, graceful Manta rays, gigantic mola-mola or sunfish, and intricately designed carpet sharks. 


The diving is perfect for first-timers and seasoned experts alike. Some of the best scuba diving takes place in water that's only 3-5 feet deep at most, but more experienced divers will prefer the best dives, including Mioskun with it's 25-ft deep reefs, the underwater pinnacle of Blue Magic, reef sharks of Sardine Reef, and Melissa's Garden, where you might be lucky enough to see some wobbegong carpet sharks cruising the sandy bottom. And these are only a few of the great dives in Raja Ampat. 

Choosing this remarkable set of islands over crowded Bali is a great choice for those looking for a serenity in a true paradise.