I’ve dived all over the world and Indonesia offers some of the if not the best diving you can find. Raja Ampat and Komodo are the two most well known and the most amazing dive areas that the country has to offer. I’ve been to both National Parks for scuba diving.
I did my divemaster course in Komodo and spent many months diving in the national park. I’ve done a dive liveaboard visiting the central and southern part of Raja Ampat which was incredible. Before reading this post, make sure to read my other posts to see amazing photos and get acquainted with these two parks.
This post will go into detail for those that are looking to visit Indonesia but can’t decide which marine park to visit: Komodo or Raja Ampat?
It’s impossible to pick a definitive winner between the two because they are both incredible dive sites with their own unique traits. All in all, if these are your two options, you are already spoiled for riches because these are the best dive sites that the world has to offer.
Diving Seasons Komodo vs Raja Ampat
Diving in Komodo and Raja Ampat can be done year round. There are seasons where certain things are “better” than others but overall, Komodo and Raja Ampat don’t experience severe rainy seasons.
Komodo and Raja Ampat have opposite “dry seasons” where the diving is considered the best conditions. Komodo’s dry season runs from April to November and Raja Ampat runs from November to April. Many of the liveaboards in Indonesia dive in Raja Ampat during its dry season and then crosses over to Komodo to do the Komodo season from April to October.
However, Komodo for example is a gem during rainy season months due to its large number of manta rays. Something about the rainy season attracts more mantas to the popular dive sites like Manta Point and Mawan. I’ve dived in Komodo mostly during the rainy seasons and have seen mantas galore. The dry season of Komodo mean the conditions are better in the north so ultra popular sites like Shotgun, Castle Rock, and the Cauldron are possible.
Ease of Visiting
Komodo and Raja Ampat are both destinations that you’ll need to fly from Bali or Jakarta.
Komodo is only 1 hour away by flight from Bali and there are are multiple flights a day between Bali and Labuan Bajo. From Labuan Bajo, you’re already at the border of the national park. There are plenty of dive shops in Labuan Bajo that will take you to the park for the day. There are also tour operators that will take you for day trips into the National Park if you don’t dive.
Raja Ampat is located in the West Papua province which is Indonesia’s eastern most province. From Bali, you’ll need to fly through Makassar or Jakarta to reach the port town of Sorong which is the nearest airport to the National Park. From Sorong, your liveaboard will leave from Sorong to the national park. If you’re planning to stay in an eco lodge or a homestay, you’ll need to take another speedboat 3 hours to the national park. Overall, it is a whole day experience.
Winner: Komodo National Park
Without a doubt, Komodo is much easier to visit than Raja Ampat. Komodo can almost be a bit of an impromptu adventure whereas you really need to be committed for Raja Ampat.
Cost of diving and visiting
This section is pretty clear cut. Komodo is an easy to reach destination and the diving is quite cheap by global standards.
There are many different dive shops in Labuan Bajo and you can easily have a 3 dive day trip for $100 USD. Labuan Bajo, although not a beautiful city, has many accommodation options of all levels for you to choose from.
Raja Ampat is totally different than Komodo. Because it is so far from Sorong, you can’t stay in Sorong and dive in the national park for the day. You must either dive by liveaboard or stay in the national park. Within the National Park, it is very remote and wild which is part of the attraction for me. There are only a few different options for you to choose from. For the mid level traveler, there are eco-lodges where you can stay in nice accommodations but these don’t come cheap. Because of how remote it is, everything has to be brought to the islands so you can expect prices to be high.
If you want to travel on a budget, you can stay at the numerous homestays on the local islands in Raja Ampat. These homestays are very cheap ($20-$50 a night) but they are incredibly basic. Many of them don’t even have proper running water so don’t expect much in terms of comfort. Even after securing cheap accommodation, you’ll still need to find dive operators. Diving is much more expensive in Raja Ampat than Komodo because of how remote things are, higher petrol prices, and just generally a more premium vibe.
Cost of liveaboards in Komodo vs Raja Ampat
Liveaboards in Raja Ampat are very expensive compared to Komodo. Generally, you can expect Raja Ampat to be about 50% more expensive. I think much of this is because of petrol prices and how much is used. A Raja liveaboard trip will travel much more than Komodo because of how much bigger Raja Ampat is.
Winner – Komodo
Without a doubt, you will spend far less on a trip to Komodo than a trip to Raja Ampat!
Above Water Landscapes and Beauty
Visiting Komodo and Raja Ampat is not just all about the diving. Of course, diving is the main draw and what made these places so famous but it’s also a beautiful paradise for those that are not diving (or are diving but want to also enjoy the nature).
Both areas are absolutely stunning as far as natural beauty above water is concerned.
Komodo Natural Landscape beauty
Komodo is a breathtaking marine park with the two main islands of Komodo Island and Rinca Island making up the space. There are also plenty of smaller islands in between famous for its diving and natural beauty.
Komodo is probably one of the most unique places I’ve been to as far as looks go. The islands above water look like arid desert during the dry season. The landscape is a vibrant brown with the occasional tree dotting the landscape. In the wet season, the islands are completely green and its rolling hill like design make it seem like I’m traveling around Ireland.
The juxtaposition is incredibly fascinating to me because it doesn’t feel like a place that should offer diving. The waters surrounding the islands are a stunning tropical blue however which makes the comparison even more striking.
Make sure to hike to the top of Padar Island for incredible views of the national park.
Raja Ampat landscapes
Raja Ampat is known as the Last Paradise and it really feels like it. Raja Ampat is a much larger park than Komodo and looks completely different. The park is known for its incredibly lush green islands with numerous families of trees built on spire like islands.
There are many smaller islands of all different sizes that pop up out of the ocean making the aerial landscape out of this world. There are also many incredible beaches and private islands you can find to enjoy during a surface interval or a kayaking trip.
Places like Piaynemo and the heart shaped lagoon will take your breath away.
Raja Ampat just felt a lot more mysterious as well. The islands are so lush and full of trees that I was constantly asking myself what is in there?
Winner – Raja Ampat
For me, it has to be Raja Ampat. It just felt like you were at the end of the world with its beauty and remoteness. Komodo is no slouch either. I absolutely loved spending months in Komodo and never not in awe of its beauty. However, after visiting Raja Ampat, it is that much more beautiful that it has to take it.
Scuba Diving Comparison Komodo vs Raja Ampat
Finally, on to the real stuff. What everyone has come to this post for. What about the scuba diving itself? Which place is superior between Komodo and Raja Ampat?
The quick summary is this is an incredibly difficult and almost impossible question to answer! For starters, I spent a lot of time diving in Komodo doing my divemaster course there, but only 1 week in Raja Ampat on a liveaboard. If I spent more time in Raja Ampat, maybe I would consider it differently but the following points are also based on my numerous conversations with people that consistently dive both areas year round.
Both Raja Ampat and Komodo have insane amount of healthy corals. The currents and being in the coral triangle ensures that corals are abundant and healthy.
Raja Amapt is famous for its huge swathes of fan corals. Dive sites like Melissa’s Garden has a huge hard coral garden that seems to go on forever. Komodo also has crazy beautiful coral gardens with vibrant colors of diversity. Dive sites like Tatawa Kecil and Siaba Besar are some of my favorites. It’s impossible to choose here, you are in good hands with either option.
The fish density in Raja Ampat is absolutely incredible. In fact, the Cape Kri dive site in Raja Ampat has been noted as having the highest amount of fish in one dive at 374! It felt like I was diving into an underwater aquarium every time I went underwater.
Komodo also has insane amounts of fish life in places like Batu Balong, the Cauldron, and Siaba Besar.
If I had to pick between the two however, I would have to give the edge to Raja Ampat. There is just so much fish everywhere and always.
Big Pelagic Life
Raja Ampat and Komodo both offer their fair share of large pelagic life. Mantas can be seen year round in both locations with even oceanic mantas on offer at Raja Ampat. However, Komodo is a bigger attraction for mantas as there are just more of them in the park. Dive sites like Karang Makassar and Mawan are manta hotspots with huge schools often seen in certain times of year.
Nothing is a guarantee in diving, but the chances of seeing Mantas and other big things are much higher in Komodo. Therefore, I would take Komodo for big fish.
Difficulty of diving
Without a doubt, Komodo is a harder place to dive. The currents in Komodo are constantly changing and during certain times of the month, you can experience incredible ripping currents that are super fun for someone like me, but might be scary for a new diver.
Raja Ampat also has currents but on average, it is nowhere near as extreme as Komodo! Therefore, Raja Ampat is easier for diving but if you like strong currents, then Komodo is the place for you.
Komodo has insane currents that do all sorts of things at any time of year. The water temperatures is incredibly variable ranging from 24 to 28 on average. Most of the times I dived in Komodo I saw temperatures below 27 which is a bit on the cold side as I don’t dive with a wetsuit.
Raja Ampat however has very consistent temperatures all throughout the park and most of the year. 28-29 degrees is normal and to be expected. It was near 29 degrees on every dive when I visited in April. The only other place with such warm waters I’ve seen is in the Maldives.
What do dive professionals like between Raja Ampat and Komodo?
So the above comparisons have all been my personal opinion with my limited experience diving in Raja Ampat. On my liveaboard, I talked about this topic in extensive detail with the dive guides that worked on the boat.
If anything, these guys are to be trusted because they literally have dived Raja Ampat and Komodo their whole lives (how lucky). I’m talking about thousands of dives year in and year out between the two national parks.
Raja Ampat is beautiful but homogenous
The consensus was that Raja Ampat was incredibly beautiful offering insane amounts of fish on every dive. Something I’ve already noted in the sections above. Raja Ampat is always a crowd pleaser because every dive will impress even the most experienced of divers.
Komodo offers more variety and more fun if diving by themselves
Komodo offers similar fish life and underwater beauty as Raja Ampat but there is more variety. There is more bigger things to see like constant Mantas during certain times of year, incredible currents in the Shotgun, and fish pandemonium in the Cauldron.
The dive guides said if they were fundiving by themselves, they would choose Komodo because it is more interesting and more fun because of the unpredictable currents.
If they were guiding customers, Raja Ampat is their choice as it is more consistent and stable. There is less that can go wrong in Raja Ampat and makes for easier guiding.
Hopefully this article has helped you with deciding between Komodo and Raja Ampat on your big trip. It’s not an easy decision to make by any means but either option will ensure you experience some of the best diving in the world. It’s the most difficult and most easy decision you’ll make.
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