Raja Ampat in Indonesian West Papua is incredible and I can't believe it's not listed as a destination here on VT. Acknowledged as the world's premier marine biodiversity location, it's very remote, but well worth the effort to get to. It's an adventure!
I visited there in April 2011 after booking accommodation at the only budget place I could find listed on the internet. (I couldn't afford the prices the dive resorts and liveaboards were asking.) We arrived at Waisai on Pulau Waigeo to find the promised boat to take us to Pulau Kri wasn't there. The phone number our booking was made on wasn't working anymore either. Then we discovered our booking had been blown off in favour of the cast and crew of the French version of Survivor! :P It was a serious worry until we met a local guide who was able to show us some of the many budget accommodation places that do exist. As luck would have it, he was a dive guide too! It was great - went from being a complete bummer to the best time ever :)
The range of dives and snorkelling opportunities there are amazing. From steep walls and caves to the richest coral reefs I've ever seen. Not a lot of big pelagics, but BILLIONS of fish, nudibranchs, soft corals and amazing micro stuff like pipefish and pygmy seahorses. Snorkelling among the blue water mangroves of Pulau Gam was a highlight. You don't need to be a diver to see some awesome stuff. You can even hang with manta rays at snorkelling depths.
It's not just about the ocean either: The island landscapes are mind-blowing. Thousands of secret bays, jellyfish filled lakes, leatherback turtle feeding grounds and jungles full of exotic critters like Birds of Paradise, cuscus and huge butterflies.
The Papuan people of the islands are warm and welcoming and can take you to see ancient burial caves, WWII cave bunkers and battle wreckage, and ancient rock art reminiscent of that seen in Australia.
Hard to get to and definitely no luxury holiday destination, but one of the world's true treasures.
A friendly little village half way between Kiroma / Yogosem and Ninia. You have to cross quite a large mountain to get here. The way up is just steep walking, but the way down involves some near-verticle scrambles and a long stretch of path made out of slippery logs. The people are friendly and not used to seeing tourists.
The photo is of where we sept on the way from Kiroma to Moning.
A missionary outpost on the edge of the Yalimo and Mek territory. It could take anything from 1 - 6 days to get here from Angguruk (1 if you're a very fast waking Papuan and 6 if you're a not so healthy westerner who likes to take it slowly!)
There's a grass airstrip that is serviced less regularly than the one at Angguruk
A missionary outpost and the biggest settlement in the Yalimo. The people are wonderful and the scenery is, as usual, stunning. There's also a grass airstrip and if you have time you can wait here and hope to be allowed on a missionary flight. You may have to wait up to 2 weeks though, and Papuans who want to board the plane will of course be given priority. From here you can trek East to Nalca and further East to Eipomek, from where you can cross the central mountain range to Langda. Alternatively you can trek North East to Kosarek, Nipsan, Endoman, then back down to Eipomek.
Angguruk's twice weekly market attracts people from all over the Yalimo who come to sell their fruits and vegetables. It's an unforgettable sight.
One of the first villages in the Yalimo when coming from Ninia, and within a day's trek from Pronggoli if coming from Gunung Elit. Very friendly people and lots of other villages nearby to visit. There's also a weekly market. Porters / guides can be hired here for as little as 30,000 rupiah a day. The scenery round here is stunning.
A very long and tough trek with 3 mountains to cross, plenty of vertical climbs / descents, muddy jungle and a long stretch where no fresh water is available - don't make the mistake I made and forget to stock up! If you can't do this in one day then there is a place about two thirds of the way along where you can sleep. It's sheltered by a cliff face and long grass, but still very cold as it's quite high up a mountain.
A small village 2 - 3 hours walk from Ninia in the direction of Angguruk. It is the last village before the long slog to the Yalimo through an uninhabited area. This is the Bupati Yahokima's home village.
A large missionary outpost. The people here are very religious. No one wears traditional dress and, amazingly for Papua, no one smokes. The reason is the particularly extreme band of missionaries who first set up an outpost here back in 1963. Still, the people are very friendly and very unused to seeing tourists. There are some pools and waterfalls nearby where you can shower and wash clothes.
The people here are Yali, but they speak a different dialect from the Yalis near Angguruk and they are not as short-statured.
A missionary outpost further east than Kosarek. The people here are Mek. The terrain between Angguruk and here is pretty rugged.