After one last morning swimming among the rainbow reefs, we took the boat back to Sorong without a clue where to stay or how to get back to Bali. The first mission was to meet up with a Biodiversity representative on the mainland so that we could go to an ATM to pay-off the rest of our bill. (Pro tip: stock up on cash before leaving the mainland!) He turned out to be the nicest young chubby kid who ended up helping us find a place and even invited us over for his mom’s home-cooking. Of course we agreed, but had no idea we were actually walking into a gathering of about 30 young teenagers from his christian youth group. The price of dinner turned out to be posing for pictures, helping kids practice english, and singing christian hymns that they just assumed we knew since we were white. The family was extremely welcoming and it was a good distraction from the stress of not being able to find a flight out the next day.

Sorong is not the type of place you want to be stuck in for long so we decided to just go for broke and spend the next day at the airport figuring something out. Turned out to be a wise decision and I’ll just summarize by copying my facebook status update when we made it back to Bali:
“Woke up at 5am in the backwater port town of Sorong, Indonesia with no exit strategy since all upcoming flights found online were sold out or ridiculously expensive. Crossing our fingers, we cabbed to the airport and found one Lionair ticket window open at 5:30. Initially hoping just to make it out to one of the hub airports, the lady behind the counter managed to string together Sorong->Ambon->Makassar->Denpasar for surprisingly cheap. Despite it being known as one of Indonesia’s sketchiest airlines, the transfer windows being about 30 minutes each, and the fact that the first flight was boarding as we withdrew the cash needed to buy the ticket using the one bank card between us that hadn’t already reached its daily maximum, we landed in Bali (with bags!) and were in Ubud by lunchtime. The travel gods sure smiled upon Georgia and I today.”

Raja Ampat

Sorong

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Raja Ampat is not known for being a last-minute budget destination, but we tried out best to cut costs. Our journey to paradise was bumpy: boat ride from Gili to Lombok, 90min cab ride to the airport, flight to Makassar, overnight at the airport, arrival in Sorong at the crack of dawn, sweaty walk to the tourist information centre followed by a two hour wait for it to open, 30 minute walkthrough of “sold outs” and “just lefts” when going through the list of diving live-aboards, cab ride in a nice car that dropped us off at a sketchy pier far away from our destination, second cab ride in a much sketchier car that at least got us to the public ferry pier, two hour ferry to Waisai island, final ride to a remote beach on Gam island. As soon as we saw the reefs under the crystal clear bathtub water and stepped off the boat, our feet sinking into the soft coral sand, we knew it was all worth it.

I thought beaches like this only existed in the movies, Hollywood trickery to simulate an ancient natural purity lost to the plague of mass market tourism. At that moment, I thought to myself that my feet were sinking into the platonic Form of a beach, like I had been transported into a world where everything was at it should be. Clearly I needed some sleep.

The rest of the day was spent sinking into the white sand or floating on the turquoise water. The reefs just a few feet off the beach provided better snorkelling than most dives I’ve ever been on. It’s no surprise seeing as Raja Ampat houses 75% of the world’s coral species and several scientists have claimed that its waters are the most biodiverse in the planet thanks to its location at the heart of the Coral Triangle.

Exhausted from our 24+ hours of travel, long walks, and swims, we tucked into a deliciously simple dinner courtesy of our homestay and promptly fell into a deep sleep. The next morning I awoke with the sun, emerged from our basic wooden shelter, stumbled down to the beach to admire the soft light of dawn casting shadows on the legions of little crabs skittering about on the sand. I grabbed my razor, poured hot water into a giant old clam shell that acted as my sink, and started giving myself a much needed shave. I felt like Robinson Crusoe until my romanticism crashed into Georgia’s lecture on sanitation. (We compromised by her promising to take a picture so that in a few decades I can convince myself that I went through with it.)

At this point it was time to move our stuff down the beach to Raja Ampat Biodiversity Eco Resort.

Raja Ampat

Making Landfall In Raja Ampat

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