Dozens of attractive saltwater lakes on several islands of Raja Ampat in the Indonesian province of West Papua add to its charms as a tourism destination.
Raja Ampat is rich in a diverse range of coral reefs, sea-grasses, mangrove forests and has unique and beautiful small islands.
Some of the islands in Raja Ampat have dozens of saltwater lakes with unique biota such as jellyfish.
Even in the Misool conservation area, there are more than 40 saltwater lakes and most of them are inhabited by jellyfish which do not sting.
The saltwater lakes with marine biota in Raja Ampat are not widely known and still need further research to determine their condition and functioning in detail.
Lately, the lakes with jellyfish have started to attract local and foreign tourists.
Those saltwater lakes are expected later to be an ideal setting for outdoor activities like rafting, canoeing, swimming and even fishing.
The existence of the lakes in Raja Ampat is expected to give maximum benefit to the local society and to attract more and more domestic and foreign tourists.
Unfortunately, some tourists have assessed that the tour rates offered by Raja Ampat were expensive and it may affect other travelers keen on visiting this tourist area.
"Raja Ampat is much more beautiful than Bali, but the tour rates are more expensive when compared to Bali," Sami Ninggoroh, a tourist of Indian descent who visited Raja Ampat along with some Japanese tourists, stated on Tuesday.
According to Ninggoroh, the Raja Ampat tour rates should be reconsidered as these are quite high, and may negatively impact visitors traffic.
"We have been to Bali and found that the services offered there were better while the travel rates were cheaper as compared to Raja Ampat," he pointed out.
Further, Ninggoroh opined that tourists visiting Bali will certainly want to revisit it, but visitors to Raja Ampat will think twice before planning another trip as it is quite expensive.
He noted that besides being costly, other issues in Raja Ampat also need to be addressed, especially with regard to the services, so that every visitor feels comfortable and craves to come back.
"The services offered by the people of Bali to the tourists are very good as they highly value the tourism sector. They serve the tourists in as best a way as possible. Similar approach should also be applied in Raja Ampat," he emphasized.
Ninggoroh stated that Raja Ampat, as a marine tourism attraction, was already popular across the world, but the tourism packages being offered should be made cheaper.
"The local governments must lower the tour rates and improve the tourism supporting facilities," he added.
Known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth, Raja Ampat is an ideal destination for both local and foreign tourists to relax and unwind.
The visitors to Raja Ampat have the opportunity to witness a multitude of marine habitats and coral reefs at one glance without having to swim a stroke.
Raja Ampat comprises four large islands and hundreds of dots and specks off the fragmented western corner of the land of Papua, the worlds second-largest island.
Most visitors arrive in Raja Ampat through Sorong, a city on the far west coast of Papua, which has an airport, army barracks, and a karaoke bar called Happy Puppy.
In less than two hours from Sorong, the visitors can reach Raja Ampat, where they can indulge in activities such as swimming, diving and snorkeling, or just relax.
Reaching Raja Ampat has now become easier as the Bahari Express fast boat, a public transportation service, is offering rides to foreign tourists from Sorong city to visit the tourist attractions there.
Raja Ampat is home to a multitude of attractions and experiences.
With thousands of people visiting Raja Ampats marine and natural attractions, visitors can skip the crowds and experience it all aboard the Bahari Express fast boat.
"Our ship serves not only the local passengers but also foreign tourists who want to visit Raja Ampat," explained Erwin, a Bahari Express crew member.
The ticket prices of Bahari Express from Sorong to Raja Ampat are only Rp125 thousand per person for economy class and Rp220 thousand per person for business class, and these rates are applicable for both local passengers and foreign tourists alike.
There is high interest among foreign tourists to take a ride on the Bahari Express boat as the services offered are satisfying and enjoyable.
"Every day, several tourists from different countries board the Bahari Express boat from Sorong to Raja Ampat," Erwin stated, adding that the ship serves the Sorong-Raja Ampat route twice daily.
There, the tourists can enjoy not only the beautiful marine biodiversity but also enjoy the scenic beaches and gain local insights into the history of Raja Ampat.
In terms of historic relevance, in the 15th century, the Raja Ampat Archipelago was part of the reign of Tidore Sultanate, a great kingdom centered in the Maluku Islands.
To run its government, the Sultanate of Tidore appointed four local kings to rule the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, which are the fourth-largest until this day.
The term "Four Kings" who ruled the islands became the basis for the name Raja Ampat, which comprises some 610 islands, with a 753 kilometers long coastal line. (Antara)