Wayag, Raja Ampat. Paradise found…?
How do you define a ‘Paradise’?
Is it a feeling?
The particular look of a place?
Is it the people you are with, or the things you are doing, somewhere?
I guess a paradise is very different for everyone and it depends on what you are looking for in your own particular paradise, in your own life situation at that particular time and place.
For us, we have spent almost 10 months on our yacht, sailing around the Pacific, stopping at many of the places that people consider to be paradise. You know the ones… those white sandy beaches with the palm trees gently blowing in the breeze, the clear and warm water inviting you in to play…
We have seen a lot of these type of places and enjoyed every one. Each one different in its own right and providing us with different aspects of being in a paradise.
None, though, had quite the complete picture, all wrapped up in one package, as we found in Wayag, Northern Raja Ampat.
For us, this had it all.
There were the beaches, with their powdery, white sand. A new one on every turn of the dinghy. The gentle waves and the crystal-clear water inviting us in at every opportunity. There were palm trees swaying in the breeze. Fish and baby sharks swimming around the boat for us to watch and marvel at.
But there was more here too!
Karst limestone cliffs, tucking us into the environment, enclosing us in a bay of such stunning beauty all our jaws dropped open when we motored in to it. Giant hills, vegetation eeking out a living in the scrappy sections where dirt had managed to accumulate on the towering rock formations, providing a landscape that was both lush and fragile at the same time.
Turquoise water, of varying shades. Making its easy way through the islets, creating twists and turns to explore in the dinghy, finding delights like a huge drying sand area at low tide, the size of several football fields, a ready-made playground for the games and fun we had there. Where children could run free and un bothered, with only nature as their playthings, the sun on their happy, wild heads and they exploded with life.
There was the clear water, swirling in and out of the open ocean with the tides. Meandering its way through the cliffs, eating away at the undersides and bringing with it nutrients to feed the clouds of fish and gardens of coral under the water.
There was the marine life, which was plentiful and varied.
A place where the playground for a child is as much above the water as below, with sights like shy Moray Eels poking their heads out of coral caves, schools of parrotfish and surgeon fish, hundreds of fish wide, gliding around us, unafraid and hungry, their feeding filling our ears with the sounds of hard teeth scraping away the coral they eat.
Nudibranch discoveries, small and vividly colourful creatures, waving their tiny antennae as they try to ensnare food that passes them by on the currents. Turtles and sharks swimming near you, unafraid and graceful, filling the kids brains with colour and magic.
A giant mountain of volcanic rock and scrub to climb, to truly appreciate the view of the stunning environment we had found ourselves nestled in.
The rocks sharp and steep and the climb challenging at parts (especially with smaller children hanging off your back!) but out of this world incredible with that last step onto the top of the ‘hill’ and seeing where you have landed yourself, in this incredible world.
Breath taken away by the sheer beauty of it all. Wordless and mute, standing in the heat looking over this utopia.
A beach off the back of our home, so perfect in its shape and texture, drying out a little more each hour as the tide fell, the lapping of the water on the overhanging rocks slowly stopping as the sand exposed itself.
A 20 m swim from the boat to the beach, making it the most accessible beach we have ever anchored by. A delight for the children to spend hours exploring, from its shallow water to splash in, to the bit of bush that was behind it, with its creatures and insects, this place had enough variety to keep 7 children entertained for hours on end…
But for us, I think what made it the best place we have been to was the friends.
The other 2 boats we were travelling with provided a sense of community and shared delight in our surroundings.
It meant friends for the kids to play with (along with adult friends for us too!).
We have spent a lot of these past months on our own, with often no other boats nearby and if there were other boats, there were mainly adults only on board. It can be hard to make connections out here.
This also made it hard for the kids as they missed other children and the playtime and friendship it provides for them.
We have had to provide it for them, along with the running of a yacht, making all the food and day to day chores, in a slightly less convenient and much smaller environment than we had before we moved aboard (think no dishwasher for starters…!!). It can become overwhelming, the number of things to complete each day. A boat is a never-ending piece of kit that is in constant need of ongoing maintenance and children can feel missed out with all that ends up going on!
So the down time we got to experience, while the kids swam ashore to play, the hours they spent laughing, exploring, swimming, joking, creating and just filling their cups full of happiness in general, made it easy for us adults to be able to sit back and enjoy the surroundings in a relative peace and quiet we have not had since we moved aboard.
We had fires on the beach, dinners and drinks all together. We had discovery expeditions as a group and time to relax and enjoy our environment separately.
This for us was our true paradise. The best place that we have been to yet on this trip.
Paradise is more than one thing. I thought it was always just the place you went to, so forever lusted after those glossy magazine pictures, thinking that would fulfil my fantasy of being in paradise.
But what I have realised is that paradise is more than just where you are. It is what you are doing and who you are with.
Sometimes paradise is just being with one person, or spending special time alone. Other times it is the need to be with just your family, enhancing a bond together, but this time, for me, it was being with others and their children, while being conveniently located in the dreamiest wonderland we have ever seen.
Resting on the beach after the climb.