Raja Ampat homestays are not exactly homestays.
You won’t be sharing a family’s home if you stay at one. You will however, be the guests of a Papuan family, staying on family owned land in what was once the only type of housing built in the islands. We’re going to continue using the term “homestay”, because that’s how this type of accommodation is referred to by both their owners and Indonesian tourism promotion agencies.
Most homestays are built from timber and palm thatch and might be better thought of as bungalows, huts or even beach shacks or camps. Regardless of name, they provide the cheapest available accommodation for independent travellers to Raja Ampat.
Please note that while homestays provide budget accommodation in Raja Ampat, they are by no means cheap when compared to accommodation in other Southeast Asian destinations. Read this information if you want to know why that is – and should be – the case.
There are 40+ homestays in operation at present. They have been built in locations ranging from the center of local villages to isolated, uninhabited islets where all your food will need to be brought with you or delivered. These locally owned traditional Papuan accommodation options can provide the opportunity to fully engage in the daily life of your Papuan hosts, or they can deliver the ultimate tropical island getaway – your own Robinson Crusoe adventure. Or anything in between.
Be aware though, that accommodation at Raja Ampat homestays is basic and facilities and services taken for granted at many holiday destinations are generally unavailable. The following are not available at homestay accommodation:
- Internet connections
- Spotless, insect-free rooms
- Private or ensuite bathrooms with flushing toilets (2 homestays offer ensuite bathrooms – see below)
- Restaurants with a-la-carte menus and drinks lists
- Room service (including housekeeping)
If you regard any of the above as essential, then homestay accommodation is definitely not for you.
Homestay facilities are described in general in the following article. Specific descriptions and photos can be found on the accommodation detail page for each homestay. Read on for a more detailed look at what to expect…
RAJA AMPAT HOMESTAY CONSTRUCTION STYLE
A completely traditional homestay, whether it’s a stilt house over the ocean or a bungalow on dry land, will be bush wood or sawn timber framed, floored with sawn planks and have palm thatched walls and roof with no ceiling. A few have sand floors.
Construction styles of the typical traditional homestay range from a single room with one window, to large four-roomed multi-windowed bungalows with verandahs and perhaps a common room. Windows are openings with thatched panels hinged at the top and held open with a stick. Doors are sliding thatched panels. (There’s no locking your room in most homestays.) Fully traditional homestays have bedrooms and living areas only – you won’t find a kitchen, bathroom, toilet or laundry in a traditional Papuan house.
The construction materials and style means you’ll be sharing your room with the local wildlife. Insects and small lizards inhabit the thatching, termites will be quietly moving in somewhere and the buildings’ many small gaps and cracks allow easy access for all kinds of critters. It’s best to keep food in sealed containers to avoid attracting native rats and any other opportunistic scavengers that may live nearby.
Take care if using portable stoves or other naked flames indoors, and be extra careful if you leave mosquito coils burning unattended – palm thatch huts are obviously eminently combustible!
Chairs & tables: With the exception of bedding and a (usually separate) dining area with bench seating, many homestays are almost completely unfurnished. It could be that the only place you’ll have to sit indoors will be the floor. Outside there might only be the front step, or perhaps a bench style seat made from a floorboard and bush wood. This varies from place to place. Some homestays have plenty of chairs and perhaps hammocks. Quite a few have beachside table settings with seating and dining shelters with a large tables and benches. Some have decks over the water with hammocks and table settings. One even has a lounge room with armchairs and occasional tables!
Storage: There might be some simple shelving in your room, or there might not, but don’t expect to find cupboards or wardrobes. If you want to guarantee being able to hang stuff inside you’d best bring a line with you. There’s also no secure storage for valuables at any of the homestays we know of, but we’ve never heard of anyone losing anything either. The highest risk of theft is almost certainly from unscrupulous other travellers. You’re unlikely to have a problem in a private bungalow of your own where local people are always around, but if staying in an isolated homestay you might be more comfortable keeping your valuables with you.
Bedding: Most homestays don’t have “real” beds – just mattresses on the floor or on a fixed platform raised above the floor. Mattresses are usually equipped with a sheet, pillows and bolsters. Mosquito nets in good condition are almost always provided, but you might want to have a needle and thread with you in case mending is required. Some homestays have rooms with mattresses on freestanding wooden bases, but you won’t find any with hotel style mattress and base ensembles.
Lighting and electricity: Almost all homestays supply electricity for lighting and charging devices from their own small generators. Most will only operate the genset from sunset until around midnight, so bring LED light sources with you if you want room lighting outside that period. A few homestays supply electricity all night, but none have it available around the clock. Some homestays have supplementary solar power supplies that allow room lighting after the genset is switched off. Power points for charging devices may not be present in your room, but will be available elsewhere if not. See thisRaja Ampat electricity, telephone and internet information for details about standard electricity voltages and plug types.
BATHROOM AND TOILET FACILITIES
Toilet and bathroom facilities at homestay accommodation are shared facilities housed in a timber-framed palm-thatched hut. Some huts combine bathroom and toilet, some have them in separate rooms. Floors in bathroom buildings may be sand, timber, crushed limestone or (less commonly) concrete.
Bathrooms: Bathing is by bucket and ladle, using fresh water drawn from a large container. This style of bathroom is referred to in the accommodation detail pages as a“dip mandi” bathroom. Most homestays will have piped water to replenish the large container. Waste water from most bathrooms is not plumbed, but channelled away to seep into the ground, so try to stick to environmentally safe biodegradeable soaps and shampoos.
Toilets: Homestay toilets will be either western pedestal or squat style and are flushed by hand, using a bucket and ladle as in the bathroom. Toilets are connected to septic tank systems in all the homestays we’ve visited. Toilet paper is usually, but not always supplied.
No homestays have laundries. You should be prepared to wash your own clothes by hand, although many homestays will perform the service for you for a small fee. As with bathrooms, laundry water is usually disposed of by ground runoff, so if you’re doing your own, be sure to use biodegradeable laundry detergents.
KITCHEN AND DINING FACILITIES
Most homestays have separate kitchen buildings and roofed areas or huts with bench seats and tables for dining. If your homestay doesn’t have a kitchen, food will be prepared in a kitchen at a home nearby and delivered to your accommodation. At homestays with kitchens you can always ask if you’d like to use the facilities to cook something yourself.
Many homestays have flasks or urns of hot water and tea and coffee making supplies available around the clock in the dining shelter. Drinking water is always available. See this Raja Ampat homestay food and drink article for details of what to expect regarding meals and drinks.
Your Papuan hosts will almost certainly have had no hospitality training or experience of the expectations of tourists to more developed destinations, so you shouldn’t expect service like you might receive in a guesthouse or hotel in Bali or Thailand. Additionally, some homestay owners have very little English – although there’s almost always somebody around with enough to enable communication. If you don’t speak any Bahasa Indonesia, bringing a phrasebook will definitely help.
Your hosts will want you to have a great holiday and most will be able to organise guides, boat hire, transfers and excursions with a bit of notice, but they won’t be available around the clock to cater to your every need. You’ll need to be fairly independent, especially when it comes to maintaining supplies of things like toiletries and any other consumeables you’ll need. It’s best to bring all those with you, as shops out in the islands are few and far between and only stock a limited range of basic supplies.
In the event of a service problem that needs raising with your host, always do your best to stay smiling and polite. A rude or overbearing attitude or raising your voice is extremely unlikely to result in a positive outcome and will reflect badly on those of your nationality who come after you. (This is nothing more than common decency and really shouldn’t need to be said, but we mention it because we’ve seen a few instances of folks trying it on and finding that there’s very little you can do in Raja Ampat without the goodwill of your Papuan hosts!)
Sundays are a day of rest and church and community activities for your hosts. There are no organised activities available on Sundays. If you are at all culturally sensitive, you’ll want to resist the temptation to pressure your hosts to take you anywhere on Sundays. You should also do your best to avoid scheduling arrivals and departures on Sundays. Everybody deserves a day off!
Read this Raja Ampat local culture article for more information to help ensure you have the best time at a Raja Ampat Homestay.
If you decide Raja Ampat homestays are for you, our step by step guide provides a quick planning checklist.
Original: Stay Raja Ampat