The Pam Islands in Raja Ampat (often incorrectly referred to as the Fam Islands) are comparable to the speechless beauty of Wayag. However, they lie further west in the Pacific and are removed from the rest of Raja Ampat. The Pam Islands are spread over a significant distance of 700 square kilometers, and their main features include the sumptuous Piaynemo Island and Rufas Island with its lagoon. Except for Piaynemo, all of the islands are low sand cays, densely populated with coconut palms. Here are some of the best beaches in Raja Ampat, where the sand slopes away into the ocean, and there is no fear of having to walk on coral.
Why are they often marked on Raja Ampat maps as the “Fam Islands,” or often simply, “Fam?” You may have seen this archipelago listed as the Fam Islands either online or on a map. But this is, in fact, a misnomer, that originates from foreign map makers’ mispronunciation of the local names for the islands. Be sure to refer to the islands as the “Pam Islands,” as the local people are put off by the mispronunciation, “Fam.” After mastering the proper pronunciation of the Pam Islands, please get out and explore all of the archipelago; it has so much to offer!
Piaynemo is the largest and most photogenic island within the Pam islands. It is sure to astound. The name “Piaynemo,” comes from the local word that refers to the joining of a harpoon head and its shaft. This long and uninhabited island is home to another of Raja Ampat’s scenic wonders – the Hidden Bay. Take a leisurely 20-minute hike up well-crafted steps to arrive at Piaynemo’s lookout point and see the bay in its entirety. In this heavenly bay of many unspoiled beaches, you’ll discover giant hornbills flapping audibly like tropical pterodactyls. Dagger-like karst rocks jut out from the ocean surface. Among the towering karst formations, you will find the famous “Pencil Rock,” from which you can jump into the scenic waters, or climb up and look out over the turquoise bay. The luscious panoramic view that this lookout affords will inspire you to go back down, put on your snorkeling or diving gear, and hop back into the crystal blue sea. If you are feeling especially adventurous, ask a guide to take you to a lake hidden in the jungle near the most southwestern corner of the island.
If you are conscientious about your ecological impact, it is important to note that you may find local villagers selling souvenirs on several of the docks. Unfortunately, certain of the items are made from the shells of coconut crabs (you can even sometimes buy a live coconut crab), which are listed as a pRotected species. In fact, many homestays will refuse to cook these crabs for you if you buy them.
While Piaynemo is perhaps the most popular of the Pam islands, Pulau Pam is the largest. Long walks along the beautiful beaches are possible on this island, and there are also three hidden lakes within the island. If you decide to go in search of the lakes, be sure to have a local guide with you. Pulau Pam offers such attractions as the crocodile-inhabited Yellow-lake! The island is also home to a cottage industry that specializes in the production of high-quality virgin coconut oil and coconut oil soaps, highly valued across Raja Ampat. Participating in the production process may make for a fun activity if you so choose to take part.
Besides the popular Piaynemo and Pulau Pam islands within the Pam archipelago, there are many small, secluded, and quiet islands, including Meos Ambower, Pulau Manaru, Andau Mkun, Andau Besar, and Mios Kor. On most of these islands, you will find incredible beaches, unreal reefs for snorkeling, and in some cases, coconut plantations. These are the islands you should visit if you are looking for a home base from which to explore the most remote corners of Raja Ampat.
The last island within the Pam archipelago to note is Pulau Pambemuk. Although Pambemuk lacks in size, the island houses Pam village. Pam village is the largest village in the archipelago and the only port in the Pam islands.
In the cluster of Pam Islands, just as anywhere in the Raja Ampat regency, diving and snorkeling are unmatched by any other location in the world. In fact, the dive center in the Pam Islands has the closest proximity to famous diving locations like Barracuda, Anita’s Garden, Melissa’s Garden, and Galaxy. If you are looking at a picture of diving in Raja Ampat, it is most likely from a dive in the cluster of Pam Islands. The reefs around Pam archipelago are teeming with marine life. The water is calm, the fish are abundant, and the immaculate coral are some of the best in the world. Melissa’s Garden, for example, is considered one of the oldest and most pristine coral reefs in the Raja Ampat regency. The colors are intense as the reef houses hard and soft corals, sponges and crinoids. With such diverse coral and small marine life, Melissa’s Garden is a favorite diving location for underwater macro photographers. The beautiful wall dive, Rufas, and Anita’s Garden are popular dive sites in Pam, similar to Melissa’s Garden. Rufas and Anita’s Garden, however, feature larger marine life such as lionfish, nudibranchs, wobbegong sharks, sea snakes, angelfish, pygmy seahorses, ghost piPefish, and mushroom coral piPefish. Pam’s reefs are also incredibly accessible to snorkelers, so be sure not to forget your snorkeling gear!
Despite being relatively far removed from the rest of the Raja Ampat regency of islands, the Pam archipelago is worth a visit. The Pam islands offer exciting adventures for everyone, whether you enjoy diving, snorkeling, trekking, walking, or simply relax in peace. Plan to make one of Pam’s islands your home base for making day trips and visiting the entirety of the Pam archipelago. Stay a few days in Pam, and you will never want to leave!