Superlatives flow when it comes to the marine life of Sulawesi and the Banda Sea. Right in the heart of the famed Coral Triangle every reef seems to team with impossibly brilliant new fish and the waters through which our lovely 40m yacht sleekly glides are rich in dolphins, whales, turtles and manta rays.
It is not all about the ocean though for there is so much to see on land too. We’ll land daily to experience all manner of highlights most notably meeting the largest lizards in the world – the Komodo Dragon. We’ll visit the amazing sea bird nesting colonies on the remote island of Kakabia in the middle of the Banda Sea and experience thousands of Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies and Lesser Frigatebirds flying around our heads.
But it will be the underwater life that will be the centre-piece of this trip. Every day we’ll snorkel the reefs. Those in the Wakatobi Archipelago are recognized as being the most diverse in the World (and there’s some competition locally!) with in a single protected area around a thousand species of reef fish and amazingly 750 coral species out of a world total of 850! Truly extraordinary. Spinner Dolphins and Spotted Dolphins course through the water as we watch the bewildering spectacle below – twenty species of Butterflyfish, striking Angelfish, a glorious variety of Wrasse, brilliant Boxfish, vertical Razorfish, colourful Groupers and sinuous Moray Eels. One of your leaders, Anastasia, is a nudibranch nut, and she’ll take great delight in finding these fabulous creatures and showing them to you every time we snorkel. We’ll also snorkel in lakes full of stingless Aurelia and Cassiopea Jellyfish – a surreal experience! The reefs around the gorgeous and little-known Togean Islands are full of brilliant Anthias, Damselfish and Parrotfish, and Green Turtles are common. There’s beauty on the land here too with Ornate Lorikeet, both species of Racquet-tail Parrot, and the lovely Black-naped Fruit Dove. In the evening we’ll watch spellbound as hundreds of Knobbed Hornbills fly past us in formation heading off to their roosts. These islands have several endemic subspecies of mammal including the Togean Macaque and the Togean Barbirusa – the latter may soon be split as a full species. The strange and now very rare Maleo, a half metre long megapode, uses the warm volcanic sands on the Tompotika peninsula to incubate its eggs and we’ll go ashore to find these avian oddities.
We’ll visit the remarkable sea gypsy villages and meet a people whose lives are almost totally marine. On the last day of the tour we’ll have the chance to see the traditional ‘caci’-ceremony, a ritualised ‘whip-dance’, still practiced by the Manggarai Tribes. The bustling markets on Banggai will be quite an experience but again the underwater world eclipses it with the stunning Banggai Cardinal Fish - one of the World’s most distinctive and beautiful creatures.
In the northern Banda Sea we’ll visit the entrancing Bokan Islands and the isolated Samarengga Atol where we’ll encounter Reef Sharks, Sea Snakes, Octopuses and Hawksbill Turtles. During the latter part of the voyage we’ll cross to the Lesser Sundas where the Banda and Flores Seas meet and here we’ll have a great chance to find cetaceans as the waters are deep and several species migrate through the area at this season - Pantropical Spotted Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins are very common and we’re also likely to see Fraser’s Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, Melon-headed Whale, Sperm Whale, Pygmy Bryde’s Whale, and probably other rorqual species as well. We’ll finish in the Komodo National Park where as well as seeing those magnificent lizards we can snorkel with Manta Rays and Dugongs!
Coral Reefs, Marine Fish, Turtles, Cetaceans… We’ll be snorkelling daily on some of the World’s finest reefs as well as having daily trips/walks to enjoy the extraordinary wildlife of these remote islands.
Ian Green, and Kees Groeneboer
Easy. We rarely cover more than three or four miles during the above water daytrip, and will always move slowly as there’s much to see and there will be plenty of time for photography. Some trails may be a little rough underfoot or muddy.
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation and meals in Indonesia. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included.
The minimum is 6 and the maximum is 11. Both leaders will be with the party.
We’ll spend the entire trip aboard the lovely Katharina. Led by Captain Iwan and operated by a crew of 12, the 40-metre Katharina sits low in the water, making her a most beautiful looking boat. Built in 1995 in Kalimantan, her slim hull was originally planned for use as a commercial freighter before she caught our eye with her simple lines and sleek structure. After her 2014 interior refit, her transformation is a conservation exercise back to authenticity of a mighty seafaring tradition. Not only is the Katharina very elegant on the water, she is also fast becoming a classic yacht, as very few of these original designs remain. Accommodating just 12 guests in six cabins, with a salon & bar, two sun decks, and an outdoor dining area, she offers plenty of space both above and below decks. Please note that there are no guaranteed single places available on the Katharina, however there is a possibly that single accommodation may be granted if the tour is not fully booked at departure. At the start of the tour we’ve a night in a 4-star hotel near Bitung where single rooms are available.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow to Manado via Singapore returning from Labuan Bajo via Bali and Singapore. The same routing is also available from most major European Airports*. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
It will be warm to hot, and humid, though living aboard the boat with the convenient gentle sea breezes helps to keep the conditions very pleasant, indeed and there is air-conditioning in the cabins. Some occasional short-lived rain.
Why not spend a couple of days in Tangkoko National Park prior to the tour?
The Spectral Tarsier is the embodiment of cuteness, these tiny little bouncing balls are the World’s smallest primate and the amazing Tangkoko-Duasudara Nature Reserve is the place to see them. Local guides know their resting sites and so morning and evening you can see and photograph them at close quarters as they start or finish their daily activities. Another World-famous mammal is endemic to this area, Celebes Crested Macaque an entirely black primate that likes to pose on Tangkoko’s black sand beaches, a combination that ensures this monkey’s striking reddish eyes are admired fully! We’ll see Common Birdwings, the pure white Phalaenopsis amabilis orchid, Sulawesi Lined Flying Lizard, the attractive Lantern Bug Scamandra tethis, and the gorgeous Sulawesi (Blue-breasted) Pitta. Indeed Tangkoko has some amazing birding with Ochre-bellied Booboks, Racket-tailed and Blue-backed Parrots, and Purple-winged Roller, however it is the kingfishers that really take the biscuit including the fantastic Great-billed, the diminutive Sulawesi Dwarf, Collared, Blue-eared and three absolute stunners – Green-backed, Ruddy, and Lilac-cheeked Kingfishers. Contact us for details.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Bird and marine fish checklists are available.