Whale Sharks, Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise and Wobbegongs
Does snorkelling amongst a group of fabulous Whale Sharks sound like something you’ve always dreamt of? Have you imagined gorging your eyes on the incredible colours and sounds of a Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise as it displays just metres in front of you? Sounds like paradise? It is no illusion of paradise though, for these are reality in Raja Ampat’s green-crowned islands jumbled in the topaz Ceram Sea. The world-renowned reefs are full of improbably colourful fish in gin-clear waters, whilst the forests are inhabited by dazzling kingfishers and brilliantly-attired parrots.
Triton Bay is a place of unsurpassed natural splendour, where time and tides have sliced the limestone landscape into tall cliffs and numerous islands separated by lagoons and narrow channels. It is also home to fishermen who keep masses of baitfish in nets that attract a migratory group of Whale Sharks. We’ll snorkel amongst these gentle giants. The same waters are home to other marvellous creatures – there are pods of playful Long-finned Spinner Dolphins, the amazing Wobbegong shark, and those most graceful denizens of the marine biome, Reef Manta Rays.
Raja Ampat is in fact an archipelago of four large islands namely Misol, Batanta, Wageo, and Salawati, and over a thousand smaller islets, all off the coast of West Papua New Guinea. Its marine environments is recognised as the most biodiverse on Earth with, at the latest count, close to fifteen hundred species of reef fish and almost six hundred species of hard corals. And we’ll get to snorkel or swim or just watch it every day of the trip. We’ll see Batfish, Groupers, Pygmy Seahorses, schooling Jacks, Barracudas, Fusiliers, Pale-tailed Surgeonfish, Goatfish, giant Six-banded Angelfish, and Purple and Threadfin Anthiases – all these and more add to the panoply of color. Hiding in the cracks and crevices of the reef are Banded Pipefish, plus White-eyed and even Giant Morays. Titan Triggerfish can be spotted feeding on chunks of hard coral. Let’s not forget about Napoleon Wrasse, Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Sharks, Snappers, Clown Fish… Just off the reefs, keep an eye open for Red-tooth Triggerfish and schooling Bannerfish by the hundreds… If the currents are in our favour, we should see some of the area’s larger marine life, attracted to the Damper Strait’s nutrient-rich waters. Dolphins will be seen daily and as well as the Spinner Dolphins (two species) we can expect Fraser’s Dolphins and Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. Amongst the larger cetaceans we’ll look for Bryde’s Whale, False Killer Whale and Short-finned Pilot Whale.
The landscapes seem to have been borne of fantasy art, and one could be forgiven for expecting a dragon to come swooping down between the top-heavy islands, these the result of ‘karst dissolution,’. In places there are extraordinary mazes of these karst islands, many of them tiny, but some featuring 1000-metre-high cliffs! In this fantastic setting we’ll seek the male Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise, an unbelievable sight. He is red and black with a yellow mantle, light green mouth, rich blue feet, and two violet tail feathers. The featherless crown is turquoise, ornamented with double black crosses. Hardly less amazing will be our encounters with the flambouyant Red Bird-of-Paradise and we’ll also meet the lovely Lesser Bird-of-Paradise and the shocking red King Bird-of-Paradise whose long head plumes are tipped with brilliant emerald-turquoise tassels. Other avian luminaries whose beauty is hardly less than the birds-of-paradise include Red Myzomela, Superb Fruit-Dove, Red-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Red-bellied Pitta, Moluccan King Parrot, and the gorgeous Blue Jewel-Babbler.
We’ll not ignore the singular cultures that have lived and still live in this idyllic landscape, from the distinctive Asai culture of Pulau Arborek to Namatote’s cliffs which are a gallery of prehistoric art, boasting an impressive collection of cave paintings, glyphs and pictorial signs left by ancient nomads.
Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Birds of Paradise… 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, in particular some of the rarest and most beautiful Birds-of-Paradise.
Phil Benstead, 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 a more intimate experience. 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 the 4-star Swiss Bel-hotel in Sorong where single rooms are also available.
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. Some occasional short-lived rain.
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.