While Raja Ampat may claim most of the fame in this region, West Papua has numerous fascinating cruising grounds for those keen to get off the beaten track and explore far eastern Indonesia.
To the north lies Bird’s Head Peninsula and Cenderawasih Bay, while the south is home to Triton Bay; these destinations are known for their frequent whale shark sightings, authentic villages and wreck dives.
Cruises in this region can include Raja Ampat, the Spice Islands, Halmahera and the Forgotten Islands.
Cenderawasih Bay in the northern province of West Papua is the largest marine national park in Indonesia, while to the south, Triton Bay is part of the Kaimana Marine Protected Area, covering over 2,000 square miles.
Cenderawasih Bay hosts roughly 14,000 people living in the 72 villages within the park, but it is primarily known for sightings of the elusive whale shark, as these gentle creatures gather among the locals’ fishing platforms to feed on the small fry that escapes the nets. The fishermen believe they are under the protection of the spirits and hand feed them scraps: an amazing sight.
Kaimana in the south is home to the legend of the Garuda bird which today is the symbol of the Republic of Indonesia. Surrounded by the impressive peaks of the mainland, Triton Bay boasts lush rainforest and beautiful waterfalls that are ideal for exploratory hiking, and ancient rock art that can be seen while kayaking.
Until relatively recently, Cenderawasih Bay was geologically isolated from the flow of Pacific tides and remains sheltered, so less current moves through its waters resulting in some really interesting underwater life.
A number of very colourful endemic species and some normally deep-dwelling marine species are found here in shallow water, and in terms of diving there are also interesting wrecks and sunken fighter jets from WWII.
Triton Bay’s marine biodiversity counts 1,005 species of fish, 471 species of hard coral, and 28 species of mantis shrimp with everything from pygmy seahorses to wobbegong and epaulette sharks. Marine surveyors are still discovering fascinating new species here and in 2007, two of the first surveyed sites broke the world record for the most fish species recorded from a single dive site.
SEASONS & GETTING HERE
West Papua and the surrounding islands are best visited between November and April. A tropical climate means rain is not unexpected, but typically in short spells followed by hot, sunny days.
West Papua is accessed through either Kaimana airport (for Triton Bay) with flights from Jakarta via Sorong, or Nabire airport (for Cenderawasih Bay) with flights from Jakarta via Ambon. Upon arrival at the airport, your yacht’s crew will collect you for the transfer to the harbour.
For one-way itineraries, you may start or finish your trip in other destinations, such as Raja Ampat (Sorong airport) and the Forgotten Islands (Saumlaki and Tual airports).