Your flight will arrive in the West Papuan port town of Sorong, gateway to the Raja Ampat region. Some of you will have arrived the night before. Regardless, you will be picked up and transported to the harbour, where you will board the Ombak Putih, your very comfortable floating home for the next twelve days. After a delicious lunch, we will cruise to Salawati Island, where we will go ashore in search of some of the island’s fabulous birdlife, with the hope of seeing King Birds of Paradise at a known roosting site in the rainforest. Wallace was overjoyed when he finally obtained a specimen of this stunning species, describing it as “one of the most perfectly lovely of the many lovely productions of nature.” Back on board we will head north for an overnight crossing to Kabui Bay.
We will awake in Kabui Bay between Waigeo and Gam Islands. The bay is studded with limestone islets towering out of its calm, crystal clear waters. Wallace remarked that it was “one of the most singular and picturesque landscapes I have ever seen.” In the morning, we will travel by tender into the narrow Wallace Channel, through which he sailed on his challenging journey from Seram to Waigeo. We will look out for birds, examine the vegetation clinging to the precipitous limestone cliffs, and snorkel on an outstanding coral reef. We will go ashore on Gam and climb a wooden walkway to the top of a hill to enjoy an amazing view of the bay and islands. In the afternoon, we will pay a short visit to the small island of Miostirairama to look for the impressive coconut crab, the World’s largest land-dwelling arthropod. This will be followed by some incredible snorkelling along a wall on the nearby island of Friwinbonda. Later, we will visit Yenbeser village on Gam near to where Wallace lived in a tiny hut for six weeks.
We will wake up off Yenbeser and leave the boat in the pre-dawn light for a 30-minute hike to spot the remarkable Red Bird of Paradise, one of the species that Wallace was most anxious to collect. If we are lucky we will experience the rare and privileged sight of the bird’s elaborate courtship dance as the day breaks over the forest canopy. Afterwards we will return to the village and head up a nearby inlet to visit a full-sized replica of Wallace’s hut, which was built by SeaTrek some years ago. Later we will cruise to Yanbuba (between Kri and Mansuar) as there is some amazing snorkeling there, and then on to Sapokren for a late afternoon village visit and/or another snorkel.
Whilst it is still dark, our tenders will ferry those of us who are feeling fit and adventurous to the village of Sapokren, where a local guide will take us on a challenging trek into the forest in the hope of seeing Wilson’s Bird of Paradise, a spectacular species Wallace failed to collect. Returning to our ship we will travel to Manta Sandy where there is a high chance of snorkelling with gigantic, but harmless, manta rays. We will return to the boat for lunch and then cruise to Penemu (Fam Islands), arriving mid-afternoon. There we will snorkel on the island’s renowned coral reef and later climb to a lookout and enjoy a spectacular view over the small offshore limestone islets as the sun sets.
We will wake up off Penemu, have a swim and then move to the nearby island of Yar (part of the Fam Islands) for another swim and snorkel. Later we travel to the island of Klaarbeck (Palau Mios), where Wallace landed after his very eventful journey from Seram Island. A combination of unpredictable winds, fierce currents, difficult anchorages and lack of water sources ended with him being unable to retrieve two of his crew who were stranded to the south on the small island of Kommerrust. Eventually, with a heavy heart and much fear for his stranded men, he was forced to abandon their rescue. Hopefully, we will be able to land on Klaarbeck and go up the hill that Wallace climbed in the vain hope of signalling to his stranded men. Overnight we will cruise south to Misool Island.
A swim through Misool’s mysterious domed Tomolol cave in is undoubtedly one of Raja Ampat’s most memorable activities. After an early breakfast, our tenders will take us into the heart of the bay to see this partially submerged cavern where it is possible to swim, snorkel or simply float, while gazing up at the cavernous grotto adorned with astonishing stalactites. The more adventurous can swim or paddle through the dark waters to the other mouth of the cave. After returning to the ship, we will use our tenders to explore the area’s impressive maze of karst islands, complete with mysterious skull cairns in sea-cave cemeteries, and prehistoric cave paintings, estimated to be anything between 3,000 to 5,000 years old, which depict human figures, fish, flowers, plants, tools and vessels. There is also an opportunity to visit a hidden jellyfish lake and swim amongst these stingless beauties. Overnight we will cruise to Kofiau Island.
We wake up off Kofiau Island home to the endemic Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Kofiau Monarch, and have an early snorkel on the stunning coral reef, before departing just before lunch on a full day and night cruise to Bacan Island, far to the west. We will break up the journey with a short snorkelling trip along the way in the mid-afternoon, but today is a good opportunity to just lay back and relax.
We will wake up early near the town of Labuah in southern Bacan, an area where Wallace lived for about five months. He did a lot of collecting near the now disused coal mines to the north of the town and it was there he discovered Wallace’s Giant Bee (the largest bee in the World), the stunning Wallace’s Golden Birdwing butterfly and Wallace’s Standardwing Bird of Paradise (the only new Bird of Paradise he found). The location of the mines has long faded from local memory, but we aim to take an early morning trip into the forest around Sibela mountain, ranked as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. Wildlife here includes Wallace’s Golden Birdwing, Moluccan Cuscus (a tree-dwelling marsupial which Wallace discovered), and a population of Black Crested Macaque monkeys, which are descended from individuals introduced long ago from Sulawesi, where the species is now highly endangered. We will weigh anchor late morning and begin the long journey to Goro Goro on the eastern side of Bacan, passing through the narrow channels that separate the islands along the way. If we have time we will stop for a snorkel before sunset.
We will wake up off Goro Goro before dawn and aim to be in the forest as the sun comes up in order to experience the dawn chorus. We will go on a short 1-2 hour trek, hopefully seeing Black Macaques, butterflies, birds and other interesting animals. After lunch we will cruise towards Bastiong village on Halmahera Island.
We will rise at 3.00 AM, have a quick snack and transfer to cars in Bastiong village, which will then take us to an area of rainforest on the eastern side of the island owned by Weda Reef & Rainforest Resort. By 6.00 AM we will be quietly standing below a group of small trees used by Wallace’s Standardwing Bird of Paradise for their courtship display. Here the males will hopefully perform a spectacular show, erecting their vivid-green breast shields and four white wing ‘standards’, flying up and then ‘parachuting’ down with their ‘standards’ fluttering above them. Afterwards we will walk back to the road and have breakfast, before heading off for a morning of bird watching. Species we hope to see include the Paradise Crow (a Bird of Paradise), hornbills, giant cuckoos, parrots, and more. We will have lunch at Weda Resort before returning to Bastiong in the afternoon.
We will awake off the coast near Dojinga, the village in which Wallace famously discovered evolution by natural selection whilst in the throes of a malarial fit. Few Westerners have visited this important historical site, and although the hut where Wallace lived is long gone, it will be fascinating to see what the village is like today. Afterwards we will return to the ship for lunch and then have a snorkel in the afternoon. We will spend the night at anchor and have a farewell party with our new friends and the crew.
We will cruise across to Ternate Island just after dawn, having breakfast on the way. We will then transfer to a fleet of cars and explore the city of Ternate, former centre of the World clove trade, and the island from which Wallace posted his famous essay on natural selection to Charles Darwin in 1858. Of the four historically powerful regional spice sultanates, Ternate is the only one where the sultanate has survived uninterrupted. We will visit the impressive Fort Oranje built by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) which Wallace knew well, plus the area near the fort where he lived. We will also visit the ‘Kedaton,’ the palace of the Sultan of Ternate, with its rich collection of ancient heirlooms. In the late morning, we will return to the boat for lunch, say goodbye to our captain and crew and transfer to the airport for our onward flights.