Your flight arrives on the small island of Ternate, which is the capital of the North Maluku Province. Here, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the stately Ombak Putih, moored offshore of Ternate City. There will be time for you to get settled into your rooms and have a quick safety briefing as we enjoy an alfresco lunch and meet the other passengers and crew. In the afternoon we will venture into the city, which has retained its commercial and political importance as the administrative and trading centre of North Maluku. Of the four historically powerful spice sultanates, Ternate is the only one where the institution of the sultanate has survived uninterrupted. We will visit Fort Toluko built by the Portuguese, Fort Oranje built by the VOC (Dutch East India Company), and the ‘Kedaton,’ the palace of the Sultan of Ternate, with its rich collection of heirlooms. After our tour we will move back to the boat ready to start our journey.
Today we will wake up just across from Ternate off the coast of Halmahera, with the mighty peaks of Ternate and Tidore as our dawn backdrop, ready to head ashore to the village of Dodinga after breakfast. This is the very place where Alfred Russel Wallace was staying when, in a fit of malarial delirium, he came up with the idea for the mechanism for evolutionary change. When he recovered he promptly wrote to Charles Darwin when he recovered and set in motion the publication of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Dodinga is a pretty little riverside village with friendly people, colourful houses and the ruins of an old Portuguese fort, and its importance in the history of science cannot be understated. After spending some time with the villagers, sharing some fresh coconuts and enjoying their hospitality, we will head back to the boat for lunch and then go off for an afternoon of snorkelling and relaxation. We will head south later in the day ready for our first bird of paradise encounter the following morning.
We will rise at 3.00am, have coffee and snacks, and transfer to cars at Bastiong Village, which will drive us over the dividing range to Weda Reef & Rainforest Resort. Together with the local community, the owners of the resort manage a foundation for education and conservation of the primary forest and its wildlife. They are proud to be able to protect 700 hectares of primary jungle, home of the Wallace’s Standardwing bird of paradise, many other species of birds, and other wildlife. We will start our walk into the rainforest so that by 6am, we will be quietly below the trees used for courtship display by Wallace’s Standardwing bird of paradise. The polygamous males gather and perform a spectacular aerial display, each ‘parachuting’ with its wings and its vivid-green breast shield spread, and the wing ‘standards’ fluttering above its back. We’ll walk back to the road where we will have breakfast at a shelter before heading out for a morning of bird watching (hornbills, giant cuckoos, parrots, and more). There might be a chance for a snorkel in Weda Bay before having lunch at the resort. After lunch there may just be time to explore behind the resort for Wallace's Birdwing butterfly, before driving back to Bastiong and boarding the boat.
When we wake up today we will find ourselves in the hemisphere off the extreme southern tip of Halmahera near the islands of Djoronga and Damar Islands, where we will go snorkelling and visit a local village before heading off just before lunch for a long cruise to the Misool archipelago.
Today we will try our best to see the Lesser Birds of Paradise in the wild, an unforgettable experience for anyone lucky enough to see them. We will rise around 4am and have a quick breakfast and go ashore at Kapatcol, where local guides will be waiting for us to take us through the forest to hopefully see the birds as they dance around in their ‘lekking’ trees. We can make no guarantees, however, as we do not have them on a leash. We will have time for a look around the village and possibly a visit to the school and to learn about the way Nature Conservancy is working with the village to empower with local women with a fishing practice called sasi. Mid-afternoon we will set off to eastern side of Misool to Tomolol Bay.
This morning we will wake to see the sun rise over the picturesque chain of islands that makes up the eastern part of the Misool archipelago. The topography is typical of ‘karst dissolution,’ featuring a great number of tiny islets whose bases have been eroded over time by the relentless motion of the tides. A swim through Tomolol’s mysterious dome-topped cave 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 cave 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. We will then move on to the mysterious jellyfish lake and swim amongst the many thousands of stingless animals. After returning to the ship, we will use our tenders to explore more of this impressive maze of karst islands, both above and below the surface, 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 and depicting various human figures and huge human palms, fish, flowers and plants, tools and vessels.
Today is a day or snorkelling, Wallace tracking, and exploring some of Raja Ampat’s most beautiful limestone Karst islands. We will wake up in front of the island of Penemu, a dramatic location with a short hilltop walk to take in the amazing views. After some great snorkelling on the island’s reefs, we will set course for Klaarbeck, where Wallace landed after his difficult journey from Seram after a combination of unpredictable winds, fierce currents, difficult anchorages and lack of water sources ended with him being unable to retrieve two crewmen who were stranded to the south on the small island of Kommerrust. Hopefully, we will be able to land on Klaarbeck and climb the hill that Wallace climbed in the vain hope of signaling to his stranded men. Afterwards we hope to reach nearby Yar island at dusk to witness thousands of flying foxes emerging and flying off to feed. This night we will find a remote beach where we will have a beach BBQ and party, a highlight of any SeaTrek journey.
We will emerge from our cabins in the southwest corner of Kabui Bay next to ‘Wallace’s Channel’ where Wallace emerged after his very challenging sail from Seram. After breakfast we will take dinghies through the narrow channel, examine the vegetation clinging to the limestone cliffs, and snorkel at a few contrasting sites. We will then return to the ship and head out of the bay; with luck we might see some dolphins. We will spend the afternoon in Yenbeser village where Wallace spent some months and (if the tides are right) we’ll visit a faithful replica of Wallace’s small hut, which was built by the villagers using plans from FFI (Fauna & Flora International) and a grant from SeaTrek. We will also visit a nearby small island where a local man has set up a coconut crab 'sanctuary'. The island is home to a small number of the animals (Birgus latro, the world's largest terrestrial arthropod), and you can get up close and personal with these magnificent beasts. Another late afternoon snorkel along a reef with some spectacular giant clams will lead us into dinner at anchor on board, ready for an early morning venture for the Red Bird of Paradise.
Today will present another opportunity for keen birdwatchers, as we rise early and walk into the forest on a pre-dawn quest to spot the remarkable Red Bird of Paradise, one of the species that Wallace was most anxious to collect. With a little luck and the help of our knowledgeable guides, we might catch sight of this rare bird’s elaborate courtship display as dawn breaks over the forest canopy. After returning to the ship, we will turn our attention from the sky to the sea as the Ombak Putih makes her way through the Dampier strait, home of some of Raja Ampat’s premier reefs. If the currents are in our favour, we might see some of the area’s larger specimens of marine life, which are attracted to the strait’s nutrient-rich waters. There's a chance that we may get to see some manta rays as we snorkel, but there are no guarantees. We will end the day by mooring off the tiny Aborek Island, where the local children will perform their traditional dances for us. We can also walk around the village and gain a sense of the Asai culture, which is still kept very much alive by the villagers living in this isolated place.
Today we will rise at 4.30am, off Saporkren village. The dinghy will carry us across to the village in the dark and a local guide will take us on a 20-40 minute-walk into the forest on a pre-dawn quest to spot the gorgeous Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. We hope that the efforts of our early start will pay off, enabling us to catch a rare and privileged sight of the bird’s elaborate courtship dance as the day breaks over the forest canopy. Back in the village there will be time to meet with the community and perhaps visit the school. We will be back on the boat by mid-morning and if time permits we’ll travel over to a nearby island to snorkel. In the afternoon, we’ll head east and should manage a snorkel on the reefs of Mioskon Island before dinner. Tonight we will cruise towards Mayalibit Bay which almost separates the two halves of the island.
We will wake up in the south of Mayalibit Bay – the huge and wild bay at the heart of Waigeo, Raja Ampat’s biggest island. The bay, which almost splits the island in two, is entered via a narrow fjord-like channel that meets the ocean just east of Waisai on Waigeo’s south coast. When the tide is running, the huge volumes of water flowing into or out of Mayalibit make the channel look like a swift and powerful river. After breakfast, we will take the dinghies to a village at the north of the passage and meet with a local NGO leader to discuss illegal logging and community development. We will then briefly visit Lopintol Village, from where one of the village elders will take us to two very dramatic and contrasting caves that highlight the fascinating underground formations of the karst landscape. This night we will have afinal farewell party as we make our way south to the Papuan mainland.
Today is the end of our adventure, but there is still one last chance for a swim and a snorkel at a small offshore island before we cruise into the port. Once at anchor we will say goodbye to George, our crew and our sea-based home, the Ombak Putih before taking the tenders ashore where you will be transferred to the airport for your onward travel.