Your flight will arrive in the West Papuan port town of Sorong, the gateway to Raja Ampat. From the airport we will transfer you to the harbour where the Ombak Putih will be waiting at anchor. Once settled into your cabin, your cruise director will familiarise you with the vessel’s facilities and safety procedures. Ready to start our adventure, we will weigh anchor, leave the harbour behind, and enter the marine protected area of Raja Ampat, home to unique birdlife and the most bio diverse coral reefs in the world. We will cruise towards the island of Waigeo, stopping for a refreshing swim along the way before watching the sun set on our first day at sea.
After waking up, before sunrise, we will set off on pre-dawn quest to spot the remarkable red bird of paradise, one of the species that Alfred Russel Wallace was most anxious to collect. We hope that the efforts of our trek through the forest 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. Whether we spot the birds or not, for sure we will experience a wonderful trek. Later we will visit Yenbeser village where Wallace spent some months and (if the tides are right) we’ll see a faithful replica of Wallace’s small hut, which was built by the villagers using plans from FFI (Flora & Fauna International) and a grant from SeaTrek. We will end our day by mooring off Pulau Arborek in front Arborek Village. Here, we can easily circumnavigate the tiny island by foot and gain a sense of the Asai culture, which is still kept alive by the villagers living in this isolated place. Arborek is also home to a local manta conservation project where volunteers will happily show us around and explain their efforts and programmes in more detail.
Another full day of adventure awaits us along the convoluted western coast of Waigeo. We will begin the morning by exploring Wofoh, three island gems linked together by stretches of pristine coral reef. We can snorkel the reef, use the tenders or kayaks to navigate the islands, or we can simply relax on the beach. In the afternoon we will move northwards to Aljui Bay, home to the Cendanda Pearl Farm, one of the larger producers of high quality seawater pearls in the region. Pearling is an important industry throughout Indonesia and a number of farms can be seen in the waters of Raja Ampat, where the farmers may grant us permission to visit their facilities and receive an explanation of the pearling processes that we have seen during our voyage. In the evening we will make our way across the Equator to the northern hemisphere on our journey to the islands of Wayag.
We will wake up within the natural splendour of Raja Ampat’s Wayag islands. The beauty of these picturesque karst spires is perhaps only equalled by the brilliant colours and vibrancy of the reefs and the marine life that flourishes below. Nature has carved these islands into a series of coves and lagoons, narrow channels and inlets, caves, jagged rocks and shaded, sandy beaches. For those who dare, there are some spectacular but nearly vertical climbs that are rewarded with magnificent panoramas. Alternatively we can swim, snorkel, kayak and paddleboard.
Today we awake to enjoy another day relaxing in the Wayag islands. These are Raja Ampat’s best, and we will make the most of this unique region, navigating the maze of mushroom-shaped islands, and stopping for swimming and snorkelling. Later, we will set our compasses in the direction of Penemu.
In the morning, the Ombak Putih will be moored in front of the island of Penemu. The heart of this island is home to the scenic wonder known as ‘Hidden Bay,’ and we will take a short hike to the top of Penemu Hill to be awestruck by one of Raja Ampat’s most spellbinding views. The rest of the day we will spend exploring, kayaking, paddleboarding and snorkelling in the surrounding areas. In the early evening we will set course for Kofiau.
Way off the beaten track, on the western fringes of Raja Ampat, Kofiau is definitely the least visited major island in the region. It has been ignored for so long that several new species of birds have been discovered on the island just in the last decade or so. We will take a closer look at the blue water mangrove channels and maybe we can go on a short hike through gardens and forest to visit the inland lake opposite Deer Village. Further west of Kofiau, and even more obscure, the numerous small Boo islands are only seasonally inhabited by fishermen from both Kofiau and Maluku. Typically surrounded by white sand beaches, these islands are the blueprint for paradise. When we go ashore, it will be in the knowledge that it’s quite possible we could be the only foreign visitors to have set foot here in more than a year.
Our destination today is the Doworas, a group of islands on the eastern side of the south entrance of the Patientie Strait. Here, we will stop at Doworalamo Island for a few hours of swimming, snorkelling and beach-combing. We can also visit a village of the famous sea gypsies, known here as Bajao Laut or Orang Sama. Until recently sea gypsies spent their lives entirely on their traditional sailboats. Now the modern world has pushed them ashore, where their homes are always built on stilts over coral reefs or the tidal margins of remote islands such as this one. Later, we will cruise towards Bacan.
When we wake up today we will find ourselves back in the southern hemisphere, off Bacan Island, where we will venture ashore to explore the coastal area and adjacent forest edge. This is the island on which Wallace discovered the golden birdwing butterfly and the eponymous Wallace’s giant mason bee or ‘chalicodoma pluto.’ We are unlikely to see either – but we are ever hopeful. Nevertheless, there will always be plenty of interesting plants and animals to discover including endemic species of parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets and perhaps even the elusive cuscus or a rare black macaque. These macaques are the only monkeys in Maluku; they were introduced here from North Sulawesi. If time allows we will cruise to Payahe Bay and make a short trek towards a lovely waterfall.
When we wake at sunrise, the view will be of picture-postcard variety. The three sharp volcanic cones of Ternate, Tidore and Makian lined up in a row makes for an unforgettable image. Makian Island is dominated by the volcanic Mount Kiebesi (1357 metres). In 1988, a series of eruptions nearly split the island into two, and forced the temporary evacuation of the entire population, which was then about 15,000 people. Makian has palm fringed white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. We will find a good place to snorkel along the way, and we will visit some natural hot springs.
Today we will visit the island of Tidore, another perfect volcanic cone rising from the tropical seas. Over breakfast, cruising around the northeast coast of Tidore, we will have a magnificent view of the extinct Kiematabu volcano that dominates the island. Its slopes feature plantations of graceful clove trees, once found only upon this and a few adjacent islands, and so valuable in world trade that European nations fought for centuries to monopolise them. When we reach the old town of Soa Siu, local vehicles will bring us high up the slope of the volcano to visit the age-old plantations. Here, we can visit the palace of the Sultan of Tidore, near a Spanish fort and a seashore monument, which marks the 1521 visit of Magellan’s battered fleet on the first circumnavigation of the world. The afternoon will be spent snorkelling and exploring the vicinity around one of the adjacent islands, and in the evening we will have our farewell dinner with our captain and the crew.
After an early breakfast we will explore the city of Ternate, a vital spice-trading outlet, which has retained its commercial and political importance as the administrative centre and main trading hub of the North Maluku province. 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. In the late morning we will return to the boat, say goodbye to our captain and crew and transfer to the airport for our onward travel.