|Share on :|
This exciting expert-led cruise follows in the footsteps of British naturalist and explorer, Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace’s observations of the marked zoological differences across a narrow strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok, and Borneo and Sulawesi, led to his proposing the zoo-geographical boundary now known as The Wallace line. In 1858, Wallace conceived the theory of natural selection independently of Charles Darwin. It was published, along with a description of Darwin’s own theory, in the same year. We will explore some of the areas that Wallace found so fascinating: remote mountainous islands with forested coastlines, idyllic white sand beaches and jungle waterfalls. We will go bird watching, snorkel through Raja Ampat’s marine wonderland, swim through a mysterious cave, and cruise through a maze of karst islets. Hopefully, we will experience the magic of seeing the birds of paradise performing their extraordinary courtship dances within their natural habitat. If we get really lucky – and there are no promises – we may even have the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks in Triton Bay.
The Expert's Advice
Being a Dutchman and a keen naturalist, Alex Reeuwijk has a strong affinity and understanding of both the colonial history of the former East Indies, and the rich diversity of its ecology. Along the way, Alex will be leading each day’s shore programmes by sharing his knowledge and observations of the areas we visit, while in the evenings his lectures can’t help but leave everyone hungry for more. His lecture topics include:
- The Moluccas and the Dutch. A Bloody History
- The Natural History of Ambon and Seram
- The Discovery and Mapping of Papua
- Indonesia, biogeography and Alfred Russel Wallace (two talks)
- The Age of Descent: the History of the Theory of Evolution
- Sexual Selection and Beyond: Darwin vs Wallace
- All Things Birds of Paradise
- The Bountiful Birds of Raja Ampat
Note: The price of this cruise does not include any domestic airfares to and from our start and end points, however, our reservations specialists in Bali are more than happy to help arrange domestic flights on your behalf and advise on scheduling. We book hundreds of flights each year on behalf of our guests and we know the best routes to take to ensure you arrive on time. We only book with IATA-approved airlines that have met with international standards of safety and dependability. Except for Bali, transfers to and from local airports to the boat are also included. If you are booking flights by yourself, please do not book any flights before checking with us first. Our first and last day programmes rely on strict time scheduling, so please confirm with us to ensure that you arrive and depart at your destination with plenty of time to spare and to avoid disruption to other guests' schedules.
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 biodiverse 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.
While 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 the Wilson’s bird of paradise. The male is red and black with a yellow mantle on his neck, light green mouth, rich blue feet and two violet tail feathers. The featherless crown is turquoise, ornamented with double black crosses. If we are lucky, we may be able to observe the male dancing from a distance of just five metres. Before the dance, he will clear the ground from any leaves or other obstacles that may disrupt his performance. On our way back to the boat, accompanied by the sounds of the jungle coming to life, we will be sure to spot a number of bird species along the way. We will spend the remainder of the day resting from the morning’s activities and enjoying the waters and reefs of Raja Ampat.
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. We will end the 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.
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. 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 ‘petroglyph’ cave paintings, estimated to be anything from 3,000 to 5,000 years old and depicting various human figures and huge human palms, fish, flowers and plants, tools and vessels. We will then spend a quiet night at anchor.
This morning we will wake to see the sun rise over the picturesque chain of islands that makes up 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. We will spend the day maximising everything that this fascinating area has to offer by marvelling at both the marine wonderland under the water and the magnificent landscape above the surface. We can test out our paddling skills in the sea kayaks, watch for birds perched on the rocks, or just sit back and take in the glorious scenery. After a full day of island hopping, the Ombak Putih will begin her overnight journey.
This morning we will explore the Pisang Islands. These tiny gems isolated in the vast waters of the Ceram Sea offer us a chance to relax and enjoy the sparkling white-sand beaches, clear waters, and vibrant reefs before making our way to the shores of West Papua. Here we will follow the shoreline until we reach the village of Sipitnanam. After visiting the village and meeting the residents, who spend their days fishing the nearby waters and tending their nutmeg plantations, we will continue south along the coastline through the night.
Today we will wake up to the beautiful sight of Kitikiti waterfall. Here, in the wilderness, a roaring river cascades down the jungle-clad mountains and crashes into the sea below. We can swim under the waterfall and explore the extraordinary reefs nearby before rounding Cape Papisol to the Karawawi region, where we will stop to refresh ourselves before journeying on to Triton Bay.
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, which we may have the chance to swim and snorkel with. We can’t make any promises, as we don’t have these wild animals on a leash, but fingers crossed we will. We will also spend our time swimming from secluded beaches, snorkelling the vibrant turquoise waters and kayaking amongst the rocky outcrops. We can also enjoy watching the birdlife from the comfort of our tenders as we explore this extraordinary maze of karst islands, before visiting the village of Lobo, which is a friendly place at the foot of a 1000-metre-high cliff.
We will make the most of our last morning in Triton Bay by cruising through the undisturbed coves, caves, and lagoons before heading north through the Namatote Passage. Namatote’s cliffs are also well known as a gallery of prehistoric art, boasting an impressive collection of cave paintings, glyphs and pictorial signs left by ancient nomads high upon the rock walls. We will spend our final evening on the ship resting at anchor and enjoying a farewell dinner with our captain and crew.
In the morning, we will find ourselves at anchor in the harbour of Kaimana. After a final, hearty breakfast, we will say goodbye to the Ombak Putih and her crew. Our tenders will take you ashore for your transfer to the airport for your onward travel.
Our award winning expert-led cruises program provides recognised explorers, scientists and writers a platform for research and for the design of exceptional expeditions, exclusively available to our guests. Browse Our Expert-Led Cruises.
Dr. Tony Whitten
Dr. Tony Whitten was trained as a wildlife biologist and since late 2010 he is the former Regional Director for Asia-Pacific at Fauna & Flora International, the world’s oldest international conservation organization. The subject of his PhD at Cambridge University was on the endangered gibbon on a remote and primitive island west of Sumatra in the mid 1970s. After this Tony worked at the University of North Sumatra where he initiated production of a major and innovative series of books on the ecology of the several regions of Indonesia, writing three of them himself, each taking about three years. During a two-year spell in the UK, he was employed by the British government’s conservation agency to write its Recovery Plan for Protected Species – covering sea anemones to wild cats. He joined the World Bank in 1995 and supported a broad range of activities and projects until he left in 2010: he advised on habitat and species protection issues as part of infrastructure projects, started various region-wide and global activities (e.g. on the forgotten biodiversity of caves and karst), ran a programme which produced 111 volumes of local language field guides to all manner of plants and animals, and was responsible for a suite of conservation projects in Mongolia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and elsewhere in the region. He has an in-depth and broad knowledge of biodiversity and has published on a wide variety of topics.