Your flight arrives in the port town of Ambon, the gateway to the Moluccas. You will be met at the airport and transferred to the harbour where the Ombak Putih will be waiting at anchor. Once settled into your cabin, you will have time to meet Alexander he and your cruise director will then brief you about the trip. After you have settled in on the vessel, had a safety briefing and freshened up, we will take an (optional) short tour of the surrounding area. We will srart witha visit to the Commonwealth War Cemetery, where many Allied troops from World war II are buried. We will then head to the north of the island and visit Hitu Lama, the ancient port of the Spice Trade that was in use for centuries before Europeans made it to the Indies. We will visit the market and see a traditional Balieo house. Also on our tour will be the Waipauwe Mosque (1414), the Immanuel Church (1512) and finally to Fort Amsterdam (1514) one of the first European forts built in Maluku. After this we will return to the boat for lunch before heading out and on our way to the Banda Islands.
This morning will be spent on the island of Manipa, said to have magical powers because the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Japanese never set foot on it despite occupying the surrounding islands. The village we will explore is simple but bright with tropical blooms, while the surrounding gardens, groves and forests yield produce such as cashew nuts and the sago palm. We will visit a distillery for the locality’s famous ‘kayu putih’ oil – a universal panacea that no Indonesian household is without, for all the aches and pains, colds and stomach upsets that afflict us. It is distilled from vats full of the crushed leaves of melaleuca trees.
Today we will wake up in front of Boano Island, which is famous for its towering cliffs, karst formations and white-sand beaches. We’ll use the tenders to explore this beautiful coastline. During lunch we will move to a nearby string of uninhabited islands for some spectacular snorkelling.
Day 4 & 5
Seram (formerly Ceram) is a remote place of hilly jungle, which is rarely visited by outsiders, yet our vessel will allow us access to this most fascinating and mysterious island. Our destination is the village of Sawai, an oasis in itself, but also a perfect land base for us to make the most of Seram’s stunning northern coast and Manusela National Park. We will spend two days trekking, exploring and bird-watching in the area before we continue on our course for the famous Raja Ampat Archipelago.
Today we will find ourselves anchored in Tomolol Bay on Misool Island. 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.
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.
The jungle-clad island of Batanta offers us a chance to stretch our legs on a trek into the island’s interior. We will anchor at the foot of Arefi Village, nestled on the north coast of the island, where we will find local guides to escort us through the mangrove waters to the start point of our hike. A short walk along the riverbed brings us to the first of two jungle waterfalls complete with a refreshing pool for cooling off. The fit and adventurous may choose to continue the uphill climb along the rocks to where a second, larger cascade awaits. After leaving the wilderness behind us, we find a nearby spot to swim and snorkel
Today we will rise at 4.30am, off Sawinggarai village. The dinghy will carry us across to the village in the dark and a local guide will take us on a 20-minute-walk into the forest on a pre-dawn quest to spot the remarkable red 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 Pef Island to snorkel and motor around the convoluted coast, while learning the myth about the prehistoric hand print still visible high on a limestone cliff. In the afternoon we’ll head east and should manage a snorkel on the reefs of Mioskon Island before having a farewell dinner with the captain and crew.
In the morning, we will find ourselves at anchor in the harbour of Sorong. After a final, hearty breakfast, we will say goodbye to the Katharina and her crew. Our tenders will take you ashore for your transfer to the airport for your onward travel.