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SeaTrek is pleased to once again offer this National Geographic award-winning ‘Tour of a Lifetime,’ in collaboration with Dr. Tony Whitten, former Regional Director Asia-Pacific for Fauna & Flora International. This exclusive SeaTrek itinerary honours Alfred Russel Wallace and the time he spent in what is now Indonesia, independently working on the theory of evolution. Wallace’s observations of the marked zoological differences across a narrow strait in the archipelago led to his proposing the faunal boundary line, now known as the Wallace Line, which separates the ecozones of Asia and Australia. West of the line are found organisms related to Asiatic species; to the east, a mixture of species of Asian and Australian origin is present. While he was exploring the archipelago, he refined his thoughts about evolution and had his famous insight on natural selection. In 1858 he sent an article outlining his theory to Darwin; it was published, along with a description of Darwin’s own theory, in the same year.
For this cruise, we will revisit some of the areas that Wallace found so fascinating and we will hopefully experience the magic of seeing the bird of paradise in its full glory within its natural habitat. There are new adventures every day as we explore the tiny islands that make up this region. We will trek through jungle terrain witnessing the wildlife as well as experiencing some remote local villages. This area of Indonesia, referred to as The Coral Triangle, is home to arguably the most diverse marine life in the world. We will explore on land and underwater exactly what captivated Wallace about this part of the world and what continues to attract scientists and nature lovers from across the globe. We are delighted to have, once again, the expert knowledge and inspiring energy of Dr. Tony Whitten leading this tour with a seasoned crew on the Ombak Putih. The excursions and discussions will nourish your mind, while the time spent on the boat will relax your body to ensure a truly unforgettable trip.
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 only book with IATA-approved airlines that have met with international standards of safety and dependability. If you are booking by yourself, please check with us first to find out the best routes to take, and to ensure that you arrive at your destination with plenty of time to spare. Except for Bali, transfers to and from local airports to the boat are also included.
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 Dr. Whitten, and he and your cruise director will then brief you about the trip. 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 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.
Awaking to see the sunrise over this picturesque chain of islands, we will have a chance to visit a cavernous grotto adorned with spectacular stalactites. The more adventurous can swim or paddle through the dark waters to reach the other islands that make up the Misool archipelago. The landscape is typical of ‘karst dissolution’, of a great number of tiny islets whose bases over time have been eroded 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.
In the morning, the boat will be moored in front of the island of Penemu. The heart of the island is home to the famous ‘Hidden Bay’. We will take a short hike here to experience one of the most famous views that Raja Ampat has to offer. The rest of the day we will spend exploring, kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkelling in the surrounding areas.
Today the Ombak Putih will make its way through the Dampier strait, home of some of Raja Ampat’s premier reefs. With a bit of luck, we hope to snorkel with some of the larger marine life attracted to the strait’s nutrient- rich currents. We will end our day in front Arborek Village, where we can easily circumnavigate the tiny island by foot and get a sense of the Asai culture, which is still kept alive by the villagers living on this tiny isolated island. 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.
This morning we wake up on the north coast of the jungle-clad island of Batanta. 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 will find a nearby spot to swim and snorkel.
We will wake offshore of Sawinggarai Village. It will be an early morning start as the dinghy takes us in the dark over to the village and a local guide will take us on a 20-minute walk into the forest. As dawn breaks in the forest canopy, we should get good views of the bright ‘Cendrawasih Merah’ or Red Bird of Paradise. 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 towards Sorong and should have time for a snorkel before dinner.
After breakfast we will say goodbye to Dr. Tony, the crew and our sea based home, the Ombak Putih. We will take the tenders ashore where you will be transferred to the airport for your onward travel.
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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.