Your flight arrives in the port town of Ambon, the gateway to the Moluccas, where 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 your tour leader, who will then brief you about the trip. We will take an (optional) short tour of the surrounding area. We will start with a 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 before heading out and on our adventure.
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 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 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.
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 the 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.