Summary : The Raja Ampat archipelago lies to the west of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, straddling the equator off the extreme northwestern tip of the Papua province of Indonesia. Comprising 610-1,500 islands (depending on the accepted distinction between an island and a rocky outcrop), the region has been described as the ‘Last Paradise on Earth.’ Marine biologists have established that Raja Ampat is home to 70 percent of the known coral species on the planet. Many of the fish, corals and crustaceans that live in these waters are found nowhere else on Earth. Yet, while the below-surface world is reminiscent of a living kaleidoscope, the above-surface views are among the most stunning that you are likely to behold in a lifetime.
During this ten-day cruise, you will travel on a far-reaching exploration of what is without a doubt one of the least visited but most memorable adventure-destinations on our planet. You do not need to be a diver to be able to experience this global epicenter of marine diversity. Nor do you need to be a seasoned birdwatcher to see and appreciate the dazzling birdlife that brought Alfred Russel Wallace to this region over a century ago. We certainly hope to witness the curious bobbing, flapping and weaving display dance of the red bird of paradise, to hear the shrieks of the crested cockatoo and the loud whooshing wing beats of the hornbills in flight.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
Your flight will arrive in the West Papuan port town of Sorong, the gateway to Raja Ampat. From the airport you will transfer you to the harbor where the Katharina will be waiting at anchor. Once settled into your cabin, your cruise director will familiarize you with the vessel’s facilities and safety procedures. Ready to start your adventure, you will weigh anchor and set a southerly course for the Misool Archipelago, stopping for a refreshing swim along the way. You will then dine alfresco on the main deck while meeting the other passengers and crew and watching the sun set on your first day at sea.
This morning you 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. You will spend the day maximizing everything that this fascinating area has to offer by marveling at both the marine wonder world under the water and the magnificent landscape above the surface. You can test out your 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 through this archipelago, the Katharina will spend a quiet night at anchor in Misool’s Tomolol Bay.
A swim through Tomolol’s mysterious dome-topped cave is undoubtedly one of Raja Ampat’s most memorable activities. After an early breakfast, your tenders will take you 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. You will then move on to the peculiar jellyfish lake and swim amongst the many thousands of stingless animals, which have living algae within their bodies that, just like plants, photosynthesize in sunlight. The algae produce what is essentially a form of sugar, which the jellyfish metabolize, and this is how they gain the energy to propel and migrate through the water, grow and reproduce. After returning to the ship, you will use your tenders to explore more of this impressive maze of karst islands, both above and below the surface, complete with mystifying 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. Overnight, your boat will cruise north to the island of Batanta.
After your days of marine exploration, the jungle-clad island of Batanta offers you a change of scenery and a chance to stretch your legs on an adventurous trek into the island’s interior. You will anchor at the foot of Arefi Village, nestled on the north coast of the island, where you will meet local guides to escort you through the mangrove waters to the start point of your trek. A short walk along the riverbed brings you 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 you, you will find a nearby spot to swim and snorkel before moving north to the island of Waigeo.
After waking up, before sunrise, you will follow in the footsteps of the famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in a pre-dawn quest to spot the remarkable Red Bird of Paradise, one of the species that Wallace was most anxious to collect. Hopefully the efforts of your trek through the forest will pay off, enabling you to catch a rare and privileged sight of the bird’s elaborate courtship dance as the day breaks over the forest canopy. Whether you spot the birds or not, for sure you will experience a wonderful trek. Afterwards, you will turn your attention from the sky to the sea as the Katharina makes its way through the Dampier strait, home to some of Raja Ampat’s premier reefs. With a bit of luck, you will hope to snorkel among some of the larger specimens of marine life attracted to the strait’s nutrient-rich currents. You will end your day by mooring off Pulau Arborek in front Arborek Village. Here, you 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.
Another full day of adventure awaits you along the convoluted western coast of Waigeo. You will begin the morning by exploring Wofoh, three island gems linked together by stretches of pristine coral reef. You can use the tenders or kayaks to navigate the islands, or put your newly-acquired fish identification skills to use in exploring this vibrant reef. Or you may prefer to simply just relax on the beach. In the afternoon you 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 you permission to visit their facilities and receive an explanation of the pearling processes that you have seen during your voyage. In the evening you will make your way across the Equator to the northern hemisphere on your journey to the islands of Wayag.
Few areas in Indonesia can lay claim to such unsurpassed natural splendor as Raja Ampat’s Wayag islands. The beauty of these picturesque karst spires is perhaps only equaled by the brilliant colors 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. You will spend a quiet night here at anchor.
The Wayag islands are Raja Ampat’s best, and you will make the most of this unique region for one more morning, navigating the maze of mushroom-shaped islands, and stopping for swimming and snorkeling. In the afternoon, you will set your compasses to return to the southern hemisphere for a swim on the Equator.
The focus of your last full day at sea will be on exploring the best snorkeling spots in Raja Ampat. You will start your morning in the bay of Yengeffo where a myriad of birds will welcome you in the trees above while you explore the wonders of the marine world below. After a paddle and lunch, you will make your way back through the Dampier Strait for a snorkel in one of the best snorkel sites in the park. With a bit of luck, you will hope to swim among some of the larger specimens of marine life attracted to the strait’s nutrient-rich currents. You will then enjoy a Farewell Dinner and party with the captain and crew.
After a quick stop for a last swim and refreshments on one of the nearby islands, you will make your way back to the Sorong Harbor. Here you will bid farewell to the ship and her crew. Your tenders will take you ashore for your transfer to the airport for your onward travel.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Travelers are required to contract personal travel insurance in order to be covered in case of accident, sickness, flight cancellation, evacuation, etc. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Transfers to and from the ship; shipboard accommodations; complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, and mineral water; planned excursions as detailed in the itinerary; complimentary towels; multilingual guide; gear on loan (sea canoes, snorkeling equipment, and stand up paddleboards); all meals onboard the ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; travel insurance (mandatory); alcoholic beverages; any ground services before and/or after the cruise; passport and visa fees; personal expenses; tips; fuel surcharge may apply.