Located on the northern coast of West Papua approximately 250 nautical miles east of Sorong, Cendrawasih Bay, combined with Raja Ampat and Triton Bay, makes up what is known as The Bird’s Head Seascape. These markedly differing regions are relatively new to the south-east Asian cruise fraternity, with Cendrawasih Bay being the latest addition to an already outstanding cruising portfolio.
Inside the bay, the marine park and outlying areas are situated on the north east side of the Bird’s Head Peninsula and include the commercial towns of Manokwari and Nabire, as well as the large island of Biak. Cruises in the region usually leave from the town of Biak due to its status as a vessel declaration port with an international airport capable of accommodating private aircraft. Regular commercial flights service the region, so despite its remoteness, provisioning is no more difficult here than other areas of Indonesia.
Cendrawasih Bay is an officially regulated National Park and has an affordable if complicated tourism fee system which needs advance planning. However, due to the remote nature of this area, there is a perceived autonomy here in local government and although all services can be acquired in the same way as they can in the more regularly visited areas, Cendrawasih has been observed as being the most expensive cruising area in Indonesia.
The National Park has some great diving and the reefs of the outer islands and the Padaido archipelago offer sparkling colour, healthy corals and marine life against a back drop of picture perfect sandy beaches surrounding tiny uninhabited islands. There are also chances to explore WWII wrecks and artefacts. The truly pristine island of Yapen in particular, has spectacular topside treks, however, the main attraction and the stars are the awe inspiring, up close and personal whaleshark experiences deep inside the bay at Kwatisore.
Encountering a whaleshark in the wild is a humbling experience and Cendrawasih Bay has a whaleshark encounter like no other. In Indonesia it is common for fishermen to utilise anchored and static vessels which have been turned into elaborate fishing platforms called bagans. In Cendrawasih the fishermen use nets underneath the bagans to catch baitfish at night. This activity has attracted the attention of the local population of whalesharks that like to gather below and suck at the nets for a free meal. Fortunately the local fishermen took their presence as a good luck omen and in time struck up a relationship with them, to the point where they can now hand feed baitfish to the whalesharks. Up to nine whalesharks have been observed here at the same time, making for a truly spectacular experience for snorkelers and divers alike.
Topside Nature Reserves
Cendrawasih Bay retains a natural beauty becoming of the South Pacific and the surroundings are home to a host of rare creatures. Living in the lowlands, gorges and hilly forests, some that are endemic to the area include forest wallabies, possums and bandicoots along with the sleepy and secretive cuscus, all potentially spotted during treks through the forests. The whole continental-sized island of Papua has, along with the Amazon, the largest concentration of bird life on the planet with West Papua home to the elusive and rare Birds of Paradise. In the Arfak Reserve, it is reckoned that 320 bird species have been recorded, with around 50% of these endemic to the region. These ornithological delights make Cendrawasih Bay a scintillating natural paradise.
“The Lighthouse Consultancy is an all-around professional group of folks with an amazing array of skill sets. Their local knowledge of logistics, customs and clearance regulations, anchorages, dive locations, beaches and too many to list adventures was priceless and sincerely appreciated. They provided us with exceptional liveaboard guides whose ‘get-things-done’ attitude helped us out many times when we were in a difficult situation. They are true team players, always willing to help when needed, day or night and a real pleasure to work with.”
Captain Tom Hartman, MY Party Girl