Raja Ampat Explorer (South) (10 Nights)
Darwin / Ambon – Sorong / Darwin
Explore a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago consisting of more than 1500 islands, cays and shoals. See the exotic Wilson’s bird of paradise, cross the equator and take part in a manta ray convention! Snorkel through caves and take guided walks through the jungle! Perhaps it doesn’t get any better than this!
Return charter flights ex Darwin ARE INCLUDED in the tariff. This itinerary is provided as example only – prevailing conditions, local arrangements and indeed, what we discover on the day, may cause variation. Helicopter flights can be purchased additional to the indicated tariff as a package or individually.
Your adventure begins amidst the tropical charm of Darwin. After collection from your hotel, our attentive crew members will escort you onboard our chartered aircraft for the short flight to Ambon – gateway to the world’s last frontier, West Papua! Ambon is also where we will welcome you onboard the magnificent TRUE NORTH. Enjoy a welcome aboard cocktail as we cruise to the Banda Islands and then watch the sun set in a different land before indulging in an equally stunning dining experience!
Today we explore the fabled Banda Islands. Steeped in history and the evolutionary birthplace of nutmeg and mace, Banda is at the epicentre of Indonesia’s ‘Spice Islands’ and was a “Holy Grail’ for European, Arab and Chinese spice traders up until the late 1800’s. So valuable in fact were these islands that in 1667, Holland traded New Amsterdam (the quaint island now known as Manhattan) to the British for tiny Run Island – an acquisition that completed their monopoly of Banda nutmeg! Traditional war canoes will lead us into Banda Harbour before we join a guided tour of Banda Neira Island featuring a nutmeg plantation and a fascinating historic museum. Back on-board our guest biologist will introduce the area’s intriguing natural history before you head-off in the adventure boats for a scenic ride or perhaps this might be your very first opportunity to snorkel and dive on a sunken lava flow. Then join guest and crew alike for sunset drinks in historic Fort Belgica which overlooks Banda Harbour and the still active volcano Gunung Api.
“We had an amazing first day in the Banda Islands – a fascinating island tour, diving on a coral encrusted lava flow and then sunset drinks in a Dutch fort that was built in the 16th century – but even more memorable – our sunset event was attended by local school children who were tasked to practice English on their unsuspecting guests – they were absolutely charming – a very unique and genuine experience that left us all quite overwhelmed!”
It’s time to explore the intriguing Fakfak Coast. Start with a fishing trip to the Bomberai Peninsula or indulge in a scenic cruise in the adventure boats through the hidden lagoons – with one eye in the water and the other to the sky, lookout for hornbills and other Papuan birdlife. And don’t forget your snorkel and your SCUBA tank – the area is also renowned for its aquarium like qualities. Then refresh under the beautiful Mommon Waterfall – where chilling fresh water thunders down lush jungle slopes into the warm waters of the sea. In the afternoon explore Sebakor Bay and its spectacular system of water-filled caves. More snorkelling and diving is also possible but make sure you’re back in time for the chef’s much-lauded wine and cheese appreciation.
Wake up and revel in the fact that you’re now in Raja Ampat – the “Four Kings” – a global epicentre of marine biodiversity! You’ll want to maximize every possible minute in the water – snorkelling and diving on these breathtaking reefs with their rainbows of soft corals and huge shoals of fish is a testimony to the efforts of those who protect the SE Misool marine park. These dive and snorkelling sites are some of the most iconic in all of Raja Ampat – marvel at the huge number of sea fans in the Wayilbatan Channel, the massive schools of fish off “Nudi Rock” and the spectacular underwater scenery including a photogenic swim-through at “Boo Windows”. In the afternoon we’ll have a chance to visit the Misool Eco Resort before heading over to Kalig Beach for spectacular sunset drinks!
This morning we continue our adventures at Misool Island. The waters surrounding this island teem with fish life, over-sized sea fans and, feature the underwater caverns of Farondi Island. Take a scenic ride around the spectacular Balbulol island formations or enjoy a second dive at “No Contest” (you’ll soon see why it’s so named!) Over lunch we’ll steam into one of the prettiest anchorages in Raja Ampat – the Mesempta Karst Channels. But you’ll have to wait to really soak in the view as we’re off for a unique snorkel/float through the sacred Tomolol cave system – a truly awesome adventure. In the late afternoon join your favourite adventure boat for a ‘drinks and nibbles’ cruise through the beautiful Karst Islands – don’t forget your cameras!!
It’s an early start today as the shore parties’ head into Gam Island and trek through the jungle to see the magnificent red bird of paradise. Then it’s back to the ship for breakfast and a short cruise to Cape Kri and its spectacular reef which holds the world record for fish species recorded during a single dive (374 by renowned Australian ichthyologist Dr. Gerry Allen). More diving and snorkelling in the stunning Dampier Strait is on the agenda after lunch or if you prefer, take a seat in the adventure boats as we explore the blue water mangroves and enjoy some afternoon bird watching.
“Another highlight today – up at 0400 for a hike into the jungle to see the red bird of paradise. It was steamy, mysterious and pitch-black in the jungle! The walk was also just a little strenuous but all added to the adventure! We arrived just before dawn at a favoured haunt of this rarely seen endemic species. The local guide asked all to remain quiet and still – again, adding to the adventure. The first sighting was fleeting and the less serious in the group became prone to giggling which resulted in quite a bit of stifled hilarity but then we were treated to the best viewing of these exotic birds that our experienced cruise director had ever seen! Simply breathtaking – what a magnificent creature! Then a leisurely stroll back down to the picturesque fishing village where our trek had begun and, a hearty post-hike treat – a much-deserved serving of the TRUE NORTH’s signature dish – fish congee!”
The adventure boats will offer scenic cruises around beautiful Penemu Island and the Yeben Islands boast even more opportunity for beachcombing, snorkelling and diving. And after lunch it’s time for a cruise highlight. Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection and, he conducted extensive fieldwork on the Malay Archipelago. This afternoon in the comfort of our adventure boats, you will glide through the winding channel that bears his name. This narrow saltwaterway is flushed by strong currents that produce a vibrant habitat for marine life, whilst on either side the equatorial jungle looms over the water, replete with birds and butterflies, tree ferns and orchids. It is a tropical ecosystem at its most magnificent and it is easy to see how all helped to inspire new insights into the evolution of life on Earth.
“And just when you thought that the crew couldn’t raise the bar yet again – how about a drift snorkel surrounded by dense Papuan jungle and a tropical thunderstorm – complete with booming thunder, forks of lightening and a surprisingly cold-curtain of rain – no matter in the warm waters of the Alfred Russel Wallace Channel! Very exclusive and, thoroughly enjoyable!”
Wake to the stunning scenery of Wofoh Island – enjoy a breath-taking dive on the black coral forest, snorkel over the lush coral gardens or simply laze on the gorgeous white sand beach (watch out for falling coconuts!). Later in the morning we’ll cruise to the rocky islets of Bougainville Strait and if we’re lucky we can take part in a manta ray convention! Plankton rich currents often attract large numbers of manta rays to Eagle Rock – jump in and have a swim with these gentle giants of the sea! This afternoon we visit the Australian-owned “Atlas South Sea Pearls” pearl farm at Aljui Bay – a chance to learn about the intriguing art of pearl farming and an opportunity to purchase a very authentic reminder of your time in this timeless land! And, we’ll send the fishing parties out in search of the revered mangrove jack – a great fighter and one of the best tasting fish you can catch! For the divers, tonight we’ll offer a night dive on the pearl farm jetty – chock-a-block with all manner of bizarre and beautiful critters ranging from wobbegongs, cockatoo waspfish, hairy ghostpipefish and even Raja Ampat’s endemic walking shark – not to be missed!!
Days Nine and Ten
More unique experiences are in store!
You’ll hardly believe your eyes as you emerge from your cabin and gaze upon the mind-blowing “karst beehive” islands of Raja Ampat’s “poster child” – the Wayag Archipelago. Enjoy a snorkel on these gorgeous reefs before we take a cruise on the adventure boats through the lagoon. In the afternoon we’ll take a short steam to the Equator Islands for a unique opportunity to dive, snorkel or swim across the equator! You’ll want to do it in style because King Neptune is watching – and he’ll be sure to recount your glory (or lack thereof!) at tonight’s infamous Equator Party! After the festivities wake and look forward to a second day in the Wayags! Another breathtaking day of snorkelling, diving and sightseeing! Plus we’ve got a new activity in mind today as well – get ready for our already-famous “Wayag Beach Party”. Select your place in the sun (or under a shady palm tree) and let the crew entertain with a sumptuous beach picnic and all manner of aquatic toy! Bizarre island formations, an azure sea and sparkling beaches fringed with palm trees in the foreground of dense Papuan jungle – two days in the stunning Wayag’s is never enough!
You’ll enjoy breakfast on-board before a private car transfer to Sorong Airport and your chartered flight back to Darwin.
It’s not the moments we breathe – it’s the moments that take your breath away!Bernie & Leila Hart
Once again the wow factor every day and a wonderful effort by all of the dedicated crew of True North – thank you.Colin & Judy Evans