Whale Sharks and the Spectacular Coral of Papua with Bob Brunskill

Overview

Take part in one of the most unique animal encounters on the planet at Cenderawasih Bay. We’ve found a remote location where whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, have been interacting with local fishermen. You’ll have several days to snorkel up close with the gentle giants as they linger near the surface for extended periods—it’s completely unlike the crowded experience elsewhere.

Cenderawasih Bay is stunning, with some of the last remaining pristine reefs in the world, white sand beaches, dramatic karst cliffs, and swaying palm trees. The marine life here has evolved in relative isolation due to ancient tectonic upheavals and tidal idiosyncrasies. The result? You’ll see lots of endemics in this “Galápagos of the East.” It’s different even from nearby Raja Ampat—over 1,000 species of fish and 500 species of corals have been documented in Cenderawasih Bay.

We’ve chartered a classic 100-foot Indonesian schooner to get you to the best snorkeling spots on this expedition to remote islands in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Our Trip Leader, Bob Brunskill, has made more than 4,000 dives in Indonesia and is an expert on the local fish and coral. We invite you to join us on this phenomenal wildlife expedition!

Itinerary at a Glance

Please be aware that this itinerary is designed to be flexible. Although we will visit all the places listed on the itinerary, we rarely follow the schedule as described exactly due to weather, tides, preferences of trip members, and other factors. Come prepared to be flexible!

Day 1
Embark / Snorkel Kalilemon Reef

We embark on a traditional Indonesian schooner that will take us to some of the best snorkelling spots in the Coral Triangle. This afternoon on Kalilemon Reef be sure to watch for the recently discovered Cenderawasih longnose butterfly fish, with its bright yellow body and featherlike dorsal fins. Dinner this evening is followed by a presentation about whale sharks—the fascinating creatures we’ll see tomorrow.

Days 2-3
Swim with Whale Sharks!

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean—some are the size of a school bus! Swimming with them is an unforgettable experience, and we’ve found a location where we should be able to snorkel for several days in close proximity with the gentle giants. We also visit a village, meet residents, and discover the local culture.

Day 4
Birds of Paradise / Bird’s Head Seascape / Tanjung Kororowai

Take a short hike through mangroves in search of the exquisite lesser bird of paradise in its flamboyant mating plumage. Then set sail for the crystalline waters of Bird’s Head Seascape, an epicentre of marine biodiversity where we’ll look for divaricate soft coral, feather stars, manta rays, hawksbill turtles, and leatherback turtles. Interesting geology topside and incredible topography beneath the surface make for fascinating snorkelling.

Day 5
Giant Clams of Umar Bay / Yapenyuar Village Visit

Today we snorkel with 100-year-old giant clams, which can reach four feet in length and weigh over 500 pounds. They’re sometimes referred to as “man-eating” clams, but don’t worry—their main foods are algae and plankton. We’ll set off on a birding walk in search of hornbills, kingfishers, parrots, and eagles, all common here. Later, villagers welcome us to their homes; the local children are eager to interact and practice their English.

Day 6
Papua and Roon Island / Paddleboarding in Search of Dugongs

A morning sail takes us to brilliantly colored hard corals in the shallow Numamuran Strait, where the jungle descends right into the reefs and the snorkelling is stunning—look for Acropora branching corals, large boulder coral colonies, and cushion stars. We paddleboard around the picturesque anchorage, keeping our eyes peeled for dugongs—relatives of manatees that graze on underwater grasses.

Day 7
Snorkel above WWII Wrecks / Numamuran Strait

We begin the day snorkelling above a Japanese Zero fighter plane resting in just 30 feet of water—a WWII relic that’s now home to colorful fish. Hawksbill and green turtles, barracuda, and surgeonfish (think of Dory, from Finding Nemo) all live in the area. In the afternoon we snorkel in a new spot, with sea fans, blue sea stars, huge barrel sponges, an amazing array of hard and soft corals, and bright sea whips on reef “islands” above a white sand bottom.

Day 8
Yop Island Drift Snorkel

We anchor near Yop Island and travel by dinghy into Korio Bay, where the bird and plant life are spectacular. Be sure to have your binoculars with you as we search for the dramatic Blyth’s hornbill and eclectus parrots, which are easy to spot because of their bright red and green plumage. On our afternoon snorkel, watch for the colorful Nursalim flasher wrasse and the brilliant blue Giti’s demoiselle.

Days 9-10
Paddleboarding in the Auri Islands / Snorkeling above WWII Wrecks

Auri’s spectacular karst islands rise above the water’s surface like the backs of gigantic green sea monsters. Underwater, the scenery is just as incredible, with pristine coral reefs, colorful fish, and a trio of American WWII fighter jets sunk in the shallows. Our days are filled with jaw-dropping beauty as we explore crystal-clear waters and enjoy lunchtime beach barbecues along white sandy shores beneath palm trees. We’ll be snorkelling and paddleboarding in paradise!

Day 11
Farewell to Paradise / Depart

We sail overnight from Auri on Day 10 and disembark in Nabire this morning. The crew will take your checked luggage to the airport. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure.

Highlights

Highlights

Swim with massive whale sharks—the earth’s largest fish!
Explore one of the most biologically diverse and remote areas on earth
World-class snorkeling above pristine coral reefs, WWII history, spectacular stargazing at night
Travel aboard a traditional double-masted Indonesian schooner, anchoring in isolated coves

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $6195  
Arrive: Nabire, Indonesia
Depart: Nabire, Indonesia
Lodging: 10 nights aboard yacht
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=dinner) (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Small Boat & Yacht Cruising, Snorkeling, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

Snorkeling 4-5 hours most days, exploring by dinghy, optional short hikes and paddleboarding, remote location

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