Diving in Cenderawasih Bay
The large Cenderawasih Bay National Park in the north of the island of Papua, otherwise known as Teluk Cenderawasih, includes Indonesia's largest marine national park, and is one of the best dive-sites in the archipelago.
Comprising land and coastal areas, islands, coral reefs and pristine seas, the Cendrawasih Park covers a total area of 1,453,500 hectares.The Cendrawasih Bay Park combines coral reef ecosystems with mangroves, islands and terrestrial tropical forest ecosystems. Here are colonies of black coral, blue coral and soft coral. The Park is famous for the 209 fish species that make this Park their habitat such as the butterfly fish, damselfish and parrotfish, and, of course the whaleshark. Mollusks found here include the trumpet triton, the great clam and the cone shell.
What to see
Cenderewasih has magnificent vertical drops, picturesque hard coral gardens, sponge life and myriads of fish .This is the playground of one of the world's largest animals: the spotted whaleshark (rhincodon typus). Though elsewhere in the world divers consider themselves lucky enough to meet one or two, here they come in pods and divers can swim among them.
Scientist Dr. Gerald Allen calls the Cendrawasih Bay "The Galapagos of Indonesia's Reefs". Whalesharks are migratory animals, and are known to grow to 18 meters in length or more. Biologists tell us that they are an acient species originating some 60 million years ago, and are usually found in the open sea. They have a lifespan of 70 years. A 7 meter whaleshark can weigh up to 22 tonnes. Unbelievably these huge animals are docile since they live only on plankton, clouds of egg roe and small fish, which in Indonesia are called "ikan teri".
In the village of Kwatisore near the town of Nabire, these giant fish usually gather by the floating platforms, called bagan, where fishermen haul in their catch of small fry. Kwatisore can be reached from Nabire in around three hours by boat.The only accommodation available in this village are simple rooms at the SD Imanuel Primary School in Kwatinsore. Here the local government trains 20 students to become dive guides and to develop facilities in Kwatisore to serve more tourists.
Besides the whaleshark, four species of turtles inhabit these waters. The hawksbill turtle, the common green turtle, the Pacific ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle can be found in Cenderewasih alongside other creatures such as dugongs, coconut crabs, dolphins and sharks.
The best time to dive in Cenderawasih is from April through to November. The weather is usually mild - little wind and rain.
It is easiest to fly through to Nabire via Jakarta (JKT), Ambon, or Sorong. Here are our recommended routes;
- Fly to Jakarta, connect flight to Ambon or Sorong then to Nabire West Papua
- Garuda Air fly direct on way out, but on return can fly via Jakarta or stay 1 extra night in Makassar for direct flight next day.
- Sriwijaya Air fly via Jakarta, then early flight to Sorong via Ujung Pandang. On the return will have to stay 1 extra night in Jakarta
- Jakarta or Ujung Pandang (Makassar) to Sorong; can book directly with Sriwijaya Air
- Lion Air fly from Ambon every Tues, Thur and Saturday to Nabire