The whale shark is the biggest fish in the world, which impresses and attracts divers with its charm and majesty. While eating only plankton and small fish – the whale shark is completely harmless to humans. Unfortunately its existence is in risk, due to humans’ activities and a low birth rate. Those giants can live even up to 100 years.
Cenderawasih Bay is located on the north coast of west Papua and is in the main a place where time has stood still due to the small human population in and around the largest national park in Indonesia encompassing 1.5 million hectares of sea.Here are 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 orrhincodon typus. If elsewhere in the world divers consider themselves lucky to meet one or a couple, here they come in pods and divers can swim along with them quite unharmed except to beware not to be hit by one of their powerful fins.
This dive destination is now becoming increasingly famous as the only place in the world where sightings of whale sharks are virtually guaranteed, due to the self learned behaviour they come shallow to the bagan’s(small fishing boats) to feed on the ikan puri (bait fish) that is left in nets by the fisherman. The whale sharks can number in between 1 and over 10 in just one dive and usually stay underneath the bagan for the whole day enabling divers to enter as much as you like all day long.
The bay is also dotted by hundreds of small islands and atoll’s that are home to some of the most pristine hard coral garden’s in Indonesia, and home to a variety of endemic marine life due to the separation of the bay from open seas for thousands of years. The island of Biak where we embark and disembark also have great dive sites as they were a base for the Japanese navy in the 2nd world war where not only sunken navy cargo ships can be found but plane wrecks too.
The park is located 250 kilometres away from Manokwari and includes pristine coast and dozens of uninhabited islands. The closest villages are situated on bigger islands: Yap, Rumberpon, Roon and Mioswar.
The jungle is inhabited by deers, wild pigs, casuariidae, monitor lizards and forest kangaroos. Papua is also a paradise for bird-watchers: one can see there 37 species of birds of paradise, white and black royal cockatoos, sea eagles and hornbills.
The underwater world hides many wrecks from the times of II World War. Most of them are located in D’Ore Bay, nearby Manokwari.
Cross is patrol vessel 35m long and lies at a depth of 18 metres, parallel to the coast of the Mansinam Island, in front of the cross – a symbol of arrival of the first missionaries (that’s where the name of the ship comes from).
Shinwa Maru (The Good Ghost)
A huge, 120-metre-long cargo ship, which lies 35 metres under the water. It sank near the Manokwari port, hit by two bombs, which left holes in the bow. In a cargo space there are cables, machine for moving the bombs and empty bombs. There is a big shoal of horse mackerels, which seems to take care about the wreck. The sides are decorated with soft and hard corals and pearl oysters.
Situated 40-50 metres deep, near the Mansinam island. It’s very damaged and lonely in the depth, that’s why was named “Ghost”.
Pasir Putih (The White Sand)
A military patrol vessel, 30-35-metre-long. It lies on a sandy bottom, 13-22 metres deep, with beak pointing toward the shore.
A cargo ship carrying ammunition, 60-65 metre-long, which lies on the starboard side in 16 meters of the island Mansinam. Well preserved.
A 40-meter patrol vessel, which lies at 9 meters under the water, an hour from Manokwari.
An American biplane, which sank when trying to encircle the earth in 1931. It is well preserved and lies at a depth of 27 metres.
P-40N Kitty Hawk
An Australian military aircraft, lies at 25 meters, on the other side of the cape, on the open sea, one hour of Manokwari. It has a very well-preserved left wing, the body and the cabin.
The park comprises the southwest quarter of Cenderawasih Bay which lies to the east of the isthmus connecting the Vogelkop Peninsula to the mainland. The park falls within the administrative districts of Manokwari and Nabire. Access is by sea from the towns of Manokwari and Nabire, which lie 95 km and 38 km north and east, respectively. Air transport is available from Manokwari, Biak and Nabire.
Best time to visit is between May through October.
How to get there:
From Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Makassar or Jayapura take a flight to Biak and on to Manokwari or Nabire. From Nabire take a longboat to the Park at Rumberpon Island, which takes some 5.5 hours. Or, to visit the whalesharks, take a boat to Kwatisore village from Nabire. The journey takes about 3 hours.
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