Located off the northwestern tip of New Guinea, the Raja Ampat archipelago comprises more than 600 islands, many of them uninhabited and completely untouched. The islands boast idyllic white-sand beaches, spectacular waterfalls and caves, the world’s most bio-diverse coral reefs, lush rain-forest teeming with bird-life, remote, friendly villages . . . and almost no tourism infrastructure.
Really, the only way to explore Raja Ampat is via water on small-ship cruises like the 10-day Papua’s Whales Sharks & Birds of Paradise voyage offered by SeaTrek Sailing Adventures in Bali.
The itinerary follows in the footsteps of celebrated British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, with port calls in Raja Ampat, Waigeo, Misool, Triton Bay and Kaimana. This year, the cruise is being offered from October through November aboard the Ombak Putih.
Wallace’s observations of the marked zoological differences across the narrow straits between the islands of Bali and Lombok, and Borneo and Sulawesi, led to his proposing the zoo-geographical boundary now known as the Wallace Line. In 1858 — largely based on his observation in the East Indies — Wallace conceived the theory of natural selection independently of Charles Darwin. Both theories were published independently that same year.
Among the many highlights of the cruise are visits with villagers adhering to ancient customs kept alive by veritable isolation from the rest of the world, swimming through Tomolol’s mysterious dome-topped cave and negotiating the maze of karst islands with the crystal-clear waters and abundance of marine flora and fauna.
And if you’re lucky, you could experience the magic of seeing the birds of paradise performing their extraordinary courtship dances in their natural habitat and maybe even snorkel with whale sharks in Triton Bay.
The Ombak Putih — a modern version of a traditional Indonesian pinisi schooner — offers access to villages and beaches that would otherwise be almost impossible to reach. Life onboard can best be described as barefoot chic, with comfortable cabins, good food, top class service, friendly, fun-loving staff and professional, multilingual tour leaders. Cruises are designed to offer the right balance of exploration and relaxation.