Cruise Itineraries & Destinations
MY Ondina Liveaboard Cruise Itineraries & Destinations
Cendrawasih Bay – Whale Sharks & Wrecks
The northern margin of Teluk Cenderawasih bay (literally “bird of paradise bay” in the local language), was partially closed in prehistoric times by the islands of Biak and Supiori. That created a unique environment for several endemics species of reef fishes to develop in this region, as well as allowing other species that are usually found in deeper waters elsewhere in the archipelago to come up and thrive in shallower waters. All this can be seen by regular recreational scuba divers today.
The area was also the scenario of brutal naval battles during WWII, leaving behind the wreckages of ships and planes in depths accessible by regular divers as well.
But the star of the routes is undoubtedly the whalesharks. Attracted by the little anchovies netted by the large outrigger boats that fish at night with the help of lights, these gentle giants have become regular visitors to the area, guaranteeing close-up encounters to divers and snorkelers.
Banda Sea including:
North Banda Sea & Kai Islands
Raja Ampat & North Banda Sea
Raja Ampat & Kai Islands
The Banda Sea is the deepest in the world. Reaching 8.000 m. in some points (Mariana’s trench, the deepest point in the world, is 11.000), is also part of the Ring of Fire, the chain of volcanic islands that follow the faulty line from the western end of Indonesia up to Sulawesi and the Philippines…
These are the famed Spice Islands, the heart of the spice trade during the Dutch occupation of the Banda islands, where nutmeg and mace were originally from, or Ambon, where pepper was the main trade. To the east, the Kay islands offer a radically different look from its volcanic counterparts, with low sandy islands with powder white sand beaches, fringed with coconut palm trees.
The Banda Sea is also the most exposed of the Inner Seas of Indonesia, thus requiring careful planning. These routes only take place in October and November, in the interval between the two monsoons, when the waters are more likely to be calm.
Cruising the Banda sea involves more night powering than other routes, as we sail most nights, just to wake up every morning in a different location.
But the adventurous divers are rewarded by impressive walls with giant sea fans, massive barrel sponges, thick schools of fish, and the common sights of pelagic fauna, including hammerheads.
The image of a maze of limestone islands topped with greenery and surrounded by turquoise lagoons has captivated westerners since the first sailors set foot on this region in the fifteenth century. The same soft limestone creates a very interesting topography underwater, with caves, canyons, passages and swim-throughs in virtually every dive.
Fed by the nutrient-rich tidal currents from the Pacific, the myriad of little islets produce exuberant reefs, with pastel-colored soft corals, gigantic sea fans on many different shades and colors, and countless other forms of sessile life. More of 75% of the world’s reef building coral species known to science occur here, and fish life boasts a similar record, with over 1.400 species of fish, from which more than 20 are endemic to the waters of Raja Ampat.
The Four Kings (or Raja Ampat, as the four islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool are commonly referred to), are a true diving paradise. With its outstanding landscapes of limestone karst spires, primitive fishing villages, vast expanses of mangroves, and of course birds of Paradise, it is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best diving destinations in the world.
Two rivers pour their waters into this bay, while rich upwellings from the deeper basins of the Banda sea feed the reefs formed around its islands. This unusual combination makes for a very special environment, where the lower-than-average visibility is compensated by lush reefs covered in soft corals, large black coral bushes in unusual colors (like fluorescent yellow or white), thick schools of reef fish and a vast array of critters in the dark sands of its shores. Whalesharks also come attracted by the little anchovies captured by the large outrigger boats fishing at night with the help of lights, and ancient rock art can be witnessed in the limestone walls of the islands.
Outside the bay, underwater seamounts are often visited by mantas, and the reefs around Kai islands have some of the most beautiful powder white sand beaches of the entire archipelago.
A string of small islands lines the edge of the continental platform of East Borneo, where the massive deltas of the rivers lose the influence of their murky waters and the visibility improves. Outside, deep water surrounds two large atolls and a very peculiar island with a massive land-locked lake fringed by mangroves in its interiors, where four different species of stingless jellyfish coexist.
In a good week, this route provides the opportunity to spot the big five: thresher shark, hammerheads, grey reef sharks, mantas and whalesharks. The last ones come attracted by the little anchovies captured by the large outrigger boats fishing at night with the help of lights.
Diving happens mostly in walls and slopes, with the occasional sandy plateau as well, and display huge barrel sponges, large sea fans, and beautiful hard coral gardens in the shallows, apart from huge schools of jacks and barracudas amongst other species of reef fish. Sea turtles lay their eggs in the rookeries of this region, and together with a couple of canyons and caves, it all makes for a perfect diving safari.
Located between the main islands of Halmahera and Bacan, the straits of Patintie and the Goraici group consist both of a rosary of islands exposed to tidal currents that promote the growth of soft corals and where fish school in large numbers, with reef sharks being commonly sighted. All this with the chain of volcanoes of Ternate, Tidore, Moti and Makian in the background, inhabited by ancient sultanates that still maintain their palaces and their own personal guard, and where the remains of both Portuguese and Spanish occupation reminds us of the old spice trade, where clove was the most coveted good there five centuries ago.
This route has the particularity of starting in the best wide-angle diving in the entire archipelago (Raja Ampat), and ending with the best macro as well, in the world capital of muck diving (Lembeh), or vice versa, depending on the starting and ending points. Covering a larger distance than usual, the higher number of nights sailing from one location to the next is compensated by experiencing many different environments both topside and underwater, making it a varied and highly rewarding adventure.