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.
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 or rhincodon 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.
Scientist Dr. Gerald Allen calls the Cenderawasih 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 ancient 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 with two 40pk outboard motors.The only accommodation available in this village are simple rooms at the Immanuel Primary School in Kwatisore.
Here the local government trains 20 students to become dive guides and to develop facilities in Kwatisore to serve more tourists.
Comprising land and coastal areas, islands, coral reefs and pristine seas, the Cenderawasih Park covers a total area of 1,453,500 hectares.
The Cenderawasih Bay Park combines coral reef ecosystems with mangrove, 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, among which are the butterfly fish, the damselfish and parrot fish, and, of course the whaleshark, while molluscs found here include the trumpet triton, the great clam and the cone shell.
Best time to visit is between May through October.
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