Explorative diving trips in the largest whale sharks sanctuary: Cendrawasih Bay.
The enormous Cenderawasih Bay in North East Papua is home to the largest marine park in Indonesia, with some of the finest coral gardens and dramatic vertical walls to dive. Cenderawasih Bay is the only place in the world where it is possible to see such a large quantity of whale sharks and with such ease, and not only diving, but just snorkeling or swimming. The numerous Japanese wrecks scattered around the bay from the Second World War are another major call. Underwater exploration of the Cenderawasih region has only just begun, and we expect more surprises to emerge for these extra ordinary seas.
DIVING IN CENDRAWASIH BAY
Divers generally enter this region via the airport at Manokwari or Biak on the Indonesian province of West Papua. Because of its isolated location this bay is protected from the Pacific currents which promote the gathering of certain endemic species.
How to get to Cendrawasih Bay
The best time to dive Cendrawasih Bay is year around 'cause scientists of Conservation International have confirmed what Cruising Indonesia knew since 2010 when we decided supported Ahe Dive Resort Papua: the whale sharks of Cendrawasih Bay are not seasonal as many of other well-known whale shark aggregations in the world such as Ningaloo, Galapagos and Donsol, the whalesharks of Cendrawasih Bay are present in the bay year round!
When to go to Cendrawasih Bay
Best time to dive Cendrawasih Bay is from October to April. Topside conditions at this time of year proved to be excellent. You could enjoy cruising in virtually flat calm seas, with only some rain showers punctuating warm, sunny days. As it is generally acknowledged, West Papua has two rainy seasons each year, in November/December and again in July/August.
Marine life in Raja Ampat
Beside the permanent aggregation of whale sharks you will find pigmy seahorses needle ghost fish, colorful shrimps and rare crabs and other macro marine life. Hard corals and sponges. Sometimes Mola Mola or Sunfish, manta rays. Eventually whales and dolphins.
Liveaboard Diving Trips
The liveaboards to dive Cendrawasih Bay on a budget choice:
MIDDLE: OMBAK PUTIH, SOLITUDE ADVENTURE, MERMAID, RAJA AMPAT AGGRESSOR, ONDINA, RAJA AMPAT EXPLORER, EMPEROR RAJA LAUT, CALICO JACK, AMBAI, DUNE AURORA, INDO AGGRESSOR, TAMBORA, MOANA, MSY SEAHORSE, OCEANIC, LA GALIGO.
BEST DIVE SITES
Dive trip highlights in Cenderawasih Bay
In local dialect, Cenderawasih Bay translates to Bird of Paradise Bay and diving these waters you will see Cenderawasih why certainly lives up to it's evocative and exotic name.
Diving with Whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay
In the last few years, it has been discovered that a consistent population of Whale Shark in Cenderawasih Bay
The whale shark arrive daily at the local fishing platforms or Bagan, to feed on a small fish similar to sardines that accumulate in vast numbers in these waters. The bagan are make-shift floating platforms built from giant bamboo canes, that are then anchored for long periods areas deemed to be rich in fish.
In 2010 divers began to study the fish and were surprised to find that the whale sharks are ever-present in the bay, and are (for now) not put off by the divers, and even allow themselves to be hand-fed by locals and divers. There are few if any other dive sites in the world were a diver can enjoy such an exhilarating dive up so close to whale sharks for the entire duration of the dive.
On average 5 whales sharks are seen per a dive in Cenderawasih, up to a maximum of 12-15 whale sharks on a single dive. Since the enormous success of the now closed Ahe Dive Resort, a handful of the more adventurous dive boats and liveaboards have begun to include Cenderawasih Bay in their itinerary.
Diving the Manokwari Wrecks
On the seabed of the Gulf of Dore, near the town of Manokwari, are numerous Japanese shipwrecks, sunk during the Second World War. Currently there are 6 wrecks open to divers, with the other wrecks either sat too deep for exploration or not yet located.
The Manokwari Wrecks are covered in corals and home to an enormous variety of sea life. Inside the boats and on the decks you can still see cases of grenades, ammunition, helmets, bicycles, bottles, pots, pans and plates etc. On some of the wrecks you can visit the machine rooms and the radio station.
The largest ship wreck in the Manokwari Gulf is the Shinwa Maru, a immense 120m long cargo ship that is relatively intact.
Other diving attractions in Cenderawasih Bay
Until recent times, the Cenderawasih Bay remained isolated and cut off other seas. This natural phenomenon prevented the exchange of larvae with other seas and the evolution of a large quantity of species endemic to the region.
It is also interesting to note that many fish that would normally live in very deep seas, are found living Cendrawasih Bay in relatively shallow waters.
The reefs and underwater walls of Cenderawasih Bay are teaming with macro marine life, from pigmy seahorses to needle ghost fish, colorful shrimps and rare crabs. The hard corals are particularly colourful, and sponges are often found on the walls. Near to the old Ahe Resort, there is a site where diving you can see the spectacular Mola Mola, or Sunfish. Manta rays are another common visitor spotted in Cenderawasih Bay - arriving at a cleaning station, to have parasites removed. The whales are seen at certain times of year.
Bird's Head Seascape images
Some imagine of the wonderful land that is the Bird's Head Seascape where Cendrawasih Bay belong.
- Diving season: October to April. But it is possible to dive Cendrawasih Bay all year around.
- Rainy season: From November to December & from July to August.
- Water temperature: 27-30°C. A 3mm shorty should be sufficient. If you feel the cold easily a 5mm shorty is advisable.
- Visibility: 10-30m.
- Depths: 5 -> 40m.
- Currents: Can be strong.
- Surface conditions: Calm.
- Experience level: Intermediate – advanced.
- Dive sites: Unknown. At the present >50.
- Length of stay: Recommended 10-12 days on liveaboard cruise.
- Airport: Manokwari or Biak. International flight to Jakarta and then domestic flight to Manokwari or Biak.
- Weather: 27-35°C. Indonesia has two seasons: wet and dry. In most of Indonesia, dry season runs May-Sept and wet season Oct-April, in West Papua it does contrary: dry season runs Oct-April, and wet season May-Sept, but consider that being in the Equator , the weather patron is punctually rain showers in afternoon with sunny and sunshine days.
- Time zone: West Papua GMT +9.
- Alternate names: Teluk Cenderawasih or Teluk Sarera.
- Overview: Cenderawasih Bay is an extensive Bay in North East Papua, the largest marine park in Indonesia, and popular with divers due to regular sitings of whale sharks.
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