Spice Islands, Raja Ampat & West Papua

onboard Coral Adventurer

January 5–19, 2021

Raja Ampat cruise image of Whale Sharks

Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the sea—their white-spotted coloration makes these gentle giants easy to distinguish.

Cruise Indonesia image of string band at Kwatisore

At Kwatisore Village, learn about Papuan culture, shop for local handicrafts, and enjoy a performance by the talented string band.

Raja Ampat islands cruise picture of karst formations

Swim, kayak, and snorkel through pristine and incredibly clear waters that are every shade of blue and turquoise. © Chris McLennan

Spice islands cruise photo of colorful reef

Immerse yourself amidst schools of brightly-colored reef fish as you snorkel among the world’s richest coral gardens. © Giovanna Fasanelli

Raja Ampat Islands cruise photo of Spinner Dolphins in crystal clear water

The aptly named Spinner Dolphin can leap into the air and make as many as seven complete spins before diving back into the sea.

Raja Ampat cruise photo of Coral Adventurer among islands

The Coral Adventurer debuted in 2019 as the most modern tropical expedition ship afloat with plenty of deck space for observing natural wonders. © Chris McLennan

Spice Islands & Raja Ampat Cruise

There are 17,000 islands in Indonesia, give or take. Some people estimate that it would take a lifetime to visit each one. Well, best get started then, and what better way than with a 15-day voyage to the crème de la crème—the Bandas, Raja Ampat and the Vogelkop Peninsula region of West Papua, three of Indonesia’s most intriguing destinations. From the comfort of the agile, 120-guest Coral Adventurer, watch for dolphins, whales and seabirds, or immerse yourself amidst schools of brightly-colored reef fish as you snorkel among the world’s richest coral gardens. Visit 17th-century Dutch forts and nutmeg plantations in the Spice Islands; admire prehistoric cave paintings and Red Birds of Paradise in Raja Ampat; swim over hulking Whale Sharks and sunken WWII fighter jets in West Papua’s fabled Cenderawasih Bay. Join Apex on this Spice Islands & Raja Ampat cruise among Indonesia’s island jewels.

Globe Graphic showing Spice Islands & Raja Ampat on map
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Destinations

    • Travel by Air
    • Travel by Road
    • Travel by Boat
    • Travel by Bullet Train
    • Travel by Rail
    • Travel by Dog Sled
    • Tuesday, January 5: Arrive Darwin, Australia

      Arrive in Australia’s only tropical state capital, the gateway to the Top End, as it is known, and take the afternoon at leisure to explore its waterfront and surprisingly cosmopolitan center. Return to the hotel to meet your fellow travelers and expedition team at a welcome dinner. Overnight at Hilton Darwin.

    • Wednesday, January 6: Darwin / Embark Coral Adventurer

      After breakfast, enjoy a visit to George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, a beautiful 100 acres showcasing tropical species including Aboriginal and Top End native plants. Walk amongst monsoon vine forest, mangroves, bottle-shaped Boabs, and a magnificent collection of native and exotic palms and cycads. Afterwards, head to the harbor to embark Coral Adventurer, your home away from home for the next 12 nights. Have lunch onboard, before setting off toward Indonesia. This evening, enjoy welcome drinks with the captain before dinner.

    • Thursday, January 7: At Sea

      As you cruise north today across the Arafura Sea, attend lectures on the flora, fauna, culture, and history of the upcoming Spice Islands, Raja Ampat and West Papua. Watch for frigatebirds, terns and boobies, as well as Spinner Dolphins, flying fish, and perhaps even the pelagic sea snakes for which this region is famous.

    • Friday, January 8: Banda Neira

      In the middle of the 16,000-foot-deep Banda Sea, over 100 miles from the nearest major land mass, lie the Bandas, once the powerful center of the spice trade. Coveted for their bountiful nutmeg and mace, the Dutch traded Manhattan for one of these remote islands. As you approach Banda Neira, watch the thin plume of smoke wafting from Gunung Api’s summit. See Banda’s famous Kora Kora canoes in action in the port. Disembark and wander the sleepy, flower-filled streets, still lined with impressive remnants of colonial-era architecture. Explore Fort Belgica, built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company. The fort is well-preserved, providing a fascinating insight into the Dutch colonies, and the centuries-long battle with Britain for control of this spice-rich region. This evening, join the locals for a traditional dance performance, before enjoying a glass of champagne as the sun sets over the fort.

    • Saturday, January 9: Banda Neira & Hatta Island

      This morning, you may choose to return to shore for a town tour of Banda Neira, or snorkel over the nearby lava flow reef system. The Bandas are renowned for their excellent visibility and spectacular coral coverage. Because of the depth of the Banda Sea, they also boast robust populations of pelagic predators, notably Dogtooth Tuna and mobula rays. The Bandas are also home to the largest known Napoleon Wrasse population in Indonesia. After lunch, head for nearby Hatta Island. Here, just fifteen feet off the main beach, a spectacular drop-off harbors a truly staggering array of sea life. Large schools of fusiliers and Redtooth Triggerfish hang above reefs teeming with butterflyfishes, damsels, and multihued wrasses.  Those who prefer to stay on land may take a guided walk through the village and explore a local nutmeg plantation.

    • Sunday, January 10: Molana & Saparua Islands

      Arrive early in the Lease Islands, north of the Bandas. Explore uninhabited Molana, actually a cluster of exposed coral reefs. Molana is home to a diverse beach scrub flora, endemic Moluccan Scrubfowl, numerous Pacific Monitor Lizards, and endangered Coconut Crabs. There are several ruins, dating from ancient times to a World War II Dutch hospital. Here, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, marine enthusiasts can be easily overwhelmed by the sheer diversity and abundance of fishes and corals, including clouds of damsels, Sweetlips, triggerfish and parrotfish. After lunch, head east to nearby Saparua, the most developed of the Lease Islands. Learn of Saparua’s fascinating colonial history at Fort Duurstede, built by the Dutch in 1691. In 1817, the fort was conquered by local leader Pattimura, who had all the Dutch soldiers killed. Witness a performance of traditional war dances with shields and swords.

    • Monday, January 11: Seram Island

      Sawai is a hidden pearl of a village located on the central northern side of Seram Island. Set against a backdrop of towering limestone cliffs and valleys of Manusela National Park, with houses that extend out over the turquoise bay, Sawai is a good starting point for exploration of Ora Beach and the national park. Foremost among pastimes here is Seram’s magnificent birdwatching—it is home to 21 endemic bird species, including the spectacular Moluccan, or Salmon-crested, Cockatoo and the brilliant Purple-naped Lory. Later today, bid farewell to the Spice Islands and head northeast to Raja Ampat.

    • Tuesday, January 12: Misool Island, Raja Ampat

      Raja Ampat means Four Kings in the Indonesian language, referring to the four main islands of this extensive archipelago, and is perhaps best known as being the global bull’s eye of marine diversity—it is quite possibly the richest coral reef ecosystem on Earth. But terrestrial treasures also abound on one of its main islands, Misool. More than 1,000 prehistoric rock paintings have been discovered here. Walk through the cave systems with paintings depicting marine fauna and early man. Then, visit Yapap, with its magnificent natural primordial pool, adorned with impressive limestone karst formations that look more like chess pieces than rocks. Take a dip in the perfectly heart shaped Dafalen lagoon, perched just over the crystalline ocean, before returning to the ship for dinner.

    • Wednesday, January 13: Kofiau Island

      At the western edge of Raja Ampat lies remote Kofiau, comprised primarily of raised coral limestone hills covered in low, lush rainforest. As your Zodiacs near the village of Kampung Deer, a “flatform boat” with local dancers performing will greet you. Explore Kampung Deer, and, if you desire, hike to a nearby inland lake, watching for Blyth’s Hornbills and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos overhead, or perhaps even Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Kofiau Monarch, two birds entirely restricted to this far-flung island. Visit the village of Kampung Awat, and enjoy a Sasi opening ceremony and beach BBQ. Spend the afternoon snorkeling or birdwatching.

    • Thursday, January 14: Wayag Island

      On the north end of Raja Ampat lies Wayag, an iconic mazeof karst ‘gumdrop’ islands and white sand beaches. Explore these islands by Zodiac. Those keen on a rigorous climb up Pindito Peak will be rewarded with a breathtaking panorama across Wayag’s coves and atolls. Alternatively, choose to relax with a swim, snorkel, or kayak paddle.

    • Friday, January 15: At Sea

      Relax today as the ship heads east to the Vogelkop, or Bird’s Head, Peninsula of West Papua. Join the expedition team and guest lecturers for a presentation on the iconic Whale Sharks of Cenderawasih Bay. Reaching between 30 and 40 feet in length, and weighing around 9 tons, Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. In Kwatisore Bay, on Cenderwasih’s southern coastline, schools of Whale Sharks are known to gather around the local fishermen’s ‘bagans,’ or fishing platforms. The fishermen consider them a good omen, and keep them coming back with a steady supply of baitfish. Nowhere else on Earth can you experience such a density of Whale Sharks in such clear water.

    • Saturday, January 16: Auri Islands, Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua

      Cenderawasih, or Bird of Paradise, Bay lies on the north-eastern side of West Papua. The marine life here has evolved in relative isolation due to ancient tectonic upheavals and sea level idiosyncrasies. The result? Many endemics, and frequent discovery of new species. Within the bay, Teluk Cenderawasih National Park covers 5,500 square miles of rich marine ecosystem, harboring Dugongs, dolphins, over 200 known species of fish and 150 species of coral. Spend the day in Auri’s spectacular karst islands within the park, snorkeling among rainbow reefs. See a magnificent array of fish, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and a trio of American WWII fighter jets sunk in the shallows. On the islands, you may hike to a waterfall and enjoy some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Indonesia.

    • Sunday, January 17: Kwatisore Village, Cenderawasih Bay

      This morning, head down to Kwatisore Village for the chance to swim with the renowned Whale Sharks of Cenderawasih Bay. Swimming in close proximity to these gentle giants is an experience that will not soon be forgotten. In the afternoon, go shore and enjoy dance and song performed by the children of Kwatisore Village. Learn about Papuan culture, participate in the dance, and enjoy a performance by the talented string band. Local handicrafts are available for purchase at the village market.

    • Monday, January 18: Disembark Coral Adventurer / Biak / Darwin

      This morning, bid farewell to Coral Adventurer as you disembark at Biak, one of West Papua’s biggest islands. Here, the famous Binsari Caves stand as a sobering reminder of the area’s role in World War II. Some 5,000 Japanese soldiers used the massive natural caves as a hideout for much of the war, until the Allied forces bombed them in 1944, killing more than 3,000 men. At noon, head to the airport for a charter flight to Darwin. On arrival, transfer to the hotel and gather this evening at the restaurant for a farewell dinner. Overnight at Hilton Darwin.

    • Tuesday, January 19: Depart Darwin

      After breakfast, transfer to the Darwin airport for your international flights home.

      Note: This itinerary is an indication of the destinations and activities we intend to offer. As with most expeditions, alterations may need to be made due to weather, sea conditions, or any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. Flexibility is key to maximize the experience. Visits to Raja Ampat are subject to permissions to visit protected marine parks. These approvals may alter over time. If access to some areas is not possible, alternatives will be introduced to the itinerary.

    Details

    • January 5–19, 2021
    • Leaders Jonathan Rossouw, Kevin Clement, Gerald Broddelez & John Buchanan
    • Rates starting from $10,095 per person Rate details
    • 15 days Trip Length
    • 120 guests onboard Coral Adventurer
    • Darwin Start/End

    The Apex rate includes, as noted in the itinerary, two overnights in Darwin (January 5th and January 18th); a welcome reception and dinner in Darwin with local beer and wine included; a farewell dinner in Darwin with local beer and wine included; charter flight from Biak to Darwin; all transfers; and all gratuities. In addition, the voyage rate includes accommodations and meals onboard the Coral Adventurer; all excursions and activities as described in the itinerary; services of four Apex Expeditions leaders, as well as the full Coral Expeditions onboard lecture team and expedition staff; house beer and wine during lunch and dinner service; 24-hour tea and barista-style coffee; entrance fees, and taxes.

    If scuba diving is of interest, opportunities are available throughout the voyage at an additional cost per dive. Some dives are available through local resorts while others are managed by the onboard team based on conditions on the day. Let us know if you are interested in participating in scuba opportunities.

    Have a question? Call us at 206.669.9272 / 800.861.6425. Prefer online?

    Get in Touch
    slide of expedition leader Jonathan Rossouw

    Jonathan Rossouw

    An expert in this region, Jonathan is excited to share the rich coral reefs and exceptional birding with you.

    Apex Expeditions leader Kevin Clement

    Kevin Clement

    Find Kevin on deck looking for Humpbacks and Spinner Dolphins, or join him to kayak through the pristine waters.

    Apex Expeditions photo of Tour Leader Gerald Broddelez

    Gerald Broddelez

    Gerald finds this itinerary to be an intriguing mix of history, culture, wildlife and spectacular natural beauty.

    John Buchanan

    An expert in volcanology, John is eager to share his insights on the geology of these fascinating islands.

    binocular icon show facts about Spice Islands, Raja Ampat & West Papua

    The Biggest Fish in the Sea!

    Whales Sharks are the largest fish in the world, although they do have a few things in common with whales. For one, they are massive like whales—these graceful, docile creatures can grow up to 40 feet. They also feed more like whales than a typical shark. Swimming with their giant mouths wide open, they filter feed, collecting plankton and small fish along the way. Whale Sharks are solitary creatures but will often gather in large numbers in areas with abundant plankton. In fact, they will travel great distances to find enough food to sustain their huge size. Scientists believe that some individuals swim across entire oceans to arrive just in time for a plankton bloom—an incredible feat for a fish.