The Whalesharks of West Papua - 2018

SCUBA Diving and Snorkelling with gentle giants + Superb Coral Reef Diving

West Papua /

The best whaleshark experience in the world!

Tour # 1

Departs on the 1st of September, this tour is an exclusive transit charter from Sorong, through Raja Ampat and on to Cenderawasih Bay. Spend 11 nights onboard the incredible MSY Seahorse

Itinerary

Tour # 2

Departs on the 13th of September, this tour focuses on the Whalesharks in Cenderawasih Bay and coral reef diving around Biak, West Papua. 7 nights onboard

Itinerary

Coral Reef Diving

See some of the most pristine, diverse reefs in the world. Indonesia offers superb coral reef exploration with some of the best visibility you'll ever see.

The Whalesharks

The interactive whalesharks of Cenderwasih Bay will stay with you forever. This is hands down the BEST Whaleshark experience in the world, offering unparalleled photographic opportunities

Tour # 1 - Raja Ampat & Cenderawasih Bay (WP18). Departs Saturday 1st September, returns Friday 14th September, 2018. 14 days, 13 nights (11 nights onboard the MSY Seahorse)

 

Tour # 2 - Cenderawasih Bay (1CW18). Departs Thursday 13th September, returns Saturday 22nd September, 2018. 10 days, 9 nights (7 nights onboard the MSY Seahorse)

The Whale Sharks of West Papua
Hope for their Preservation through Education

By Ron Hunter of Quest Tours

In July 2014, and again in 2015, two Quest Tours groups ventured to the remote area of the north coast of West Papua. Each group was to spend ten days onboard a liveaboard boat exploring these rarely sailed waters; in fact during our entire time out of port we saw only one other vessel, a private luxury motor yacht, other than this only occasional native powered canoes or sailing outriggers were sighted. The lure for us all to this remote area of our world was to dive and snorkel with the biggest fish to ever wander Planet Ocean, the Whale Shark.

So little is known about these gentle giants. As filter feeders they are constantly on the move, wandering and feeding from all of the temperate and tropical waters of our Planet. Spending only 15% of their time in SCUBA divers’ operating depth of 30 metres to the surface, they are elusive and rarely sighted, and despite years of research and monitoring, scientists still do not know where they breed or give birth, let alone plotting regular migratory routes, which at best are haphazard.

What we do know is that their numbers are dwindling, subject to rapacious fishing, these enigmatic giants may be pushed to extinction in the next few decades. In fact we may be the last generation who are afforded the privilege of seeing them ever.   

Our destination in this remote region was Cendrawasih Bay, where only a few years ago it was discovered that the West Papuan Bagan (fish platform) fisherman had befriended the Whale Sharks that frequent their bay. The Whale Sharks had discovered a free feed could be had by sucking small herrings out of the catch nets suspended underneath the bagans, thirty of which are scattered across the bay. The West Papuan fisherman believing the Whale Sharks bring good luck, reward them with scoops full of their catch.

There are very few liveaboard boats that ply these waters, and when this extraordinary fishermen / fish relationship was discovered, the boat operators decided to pay the fisherman a licence fee to allow their guest to dive and snorkel around the bagans with the ever present Whale Sharks; a total win, win situation for all involved, and a glimmer of hope for survival of this ever so vulnerable species.

In 2002 the Indonesian Government declared all of Cendrawasih Bay the “Teluk Cendrawasih National Park”, affording, on paper at least, protection of the area and its marine life, including the Whale Sharks. Monitoring of this National Park is reliant upon the volunteers on the few liveaboard boats, and sporadic visits by Indonesian patrol boats.

Unscrupulous shark fin fisherman present the greatest danger to the Whale Shark worldwide, in fact the very survival of our oceans, and our Planet as we know it is in jeopardy from the insatiable and ridiculous demand by Asia for “Shark Fin Soup”.

Maintaining the delicate balance between sustainable eco-tourism and commercial needs can easily be upset. Unfortunately, greed, which is not the nature of these West Papuan fishermen, can be instilled in them when luxury mega yachts catering for rich tourists, begin to throw excessive amounts of money at the fisherman, to allow their clients the privilege of enjoying the Whale Sharks. These “once every few years” operators are now beginning to destroy this balance and trust, developed over the years between the annual liveaboard boat operators and the fishermen. The next, unthinkable step is illegal shark fishers offering even much more cash for the fins of the Whale Sharks.

The bagan fishermen, whist they consider the Whale Sharks their friends, are nevertheless frightened to get in the water with them, after all their sheer size and power gives even experienced divers pause.

On one of our 2014 tours, we witnessed what can only be a generational leap of faith, something that could potentially endow lasting protection for the Whale Sharks of West Papua. One little boy, 11-year old Fajar, the son of one of the bagan fishermen, was staying with his Dad on the bagan during school holidays. One of our boat’s dive guides, Din, lent Fajar a mask and snorkel and coaxed him into the water with her. At first Fajar was terrified, clutching at and climbing all over Din, and hiding behind her back as a Whale Shark approached. Gently Din encouraged him to relax and observe his father’s unusual friends, and very soon Fajar was swimming freely around the gentle giants, even right up to their mouths where he could see them inhaling huge amounts of water and hundreds of little proffered bait fish. The massive Whale Sharks were in turn very gentle and careful around Fajar and his watchful guide Din.

The huge leap of faith is that Fajar now sees the Whale Sharks as much more than his Dad’s otherworld friends. And as Fajar, and little boys and girls like him, can now see the Whale Sharks as gentle friends, friends that they can swim and interact with, this can only lead to the ultimate protection of the Whale Sharks of West Papua.

Tour # 1 - To book on to this tour, send your completed booking form through to info@questtours.com.au. You will also need to pay $AU 1,500 deposit to secure your space

 

Tour # 2 - To book on to this tour, send your completed booking form through to info@questtours.com.au. You will also need to pay $AU 1,500 deposit to secure your space

Inclusions

  • 11 nights on MY Seahorse with a/c accommodation with en-suite showers and toilet
  • All meals, tea, coffee & water while on board
  • All diving (normally 4 per day), tanks, weight belt & weights
  • Cruise director & experienced dive guides
  • Fuel Surcharge
  • Land tours and group activities organized by MSY Seahorse
  • Return transfers from the airport/hotel to the vessel
  • Airfares ex. Sydney, Melbourne or Perth
  • Airfares within Indonesia

Not Included

  • Nitrox & equipment rental
  • Alcoholic drinks, laundry, on-board telecommunications, crew gratuities