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Whalesharks of Cenderawasih Bay


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#1 wudai

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 04:55 AM

On April 23, eight of us from Hong Kong travelled from Hong Kong to Cenderawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia is search of a newly discovered hotspot where whale sharks congregate for hours in shallow waters searching for food.

Months before the trip, we read trip reports about divers swimming with up to five whale sharks over a two-hour timeframe. Iíve gone diving for whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Wolf/Darwin Islands in the Galapagos Islands; the Maldives; and the Philippines but at these world renowned dive destinations you would be lucky if you saw one whale shark on a dive for a few minutes. I was really excited about Cenderawasih Bay and couldnít wait to get there.

Although Indonesia is located within the region, there are no direct international flights from Hong Kong or any large international city serving Papua. We flew from Hong Kong to Jakarta and then took three other domestic flights before arriving in Nabire, Papua twenty-four hours later.

Our resort, Ahe Dive Resort, is located about 30 minutes by boat from Nabire. Ahe is a small island which mainly served as a rest stop for fisherman until the local government built a dive resort in 2010.

Ahe Resort is managed by a Dutch sales manager and an experienced Indonesian divemaster from Manado.

The resort is very basic, there is no running water but they provide western-style toilets and solar shower bags. Electricity is powered by generator but you only get a few hours of electricity in the evening. The resort meals are very basic with daily offerings of fish, rice, chicken, vegetables and fried noodles. There is only one point on the island where you can get access to a mobile telephone signal.

The dive crew and resort housekeeping staff are former fisherman from the nearby islands who have recently given up fishing to work for the operation. The dive crew and housekeeping staff speak very little English and we all had to either ask the divemaster to translate or make do with my Indonesian phrasebook.

Apart from shore diving in the house reef we travelled in a perahu (dugout canoe) with side riggers to the dive sites.

The dive sites around Ahe are largely unexplored because divers started coming to this area only about a year ago. On the afternoon of our arrival we completed a check dive in the house reef. The reef seemed healthy and there was very little trash you would normally find in a house reef near a resort.

On our second and third days we explored Here Island and Roine Island and found large healthy gorgonian sea fans dotted along the reef. Some areas were dotted with hard table or staghorn coral but the reefs were devoid of large schools of fish. We also completed a couple of dives in the house reef in the afternoon and found a small school of bat fish, a frogfish and nudibranchs underneath the jetty.

On our fourth day we left the resort at 5am and travelled three hours by perahu to a concentration of fourteen floats frequented by whale sharks. The trip was quite uncomfortable because although the perahu was sheltered with a small hut all eight of us were crammed inside and it got either really windy or sweltering hot inside.

The floats house fishing nets holding the fishermenís catch of the day. The whale sharks are attracted to small fish trapped in the fishing nets. Once we arrived at our first float, we got in the water with our dive gear and found two whale sharks. Since the whale sharks were busy eating the small fish near the nets they would swim in a circle around us and return for more fish. The two whale sharks stayed with us for over an hour! I was really excited and took photos close up, something you couldnít do at other world class dive destinations frequented by whale sharks.

On the fifth day half of us stayed near Ahe while the other half travelled the distance out to the floats. Those of us who stayed near Ahe continued to explore the reefs as well as the mangroves of Hariti Island.

On the sixth day my group travelled the long distance out to the floats in search of the whale sharks again. We spent an hour diving with four whale sharks who couldnít get enough fish for their meal. The largest of the four whale sharks was over fifteen feet long and there was even a smaller whale shark that followed the three adult ones along to the float!

On the final day of diving our whole group returned to the floats and spent two hours diving with the whale sharks. We swam first with two whale sharks, when they were done with their meal one of them suddenly twisted and turned its body. Suddenly, we realized it was having a big poo! After the two whale sharks left the float two new ones arrived and the fisherman manning the float frantically fed them from the surface with small finger sized fish.

Now that Iím back in Hong Kong, with running water, constant electricity, air-conditioning and internet connection, my trip seems surreal. I hope that due to the remoteness of this location the whale sharks will remain relatively untouched. If youíre interested in my photos, they have been uploaded at www.flickr.com/wudai.

Edited by wudai, 22 May 2011 - 05:27 AM.


#2 Steve Williams

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 07:46 AM

Thanks for sharing your experience Michelle. Sounds like fun.

Here is the link to click through to the photos. Michelle's Flickr

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#3 sasdasdaf

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:48 AM

Sounds like quite a unique experience! Good to see others from HK on the forum.

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#4 Matti

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 07:15 PM

Good to hear another report from this area, I am in the process of organising a trip to here in October this year with a side trip to Raja Ampat (its in the neighbourhood). I can't wait to get there. :) to takes some pics and some video footage from the area. :)

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#5 xariatay

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 12:05 AM

Looks like a beautiful experience! Would you do that again?
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#6 wudai

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 06:33 AM

Looks like a beautiful experience! Would you do that again?


Definitely. I would probably stay on a liveaboard next time though. :rolleyes:

#7 Matti

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 02:31 PM

Hi There,

As a result of Wudai's report :) and a few others, I organised a trip into this area in October this year and had a great trip (wanted to get out with the sharks a third time but the weather conspired against me as a big storm had come through overnight).

Below is a link to my gallery from the area and also a video I have done on diving with the Whale Sharks.

Photo Gallery

http://mattiovaska.com/gallery/7346

Video



I would go again and I do have a few friends who have seen the photos I managed to snap and the video I made and are now in the process of organising their own trip ( I might have to join them :B):

regards

Matti

PS: One thing I learnt was to make sure that your trip is outside 5 days or some of the full moon as the Fishermen have trouble catching the Ikan Puri at night as their lights have trouble competing with the full moon.

Edited by Matti, 10 November 2011 - 10:03 PM.


#8 xariatay

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 10:00 PM

Love those photos & esp the video video! :B): :) The way the whaleshark manoeuvred its enormous tail to position itself is so amazing.

Wudai, I met the boss of White Manta & Black Manta liveonboard last week, they are going to Cenderwasih Bay in Oct/Nov next year... ;-)
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#9 AllisonFinch

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 04:37 PM

There is a nice liveaboard dive boat working the area. My sister scoped them out at DEMA. I am planning on a trip with them 2013. I sure hate waiting that long, But I will be leaving Dec 9th to do an exploratory trip going from West Papua to Timor for three weeks (plus a week in Ambon) this year. We will be with Dive Damai. I hope they don't get finners in there before that trip. Those sharks are sitting ducks hanging around the tuna bait nets.

#10 SOX404

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 01:35 AM

There is a nice liveaboard dive boat working the area. My sister scoped them out at DEMA. I am planning on a trip with them 2013. I sure hate waiting that long, But I will be leaving Dec 9th to do an exploratory trip going from West Papua to Timor for three weeks (plus a week in Ambon) this year. We will be with Dive Damai. I hope they don't get finners in there before that trip. Those sharks are sitting ducks hanging around the tuna bait nets.

I had terrible and life threatening experience diving with SMY Ondina (LOB). Make sure you choose the right dive operator; also majority have experience in Raja Ampat, but not so many in Cendrawasih Bay area.

Nabire is great to see whalesharks. I was surrounded by 4 mature and 2 juvenile whalesharks at one time during one morning dive. Amazing how this giant is so gentle and friendly to human.

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#11 Photogenic shark

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 01:24 PM

On April 23, eight of us from Hong Kong travelled from Hong Kong to Cenderawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia is search of a newly discovered hotspot where whale sharks congregate for hours in shallow waters searching for food.

Months before the trip, we read trip reports about divers swimming with up to five whale sharks over a two-hour timeframe. I've gone diving for whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Wolf/Darwin Islands in the Galapagos Islands; the Maldives; and the Philippines but at these world renowned dive destinations you would be lucky if you saw one whale shark on a dive for a few minutes. I was really excited about Cenderawasih Bay and couldn't wait to get there.

Although Indonesia is located within the region, there are no direct international flights from Hong Kong or any large international city serving Papua. We flew from Hong Kong to Jakarta and then took three other domestic flights before arriving in Nabire, Papua twenty-four hours later.

Our resort, Ahe Dive Resort, is located about 30 minutes by boat from Nabire. Ahe is a small island which mainly served as a rest stop for fisherman until the local government built a dive resort in 2010.

Ahe Resort is managed by a Dutch sales manager and an experienced Indonesian divemaster from Manado.

The resort is very basic, there is no running water but they provide western-style toilets and solar shower bags. Electricity is powered by generator but you only get a few hours of electricity in the evening. The resort meals are very basic with daily offerings of fish, rice, chicken, vegetables and fried noodles. There is only one point on the island where you can get access to a mobile telephone signal.

The dive crew and resort housekeeping staff are former fisherman from the nearby islands who have recently given up fishing to work for the operation. The dive crew and housekeeping staff speak very little English and we all had to either ask the divemaster to translate or make do with my Indonesian phrasebook.

Apart from shore diving in the house reef we travelled in a perahu (dugout canoe) with side riggers to the dive sites.

The dive sites around Ahe are largely unexplored because divers started coming to this area only about a year ago. On the afternoon of our arrival we completed a check dive in the house reef. The reef seemed healthy and there was very little trash you would normally find in a house reef near a resort.

On our second and third days we explored Here Island and Roine Island and found large healthy gorgonian sea fans dotted along the reef. Some areas were dotted with hard table or staghorn coral but the reefs were devoid of large schools of fish. We also completed a couple of dives in the house reef in the afternoon and found a small school of bat fish, a frogfish and nudibranchs underneath the jetty.

On our fourth day we left the resort at 5am and travelled three hours by perahu to a concentration of fourteen floats frequented by whale sharks. The trip was quite uncomfortable because although the perahu was sheltered with a small hut all eight of us were crammed inside and it got either really windy or sweltering hot inside.

The floats house fishing nets holding the fishermen's catch of the day. The whale sharks are attracted to small fish trapped in the fishing nets. Once we arrived at our first float, we got in the water with our dive gear and found two whale sharks. Since the whale sharks were busy eating the small fish near the nets they would swim in a circle around us and return for more fish. The two whale sharks stayed with us for over an hour! I was really excited and took photos close up, something you couldn't do at other world class dive destinations frequented by whale sharks.

On the fifth day half of us stayed near Ahe while the other half travelled the distance out to the floats. Those of us who stayed near Ahe continued to explore the reefs as well as the mangroves of Hariti Island.

On the sixth day my group travelled the long distance out to the floats in search of the whale sharks again. We spent an hour diving with four whale sharks who couldn't get enough fish for their meal. The largest of the four whale sharks was over fifteen feet long and there was even a smaller whale shark that followed the three adult ones along to the float!

On the final day of diving our whole group returned to the floats and spent two hours diving with the whale sharks. We swam first with two whale sharks, when they were done with their meal one of them suddenly twisted and turned its body. Suddenly, we realized it was having a big poo! After the two whale sharks left the float two new ones arrived and the fisherman manning the float frantically fed them from the surface with small finger sized fish.

Now that I'm back in Hong Kong, with running water, constant electricity, air-conditioning and internet connection, my trip seems surreal. I hope that due to the remoteness of this location the whale sharks will remain relatively untouched. If you're interested in my photos, they have been uploaded at www.flickr.com/wudai.


Sounds like an awesome trip. Not for anyone who is faint of heart.

Sounds like an awesome trip. Not for anyone who is faint of heart.