Exploring the beauty of Cendrawasih Bay that has the world’s greatest marine life

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White sands surrounding the beach and also by the hills, make the beach more beautiful. (photo: IO/Prive. Doc)

IO, Jakarta – Papua is an island located in the easternmost region of Indonesia with all its endless natural beauty to explore. Mainland and underwater nature is a paradise for fans of outdoor tourism. It is not only rich in nature, but Papua also saves the cultural wisdom and creations by the locals which still survive in modern times like today. Exploring Papua will certainly be an exciting experience that can and may be an unforgettable one. One of them is Cendrawasih Bay located in the northern part of Papua and is the largest marine conservation area in Indonesia, as well as a whale shark research center.

Being in Kwantisore Village, whale sharks often surface and are used to interact with tourists. They usually appear around the boat (floating house used to catch fish owned by local people) there are 8 boats located in the Village Kwantisore. Whale shark or it’s Latin name Rhincodon typus is recorded as the largest fish on earth today. It weighs up to 21 tons, with Length up to 14 meters and up to 150 years old. These animals are seen at certain times in some countries; South Africa, Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. They migrated by migrating to find a place to eat and lay eggs. However, whale sharks can be found throughout the year in the waters of Cendrawasih Bay National Park in West Papua and Papua.

The whale shark is named after the people of West Papua as ‘Gurano Bintang’ and by the Nabire community in Papua Province called ‘Hiniota Nibre’. The giant animal was once assumed to be an unlucky carrier when fishermen saw it in the waters thus, it was commonly called the Ghost. However, the assumption was lost because fishermen in Kwatisore are now friends with them even the whale shark have become their pets that live in the wild.

In Kwatisore Village, Nabire District, Papua Province, this whale shark is friendly with local fishermen. They appear in groups every day around the fisherman’s casting rod (a floating keramba type boat with fishing nets below) with occurrences for hours. The whale shark was apparently attracted by a collection of puri fish caught in a floating net under the boat and also awaiting the dead fishes thrown by the fishermen. They usually approach the boat in groups of up to six. In fact, the nature of these animals are actually loners, plankton eaters, and often located below sea level to a depth of hundreds of meters.

At Kwatisore, whale sharks are accustomed to feeding the castle fish and often interact with divers. When the diver approaches it then this giant fish will casually swim together. Unlike other sharks with sharp teeth, whale sharks have fine teeth at the ends of their inner mouths. Usually, shortly before and after the full moon, whale sharks do not appear because the fishermen can not catch the castle fish due to the brightness of the Moon light as the lights on the boat are less attractive to the fish puri. The peak of the puri fishing in this region takes place between December and January.

It is a provision that every diving operator will pay for the fish provided by the fisherman to buy it for Rp 1 million for a day so that the diver can see it directly firsthand. For those who do not dare to dive, you can feed the whale shark directly from the top of the boat. It’s a craze to eat the puri fish rather than the plankton in Kwatisore as it is clearly a unique and extraordinary thing. This interesting attraction actually occurred in the year 2000, simultaneously, when local fishermen built a boat in the middle of the sea.

According to the Cendrawasih Bay National Park (TNTC) from 2012 to 2018, there are about 40 whale sharks living in the bay area. Currently, protection only refers to the fact that whale sharks are vulnerable animals. This status of whale shark protection needs to be upgraded as protected species as in Government Regulation Number 7 Year 1999 on the Preservation of Plants and Animals. Do not be late and turn around like in 2005 when whale sharks are threatened because of the hunting of their fins.

If you want to take a vacation or just watch the whale shark life, take a vacation to Cendrawasih Bay National Park, to Kwatisore. The best month to visit this place is between May and October although whale sharks can be found here throughout the year.

To go to Cendrawasih Bay National Park several flights are available from Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Makassar to Biak, next using a small plane to Manokwari or Nabire. Also available are flights from Jayapura to Biak. For those who come from Jakarta and Makassar can avail flights to Manokwari destinations. From Manokwari to TNTC can continue the journey by ship as far as 95 km. One of the airlines provides flights from Jakarta directly to Nabire. While from Nabire to TNTC you can use a motor boat as far as 38 km or approximately 3 hours.

If you are interested in or dreaming of doing a liveaboard with phinisi boats then there is a live diving operator (LOB) that serves travel services in Cendrawasih Bay National Park. Liveaboard diving operators can be found in Bali, Raja Ampat, and Sorong. However, the trip by liveaboard is the most logical way to explore many dive spots simultaneously on TNTC that are hard to reach, scattered, and away from the mainland. Choose the right provider for your needs. The operator will arrange all your needs during the days of stay aboard. They will also lead to many dive points, organize equipment, check current, wait and guide you during dives, to serve food needs. (Aldo)