Science & Conservation

We have just finished our latest adventure, a trip tagging whale sharks.


Indonesia's Cenerwasih Bay is a place where whale sharks come to feed on small fish falling from the nets of “Bagans”. “Bagans”are boats of about 10 to 15 meters(33 to 49 feet) long and larger with outriggers. Underneath there are large nets that are lowered at night, then bright lights are turned on to attract fish. At predetermined times the lights are turned off and the nets raised along with the fish trapped within them. As the nets rise small fish overflow or escape through holes in the nets. Whale sharks normally feed mostly on plankton but began coming to feed on those fish. Eventually the fishermen began feeding them additional fish and the added source of food available has attracted a larger number of sharks and established a place where tourists can reliably find whale sharks to interact with. We have dove/snorkeled with as many as 7 at one time. They are friendly and appear to actually enjoy people interacting with them.


There is still much unknown about whale shark behavior and migration habits, therefore in an effort to gain further knowledge some are being tagged with electronic devices that record such data as depth, temperature, time, etc


There are currently 3 types of tags being used. The first is attached to the body near the dorsal fin by injecting a small anchor under the skin that is connected to it. That type must be monitored by someone approaching the whale shark and reading data with a device similar in function to a bar code reader. 

The second type is also attached near the dorsal fin but is designed to break free after a programmed length of time. Once free, it will float to the surface and upload its stored date to scientists via the satellite. 


The third type is new and employs the latest technology to store more data at higher resolution. It has batteries that keep it operating for 6 months. When the whale shark occasionally surfaces, a set of sensors detects that the fin is out of the water, the tag's transmitter turns on, and the stored data is uploaded to a satellite. It was this third type that was installed during this trip.


The installation of tags during our trip was performed by a team of local Indonesian scientists from “Conservation International”, University of Papua, and the National Park organization and was led by Doctor Mark Erdmann from “Conservation International”. Completing the task required coordination with the fishermen. When a whale shark appeared, it was lured into their net, the net was raised to near the surface, and the operation began. The dorsal fin of the shark has no nerves so attaching a tag causes no pain. They lay calmly while 4 holes were drilled through the fin and bolts attached the tag. Once tagged they were assisted with clearing the net and they swam away unconcerned, looking for more to eat. A total of five were successfully tagged.


It is always a very enjoyable experience interacting with these beautiful animals but this time it was an exceptional experience.

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Science & Conservation

Report from doctor Mark Erdmann, the expedition leader for recent CI expedition:


"My organization (Conservation International) has been working with the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries to conduct satellite tagging of both manta rays and whale sharks to better understand their movement patterns within Indonesia - particularly to get a handle on whether they are migrating via "hotspots" of hunting activity (such as Lamakera and Tanjung Luar in NTB) and if they are in fact frequently leaving Indonesian waters altogether. We anticipate soon being able to release a report on the results of the manta ray tagging to date (in Raja Ampat, Komodo, Nusa Penida and Sangalaki) that may be of interest to many of you - hopefully within next 1-2 months.


In the meantime, the whale shark tagging in Cenderawasih and Triton Bays has been more challenging, as the towed satellite tags have tended to get "snagged" when the sharks swim close to the bagans and their nets. Indeed, if you look at the state of the art for shark satellite tagging around the world with everything from Great Whites and Tigers to Blues and Blacktips and Caribbean reef sharks, the standard approach is to use "fin mount" satellite tags whereby the satellite tag is actually mounted directly on the dorsal fin (bolted through it) - which ensures the tag doesn't cause significant drag or get tangled. To do this, the sharks are usually caught by long-line, pulled up to a research boat, and then either anaesthetized or turned upside down to put them into a state of "tonic immobility" before the researchers drill holes through the fin and mount the satellite tag. The dorsal is generally believed to not be innervated, so there is reportedly no pain associated with this mounting technique. At any rate, this approach has never been done with whale sharks previously, as it is of course highly unlikely to catch them on a long line and they are far too large to pull up on a boat deck. However, we recently were successful in working with the BBTNTC Cenderawasih National Park authority and Ministry of Fisheries to deploy 5 fin-mount satellite tags on Cenderawasih whale sharks, utilizing the fact that the sharks are frequently caught in the bagan nets at night and are very docile and subdued until they are released from the net. We operated on 5 sharks that were caught in the nets at night, and these five sharks are now happily swimming around Cenderawasih and transmitting daily data on their whereabouts and their diving behaviour. Not surprisingly, they have all remained in the Kwatisore region since tagging last week. 


At any rate, I wanted to let you know that there are now 5 sharks with these fin-mount satellite tags on them, in order that you know to expect this if you go to Cenderawasih and your guests ask about this. We plan to leave these tags on the sharks for a year or more (depending on how battery life is looking and if they are still resisting fouling), after which we'll remove them. We intend to provide regular updates on their movements on the website





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Science & Conservation

Our last trip was a charter by Conservation International with Mark Erdmann, Gerry Allen, Ronald(a local C.I. Employee), and Sarah Lewis(a Manta Ray specialist) on board. The planned itinerary was to Kri Island first then to Ayau Island via Eagles Rock. Several days were to be spent there. Sarah and Ronald were to research Manta Rays while Mark and Gerry searched for new fish species. From there it was to Kwatasori for tagging of whale sharks. 


We first sailed to Kri Island where a research meeting was held with Max Ammer then we started to depart for Eagles Rock only to anchor in front of Sorrido Bay. For the next 2 days our guests dove in the Kri area.  


From Kri we skipped plans for Eagles Rock and sailed directly to Ayau Island. During the 3 days there Sarah and Ronald managed to tag a baby Manta while Mark and Gerry discovered a couple possible new fish species. 


On the 4th day, we departed for Manokwari in late afternoon amid worsening weather conditions. Swells parallel to out intended direction made sailing difficult but we managed to struggle on until midnight when conditions got much worse. Fearing for our safety we turned South traveling in the same direction as the waves and headed toward the North Eastern tip of Waigeo. That eliminated the severe rolling that had developed and we began to feel more comfortable. 


We rounded the tip of Waigeo about four o'clock in the morning. 


Daylight finally arrived and weather conditions began to improve as we continued South towards “Blue Magic” dive site. From there we headed west along the Southern side of Waigeo then North West toward “Eagles Rock” and along the Western side of Kawe Island toward Wayag. All went well until we hit the open stretch between Kawe and Wayag where wave conditions forced us to retreat back to the “Eagles Rock” area where we could spend the night in a small bay.


As we approached the area we stopped, dispatched the divers, and headed toward the bay.


In the meantime, the guests dove in the bay and at “Eagles Rock”. While at “Eagles Rock” Mark was watching some Mantas then turned around to see a 3.5 meter(11 feet) Tiger shark swimming toward him. He went into a defensive position thinking that it might be attacking but coincidentally the speed boat above started its motor and the noise scared the shark away. 


Soon after we traveled along the Eastern side of Kawe then around the corner to the bay near “One Tree Rock” to dive and spend the night. The next morning we sailed to Wayag, weather was much better. After spending the day at Wayag we headed South toward “Dayang” on the Northern coast of Batanta Island. We arrived early morning, the guests dove there, and early the next morning we rounded the Western tip of Batanta and stopped for a dive in a bay along the South coast. From there we sailed along the Southern side to the South Eastern tip and anchored for the night. 


Early the next morning we sailed to Sorong and ended our trip with a sigh of relief. It is one trip I am happy is over with.  The trip was declared a productive success. A manta ray was tagged, two new fish species were definitely discovered, and there were several possibly new fish species found.

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Dive Trips & Logs

Our last trip from 5 to 17 November prooved to be an exciting trip. We started out on the first day with a check out dive on the North East corner of Batanta Island followed by a dive along the North coast of Batanta. We then anchored for the night in a secluded bay where the water is always calm and birds can be heard in the surrounding jungle.

On the second day we dove at Wai Island on a sunken World War P-47 aircraft along with a reef covered with beautiful coral and an abundance of fish. From there we proceeded to Cape Mansuar and Cape Kri where the amount of fish is mind boggling. Then we headed South on the 15 hour overnight journey to Farondi Islands in the Misool area..

After Diving at Farondi we continued diving Misool's fantastic reefs for 3 days where the coral is abundant, very colorful, and surrounded by fish of every size and type imaginable. Black Tip, Wobbegong, and walking sharks along with bump heads, barracuda, and groupers were among those observed. Prior to departing for the Northern Islands we toured the scenic beauty of lagoons and channels amongst the small islets and rocks at Balbulol. On the 6th day we headed Niorth on the overnight trip to Batanta where we dove three newly discovered dive sites. Coral there is really beautiful, some resembling a garden of yellow flowers, White and Black Tipped sharks were plentiful as well as a huge Bump Head and the usual array of various sizes and types of fish.

Next was Manare Island where several Wobbegong sharks are always present, followed by dives at Wofoh Island. During one of the Wofoh dives a cave that has always been overlooked was discovered. It is about 1 meter wide, makes a turn about 5 meters into it and then is open to the surface. Inside was a Wobbegong peacefully laying in wait for something edible to swim by.

From Wofoh we travelled to the Seprang Islands with its dive site that has many sharks, Bumpheads, Barracuda, and once again the multitude of other fishes. This was followed by a dive on the “Y” reef at Bag Island. The “Y” reef never seems to have much current but the coral's beauty and number of fish are both staggering.

After Bag Island we dove the Islands on the equator, spent the night in a secluded Kawe Island bay, and the next morning dove “One Tree Island”. Then there was a nearby reef where divers swam amongst 16 Manta Rays. The rays there appeared to enjoy the presence of divers and swam all around them. They also seemed to enjoy swimming above the air bubbles released by the divers breathing. Four of the divers lay quietly on the bottom watching the mantas as they circled above. The mantas seemed to be curious and kept circling closer and closer until they were within a couple feet from them.

The next day was spent at the pearl farm. After diving during the day they dove the wharf at night where a variety of strange creatures can be found and is considered one of the best night dive locations in Raja Ampat. When returning from one of the day dives a group of dolphins swam playfully along with the speed boat. One of the divers held his Go Pro camera over the side and got some good video of the dolphins.

On the final day we dove Blue Magic and Chicken reef before departing for Sorong. Both sites had the usual swarm of fish.

During the trip our guests were astonished by the amount and variety of fish life and coral beauty. The ultimate thrill though was the hour they spent mingling with the Manta Rays. They left for home with the hopes of returning some day.

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Science & Conservation

We are happy to say that we are currently supporting another great expedition with TNC scientists (The Nature Conservancy). We will be sailing away for the next few weeks with them. You can definitely follow their progress from the following link:

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Dive Trips & Logs

Our last trip was to be for 8 days in the north part of Raja Ampat.  However, due to flight availability our guests arrived a day early so it became a 9 day event.

On day one we sailed to a small bay at Pulau Arefi on the North coast of Batanta  Island. We arrived after dark, anchored for the night and dove a night dive on “Putiraja Corner”. That reef has a beautiful coral formation and a large variety of fish.

The next morning we dove “Putiraja's Gallery” where there are large schools of Barracuda, an unbelievable variety of small fishes, and nudibranchs. For the second dive we dove on the P-47 plane wrecks near Wai Island. There were four fighter planes that hit bad weather on the way back to their base on Morotai Island during WW2.  Three have been found, The planes were trying to go around the storm, ran out of fuel, and ditched the aircraft there. From there we sailed to Penemu  Island and dove “Melissa”s Garden”. There are some interesting coral formations and of course lots of fish. After diving “Melissa”s Garden” we sailed to Batang Pele Island and anchored in the “Manyaifun“ bay for the night.

Early the next morning we proceeded to “Eagle Rock” south of ”Kawe Island” dove once and set sail for “Wayag Island”. “Eagle Rock” has a large and beautiful field of soft coral and a large Wobbegong shark was found resting there with a Moray eel lying on its tail, The weather was beginning to turn bad as we arrived at Wayag and we were disappointed to find another ship tied to the mooring there. We anchored but shortly afterward the ship left so we pulled anchor and moved to the mooring. In spite of the worsening weather we managed to safely dive inside the mouth of the bay. Then we took a scenic sail through the multitude of small islands and rocks in our speedboat.

On day four an early morning dive was made, breakfast was served, then the guests climbed a nearby mountain to view the majestic scenery. The view from that point is stunningly beautiful. As they were on their way down the mountain a helicopter from the French TV group and a chartered “Wings” passenger jet began circling the area and filming Putiraja as well as the local scenery. It was surprising but fun to watch. As soon as the guests boarded Putiraja we departed and headed south toward the equator islands. There we dove “One Tree Island” several species of Pygmy Seahorses can be found. After One Tree Island we dove a nearby island where we descended North of the equator and surfaced on the South side. From here we headed toward Manyaifun where we wanted to overnight again. As we sailed the weather began getting worse again and as we approached Manyaifun in the evening winds were gusting as high as 31 knots and waves were getting high. We finally arrived in the shelter of Manyaifun and anchored.

Very early the net morning the weather had calmed so we departed for Yanbraimuk (Pulau Yanggelo). Shortly after departure the weather began to pick up again and soon we were fighting large swells and high winds.  Several very difficult hours later we reached Yanbraimuk and anchored in the channel and dove twice. The dive sites there have colorful coral and lots of fish, including wobbegong and walking sharks. Then we dropped the guests off at Airborek Island to visit the local village and proceeded to pick up 2 additional guests from Raja Ampat Dive Lodge, Mansuar Island. After that we picked up the guests From Airborek, returned to Putiraja, and dove a night dive.

On the sixth day they dove at Airborek early in the morning then “Manta Sandy” where they mingled with manta rays. Afterward we returned to Putiraja and the corner of the channel mouth.

The next day, we sailed to Wofoh Island , dove twice, then dove the nearby Manare island. The Wofoh dives were spectacular dives however Manare island was disappointing with a lot of dead coral and not so many fish.  We returned to Yanbraimuk, did a night dive, then sailed to Raja Ampat Dive Lodge and moored on their buoy for the night.

Early the next morning we had planned to go see the Cenderwasih birds but it was raining so we cancelled and went for a dive at Mioskon Island, then “Sardine Reef”, and “Cape Kri” before sailing on to Kapasbou, Batanta Island for the night. There we dove “Pintero Rock” after dark, saw a wobbegong shark and walking shark.

We left early the next morning for Sorong and two of the guests boarded their departure flights. The remaining guests stayed overnight on the boat and departed the next day.

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We will be at booth 409 at the DC Baltimore Dive Show this Friday and Saturday. Stop by and get some fresh brewed Indonesian coffee and homemade cookies! You can watch a movie about marine conservation in Raja Ampat and mingle with us. Find out why Raja Ampat Diving is so amazing.

And if you're looking for a dive trip special you're in luck! Ask about it at our booth # 409.

DC - Baltimore Dive Show

Friday January 28, 2011 5:00PM-8:00PM

Saturday january 29, 2011 9:00AM-5:00PM

Baltimore Convention Center

1 W Pratt St, Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Ps. Your local dive shop business card will get you in the door half price!

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Dive Trips & Logs

On the 11th of November we departed Kaimana on a 26 hour trip south to Agats, the pick up point for our guests. The weather was good and and the sailing uneventful for several hours. There were 11 people in the group that boarded in Agats, including artifact collectors, dealers, and a museum curator. From Agats we headed south to visit villages on the coast.

The next day we proceeded to the mouth of a river and began seeking an entrance while the guests visited local villages. At the mouth of this river there are many sand bars that continuously shift position and therefore are not charted so we began probing the waters for a place that was deep enough to enter the river. After reaching a point 12 miles offshore we were still unable to enter so returned to our starting point and stayed for the night.

When the tide was high the next morning, we managed to work our way into the river, then continued up river to a village about 45 miles inland called Atjs, Michael's Rockfeller last destination before he was last seen after his boat wrecked 3 miles off shore. According to the locals, he was killed there then cut up and eaten*. We have a video in which a village chief tells in detail how Michael was speared then had his head, arms, and other body parts cut off before cooking and eating. Apparently a white foreigner (Dutch patrolman) had killed three people from a local tribe and according to Asmat beliefs had therefore taken the power of their souls with him. When they saw Michael they killed him in order to regain the powers their people had lost to a white foreigner. The Asmat formerly wore skulls of people they had killed on a necklace to enhance their power. Since the headhunting days are over they now wear a replica of a skull made from a coconut shell as a symbolic replacement.

From Atjs we turned and followed a different river back to the sea that came out near where the group had visited the first villages a couple days before. We then sailed back to Agats, anchored for the night, then proceeded up the river. Our next destination was Sawa lake about 40 miles inland. We stayed for 3 days to visit nearby villages.

Asmats in dug out canoes welcoming us. A welcoming group with traditional clothing, skin paintings, and jewelry greeted our group in dug out canoes. It was an extremely interesting experience that rivaled what is seen in movies about primitive jungle tribes. There was an abundance of beautiful artifacts available for viewing and purchase at the various villages. We bought some of the better ones but did not have enough money to buy everything we wanted. One very special thing we got was an old canoe about 42 feet long with a typical Asmat carving on the front. We didn't have enough money to buy it but the guests saw Josephine really liked it so all chipped in and gave her the money to pay for it. That was done in appreciation for the excellent food she worked hard to serve for them.

Sawa village had a Catholic missionary and church. The church was stunningly beautiful with all timbers and wood structures covered with Asmat carvings. Various Asmat artifacts decorated the walls. It is an amazing place. Even a painting of an Asmat Mother Mary and Jesus was on display.

We returned to Agats and continued sailing to Pomako, the Timika area harbor, where we dropped off our guests. Shortly after we started the sail back to Sorong, to get ready for Mattias Klum's second documentary trip.

* Michael's body was never found and there are various theory to his disappearance, including that he may have been attacked by crocodiles as he attempted to reach the shore.

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Dive Trips & Logs

Putiraja Liveaboard departed Sorong for Kaimana on the 15th of October, sailed through the Sele Strait, and Southeast toward Nassaulang Peninsula. When we rounded the peninsula and reached Adi Island it was 04:30 in the morning and still dark. The area is full of small islands, rocks, and shallow places so we anchored until daylight, then continued toward Triton Bay into the town of Kaimana. Forty four hours after leaving Sorong, we arrived in the Kaimana harbor.

We had to pick up two passengers who had already arrived and began searching the town for them. Fortunately, Kaimana is a small town with only a couple of hotels and we were able to locate them quickly. After we finished our paperwork, we began preparing for the trip up river. Several people including the harbor master warned us that there was a very dangerous spot in the river where several ships had been lost, among them was a tugboat and a large barge loaded with logs. It is a deep and narrow bend with a small island in the middle of the bend. The currents get quite severe and cause several whirl pools that can turn a ship over if entered. With that in mind we hired a local experienced ex tugboat captain. He piloted our boat to its final destination of a village called Kokoroba, approximately 48 Nautical Miles up the river.

The second day there we continued 2 hours further up the river and dropped off our guests and local guides at a small village called Wainaga, where they began a four day trek into the mountains. The river to it is very winding through mangroves and swampy land bordered by mountains. The river current can sometimes be very strong, sweeping large logs down the river. There are many crocodiles in that area but you never see them because they submerge when they hear the outboard motor.

The local villagers guided us to an airplane wreck nearby. It was an A20 twin engine bomber shot down during WWII. One of the villagers who was 6 years old at the time told about seeing it come over the mountain with a Japanese fighter shooting at it, and saw it crash. They found someone's arm and removed a ring from its finger but saw no other body parts, apparently burned up or thrown further into the jungle where they didn't look. There had been a local salvage team from Biak who removed almost all of the pieces. However, the engines, some landing gear parts, machine guns and a few smaller items still remain. Reportedly there was another crash in the water nearby but nobody wanted to dive for it because of the crocodiles.

There are many wild nutmeg trees in the area and we gathered a lot of the nutmegs for our own use. The villagers were not aware that the fleshy part of the nutmeg could be prepared and eaten as a dessert. Josephine gave them some she had prepared then explained how to do it. They were surprised but liked the taste and were happy to learn something new.

The river water was very muddy and kept clogging our water maker's filters. We were only getting a couple hours of use from the filters, so we were busy washing and reusing until they could not be used anymore. We managed to conserve our stored fresh water until the day we were scheduled to leave. At that point, we filled our tank with water coming from a mountain spring and it lasted until we returned to Kaimana.

After picking up the trekkers on their return to Wainaga we gathered some Pomelo fruits from the trees, returned to our ship, and began the trip back down the river to Kaimana. Our large boat made it through the whirlpool around the bend okay, but we are very thankful of the advice given by the tug boat captain.

Papuan Man And Carved Trunk Canoes By Arguni Bay In Kaimana we discharged our guests and three days later boarded Mark Erdman from Conservation International and Gerry Allen, the renowned fish expert for fish in this part of the world. They were accompanied by a group of Indonesian scientists who were to gather and categorize fish specimens from the Arguni Bay area.

While waiting in Kaimana, we had produced enough fresh water to carry us through the next week. We returned up river again to Kokoroba without any problems. From there trips were made to outlying areas by speed boat in search of interesting fish species. Each day new fish specimens were cataloged, photographed, and preserved for the trip back to the laboratory.

We then moved the ship about 10 miles down the river near Faternus island so the scientists could explore the area. Two days later we headed back to Kaimana. Upon arrival, we discharged our guests and began preparing for a trip to the Asmat territory.

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Every year there is a new Raja Ampat entry tag. A contest for 2011 tag design was recently held and voted by people from all over the world. The winning design by Selvy Mareta Herman, from Singapore, is titled City in A Sea. Her design shows silhouette of a manta through the negative space created by other silhouettes of underwater creatures and corals "to represent the richness of Raja Ampat." If you're diving in Raja Ampat in 2011, you'll get to proudly display the 5cm diameter design on your BCD.

There were 20 beautiful entries overall in the competition. Needless to say, it was a tough decision to make by the public. The contest for Raja Ampat entrance tag is over, but you can still see all submitted designs. Browse through all 20 designs here.

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