West Papua (Irian Jaya) Indonesia Trip Report
FAMILY HOLIDAY DECEMBER 16 JANUARY 17 WEST PAPUA (IRIAN JAYA) INDONESIA.
Following a lot of research & the fact we as a family, previously dived in Alor, Wakatobi, Bali, Tulamben Indonesia, Walindi Kimbe Bay Papua New Guinea & Okinawa Japan it was time to venture to a very remote location, in part unchartered, namely Triton Bay West Papua .
By way of background, family consists of my wife who is solely a snorkeler & risk adverse when it comes to close encounters with marine creatures of the predatory kind, my son Marcus Aged 22 with some 1600 dives under his belt, my daughter Alana Aged 15 been diving since 10 years of age, the real warm water addict & myself, the elder, diving since 1980.
We left Sydney travelling to Ambon in the Maluka Group of Islands via Jakarta. Spent 1 week looked after by Dive Into Ambon Owners Barbara & Kai. Stayed at the Maluka Hotel adjacent to the Dive Centre & Pool. Very comfortable and well-coordinated by Barb & Kai. Combined, for the three of us we completed some 33 dives each having an average duration of some 62 minutes. As well as muck diving, a wreck dive(SS Aquila) in the harbour we undertook a sea mount check dive plus coral wall & cave swim throughs which allowed us to witness a large school of spotted eagle rays. Of course the highlight for myself & Marcus was doing a night dive at Franky Point. Great undersea medium to witness the nocturnal sea creatures such as the Bob Bobtail Squid & the Tropical Bottle Tail Squid. I would rate this night dive as one of the best outside the time I dived in Bougainville PNG early 1980”s. Overall, the visibility was sound say up to 18 meters.
Dive into Ambon marketing claim to fame, is the diver having the chance to witness the Psychedelic Frogfish. It is claimed, only some 200 people in the first world order have seen this frogfish. Well we had the divine privilege, even managed to shoot a video of it walking. Item on the so called bucket list ticked off.
On the fun side, we managed to cook some eggs at 24 meters via thermal heat vents. We peeled the eggs breaking them up with our teeth & then feeding the tropical fish in front of our eyes. The local dive guide was wearing a SHREK neoprene head band at the time. Very cute. We all miss seeing the underwater donkey.
It was time to move onto our chosen destination, Triton Bay. Our Flight on Domestic Carrier WINGS would take us to Kiamana Papua Via Fak Fak. Thanks Right, Fak Fak which remains embedded in my mind as our photo camera hardware was accidently off loaded there. Once in Kiamana, I alone was left with the task of co-ordinating the safe passage of this precious cargo from FAK FAK. Luckily there was a flight coming from Sarong some 2 hours later that day to pick up same. In the end, a satisfactorily outcome. From the airport terminal you are transported by road SUV’s to the main Wharf area where you then embark on a some 2.5hour boat journey. Because of the luggage issue my family left Kiamana earlier that day. I travelled later with the supply boat somewhat smaller than there luxury travel mode. There are live goats on the wharf which are a novel send off. There is even a designated Billy Goat House with his many female goatee friends. Anyway we are visiting a largely Muslim country. Do as the locals do I say. Share, share alike.
During the boat journey, from looking at the topography, it was certainly apparent we were in for a special treat. Virgin rainforest mountains meet coconut fringed white fine sand beaches fanned by coral encrusted bomboras.
Reminiscence of the scenes in the Tom Hanks Film Cast Away. Certainly NO formal attire is required here. Just your bungee shorts , true blue singlet , flip flops , the cancer council gazetted hat plus the polarised sunglasses.
Once at the resort located in a sheltered cove, facing east you are greeted by a freshly opened coconut & escorted to the long house/ main building. All the infrastructure within the small complex is made out of local materials crafted by local villagers. At the briefing you are reminded of the remoteness of this place. Water from local spring, gravity fed to your bungalow bathrooms , Drinking water containers in from Kiamana once a week, Very limited internet. Only Satellite feed from a Jakarta Provider, Diesel power generators with power on from 6.30am until 11pm. Recommend doors to Bungalows be keep shut at night to restrict the right of access local snakes have. Be careful of falling coconuts when walking along the beach night or day, stay close to the designated walking trails.
Wear covered shoes/ dive boots at the low water tidal line at the house beach as Reef Stonefish ( Synanceia Verrucosa) have been detected / very well camouflaged. Limited first aid kit on site. Have oxygen kit in an emergency. Personal mosquito protection essential both lotion & clothing for the evening onslaught. Fortunately we were well prepared bringing our own equipment & taking malaria medication. Good boy scouts & girl guides. It is a good idea to have Dive insurance protection such as DAN.
With our particular bungalow we had a resident Cuscus (Local Possum) on the roof. Hearing it scratching its fur at night would put you to sleep. Mornings you woke up to the noise of rainforest Hornbills, Cockatoos, bird of Paradise deep in the upper canopy , native finches & various forms of rainforest flies /insects. Overall a great enlightenment to one senses. On some occasions there were swarms of native flying ants (Termites) which infiltrated as we sat down for dinner. Evasive action was implemented by all. Again an experience for a remote locality.
Variety of food was good bearing in mind the logistics of this place. Indonesian cuisine using where possible local ingredients such as various forms of ginger, lemongrass, native figs, sugar bananas & papaya. The local sous-chef was very accommodating in preparing various forms of homemade sambal. Main protein sourced from local villages, i.e. Fresh fish & venison. A barter system is still used in these parts using sugar, boat fuel, spring water & cigarettes. It is not uncommon to witness village longboats gaining access to the house beach, both by day & night, to ferry supplies. Apparently fuel reserves in Kiamana can be rationed randomly without prior warning.
Remember to bring INR CASH with you here, in West Papua as very little, if any, credit card providers are honoured. There are banks with ATM’s in Kiamana accepting Cirrus embossed cards. Be aware of these ATM’s apply maximum withdrawal restrictions at any one time. Also equip yourself with travel packs of tissue paper to use in public toilets as the Indonesian Government doesn’t provide any (waterjets are the only cleaning source).
On one occasion, we met the local tribal chef together with his extended family numbering 17, all in one longboat. An excited photo session took place on the house beach with my children being the central drawcard. On the same day the governor of Kiamana was due to pay the resort a visit. Luckily for the resort management it did not take place. Now down to the most important part diving. Superlatives; virgin, unspoilt, everything you see is on a large scale i.e. corals; this includes softies, hard, fans, black coral, shoals of fish life. A haven for the Macro photographer. It has been commented by associated guests at the resort that the Softies are much better than you find in Fiji. Wide angle would have been superb had the visibility been better. On some dives the range was between 6 to 9 meters. Such was affected by tropical rain storms which in part are unseasonal for that time of year. Best summed up climate change afoot. We live in hope sea temperatures & salinity don’t rise thus impact on the health of the reefs within the coral triangle of Asia. Plenty of food here throughout the water columns provides the basis for a pristine underwater habitat. Diving here is not for the faint hearted. Experience essential to appreciate the enjoyment of the underwater vista of Triton Bay. Resort management are endeavouring to locate cleaning stations for the manta-rays within Triton Bay.
We were fortunate to tick another encounter off our family bucket list, namely Diving & Snorkelling with Whale Sharks. We had two, 2 hour sessions ,engaging close up to a wild healthy juvenile , some 6 to 7 meters in length. The images will remain dear to our hearts.
Overall we spent 3 weeks in Triton Bay, diving some 120 dives including 10 night adventures between the three of us with an average duration of 68 minutes. No Nitrox available. My wife was a comforting sight with her bright orange noodle pinned under her arms for extra floatation as we surfaced after each day dive. Her underlining devotion to our well-being whilst on the dive boat is always appreciated.
Thank you so much.
29th January 2017.
P.S. It is disturbing to witness the amount of PET & associated plastics that have washed up to above the high water mark throughout this region of Indonesia. We can only live in hope that as these Asian Regional Centres standard of living increases that collection & recycling of waste be addressed as an environmental issue. Education is the key.