Cenderawasih Bay – a diving frontier
Cenderawasih Bay is a large bay to the northwest of the Indonesian province of Papua, between the Bird’s Head Peninsula and the mouth of the Mamberamo River. Cenderawasih Bay is more than 300 kilometers wide. The coastline from Manokwari, in the northwest of the bay, to Cape d’Urville at the mouth of the Mamberamo is more than 700 kilometers long. To the south, the Wandammen peninsula heads north into the bay. Important places along the coast are Manokwari, Ransiki, Wasior and Nabire. The Wamma River, Tabai River, Warenai River, and Wapoga River empty into the Bay. (source: Wikipedia)
You can dive Papua New Guinea year-round, but conditions change based on which sea you are diving. Generally, the South Pacific and Coral Sea are great from December to April, while the Solomon Sea is fantastic during every month of the year. The Bismarck Sea is best dived from May to November, but it does get a bit windy in August. As a final note, September is manta season in Milne Bay. Water temperatures range from 77-86°F (25-30°C) throughout the country, and visibility usually ranges from 66-130ft (20-40m) unless you are diving at muck diving sites or sites near mangrove swamps.
In Cenderawasih Bay the main drawcard is the presence of numerous whale sharks. Their behaviour here is unlike anything you may have seen elsewhere. Where whale sharks are normally seen on their own, mouths agape to filter feed on plankton, Cenderawasih Bay whale shark encounters are completely different. Here they gather together below fishing platforms, dining on the small fry that slip out of the fishing nets or are otherwise discarded by the fishermen.
Some of the photographic opportunities such behaviour offers to scuba divers are stunning. Imagine several whale sharks in your field of vision, from small juvenile to colossal mature adult, some hanging vertically in the water to access the fry near the surface. Spectacular!
It is not all about the marine mega fauna in Papua Province and West Papua. There is no shortage of fascinating dive sites for those who prefer to nose around the substrate for the minute and marvellous. Cenderawasih also has its fair share of excellent macro with pygmies, tiger prawns, nudibranchs and sea snakes giving divers plenty of smaller stuff to marvel at.
Special mention should also be reserved for the World War II wrecks that Cenderawasih Bay also plays host to. The bay at Manokwari was a safe anchorage for the Japanese while allied forces held nearby Biak Island. So it is little wonder that many ships and planes met a watery fate. It is likely that many remain as yet undiscovered and several that have been are still rarely dived.
In conclusion, the Cenderawasih region is a remarkable dive destination for large animals, small animals, beautiful reefs bursting with life, and historical WWII wrecks. It is little wonder that such a reputation is making the area a must-visit destination for so many scuba divers.
Cenderawasih liveaboard trips
Below is a selection of stunning photographs provide by our amazing guests of the Cenderawasih Bay and its beautiful life