The SeaTrek team is delighted that National Geographic Traveler has selected this adventure cruise to include in their “50 Tours of a Lifetime” featured in their May 2013 issue.
This important award comes to us after also having been recognized by The Active Times for providing one of “The best 30 new adventure travel trips of 2013″.
In 2013 we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Alfred Russel Wallace’s death in 1913. This special Seatrek itinerary honours this prominent scientist who as one of the first who dared to raise concerns over the environmental impact of human activity some 150 years ago.
For this specific departure we will work together with Flora and Fauna international we will revisit some of the regencies that Wallace found so fascinating and hopefully experience the magic of seeing the bird of paradise in full glory in its natural habitat. Wallace’s observations of the marked zoological differences across a narrow strait in the archipelago led to his proposing the zoo-geographical boundary now known as the Wallace line. While he was exploring the archipelago, he refined his thoughts about evolution and had his famous insight on natural selection. In 1858 he sent an article outlining his theory to Darwin; it was published, along with a description of Darwin’s own theory, in the same year.
This Seatrek sailing adventure takes you to many of the exact locations that Wallace describes in his landmark publication and of course we have several copies of Wallace’ s book in the ship’s library. (It was reprinted by PERIPLUS in 2000)
For guests who would like to join SeaTrek a early to celebrate the actual day of the 100th anniversary of Wallace’s death, SeaTrek will be hosting a special celebration dinner and night on board the Ombak Putih in Ternate.
Please advise us if you are interested and make plans to fly into Ternate one day prior to the cruise, on November 7th.View Day-to-Day Itinerary >>
Your flight arrives on the small island of Ternate (capital of North Maluku Province) and we transfer you to the Ombak Putih offshore of Ternate City directly from the airport. You get settled into your rooms and we enjoy lunch together while meeting the other passengers and crew. In the afternoon we venture into the city, which has retained its commercial and political importance as the administrative main and trading centre of North Maluku. Of the four historically powerful spice sultanates, Ternate is the only one where the institution of the sultanate has survived uninterrupted. A highlight will be our visit to the old house said to have been lived in by Wallace over a period of years as his base for many specimen-gathering expeditions. There will be an opportunity to post your own version of Wallace’s renowned ‘Letter from Ternate’ on our specially-prepared postcards. If there is time we will also go and see the ‘Afu’, the oldest clove tree in the world surrounding which is a fascinating history of intrigue, greed and hope. In the early evening we will visit the Sultan’s Palace and remember Wallace’s death on November 8th 1913 at a dinner to be hosted by the Sultan (to be confirmed). We return to the Ombak Putih.
As we rise we weigh anchor and sail south with the beautiful chain of volcanic islands of Makian, Moti, Mare, Tidore, Ternate and Hiri to the west. We will find a good place to snorkel, and in the late afternoon we shall moor offshore of Beruba-ruba village on the west coast of Halmahera Island, take the dinghy ashore, and transfer to cars which will drive us over the dividing range to Weda Resort for dinner. We will sleep in the chalets here.
We rise at 4.30 am, have coffee and cookies, drive to the forest edge, and then walk into the forest so that by 6 am, we are waiting quietly below the display trees used by the beautiful Wallace’s Standard Wing, the only bird of paradise discovered by Wallace (or rather by his assistant, Ali). We’ll walk back to the road where we will have breakfast at a shelter before going for a morning’s bird watching (hornbills, giant cuckoos, parrots, etc). There might be a chance for a snorkel in Weda Bay before taking lunch at the Resort. We drive back to Beruba-ruba Village where the villagers will take us into the forest to see a lovely waterfall and to do a bit of Wallace-style foraging for beetles and other creepy-crawlies. Back on board the Ombak Putih we will watch the sun set while heading south.
We awake in the southern hemisphere and offshore of Bacan Island and will go ashore into the coastal and adjacent forest edge. This is the island where Wallace discovered the Golden Birdwing Butterfly and the eponymous Wallace’s Giant Bee. We are unlikely to see either – but we are ever hopeful – but there will always be interesting plants and animals to find. We head on south and stop at the Bajau village on Dowora Lamo Island to meet a community of people from an interesting ethnic group encountered by Wallace. We will likely visit the school. In the late afternoon we will try to snorkel near Joronga and Damar Islands off the extreme southern tip of Halmahera, before having dinner as we sail west towards the Raja Ampat Islands.
We should reach Klaarbeck Island next morning. This is where Wallace landed while having great difficulty making his way from Seram Island in the south to Waigeo Island, the largest of the Raja Ampat Islands. A combination of misbehaving winds, fierce currents, difficult anchorages and lack of water sources ended with him unable to retrieve two crewmen stranded on the small island of Kommerrust just to the south and eventually, with much fear for them, he was required to abandon their rescue. We will try to get ashore, climb the hill Wallace climbed in the vain hope of signalling to his stranded men, and find one of the world’s most remote GeoCache sites.
By dusk we should be offshore of Yar Island where we would hope to see a flock of large flying foxes depart their roost in search of food. We are always watchful for an opportunity to snorkel and for spots to set up a beach barbeque as well. In the evening there will be a course on monitoring the health of coral reefs using Reefcheck methodology ready for its use at a later snorkelling site. Wallace did not collect corals but he took great delight in seeing their beautiful shapes and colours.
We are still at Yar Island and after breakfast we snorkel before moving to explore the land and reefs of the islands to the NE.
We wake in the SW corner of Kabui Bay next to ‘Wallace’s Channel’ where Wallace emerged after his very challenging sail from Seram. After breakfast we take dinghies through the narrow channel, examine the vegetation clinging to the limestone cliffs, and snorkel at a few contrasting sites. We return to the ship and head out of the bay – with luck we may see dolphins and even some small even some small whales. We spend the afternoon in Yenbeser Village where Wallace spent some months and (if the tides are right) we’ll see and go inside a faithful replica of Wallace’s small hut (built by the villagers using plans from FFI and a grant from Seatrek) and perhaps make it to a display tree of the remarkable Red Bird of Paradise, one of the species Wallace was most anxious to collect, in time to watch them dance. If the tides were wrong the previous day we will see Wallace’s Hut. Otherwise this day is reserved my making up lost time on other days.
We will wake offshore of Sawinggarai Village and will be woken about 4.30 am. The dinghy will carry us in the dark over to the village and a local guide will take us on a 20 minute walk into the forest. As dawn breaks in the forest canopy, we should get good views of the Red Bird of Paradise. Back in the village there will be time to meet with the community and perhaps visit the school. We will be back on the boat by mid-morning and if time permits we’ll travel over to Pef Island to snorkel and motor around the convoluted coast, and you will learn the myth explaining the prehistoric hand print still visible high on a limestone cliff. In the afternoon we’ll head east and should manage a snorkel on the reefs of Mioskom Island before dinner. Toward Mayalibit Bay (south Waigeo).
We will awake in the south of Mayalibit Bay and after breakfast will take the dinghies to a village at the north of the passage and meet with a local NGO leader to discuss illegal logging, community development and (hopefully) what a new FFI project is doing in these areas. We will then briefly visit Lopintol Village and take one of the elders to two dramatic and contrasting caves.
We awake off Batanta Island and will go ashore and also find one or two good places to snorkel before we make our final sea trip to Sorong, the capital of West Papua Province. We will go ashore and wander around the bustling market and in the evening we will have our farewell dinner with captain and crew.
Dr. Tony Whitten
Dr. Tony Whitten was trained as a wildlife biologist and since late 2010 he has been the Regional Director for Asia-Pacific at Fauna & Flora International, the world’s oldest international conservation organization. The subject of his PhD at Cambridge University was on the endangered gibbon on a remote and primitive island west of Sumatra in the mid 1970s. After this Tony worked at the University of North Sumatra where he initiated production of a major and innovative series of books on the ecology of the several regions of Indonesia, writing three of them himself, each taking about three years. During a two-year spell in the UK, he was employed by the British government’s conservation agency to write its Recovery Plan for Protected Species – covering sea anemones to wild cats. He joined the World Bank in 1995 and supported a broad range of activities and projects until he left in 2010: he advised on habitat and species protection issues as part of infrastructure projects, started various region-wide and global activities (e.g. on the forgotten biodiversity of caves and karst), ran a programme which produced 111 volumes of local language field guides to all manner of plants and animals, and was responsible for a suite of conservation projects in Mongolia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and elsewhere in the region. He has an in-depth and broad knowledge of biodiversity and has published on a wide variety of topics.