Cenderawasih Bay: a new dive destination on the world dive map!
Most of the diving, other than on Manokwari’s excellent WWII wrecks, is within Cenderawasih Bay National Park, Indonesia’s largest. This park is huge, half again larger than Raja Ampat; even a 14 day dive trip barely scratches the “surface” of this underwater wilderness.
Cenderawasih, along with Raja Ampat and Triton Bay, makes up the Bird’s Head Seascape. Its reefs look nothing like Raja’s colorful, fish-filled reefs, nor are they similar to Triton Bay’s soft coral wonderland. Pristine and vast, the bay’s reef tops comprise some of healthiest hard coral gardens to be seen. Dramatic vertical walls with prolific sponge life abound on the outlying atolls, schooling fish along the reef points and ridges.
Cenderawasih also has a few unique features in Indonesia’s pantheon of rich reefs. The bay was geologically isolated until recently, and if you look at a map you’ll see that it is still somewhat confined. This means that less current moves through Cenderawasih’s waters, and therefore there’s less recruitment of marine larvae than in a place like Raja. This isolation has blessed Cenderawasih with a number of very colorful endemic species. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that many normally deep-dwelling fish species are found here in relatively shallow water. This topsy-turvy reefscape, along with the presence of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, prompted Dr. Gerald Allen to call Cenderawasih “ the Galapagos of Indonesia’s Reefs”.
By Burt Jones and Maureen Shimlock