In Cendrawasih Bay the main attraction is the resident whale sharks that are found here year-round. The behaviour of the sharks inside the bay area is unusual compared to other locations. They actively gather below the fishing platforms. Here they can take advantage of the small morsels that escape the nets or are discarded by the fishermen. Usually, a minimum of five whale sharks is present in any one dive, making Cendrawasih Bay one of the best locations worldwide to see these fantastic creatures.
There is so much more on offer for scuba divers joining a liveaboard cruise. Macro life here is excellent, with nudibranchs, shrimps, crabs and pygmy seahorses.
Enthralling wreck dives are located here with many world war II vessels lying within the recreational depth limits of Cendrawasih Bay.
The bay is the destination in Indonesia that consistently has a large population of whale sharks for the whole year. One of the draws for them is the local fisherman and the platforms they use called bagans. The sharks come in to feed on beneath the bamboo cane constructions that remain anchored in the waters for long periods of time. The whale sharks provide a close-up experience for divers for the duration of the dive time.
The Manokwari Wrecks lie on the seabed of the Gulf of Dore where there are currently six wrecks open to exploring. The others are located beyond recreational limits or not located as yet. Covered in corals the cargo is still present with anything from bicycles to grenades and penetration dives are possible.
Whale Shark Diving
Close to Nabire, this is the area of Cenderawasih Bay that highlights the encounters with the whale sharks. The sheer density of the sharks and close up encounters leave this area unrivalled when diving or snorkelling with the magnificent creatures is being considered.
Early morning is the best time to dive, close to the local fishing platforms. The bagans are the go-to place for the whale sharks to gain a free meal; here the fishermen consider them good luck. Some encouragement is made with baitfish and this also stopped the gentle giants disturbing their nets full of sardines.
The whale sharks are not fed for the divers to see, but it is part of a long-established local tradition, they avoid contact with divers and focus on the free breakfast.
Dives here are beyond comparison to any other location with the whale sharks regarding proximity, numbers and duration of each encounter.
World War II Wrecks
The northern edge of the bay has the island of Biak, home of the Battle of Biak in 1944 between the occupying Japanese force and the USA. This was a major turning point in the Pacific war.
One of the easy to reach wrecks located close to the town of Manokwari on Cenderawasih’s west coast. A 120m Japanese transport ship that suffered two large blast holes on the starboard side now at 16 to 34m of depth.
In a good condition, she has now covered in sponges, hard and soft corals and is home to moray eels and nudibranchs with jacks circling her. The cargo consists of many dishes, plates, cutlery, sake bottles and chopsticks.
P40 Tomahawk Fighter Plane
The plane still has the cockpit intact with the seat and instruments visible. It is home to moray eels and many small critters. There can be giant groupers with black and white tip reef sharks circling the sand.
Catalina Flying Boat
One of the best-known wreck sites is drifting over the flying boat used for rescues during the war. She is intact sitting upright making her an interesting dive site.
This is one of the sites that is neither a whale shark or wreck dive. It is reminiscent of Lembeh or Ambon. As a muck dive, most of the dive is spent looking at the black sand seabed. Inside the coral clusters and rock formations, there are many wonderful critters such as pygmy seahorses, snake eels, frogfish, nudibranchs and shrimps. Cuttlefish are here and if lucky a diver may find the blue-ringed octopus.
Other muck diving sites are located in the shallows of the bay area, but human rubbish from the villages can be off-putting. The critter finds can be fabulous and a total distraction.
Cendrawasih Bay Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings – Whale sharks, jacks, morays, nudibranchs
- Special sightings – Pygmy seahorses, mola mola, manta rays, dolphins
- Topography – Wrecks, reefs
- Visibility – Variable but averages at 15m
- General information – Currents can be strong in this area with conditions best suited to intermediate to advanced divers.