Baliem Valley & Raja Ampat: Cultural & Underwater Adventure

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Tour Description

A once-in-a-lifetime adventure, this western New Guinea tour combines the best of land and sea in the Baliem Valley and Raja Ampat. In the Baliem Valley, with its 2,700 species of orchid and 124 endemic plants, we meet the Dani and Lani people, known for their dress of feathers, orchid-fiber fabrics, and boar tusks. We move on to Raja Ampat, a centerpiece of our western New Guinea expedition. Witness 75 percent of the Earth’s coral species as you dive and snorkel among these stunning islands. We round out our Baliem Valley and western New Guinea adventure travel expedition in Bali, a romantic close to a truly unique experience.

Baliem Valley & Raja Ampat Expedition highlights include:

  • Visit to Jakarta, including a special cultural lunch at Rumah Jawa and tour of the 14-room museum.
  • Two full days of Baliem Valley adventure travel; ample opportunities for visiting with the local people, including a magnificent pig feast prepared by village hosts.
  • Seven nights of snorkeling and diving in Raja Ampat; see barracudas, sea horses, mantas, reef sharks, and hawksbill turtles.
  • Luxury accommodations aboard the Sea Safari VIII during our Raja Ampat expedition, a 12-cabin, traditional Pinisi Buginese Schooner, made of ulin wood.
  • Rich birding opportunities; see sulphur-crested cockatoo, beach kingfisher, spice imperial pigeon, singing starling, and more in the Misool Island Group.

What to expect:

Baliem Valley and Raja Ampat adventure travel is for experienced travelers only. As we journey in this remote land, remember that the infrastructure is poorly developed in some areas, leading to occasional delays and itinerary amendments. For the hiking portion of our Baliem Valley tour, participants should be fit and capable of hiking/trekking five to six hours at a moderate pace along forest trails, which are often uneven and muddy. The Raja Ampat expedition is recommended for intermediate and advanced snorkelers and for Advanced Open Water–certified divers. Bring a healthy spirit of adventure and flexible attitude and you’ll gain much from this unique journey. Temperatures will range from the upper 70°s to upper 80°sF.


Day 1-2

Depart USA

Independent flight to Indonesia. (Day Lost crossing the International Date Line.)

Day 3

Jakarta, Indonesia

Arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital city and transfer to our hotel for a welcome dinner, briefing, and overnight.

Day 4

Jakarta / Jayapura

Our morning tour highlights Jakarta’s rich cultural and ethnographic heritage. Enjoy a special cultural lunch at Rumah Jawa and tour the 14-room museum. This evening we depart on our overnight flight to Jayapura.

Day 5

Jayapura / Wamena

Arrive in Jayapura and connect with our short flight to Wamena, the largest town in Indonesia’s West Papua highlands. Enjoy lunch before visiting the colorful Wamena market and a nearby traditional village where we are welcomed with a cultural performance. Dinner and overnight at the Baliem Valley Resort our home for the next four nights.

Day 6-7

Baliem Valley Trekking

The Valley, situated in the heart of the Jayawijaya Mountains, is simply stunning. The lush terrain is punctuated with swift rivers, the colorful blooms of orchids, and the purple haze of cultivated sweet potato fields.

This region is home to the indigenous Dani and Lani tribal people—isolated by 8,000 foot peaks, most of the 5,000-foot-high valley remains as untouched as it was on the day that American explorer Richard Archbold stumbled upon it in 1938. The people here live in palm-shaded, round hut village compounds that have changed little over the millennia. Known for their unique personal decoration, which sometimes includes boar tusks through their noses and headdresses made of bird feathers, the most famous of these adornments is the koteka, traditional penis gourds worn by the elder tribal men. The Dani’s inhabit one of the most fertile areas in West Papua and constant war with neighboring tribes earned them a fearsome reputation as prolific headhunters.

We spend two full days in the Valley. Each morning we take a scenic drive through lushly forested valleys surrounded by towering peaks to the trail-head. Our hikes take us over gentle hills, with spectacular views along the way. We make stops at traditional Dani and Lani villages where we have the opportunity to experience the daily lives of these hill people, visit their traditional straw-capped homes, and see their lush gardens which illustrate the sophisticated agricultural system developed over generations.

We are met by our vehicles at the end of each day and return to the Baliem Valley Resort for dinner and overnight.

Day 8

Wamena / Kurulu / Anmoge Village

After breakfast we drive to Kurulu to visit the 250-year-old mummy at Jiwika, then walk to a nearby Dani village for a full-day cultural program that includes a traditional pig feast with the villagers. Return to the Baliem Valley Resort.

Day 9

Wamena / Jayapura / Sorong

This morning we fly from Wamena via Jayapura to Sorong. Here we board the Sea Safari VIII for a seven-night snorkel and dive expedition that showcases the spectacular marine bio-diversity of the region.

Raja Ampat, or “four kings,” is an archipelago of approximately 1,500 islands with no fewer than seven Marine Protected Areas covering 4,600 square miles. This region harbors 75 percent of the world’s coral species and 73 percent of the world’s fish species. Among the highlights: nudibranchs, giant clams, schooling barracudas, pygmy seahorses, teeming schools of fish, eagle rays, and numerous reef sharks. The limestone islands provide a stunning backdrop to our underwater explorations.

Day 10-15

Raja Ampat

Following is a list of the snorkel and dive sites we plan to visit, with daily weather and tide conditions dictating the actual itinerary:

Misool Island Group
Misool sits in the Ceram Sea surrounded by countless beautiful islets. Its mesmerizing underwater-scape boasts walls and pinnacles covered with kaleidoscopic soft corals, as well as a huge concentration of giant clams. The larger islands, like Misool itself, feature white sand beaches ideal for tender boat landings. Birders go ashore to look for species such as the sulphur-crested cockatoo, beach kingfisher, varied honeyeater, spice imperial pigeon, and singing starling. We spend two days here, with daily dives and snorkeling excursions, as well as onshore explorations.

Penemu Island
Penemu is hallmarked by photogenic, mushroom-shaped limestone rocks that rise from the ultramarine waters. We watch for large schools of barracuda at Barracuda Reef, and dive the impressive Clam Wall. Huge nudibranchs, orangutan crabs, blue-ribbon eels, and coral gardens are highlights. This evening, enjoy an incomparable night dive.

Yanggelo Island
A full day of snorkeling and diving in this area reveals massive schools of fish, including groupers. Barracudas patrol the waters at channel entrances and a gorgeous corner slope wall is covered with elegant fan corals.

Kri Island
Home to the largest number of fish and coral species counted in a single underwater site, Kri offers a stunning experience. Watch a parade of huge schools of fish—barracuda and pale or blue-tail surgeonfish patrol the reef top, while below, schools of trevally and fusiliers whirl about. Mantas, reef sharks, and hawksbill turtles also frequent the currents.

Jerieff Islands
Just off these lovely islands, snorkelers and divers have the chance to view two sunken Japanese bombers in relatively shallow depths. Acting as artificial reefs these wrecks host numerous small fishes and are covered in soft corals.

Day 16

Sorong / Makassar / Bali

We disembark the Sea Safari VIII this morning and transfer to the Sorong Airport for our flight to Bali via Makassar. Transfer to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 17

Denpasar, Bali / USA

Depart on your independent flights homeward.


Pricing Information

Sea Safari VIII

Built in 2003, the Sea Safari VIII is a luxury live-aboard vessel handcrafted by Bugis master carpenters using the very best well-seasoned "ulin" or ironwood, available. Her elegant lines hearken to a previous age, as she is designed after the fabled Bugis schooners that plied these waters in centuries past. With an 11.4 foot draft and cruising speed of seven knots, she is the perfect vessel for exploring the remote islands and secluded coves of Raja Ampat. Twelve bright staterooms comfortably accommodate 22 passengers and include either twin or double bed sleeping arrangements, en suite facilities with shower, closets, writing desk with chair, window or porthole, and air-conditioning. Three decks feature a bar, lounge with TV, DVD player, and computer with PhotoShop (no Internet available), sun deck, fresh water deck shower, small gift shop, and a restaurant specializing in international and Indonesian cuisine. Amenities include laundry service (no dry cleaning), 24-hour coffee and tea station, satellite phone, a canoe, and snorkel equipment. Scuba equipment is available to rent. She is equipped with a modern navigation system, updated safety and first aid equipment, and carries two Zodiacs.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

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