Darwin to Apra
20 days with Silversea Rating:
Day 1 Darwin
Departure 7:00 PM
"Australia's capital of the north is a uniquely tropical city, and a historically isolated outpost of this vast, diverse country. Reaching up towards the equator, a full 2,000 miles from Sydney and Melbourne, the city was named in honour of Charles Darwin by the British settlers who established a frontier outpost here. With a unique history, beautiful islands nearby, and a palette of sizzling Pacific flavours, colourful Darwin is an enchanting and exotic Australian destination. Crocodiles patrol the jungled waterways and tropical rainforests around Australia's gateway to the Top End. Explore via airboat to look down on the veiny waterways of the mist-laced Kakadu National Park. The sounds of chattering birdlife and the gentle splash of fountains and waterfalls will fill your ears in George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. Soak it all in, before kicking back and relaxing with a picnic and a crackling barbecue. The sunshine and famous tropical pink sunsets mean many visitors naturally gravitate to the city's soft sands to relax at spots like pretty Mindil Beach, as evening approaches. The adjoining market is filled with souvenirs and crafts stands and is the perfect great place to enjoy some fiery Asian flavours. Stroll the stalls, grab some food, and crack open an ice-frosted beer as the sunset show begins. It may be remote, but Darwin found itself on the front line during the Pacific War, as the Japanese air force unloaded their bombs onto the city in 1942. This relaxed unassuming city has a deeply resilient backbone, however, and you can explore the museums to learn more of the war's impact on Darwin, as well as the devastating effects of one of Australia's worst natural disasters, Cyclone Tracy in 1973."
Day 2 Day At Sea
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.
Day 3 Matakus Island
The eastern part of Indonesia is a true paradise on Earth. Home to countless beautiful, unexplored destinations that have not enjoyed the tourism boom that many other parts of the country have. Matakus Island is one such destination. This makes it a perfect place for those who have a sense of adventure and truly want to explore off the beaten path. Matakus is a small island and part of the Tanimbar archipelago. At just over two miles in length and less than a mile across, it is one of the smaller islands but, despite its small size, its proximity to the regional capital city of Saumlaki just to the north ensures that the island is inhabited (current population 100). The tourism infrastructure is practically inexistent, so don’t expect to be souvenir shopping here – ordering a lunch of delicious freshly caught and grilled fish from one of the local fishermen that line the shore is about the maximum! The island is surrounded by fine, white-sand beaches and is a marine paradise, with fields of staghorn coral and schools of cardinalfish visible in its crystal clear waters. Grab your underwater cameras and snorkels and dive in! Wildlife is not limited to below the water however. Birds including the Tanimbar starling, Moluccan masked owl, Fawn-breasted thrush and Blue-streaked lorry all call the island home.
Day 4 Day At Sea
Days 5-6 Agats (Asmat)
Travel into the depths of Papua New Guinea. The island – the second largest island in the world after Greenland – is home to hidden valleys and rugged, often inaccessible terrain and is still unchartered territory for travel enthusiasts. The country is divided into two halves – belonging to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea itself and is fascinating melting pot of language (the island speaks 250 different languages, plus an at least number of dialects), wildlife and natural beauty. The Asmat region is also home to the Asmat tribe. Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the region, the Asmat were still practising headhunting and cannibalism as late as the 1970s. This way of life began to change when Catholic missionaries established a post in Agats, the capital of the region. Over time, the missionaries were able to convince the Asmat to give up their stone age culture. The homes, longhouses, shops, schools and religious centres of Agats are all located along elevated wooden and concrete boardwalks in the heart of a dense mangrove jungle. The Asmat Museum is a must-see. Here it is possible to pour over exceptional examples of the Asmat’s renowned and vibrant woodcarving traditions. The woodcarvings embody the Asmat’s ancestors in the afterlife and are thus treated as powerful, sacred objects. Expect to see elaborate displays of ancestor poles, drums, body masks, shields, daggers, and skulls, for perhaps the most mind expanding and authentic travel experience you are ever likely to see.
Day 7 Triton Bay
In 2008, the Kaimana Regency declared a 6000 square kilometer (over 2,300 square mile) Marine Protected Area around the waters of Triton Bay. Conservation International maintains an office in Kaimana and a field station out in Triton Bay where visiting scientists can do their work studying the staggering marine biodiversity of the reserve. It is truly second to none, and the area offers everything from the tiniest pygmy seahorses, to large and graceful whale sharks. Triton Bay is known for its beautiful soft coral gardens as well as nesting green turtles, and a population of coastal Bryde’s whales.
Day 8 Day At Sea
Day 9 Pulau Miossu
Almost totally covered in coconut palm trees, Pulau Miossu is the western and smaller of the two Su Islands. Located at the eastern entrance of the Dampier Strait and within sight of West Papua’s north coast, the Su Islands were used for a short time by Allied Forces at the end of WW II to have P-38 fighter planes stationed there. Today, little remains from those days and even the former airfield is covered by vegetation. Pulau Miossu has just a few houses and is occasionally visited to harvest coconut and to enjoy the white sandy beaches and the rich underwater world.
Day 10 Auri Islands (Cendrawashi Bay)
The Auri Islands lie within the Cenderawasih Bay (Indonesian for Bird of Paradise Bay), is a large bay on the northern coast of West Papua, New Guinea, Indonesia. When this area was part of the Dutch East Indies the bay was called Geelvink Bay, after a Dutch ship. Cenderawasih Bay is dotted with hundreds of small islands and atoll’s that are home to some of the most pristine hard coral reefs in Indonesia with one of the highest concentrations of endemic fishes in the Pacific Ocean. The western part of the bay was declared a marine national park in 2002. It encompasses 30 square miles, making it the largest in Southeast Asia. There are many different styles of reefs found here, including fringing reefs, barrier reefs, atolls, patch reefs, and shallow water reef mounds. The fringing reefs are the most abundant and are the last of the few remaining pristine reefs in the world. Extensive surveys documented 995 species of fish and over 500 types of coral, about 10 times greater than in the entire Caribbean. The bay is also well known for aggregations of the world’s largest fish – the whale shark.
Day 11 Kwatisore, Cenderawasih Bay
Kwatisore Bay is a 2 km wide bay located west of Kwatisore Peninsula at the southwestern end of the wide Cenderawasih (bird of paradise) Bay. An area of 1,453,500 hectares, a great part of the bay, has been declared a national park. Within the national park is Indonesia’s largest marine national park. Some dive companies claim that Cenderawasih Bay is the whale shark capital of the world, and the area near Kwatisore Bay is one of the few places in the world where encounters can almost be guaranteed. The whale sharks seem to be permanent residents of the protected marine park and as the locals believe whale sharks are under the protection of spirits and will bring good luck, not only has fishing them been traditionally prohibited, the fishermen actively encourage their presence by feeding them small amounts of their catch. Therefor the best places and time to look for the whale sharks –and to swim or dive with them- are the local fishing pontoons during the early morning hours.
Day 12 Pulau Padaidori
Pulau Padaidori is part of the Padaido Islands east of Biak which in turn is the most important of the Indonesian Schouten Islands. The area was one of the earliest to be visited by European explorers and the name of the archipelago goes back to a Dutch visit in 1615. The Padaido Islands consist of 29 islands, which are split into the Upper and Lower Padaido. Pulau Padaidori is the northernmost of the Upper Padaido. Only nine islands are inhabited and Pulau Padaidori has three small villages. Manioc, corn, taro and vegetables are grown on the island, coconut palm trees have been planted and chicken and pigs are raised. Most residents are fishermen and their catch, as well as the agricultural products are sold on Biak. Relatively rarely visited by outsiders, an area of 183,000 hectares was declared the Padaido Marine Tourism Park in 1997. The park is of great importance, as there are three types of ecosystem that can be protected this way: a small mangrove area on Pulau Padaidori, sea grass areas, and coral reefs. Damselfishes, butterfly fishes, surgeonfishes and wrasses predominate, but the sea grass fields are often visited by marine turtles. Swimming, snorkeling and diving in these beautiful waters is gaining more and more importance for tourism.
Days 13-14 Day At Sea
Day 15 Colonia (Yap)
On the eastern shore of Yap proper and at the end of a 2.4 kilometer long channel leading from the open sea into Tomil Bay is Colonia, the only town and capital of Yap, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia. The small town with its slightly more than 3,000 inhabitants combines modern times with traditional ways and is home to close to 25% of the state’s population. The Yap Living Museum with its replicas of traditional men’s houses and the 55 meter Phinisi schooner in front of the Manta Ray Bay Resort recall the times when the famous stone money “rai” was made in Palau and finally transported to Yap on modern vessels, thereby eventually devaluating the ‘currency’. Several villages on Yap show stone money banks and even within Colonia a number of these aragonite disks can be seen. One of the villages and O’Keefe’s Island (Tarang), about 1. 5 kilometers northeast of Colonia and just across from the schooner, are on the list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most foreign visitors though come to Colonia to dive in the world’s first manta ray sanctuary, which actually comprises Yap’s 16 main islands and atolls as well as 145 islets.
Day 16 Sorol, Yap
Almost halfway between Yap and Woleai, Sorol is an isolated and nowadays uninhabited atoll. With a little bit of fantasy, the shape of Sorol Atoll looks somewhat like an extended seahorse. Six small islets are found on the northern rim of the reef, of which Sorol proper is the largest (with 0.5 square kilometers) at the southeastern end. Sorol once was inhabited, but abandoned after a cyclone had severely damaged the islets. Monitor lizards had been introduced on Sorol during the Japanese administration before WWII and apparently feed on the sea turtle eggs laid on its beaches. A 12-mile zone around the atoll was declared a marine protected area in 2014, prohibiting fishing of any kind. Due to the absence of human residents, seabirds are thriving, reef fish are plentiful and coconut crabs can be seen active during the day.
Day 17 Woleai Island
Just slightly north of the Equator, Woleai is an atoll within the state of Yap. Although the Spaniards had heard of the presence of islands and atolls southeast of Guam, James Wilson of the missionary ship Duff was the first westerner to describe the island and islanders, claiming his ship had been greeted by some 150 local canoes with an estimated 1,050 men in them. The wide atoll is in the shape of a lying figure eight with islets mainly on the northern reef, while the southern part is mostly submerged. Several large openings permit access into the West and East Lagoons. The largest of the islets is Falealop, formerly also known as Woleai. With five villages and more than 1,000 inhabitants it is the most heavily settled islet. Despite contact with the outside world, the inhabitants are still living a traditional lifestyle. A high school has been set up for the students of neighboring islands; there is a small clinic and a church. A runway dates back to WWII when the Japanese forces cleared Woleai’s forest to construct an airport and defense systems. Several derelict aircraft can still be found in the jungle. Traditional canoes are still being built in Woleai: small canoes for the lagoon and ocean-going outrigger canoes with which they can fish on the open ocean and even have gone to Chuuk -which is further away than their chiefly island of Yap- for trading.
Day 18 Lamotrek, Yap
Lamotrek is both a coral atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia, and one of the fourteen outlying atolls that partly makeup the island State of Yap, as well as the only inhabited island of the atoll. While the total land area is less than half a square mile, the atoll’s reef encloses a lagoon that is 12 square miles in size. The population of Lamotrek is approximately 373, and the residents are accustomed to visitors but still maintain their own culture proudly. Visitors to this small island will be greeted with generosity and friendliness that makes up the essence of the Yapese culture. The village is located on the lagoon side of Lamotrek Island and shows almost as many canoe houses as traditional homes. The lagoon offers snorkeling to see giant clams and, if not on a voyage, the Queen Veronica, the biggest outrigger canoe in the whole Federated States of Micronesia, can be seen.
Day 19 Gaferut (Yap)
Gaferut is a small and slightly crescent-shaped uninhabited island in the northern Caroline Islands. Both the reef-flat and the island have the same shape with a maximum dimension of 1.1 by 0.6 kilometers of reef-flat and 660 by 230 meters of the island above the water. Only one narrow passage on the western side can be used at high tide. The sandy beach on the northern side shows turtle tracks and the air is filled with hundreds of Great Frigatebirds, Sooty Terns and White Terns as well as Red-footed and Brown Boobies. The Great Frigatebirds and coconut crabs are sacred to the visiting Micronesian and coconut crabs are not allowed to be eaten. Almost exactly 800 kilometers due east of Yap, the island was an important provision and resting stop for Micronesian ocean-going canoes coming from Woleai, Ifalik, Lamotrek or Satawal heading north for Guam or Saipan. To the Micronesians, the island was Faiau or Fayo (“stone” or “rock” in the language of Woleai, 265 kilometers to the southwest) and phosphate was discovered in the early 20th century by Germans and extracted by the Japanese in the mid-1930s. Today only a depression and clearing in the southern part of the island shows where the mining had taken place. The presence of phosphate has led to the belief Pisonia grandis trees existed at one time, while today Gaferut is almost entirely covered with tree heliotropes and just a handful of coconut palm trees on the western side.
Day 20 Apra
Guam is blessed with spectacular natural beauty and a rich cultural history. Apra Harbor is a deep-water port located on the western side of the island. The island is part of the Mariana Islands and near the Mariana Trench, which is the deepest part of the earth’s oceans, and the deepest location of the earth itself. The port serves both as a U.S. naval station and Guam’s main commercial port. The harbour, formed by the Orote Peninsula to the south and Cabras Island in the north, is considered to be one of the best natural ports in the Pacific. Guam’s unique culture, traditions and heritage have remained intact despite European imperialism, wars and changing foreign governments. Archaeological evidence suggests that the indigenous Chamorros of Indo-Malayan descent migrated from the Southeast Asian islands and settled throughout the Marianas archipelago. Being expert seamen and skilled craftsmen, they flourished and built unique houses and canoes suited to the region. As a matriarchal society and through the prestige of the women, much of the Chamorro culture and traditions were able to survive. Since the 16th century, a wave of foreigners have arrived on Guam’s shores, including Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 who remained on the island for three days to restock his small convoy. Americans, Asians, Europeans, Micronesians and other visitors have since left their imprint on the island’s pastimes and tastes.
All This Included
They may be hard to get to, but the lesser-known islands of Indonesia and Micronesia are well worth it. Experience cultures and traditions that make up the beating heart of the region – get off the beaten track with a Zodiac trip to Agats and (hopefully) meet the reclusive Asmat tribe, learn the near-forgotten art of traditional sailing in Yap and if luck is on our side, swim with harmless whale sharks in Papua New Guinea.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Explorer
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