Diving with the West Papua Whale Sharks

Cenderawasih Bay is located in West Papua and New Guinea. The name Teluk Cenderawasih translates to Bird of Paradise. The western part of this bay was declared to be a marine national park in 2002. The islands that can be found in the bay include Meos Waar, Meos Angra, Auri Islands, Roon Island and Rumberpon. There are four rivers that empty into this bay, namely: Wapoga River, Warenai River, Tabai River and Wamma River. This marine park is eighty square kilometers in size and it is the largest one to be found in Southeast Asia.

The marine life found here is a wide variety. The marine national park has a wide variation of coral reef include shallow water reef, patch reef, atoll, barrier reef and fringing reef. The most abundant is the fringing reef and these reefs are among the very last pristine reefs left the world over. In the past, pacific tides were not able to reach the bay. This allowed for endemic species to thrive. In fact, many fish species known to inhabit deep water have been found in shallow water at the reef. Here, you will also find a resident population of whale sharks, which are the largest fish in the ocean.

whale shark - diving in west papua
Whale Shark

Rhincodon typus or the whale shark is the kind of megafuana that adventure enthusiasts enjoy to see up close. This has led to thriving tourism in areas where they are found. It is therefore unfortunate that the largest fish on the planet is almost becoming extinct. The whale shark is very vulnerable to the overexploitation of man for the following reasons:

  • They grow very slowly. In fact, they reach maturity when they are about 30 years of age and they live to be 60 to 100 years old.
  • They reproduce very slowly. They take a long time from one pregnancy to the next.

It has been found that in India and Taiwan catches of whale sharks have reduced from what they were in the 1980s to what they are in the 2000s.

The Teluk Cenderawasih National Park is a protected area where they can thrive. This park protects an ecosystem that is very rich with more than 150 different coral species already recorded. It also contains many marine species that are threatened by extinction and are now protected by the laws of Indonesia.  It is for this reason that it is being considered to potentially be a World Heritage site.

Papua Paradise Eco Resort supports Whale Shark Research and the underwater conservation in this area. You can read about some of the whale shark research that Ocean Sound did with us previously here.