About the Coral Triangle
Snorkeling in the heart of the Coral Triangle!
The Coral Triangle, a roughly triangular-shaped area encompassing the waters surrounding countries of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, is a geographical term used to describe the region that possesses the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity. As a benefactor of circumstance, age, geography and habitat diversity contribute to the high levels of marine diversity that can be found in this region (please click here to read more about the Coral Triangle).
Our special, one-of-a-kind departure will bring our small snorkeling group through the very heart of the Coral Triangle, beginning in the Lesser Sunda Islands and ending in Raja Ampat. Throughout this 16-day journey, we will snorkel and explore many of the remarkable shallow marine habitats throughout this region to experience the incredible profusion of marine life that exists there. Focusing on the best snorkel sites of Flores, Padar, Alor, Banda Islands, and Raja Ampat, each day will find us snorkeling an assortment of healthy, shallow coral gardens, narrow channels, black sand slopes, blue water mangroves, and seagrass meadows that serve as vital nurseries. According to the latest estimates, over the course of our trip we should be exposed to close to 2000 species of reef fish and many more thousands of invertebrates!
Our tour begins on Flores home of the Homo floresiensis, where we board our boat and sail east towards the Alor archipelago. The Solor and Alor archipelagoes make up the majority of islands along the eastern end of the Lesser Sundas. Nutrient-rich waters support a massive amount of fish and invertebrates and in our opinion, have some of the fishiest reefs in all of Indonesia. The Banda Islands are the next stop and along with the rich history that revolves around nutmeg and mace, the islands boast incredible scenery and even more magnificent reefs. Not only diverse with coral and fish, the local waters also support a healthy population of some of the bigger reef fishes like Napoleon wrasse, groupers, snappers, and sharks. Our final leg of the tour takes place in Raja Ampat, where we will visit some of the best reefs of Misool, Dampier Strait, Batanta and Waigeo. Along with our unique opportunity to visit many of the best snorkeling sites in the world, we will have the chance to visit colorful cultures in Alor, stand on top of the 16th century Fort Belgica on Banda Niera, and hike to impressive panoramic viewpoints and to see the red bird of paradise in Raja Ampat. From the uber-fishy reefs of the Alor archipelago, to the big fish of the Banda Islands, to the majestic limestone islands of Raja Ampat, this 18-day expedition (16 days on the boat) has it all!
Sept 23 – Oct 11, 2019
Alor 2018 Trip Report
Banda Islands Trip Report
Raja Ampat 2018 Trip Report
Click on the tour date below to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!
Our snorkeling adventure begins and ends in Bali, Indonesia. We have one internal flight to Maumere and our return flight from Sorong to Bali. Our journey on the boat generally follows a east-northeastward route, stopping to visit several islands and island groups along our way (Alor, Banda Islands, Raja Ampat). The following is a general itinerary based on a combination of our own experiences in the area and that of the crew onboard our expedition vessel. Please note that this is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.
Day 1: Bali, Indonesia
Meals provided: D
Arrive in Sanur, Bali check in at the group resort Puri Santrian*. Welcome dinner and trip orientation at the resort. Overnight Puri Santrian.
Day 2: Maumere / Pindito
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our morning flight takes us to Maumere, Flores and upon our arrival, we will transfer to our boat, the M/V Pindito. After our boat orientation and lunch we depart for the Alor archipelago. In the late afternoon, we will snorkel Ribbon Eel Reef, named for the abundance of blue ribbon eels that can be found along the shallow reef margin. Overnight Pindito.
Day 3 – 7: Solor / Pantar / Alor
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our snorkeling sites for the next four days revolve around the islands in the Solor and Alor archipelagoes. The reefs that can be found in these scenic island groups are incredibly colorful and diverse. Sites like Feather Star City where hundreds, if not thousands, of feather stars perch atop corals and shine like jewels against the backdrop of black sand; Angel Reef, named for the high density and diversity of colorful angelfishes; Babylon an incredibly lush reef packed with hard and soft corals, and a new site we discovered we named Anthias Forever, a swift moving channel where hundreds of thousands of anthias crowd the reef margin along the nearly one kilometer-long channel. We will also visit Beangabang Bay. This little bay was created by ancient lava flows from the nearby, still active volcano. The cool water from the Savu Sea mixes with hot thermals to create a surreal snorkeling experience. The black sand beaches possess some of the richest assortment of unusual critters like garden eels, seahorses, pipefishes, scorpionfishes, nudibranchs, and octopuses. There are few places in the world where we have the chance to see such a diversity of marine life in such a small area. We will also incorporate a visit to the hill tribes of Alor as well as the market places of Kalabahi, the capital city of Alor. Overnight Pindito.
Day 8 – 12: Banda Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
In the middle of the Banda Sea are a cluster of ten islands that were once known as the Spice Islands for the abundance of the highly sought-after spice called nutmeg. Today the isolated group are better known for their rich reefs and dense schools of fish. We will spend three days exploring some of the best reefs the islands have to offer. Pulau Hatta possesses shallow fringing reefs that plunge to thousands of feet and where schools of jacks, groupers, and snappers mingle with even larger schools of tropical reef fish. This site is also known for the abundance of turtles, rays, large Napoleon wrasses, and sharks. On Banda Niera we have the chance to see the techno-colored mandarinfish as well as access the local volcano Gunung Api to snorkel on a lush reef that grew on top of a lava flow that happened back in 1985. Pulau Ai and Run, both known for their diverse shallow reefs that teem with tropical fish, are also on the list of sites we will visit. We will also have the chance to visit Fort Beligica and local nutmeg plantations.
Day 12 – 16: Pulau Koon / Raja Ampat
Meals provided: B,L,D
On our way to Misool, Raja Ampat, we will stop at Pulau Koon for the chance to snorkel on a seaward reef that has schools of barracuda, jacks, snapper, and just about every tropical fish you can imagine! The rest of our days will be spent in Raja Ampat, arguably the center of the center of marine biodiversity on the planet. Our first destination is the island groups of Misool. It is not the main island of Misool that attracts us, rather the hundreds of limestone islands that lie just offshore. Each island grouping has a variety of reef habitats that include sheltered bays, shallow reef flats, and exposed seaward slopes and walls. Some of the islands and island groupings we will visit are Segaf and Pelee.
From Misool, we will travel north to Dampier Strait and snorkel sites around the Batanta Island, Waigeo, and Gam. It would not be a stretch to say and few would argue that these islands possess some of the most amazing coral gardens on the planet. Furthermore, the diversity of habitats offers the snorkeler a chance to explore mangroves, seaward reefs, protected lagoons, swift channels and shallow sand patches where a good eye can find scorpionfishes, seahorses, and maybe even the fantastic wobbegong shark! Some of the fringing reefs extend for hundreds of meters and are covered with a dazzling amount of both soft and hard corals. Along with the incredible diversity of coral and fish that can be seen in just a few meters of water, these areas also boasts some of the most scenic island settings imaginable. Overnight MV Pindito
Day 17: Sorong / Bali
Meals provided: B,L,D
Disembark in Sorong and transfer to the airport for the flight back to Bali. Transfer to our group hotel in Bali. Group dinner at the hotel. Overnight Puri Santrian.
Day 18: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B
What to Expect
Water temperatures vary between 20º – 30º C (68º – 86º F). The large range in water temperature reflects the influence of oceanic upwellings that affect the south side of the archipelago. The northern parts of the islands are surrounded by warm, equatorial seas (Flores Sea), while the southern parts are exposed to the deep Savu Sea. The combination of the southern Tradewinds blowing in a northwesterly direction and the Coriolis Effect export the waters of the Savu Sea away from the islands. Consequently, cool water from the depths upwell to the surface resulting in much cooler sea surface temperatures.
While most of our snorkel sessions will take place in warm water, there are several sites around Alor where we may experience cooler water. As such, our recommendation for this departure is to have, at a minimum, a 3 mm full wetsuit and hood. Please note that this suggestion is the minimum and if you plan to spend the maximum amount of time in the water, you should consider extra laying like a 2-3mm vest or perhaps even a thicker wetsuit. Skins are great to protect you from the sun or even the random little no-see-ums that can sting, but may not be much of a help with regards to thermal protection. Many of the reefs we will snorkel upon are subjected to currents associated with the large tide cycles that prevail in the area. While we often schedule our session during a time when the currents are minimal, there will be planned drift snorkels. These types of snorkels take advantage of the water movement and allow us to float over the reef without having to actively swim. This activity usually becomes an instant favorite among our guests as it is very exciting and yet very passive at the same time! In some cases, however, the unpredictability of the tides may expose us to strong water movement. This may require a bit of effort though we will always have our dinghies standing by to help if needed.
Our planned walk to visit the hill tribes and the market places in Kalabahi, as well as the walk to Fort Beligica are on pavement or well established trails (dirt/rocky), both that have no significant elevation or exposure. The optional tour to see the red bird of paradise is on a well worn, but uneven and rocky trail cut through the forest.
Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.