The Whale Sharks Of Cenderawasih Bay – Nabire, Papua

best spot world travel swim whale sharks fish dive snorkel scuba ocean marine wildlife animals Indonesia nabire cenderawasih bay papua


It would be fair to say that the drive from Nabire to the boat is somewhat death-defying (the roads are actually pretty good…but the drivers…). It is also fair to say that the boat ride out to the bagans is an education in what sounds a boat engine should never make. It is unlikely that any part of this journey will go the least bit how you expect it too, let alone start within an hour or so of when you were told it would start, and there is a fair chance that a constant supply of betel nut will be far more important to your guide than, say, your safety (comfort isn’t on the radar so don’t waste any energy hoping). You might get unexpectedly shook down by drunken “cops” for more money, the guy driving the boat may decide he’d rather go fishing than take you to the bagans (once you are already half way out there), your guide might only communicate with you by sending you collect messages when arranging the trip…AND all of this will cost you a small fortune even by western standards.


But…there is this…

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

…and this…

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

…and then there is this…

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Cenderawasih Bay, (translating to Bird Of Paradise Bay), hosts an incredible array of marine biodiversity.  The largest marine national park in all of Indonesia exists within the expanse of the bay – Teluk Cenderawasih National Park.  The park contains over 150 recorded species of coral, over 200 known species of fish, and extends over an area of 14, 535 square kilometers.  And that is not to mention the dugongs and the dolphins…

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

But lets face it, you’re not here to see the rich collection of life in the park. Your here for one thing…the sharks.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) reach between 9-12 meters in length and weigh up to 12,500 kg, making them the largest fish in the world.  Swimming though blue water next to one of these giants can be one of the most beautiful and humbling experiences of your life.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Since first hearing of the whale sharks that hang around the fishing platforms in Cenderawasih Bay, we have made numerous trips to the area.  We have tried many different approaches to find the sharks and through trial by fire found the good, bad, and everything in between that Nabire has to offer.  There is frustration, adventure, disappointment, and elation in every trip to find the whale sharks here.  That is, after all, part of the adventure of Papua.  It is truly unlike any other place on earth.  And it’s changing.  In the years that we have been coming here, we have seen an enormous change (enormous by Papuan standards).  What was once an airport where no one would notice you sitting on the runway waiting for the alarm to sound signaling that a plane was coming, is now a small but modern airport (again by Papuan standards).  What was once a town where people would routinely ask you why on earth you would ever come to Nabire, is now a place where anyone who can speak even a little English is quick to ask if you have come to see the sharks.  And what was once a little known secret gathering place for young whale sharks, is now firmly on the map.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Despite the increase of visitors, there is still a definite lack of information as to how one can access the area.  On our first trip to Nabire, we booked one way tickets and showed up with no place to stay and no idea how to get out to the sharks.  We have put a lot of effort into figuring this place out over the years and hope that this information helps others to more easily find the best, most responsible, and most enjoyable experience possible…and hopefully have what can be a life changing experience swimming with whale sharks.


The whale shark footage in our Changing Oceans short film was shot in Cenderawasih Bay…


How To See The Sharks

adventure map swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore


Nabire is an earthquake prone mining town located at the far southern end of Cenderawasih Bay and located within Nabire Regency.  While Nabire is situated in a beautiful and wild stretch of coastline and contains a fascinating collection of local cultures, it can be a frustrating place for travelers expecting infrastructure and comforts that can be found in other parts of Indonesia (or even Papua for those who have explored the Raja Ampat area).  Foreign tourism is relatively new in Nabire and the current draw for tourists is soley to swim with whale sharks.  Because of this, the town is just beginning the learning curve of a tourist economy.  So patience is a must.

Our below description of Nabire is intended to be as upfront and honest as possible and may at times paint Nabire in a ‘less than great’ light.  If you go to Nabire expecting that you will be comfortable, always safe, and respected as a guest helping the local economy, you will leave Nabire planning to avoid ever coming back.  If you go to Nabire expecting an adventure with every unexpected pleasantry being simply icing on the cake, you will leave Nabire happy, fulfilled, and with a few new friends (and hopefully no betel nut stuck in your teeth…).

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

The Whale Sharks Of Nabire

There are a handful of places around the world where it is possible to see and swim with whale sharks, the graceful giants of the shark world.  These include Mexico, Honduras, the Philippines, Australia, Mozambique, the Seychelles, the Maldives, and Thailand to name a few, but Papua is among a smaller list where you can see them with enough regularity to make a dedicated ‘whale shark’ trip. In Papua, the two major hotspots to swim with whale sharks are in Triton Bay near the town of Kaimana, and in Cendrawasih Bay near the town of Nabire.  For more information on the whale sharks of Triton Bay, check out our brief write up.

In our opinion, Nabire is the better of the two Papuan locations in which to swim with the sharks (largely due to visibility and shark numbers), though it is admittedly more logistically challenging at present.  This is, however, changing rather quickly over the last few years as more and more tourist come to see the sharks.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Whale sharks that frequent southern Cenderawasih Bay are known to hang around offshore fishing platforms known locally as ‘bagans’.  Bagans are platforms made of wood and bamboo interlaced with nets, and are anchored to the bottom in areas thought to be abundant in fish.  Most of the bagans are anchored in 50-100 meters of water, but are moved around as seasons and fishing conditions change.  Fishermen stay for long periods of time on the bagans, lowering drop nets to catch small fish and squid at night.  Overtime, whale sharks have developed an association with the bagans due to receiving handouts of fish.  As more and more tourists come to the area, fishermen and locals are increasingly feeding whale sharks to entice them to stay at the bagans throughout the day.  A few of the bagans have even begun using handheld radios to communicate the location of the sharks with one another.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Whale sharks in the southern reaches of Cenderawasih Bay were surveyed in March-June 2013, by researchers who identified a total of 37 individual sharks in the area and determined that the vast majority of those were juvenile males (36 male, 1 female, with the majority of sharks lacking significant scaring).  The researchers concluded that the area may serve as a particularly important habitat for young sharks.  (Himawan et al. 2015)  If you snap a great photo of a whale shark in Cenderawasih Bay (or anywhere else) consider sending it in to Wildbook for Whale Sharks and help researchers track these fascinating animals!

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Learn more about research being done on the whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay here.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

How To See The Whale Sharks:

At present, there are a few different ways in which to visit the whale sharks.


Liveaboards are undoubtedly the most expensive way to visit the area, but for those with a big budget this option offers the chance to visit the area without the hassles of travel in and out of Nabire.  Liveaboards also allow you to dive in additional areas more challenging to visit from the land.  The boats/companies that visit the area vary greatly from year to year (some years there are none), meaning the liveaboard option is not always available.  You best bet if you want to visit the sharks via liveaboard is to contact boat companies far in advance (they typically book a year out) to inquire as to whether they have a planned trip to the area.

With most of the liveaboard companies it is possible to charter a private boat to Cenderawasih Bay (quite pricy) but only during certain times of the year. Many of the boats operate out of Raja Ampat from November or December – May, and then relocate their vessels down to Komodo prior to the increasing southern swells which impact the region during July-August and make crossing the Banda Sea rather tricky.  Cenderawasih Bay stays protected during this time period, but there are very few liveaboards still in the area making your choices from June-October quite limited.

Dive Resorts

Currently only Kali Lemon Resort offers scuba diving with any regularity.  There have been other options in the past such as Ahe Dive Resort but they are not currently operating.  It is possible to book trips though tour services such as Trek Papua, which use Kali Lemon Resort for the whale shark portion of their trips (we have not found anyone who has used Trek Papua so cannot recommend or comment on the quality of their trips) .  Alternatively you can book directly with the resort for a slightly lower price (see below description of accommodations for current Kali Lemon prices).  Staying at the dive resort is by FAR the most expensive way to visit the whale sharks from Nabire and not feasible for most people on a budget.

*NOTE – There is no dive shop in Nabire so make sure you have what you need to maintain your own gear if you are not renting equipment from Kali Lemon.

Dive Tour Operators

There are no actual dive tour operators in Nabire, however there is one on the island of Biak.  We have been told that Biak Dive Resort can arrange diving with the whale sharks near Nabire as part of a larger dive trip.  We don’t yet have details on this but will update this section as soon as we do.

Biak Dive Resort

Fast Boat From Nabire

This is a relatively new option that we have seen a marked increase in over the past year.  The quality of these trips ranges greatly depending on who takes you and who ends up on the boat with you.  We have seen high-speed boats (high-speed relative to the typical local long-boat) approach bagans packed full of people and then dump large numbers of people in the water, with people climbing all over and jumping off the bagans directly on top of the sharks as they try to feed.  We have also seen fast boats bring a small group of visitors out to calmly snorkel with the sharks.  These trips are far cheaper than the liveaboard or dive resort options and can be arranged in Nabire most easily via hotels.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Private Trip With Local Driver & Boat

This can either be arranged via your hotel, drivers you meet, or recommendations from others.  We have had somewhat mixed experience with this but after a bit of trial and error over the years, we have figured out how it works and greatly prefer this approach.  The key is to find someone you trust to arrange the trip for you so that the agreed upon cost is indeed the cost you end up paying (extra charges for fuel, food, water, bribes, ect. have a way of sneaking in).  Done correctly, this is by far the cheapest option (by far) and can lead to spending an entire day in the water, just you and the whale sharks.  While there are a few points at which to start the boat journey, we have found that it is best to arrange for your trip to leave by boat from Nabire OR drive toward the villages of Sowa & Kwatisore but launch by boat from the closer of the two main launching points (roughly a 45 mile drive to the west of Nabire).  There is a launching point that is closer to the heart of Kwatisore village (and about 15-20 miles further to the west – labeled boat launch 2 on the map below), but we have experienced drunken local ‘law enforcement’ demanding bribes to be paid on the beach prior to getting onto the boat at this launching point. While that can certainly happen anywhere, we recommend avoiding the hassle if at all possible.

If you choose to use a combination of car and boat to reach the sharks the main downfall is that the drive tends to be rather harrowing (again, mostly because of the driving rather than the roads).  If you choose to launch by boat directly from Nabire the ride on the water is considerably more pleasant (though it may not offer any sun protection), but you will have more limited fuel by the time you reach the bagans and may not be able to travel to the more distant fishing platforms to search for sharks.

Negotiate with your driver for a rate that includes everything (car, boat, fuel for both, and driver/guide).  Make sure to clarify that you want the price to include fish at the bagans.  It is important to make sure that the fishermen are properly compensated for any of their catch that they throw back for the whale sharks, but you may be told that you must pay IDR 600,000 ($45 USD) for a very small bucket of bait fish or something outrageous like that if you do not negotiate an included price for fish up front (in Nabire the first price you are given for most things is typically absurd so try not to be put off by that).  The price you negotiate should be for the whole trip (NOT per/person), and it is very realistic to get a price of IDR 3.000.000 ($225 USD) for the group and often even less (still a lot of money but understandable given the fuel and logistics).  This can work out to be a much better deal for small groups on a budget.  Don’t expect great service based on the fact that the trip costs so much, remember tourism is still new here and this is an adventure right?

Bringing snacks and extra water to share can go along way with local drivers, guides, and the fishermen on the bagans. An unbrella or two is a good idea for shade cover on the boat.  And it never hurts to bring a little betel nut for your guide so that you don’t have to stop 5 times on the drive…

* Please email us if you would like contact information and recommendations of drivers that we have used to arrange trips.

adventure map boat route bagan swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Scuba Dive Or Snorkel/Freedive?

The answer to this questions depends on both your budget and comfort level in the water.  We are avid scuba divers, but strongly prefer to freedive with the whale sharks, as the lack of bubbles is preferable for our photography and video (just our personal preference).  Since the sharks are receiving fish from the bagans, they are attracted to the surface and most of the time hang out in the top 5-10 meters of water.

Below is a break down of some of the pro’s and con’s of each option:

adventure whale sharks wildlife ocean underwater scuba dive free snorkel boat nabire papua west indonesia cenderawasih bay

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Teluk Cenderawasih National Park Entrance Fee

There is an official entrance fee to enter Cenderawasih Bay National Park (IDR 1.000.000 per person for 2 days in the park – $75 USD).  Whether or not you can find anyone official to pay that fee too is another story.  Kali Lemon and other official operators/boats can help with this process.  If you are going with your own driver and boat you will need to head to the park office in Nabire and register there (in our experience it can be quite challenging to find someone legitimate to pay the entrance fee too)

*NOTE – There is no official park office out near the bagans.  You may be asked to pay a IDR 300.000 ($22 USD) village fee depending where you launch on a boat from, but all park fees should be paid to the park office.

adventure plane swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

How To Get To Nabire:

Like most places in West Papua, Nabire is not currently connected to other large towns by road.  Although this may change in coming years (there is mention of this in the news but don’t hold your breath), it is only possible to reach Nabire via air and sea at the moment.

By Air

At present this is easy…but we have seen that fluctuate depending on airlines and local politics.  It is always a good idea to keep an eye on Nabire in the news before your trip incase the local regent bans a particular airline or something like that (we have seen that happen recently but it doesn’t always affect much).

Currently (March, 2017) these are the airlines flying to Nabire:

  • Wings Air – Flys from Ambon, Jayapura, or Kaimana to Nabire – Flys from Nabire to Ambon, Jayapura
  • Garuda Indonesia – Flys from Sorong (with a layover in Jayapura), Jayapura, or Timika to Nabire – Flys from Nabire to Timika or Jayapura
  • Trigana Air – Flys from Jayapura to Nabire – Flys from Nabire to Jayapura

Wings Air – +62 21 632 6038

Garuda Indonesia – +62 21 23519999

Trigana Air – +62 984 21210

While there are currently daily flights in and out of Nabire, airlines typically fly specific routes to and from Nabire a limited number of days per week or month.  Traveloka is probably the best search engine within Indonesia (especially for Nabire) but can be difficult to book on if you are using a foreign credit or bank card (we will be posting a blog about how to book with them as a foreigner soon).

*NOTE – If you are traveling with dive gear (or anything that counts as ‘dive gear’…like an underwater camera equipment) fly Garuda. Garuda currently allows 20kg of baggage per person PLUS 23kg of ‘sporting gear’ – free.  That’s right, 43kg free.  All you have to do is let them know the baggage is sporting equipment.  While the initial ticket price with Garuda is typically more expensive than other airlines, the amount saved on baggage fees when traveling with dive gear can be profound.  This is particularly true in Papua, where the per/kg baggage fees have a way of increasing at the airport the day you leave.  (Side note about Garuda – we have found them to be on time a for the vast majority of our flights, they give you food, and you can collect air miles.)

***ALWAYS fly to Nabire with your exit ticket already purchased and in hand if you are planning a trip during the month of December (unless of course you have a very flexible schedule and lots of time left on your visa).  Many locals attempt to leave Nabire and visit family (particularly in Ambon) during the holiday season so you can and probably will get stuck in Nabire if you are trying to stay flexible and don’t already have an onward ticket.

By Sea

Traveling to and from Nabire by ferry is possible (and highly affordable) but not very reliable.  Pelni is the major ferry company and their website can be searched for current schedules.

The Pelni office in Nabire is located at:  JL. Frans Kaisepo NO. 14.  The office can be reached at: 09 84 228650

The current Pelni route follows:


adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

When To Visit:

Whale sharks are present in the lower reaches of the bay throughout the year, making nearly any month worthy of a trip to the area.  It is important, however, to know when the monsoon seasons fall when considering what months to find the best visibility.  This part of West Papua has two monsoon seasons – November/December & July/August.  That being said, Papua can be very rainy at any time of the year, so having a few extra days built into your trip is never a bad idea.  Rain tends to affect the top 1-2 meters of water so scuba diving and freediving will usually put you below the worst of it.

Plankton blooms tend to happen from October to April, which may reduce visibility some, but on the other hand the seasonal abundance does filter up the food chain…and you are going to hopefully see members of that food chain…just sayin…

Keep in mind that most of the fishermen working on the bagans are Indonesian rather than Papuan, and many of them travel home during the latter part of Ramadan to celebrate Idul Fitri with their families (most of the fishermen are from Ambon and Sulawesi). This means that the sharks will not be actively visiting the bagans during this time frame as there will be no/few fishermen to handout fish. Idul Fitri typically falls sometime in mid-June so make sure to check the calendar and plan your trip to avoid this time period.

Water temperature ranges from 30°C from November to April, to roughly 27°C during the months of May through October.  We have always found that a simple rash guard (for protection from the sun) is more than enough, but do keep in mind that a weight belt and a few kilos of lead will be greatly helpful for getting below the surface layer and keeping pace with the sharks should you choose to wear a thin wetsuit. Bring your own weights as these are near impossible to find in Nabire.

While the exact month that you choose to visit isn’t incredibly important, the timing within that month can be.  Whale sharks are common throughout most of each month, but known to disappear from the area a few days before and after the full moon.  In our experience, planning your trip near the new moon provides the best chance to see numerous sharks at a single bagan.

When it comes to time of day, you are by far most likely to encounter sharks during the mornings and evenings.  Whale sharks will continue to hang around a bagan all day if they are being fed with some regularity, but it is much more difficult to find sharks midday if they have not been enticed to stay at a bagan.  Because of this you MUST get an early start. By early, we mean REALLY early.  6 am…5 am…4 am…3 am…as early as your guide will agree too. Regardless of how to choose to get to the sharks, everything will take longer than planned (your ride will show up an hour late, the car will need fuel, there will be multiple stops for more betel nut, there will be much standing around and talking in the village, the boat engine will have to be located from someones house, the boat will have to be pushed into the water by the villagers and yourself, the boat will need more fuel, the boat will be needed to give someone a ride between villages, schools of fish will hit the surface and the boat driver will become distracted fishing…you get the picture).  It will take at least 2-3 hours from the time you leave (or think you are leaving) Nabire until you actually reach a bagan (though this may be a touch quicker on a ‘fast boat’, it will still take longer than planned). Take home point – early bird gets the worm.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Where To Stay:

We have stayed at a few different places in Nabire town proper, stayed in one place a little out of town, and checked out in person some of the spots out closer to the bagans.  For us, having as much consistent electricity as possible each night is somewhat critical for charging all of our camera gear (solar is great but can be somewhat limiting if you are busy swimming with sharks all day).  That pretty much narrows the list down to a couple of options in the heart of Nabire.

*NOTE – Keep in mind that phone service connection is poor in Nabire and internet is spotty at best, so it may take some time to get a reply if inquiring about accommodation (if you get one at all).  Worse case scenario, just show up with names of places and address written down and find a driver at the airport who can take you to a few places. You will find something.


  •  Grand Papua Hotel Nabire – This is a new hotel and it is pretty nice.  It has hot water, AC, and fairly reliable electricity (they were always quick to switch the generator on during outages), and even a tiny bit of internet.  At the time of writing this the price was IDR 680.000 ($48 USD) per night for a room.  Rooms come with breakfast and it is served very early (around 6am) since this is the hotel of choice for all the pilots and flight attendants (a perk if you are up early to head out to the sharks). The food is just ok at the hotel, but the staff is extremely friendly and helpful (some of the nicest folks we have met in Nabire). There is no phone line in or out of the hotel (all the phones dial within the hotel only) so the best way to reach the Grand Papua for booking is via email. In theory it is possible to book with them via Traveloka but that doesn’t seem to always work (plus the listed prices on Traveloka are a bit higher).
    • Jalan Christina Martha Tiahahu ,gang Kelapa 2 Kalibobo, Nabire, Indonesia, 98812
    • +62811485907
  • Hotel Getz – This is a fairly large hotel.  It is not the cleanest by any means but has hot water, AC, and reliable power.  They say they have internet but it is more like the essence of internet.  Rooms come with breakfast but we don’t recommend it (you may be better off just bringing your own crackers for breakfast).  There is a somewhat connected restaurant next door that serves a limited number of very authentic Chinese dishes (meaning like Chinese food you find in China, not like Chinese food that is popular in Europe or America).  We have never had any luck contacting them prior to arrival for reservations, we have simply just shown up.  They have an unofficial Facebook page which may be the best way for reaching them…but it’s never worked for us.  They have a phone number, but again we have never gotten anyone to answer.  Prices are typically slightly cheaper than the Grand Papua Hotel but not by a lot.
    • Jl. Merdeka, Oyehe, Kec. Nabire, Kabupaten Nabire, Papua 98811, Indonesia
    • +62 984 23889
    • The folks that work the front desk can arrange trips to see the whale sharks, and we have been quoted prices ranging from IDR 4,500,000-5,500,000 (for the entire trip – not per person).
  • Hotel Nusantara Nabire – This is a fairly basic hotel that was once the best option in Nabire.  The hotel hasn’t been fully kept up over the years however, and the facility has started to fall apart a little.  That being said it is still an OK option if you want to stay somewhere located in the center of Nabire close to everything (it is located extremely close to the airport) and the price tends to be a little cheaper than the Grand Papua and even the Hotel Getz.  There is good AC but the shower may or may not be warm. Premium rooms have western style toilets. Book by phone or just show up.
    • Jl. Pemuda, Oyehe, Kec. Nabire, Kabupaten Nabire, Papua 98811, Indonesia
    • +62 984 22442 or +62 852 3083 3456
  • Moon Beach Resort (Pantai Wisata Monalisa) – This is a large property a little ways out of town with a beautiful jetty to enjoy the sunset on.  However, the jetty is the only place you will likely want to be hanging out as the rooms are more or less small concrete bunkers with non-functional AC and very ‘aromatic’ squat toilets, and you will slowly cook yourself if you spend time in there.  While rats are far from the end of the world when you are traveling in Papua, we found these rooms to be particularly infested with them and had both clothing and bags chewed thru within an hour of arriving despite the fact that we had no hidden food in our things. Showers are a cold hose in the middle of a large courtyard, which is fine if you are the only people there, but awkward when the hotel is, say, hosting a get together for some of the Indonesian military and there is a group of guys sitting around the hose smoking all day.  There is a restaurant at the hotel that serves decent enough food, however this is the only nearby option due to the out of town location.  Our biggest complaint about this place is that the power is extremely unreliable and the generator is prioritized for some guests and not for others (we experienced the generator being used for a blaring karaoke machine until the wee hours but we couldn’t use it to power the light in our room or use any of the outlets on the property charge our cameras).  All this is fine in a dirt cheep place, but the Moon Beach Resort charges rates similar to the Grand Papua which is why we don’t recommend wasting your time with it.
    • Jl. Poros Samabusa – Boratei Nabire
    • +62 812-4854-1818

*NOTE – The Moon Beach Resort is where you will currently end up if you go looking for Merry Yoweni (as recommended by Lonely Planet).  While she does speak good English and can helpfully set up a trip to see the whale sharks for you, we’ve found the price tends to be roughly IDR 1.000.000-2.000.000 ($75-$150 USD) higher per day than if you arrange directly with a driver.

  • Kali Lemon Dive Resort – This is your main option if you want to scuba dive rather than freedive and you are not on a live aboard.  We have not stayed with the Kali Lemon as their prices are extremely high (the official current price is IDR 5.000.000  ($374 USD) per person for 1 night – see below breakdown of prices), so we can’t comment on the quality of accommodation.  It is best to head over to Tripadvisor for a full rundown. Having seen the resort from the water, the accommodation appears to be basic huts. They are located far out of Nabire (transfer takes 1.5 hours by speedboat from Nabire), but much closer to the bagans which is highly convenient for launching to see the whale sharks.  There is a minimum of 5 people for Kali Lemon to run a trip to see the sharks (unless you pay a higher fee or get a more expensive package). On Sunday they do not run trips to dive or see the sharks in the morning.
      • Current prices as of March 2017 are:
        • Packages start at IDR 5.000.000 ($374 USD) per person for 2 days (one night).  This includes the 2 dives a day, transport to and from Nabire, speedboat to the sharks, food, accommodation, dive guide, tanks/air.  It does not include the IDR 1.000.000 ($75 USD) park entrance fee (this pays for one person to enter the park for 2 days).

*As of 2017 there is a new homestay was being built near Kwatisore village, in a close location for launching on a boat directly to the bagans.  We will update with more information as soon as possible. (*NOTE – this homestay is located on the same beach we recomend avoiding due to bribes being solicited)

Other accommodation options in Nabire:

  • Maju Hotel
    • JL Yos Sudarso, Oyehe, Nabire, Kec. Nabire, Kabupaten Nabire, Papua 98816, Indonesia
    • +62 984 521301
  • Hotel Anggrek
    • Jln. Pepera no 22Nabire 98815, Indonesia
    • 0853 44 2222 12
  • Hotel Mahavira
    • Jl. Merdeka, Karang Mulia, Kec. Nabire, Kabupaten Nabire, Papua 98811, Indonesia
    • +62 984 24802
  • Kamusioh Guesthouse
    • Jalan nyiur, 4. Malompo, Nabarua, Nabire Sub-District, Nabire Regency, Papua 98816, Indonesia
    • Can be booked on
    • Note – Kamusioh Guesthouse can arrange trips to the sharks as well but has slightly higher prices to do so currently (IDR 6,000,000 for the entire trip – not per person)

*NOTE – There are additional places listed on the internet that sound like good options but were indefinitely closed at the time of writing this, such as Ahe Dive Resort.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Where To Eat

There are plenty of restaurants, warungs, and bakso carts in Nabire and eating out is almost always a better bet than eating at your hotel.  Here are a couple that we recommend:

  • Rumah Makan Sari Kuring – Some of the best food in Nabire.  This place is clean and reasonably priced.  Specialized in ikan (fish), you select your fish whole and they will grill it for you on their outdoor grill.  Also serves the standard Indonesian fare, such as nasi (rice) dishes, mie (noodles), and tempe.

adventure whale sharks Rumah Makan Sari Kuring Map - Nabire

  • Warung Bakso Prego – Very popular with locals so you may have to wait for a table.  Affordable local fare, but has a reputation for good meatballs (expect these to be Indonesian style of course)
    • Jl. Surojo Tanojo, Karang Mulia, Kec. Nabire, Kabupaten Nabire, Papua 98811, Indonesia

adventure whale sharks Warung Bakso Prego Map - Nabire

  • Brothers Good Cafe – Primarily a coffee shop but also serves food such as sandwiches, French fries, and pastries.  Good strong coffee, but ask for no sugar unless you like it Indonesian style! Also – there is wi-fi sometimes…

adventure whale sharks Brothers Good Cafe Map - Nabire

adventure whale sharks swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua kwatisore

Other Tips On Nabire


There are a handful of banks and ATMs around Nabire, but keep in mind these are all located in town so you must get any cash you need before heading out of town toward the whale sharks.  Changing foreign currency is not very easy in Nabire, so either bring all the IDR you need or let your bank know you will be using ATMs in Papua.

*NOTE – The vast majority of hotels, restaurants, and just about everything else only accept cash (even if they say they take credit cards we’ve found this to almost never works as the phone/internet connection is so poor in this region).

Travel Agents

There are a few scattered travel agents around Nabire, but it is easiest to go directly to the airport if you need to book a flight.  Just outside the airport are offices to the major airlines and they can help you to book a flight out if you get stuck.


While you can find a few people who speak pretty decent English in Nabire, they are few and far between.  If you can speak Bahasa Indonesia you pretty much good to go (there are a mixed bag of Austronesian languages found in Papua, but Indonesian works best in the town of Nabire).  If not, download an ‘offline’ translator app on your phone (don’t use one that must be connected to the internet to work) or have a good translation book to make your travels and negotiations smoother.

Best Internet In Town

  • Nabire Cyber
    • Kali Susu, Nabire Sub-District, Nabire Regency, Papua 98811, Indonesia

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua

A Note On How To Behave Around The Whale Sharks

There is an extremely wide variety of management practices in place in areas where tourism has grown around swimming with whale sharks.  This can vary from rules that specify the distance you must keep at all times from the sharks and mandatory life vest wearing (forget any kind of diving), to complete free-for-alls which encourage very little education and respect for the whale sharks.

Papua is still in its infancy with this.  There are no local rules for interaction at the moment, and even if there were, there is no real infrastructure to enforce that right now.  The future of this place and it’s sharks depends greatly on how responsibly ecotourism is developed in the region as the numbers of visitors continue to increase.

It is unrealistic to expect that we can get in the water to observe these animals and never interact with them.  They are wild animals who are constantly interacting with their environment and by getting into the water you are entering that equation. On our first visit to the bagans of Nabire, we were immediately surrounded by sharks who swam right into us, rubbing against us as they swam by and circled the bagans. We have had other experiences where it has been clear that the sharks were as disinterested in us as they could possibly be.  The key thing is to let any interaction, if it happens, be on the terms of the shark.  Let them come to you and behave respectfully of these wild animals.  Remember, this area may be an important habitat to young whale sharks and our short-term actions in the area can have very long-term impacts for these animals.

Whale sharks are wild animals, they are unpredictable.  You may or may not see them.  If you are lucky enough to swim with whale sharks, they may keep their distance or they may swim. right up to you.  The whole experience is unpredictable…and wild.  Enjoy it.

adventure swim with whale sharks cenderawasih bay nabire papua


We encourage those of you who have recently visited Nabire and/or the whale sharks to leave any travel tips and  personal experiences you would like to share in the comments of this page so that they may help inform the next traveler. Thanks!!!


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Ministry Of Forestry Teluk Cenderawasih Bay NP

Sex and size range composition of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and their sighting behavior in relation with fishermen lift-net within Cenderawasih Bay National Park, Indonesia.

The Shark Watching Industry and its Potential Contribution to Shark Conservation

Conservation International – Tracking Whale Sharks

Wildbook for Whale SharksSaveSave










25 Comments on “The Whale Sharks Of Cenderawasih Bay – Nabire, Papua

  1. Hello!!!
    The encounter i had with the whale sharks in Cenderwasih Bay is hard to explain by words, for all who really loves them, it’s a life time experience.
    As was my first time in nabire and i decided to go there just 2 weeks earlier, i directly contact the Kali lemon in Facebook and i booked 2days/1night and i made 50% of the payment by my bank (you can pay the other 50% by cash or credit card in nabire). then i booked the flight with garuda airlines from denpasar (with one stopover in timika, no direct flight). they pick up you at the airport, and after 2,5 hrs by car (they made a lot of stops, so we arrive at the beach after 3,5hrs ) and 1 hrs by boat (we had to wait at the beach almost 3 hrs!!!), you’ll arrive at the resort (well, it’s not a real resort, just few old bungalows with a mattress on the floor). we paid 5.000.000 id for kali and 1.000.000 idr for the entrance at the marine park. we were on the resort and for all the trip with the sharks, just me and my boyfriend.
    the begans are just 10-15 mins by boat from kali lemon, if you’re lucky you have the chances to swim with 5 sharks for more than an hour!!! in the others began i swim with 2-3 sharks! (remember, no whale sharks on full moon). i did free diving (because the sharks stay on surface or they go underwater for few meters) but you can also do scuba (not recommended). i bring my own wetsuit and equipment, but at the resorts they have mask and fins. it’s important to remember that whale sharks are wild animal, so don’t touch/hug or annoy them. this amazing & gentle giants are endangered from extinction, so is our job to try to protect them as much as we can. i hope to come back one day! katy was super nice and she gave me a lot of informations (again thank you, on my next trip i’ll definitely organize everything by myself!). i suggest if you have time to try to organize your own trip (kali lemon it’s expensive for the standard and they don’t know how to take care of tourists). if someone want to know more about my trip, feel free to email me: “some people believe in heaven, others believe in the oceans”.
    all the best,

  2. Hi! Thank you for all the information!
    I have a question that I hope you can help me with – I’m planning to travel to Nabire by myself in January and I wonder if you meet other tourists there or if it’s completely tourist “empty”. I realize that it would be much better economically if I manage to find someone else to go on a whale shark tour with rather than going by myself…
    It would be great if you can help me out! Thank you!

    • We get a fair number of folks on this page looking to do the trip so hopefully you can connect with a fellow traveler 🙂

    • Hi Ida,

      I´m considering Nabire and a whale shark trip and would most likely be there around 20th of January. What`s your scheadule?


  3. Hello Ida.
    I am Looking to do the same early january travelling from Melbourne, Australia. Still doing research at this point but may look at staying at Kwatisore Village as it might be more down to earth? They do have liveaboards but i would probably only do that for 2-3 days if at all.
    Let me know … Roderic Morgan

  4. Just returned from a recent trip to Nabire and swimming with the whale sharks of Cenderawasih bay. If you are wondering what the travel and experience is like, I put together a short video that I hope shows you:

    Based on Nomads Expeditions recommendations I booked a hotel in Nibire and contacted a local guide – the experience could not have been better. A huge thanks for Katy, Jeff, and Nomads Expeditions.

  5. Hello,

    i want to visit nabire for swimming with the whale sharks by the end of the year for 2 days.
    I am a bit afraid of new year, does anyone know, if the Fishermen leave the bagans in this time, or if it is too difficult to find a boat driver around new year?
    my only option is between 30 December and 03January, so thanks for your opinion, if this is a good idea? The flights are very expensive + the costs in nabire, so i want to be as sure as possible to see some sharks.
    Thanks a lot for your help


  6. Hi Katy and jeff,
    Thanks for your extra e-mail you send us with some extra information.

    We just finished our trip ok Nabire. A wonderful experience! We swam for 2,5 hours with 3 rather big and 1 calf whalesharks and had a memorable meeting with the fishermen.

    After almost 2 days of travel from the Netherlands we finally set foot in Nabire. We asked a taxi to bring us to Grand Papua hotel but they were full, after that we were brought to Kamusioh guesthouse. Because we arrived quite early we stood for a closed door. At the main road through Nabire we saw the Karya Papua hotel so we ended up there for the first day/night. Although this hotel had a friendly staff and a proper restaurant, in was not clean at all. So we decided to spend our last 2 night somewhere else. This became Kamusioh guesthouse, they were present in the afternoon of that day. We recommend this guesthouse to everybody. The owner (Mellie) speaks English, the staff is friendly and the room is proper. The guesthouse is found on

    Than the whaleshark trip. We tried to contact Sem already in the Netherlands with a text message. In Indonesia we tried to call and WhatsApp but no response. We tried Kris also, but also no response. We asked the reception at Karya hotel to arrange the trip. We finally understood the trip would cost us 5 million Rp. It did not feel good, because the language barrier made it hard to discuss what was included in the price. Later we met Mellie at Kamusioh and she could also arrange it. By boat from Nabire, including lunch, a compensation for the fishermen on the first bagan were the whale sharks were present and we were able to asked to go to another bagan if we liked. If we wanted to go to a second bagan we had to pay 100.000-300.000 by ourself at the fishermen. Nothing was said about an entrance for the park, and according to Mellie this is not needed. She also asked 5 million Rp. (So 1 million cheaper at the moment) it felt much better than the previous offer (at Karya). Mellie’s uncle transferred us to the boat at the beach in Nabire and her cousin was the captain of a the boat. Don’t expect western safety standards, there were no life vests or even a paddle on the boat, but that’s all part of the adventure right!? and most of the time you are close to the coast.
    One negative point is that we saw one whale with fish lines attached. The fishermen don’t worry to much about this. Because during our presence it happen twice that the line got hooked in a whaleshark, but the men just block the line until the line breaks or the hook rips off. This was no happy sight because you really see the stressful reaction of the whaleshark. But in the end what can we say? Mainly due to the fishermen on the bagans we are all able to enjoy this wonderful experience.
    A day after this trip Sem finally reacted, but it was to late of course.

    The third day in Nabire Mellie organized a taxi (1million) for us to bring us to a beautiful waterfall on approximately 2 hrs drive in the jungle. You really get to experience the Indonesian rainforest. One negative point is all the garbage at the waterfall. I hope the people have their mentality change about trash rather quick and they learn that the garbage dump is not everywhere!

    For the rest there is not so much to do in Nabire. We ate at 3 restaurants and they were all good.

    All in all we continue our travel in Indonesia and Malaysia and will never forget about Nabire and the whalesharks.

  7. Hello, KATY
    Returning home from Indonesia, I would like to thank you for the advice and rich information that I received from you.
    I flew to Nabire and, as you advised, I contacted Sem.
    Sem took me by car to Pantai Sowa where his brother Guntur has boats and 4 bungalows.
    The road to Pantai Sowa runs through the jungle and is nice and in good condition.
    From Pantai Sowa it is about 700 meters to the first platform and whale sharks.
    Pantai Sowa is a lovely place and I spent a week there. The conditions (and the owner) are basic but it is a piece of authentic Papua.
    Guntur took me around the surrounding platforms and reefs, showed me the surrounding jungle with kangaroos, cassocks and couscous. The closest neighborhood is settled by the Sem’s family. His brother is the commander of the military station in Kwatisore, the second brother runs a small, charming and cheap homestay (Kampung Kwatisore) on the tip of the peninsula cutting into the Cenderawasih bay.
    Cenderawasih bay in comparison with other reservoirs in Indonesia has a very rich and diverse fauna, but it is already an arena of intensive exploitation. I was surprised to see how the trepang hunters were pulling giant shells.
    Unfortunately, the fashion for watching whale sharks attracts to the platforms many people about primitive behavior and does not respecting these beautiful fishes. I think that only appropriate regulations set by park management will allow these sharks to survive. Such regulations published on every platform would also allow fishermen from the platform to feel more confident and intervene in drastic cases .
    I thank You for your advise once again and I am sending You the best regards

  8. Hello ! I sent you an email one week ago, I am not sure you got it. Maybe I could get some answers over here 🙂 This is what I wrote to you :
    I red several times your blog on the Whalesharks of Cenderawasih bay, and also all the comments. Thank you so much for all the tips you shared 🙂
    My friend and I are travelling through Papua in January 2019. We would like to stop at Nabire to meet the giants. We won’t have much time : we’ll arrive by plane at 12:00 the 17th and will take the PELNI ferry at 17:00 the 19th = we’ll just have one afternoon to find a guide, and the next day to go to the expedition (I checked the moon calendar : it will be 3 days before new moon so pretty good I guess ?). Following the differents advises and our budget, I booked 2 nights in Kamusioh guest house.
    Could you please share your contacts to arrange a trip ?
    Do you know if they still apply prices writen on your blog (around 3,000,000 IDR for the trip) ?
    Do you know if they will be okay for the Nabire boat option ? If possible, we prefer to avoid the 3 hours on the roads to reach Sowa :/

    Thank you so much for your help 🙂
    Kind regards,

    • Hi Dahvia – Sorry for the slow reply, we’ve been working off the grid for a bit. We just sent you an email reply to your questions so let us know if you don’t get that or have any additional questions. Best of luck with your trip!!

  9. Hi I’m arriving in nabire on 22nd December, any help would be appreciated or if anyone wants to share costs on a trip please let me know! So far haven’t been able to reach sem but i would love to stay off the beaten track and explore the coral reefs of the area!

    • Thanks so much for all the helpful advice Katy! Your website is an invaluable resource.

      We were not able to contact sem or any other guide in nabire as recommended, although we were there over christmas so it probably wasn’t the best time, and it over full moon (and waning moon when we went out).

      We stayed at Kamusioh Guesthouse, which was perfectly clean and nice, and even if they don’t have a double room available, a single room has a 3/4 bed and can comfortably sleep two for 300 k a night. We enjoyed our stay there very much and melly, the owner is a cool person with good english (although we don’t think she was terribly happy that we didn’t take her trip). Quoted price was 5 million by boat there and back plus extra 300 k for each additional bagan, Another option is to arrange a driver (2.5 million) to take us to sowa, where we could hire the boat directly (1.5 million + 300-400 k petrol) but by this time I’d already met an amazing guy, aris who is a padi diver and part of a group of local diving buddies who go by the name of the kombongers. You can find them on instagram. Aris doesn’t just drive you there and send you off on a boat with a skipper who speaks limited english; he was with us the whole time and is really great company.

      Aris wants to do his dive masters so he can take tourists out on dive trips, but in the meantime he wants to promote tourism in nabire and i can’t think of anyone better equipped to do so. He speaks english fluently, knows mr Naja in sowa (who owns sowa homestay right on the edge of cenderawasih bay and operates the boats), and can give great advice on the best snorkelling/dive spots in the area.

      Instead of the usual half day trip, we spent the entire day out on the bay, going from bagan to bagan looking for whale sharks. we stopped at an island and snorkelled, had snacks (bring snacks always and share them with everyone!) and then went back on our search.

      Apparently the first bagan we stopped at saw a whale shark about 5 minutes after we’d left! we’d almost given up by around 3:30 pm after visiting at least 6 bagans around the bay, when we returned to the first bagan (closest to sowa) and entertained ourselves snorkeling around the bagan and slapping the water (the fisherman do this to ‘call’ the whale sharks). this went on for around 25 minutes… the german couple we brought with us had in fact given up and were out of the water when suddenly i saw a remora (sucker like fish that usually accompanies the whale shark or is attached to it).

      next thing there was a 5-6m whale shark in the water with us (apparently a baby although it looked huge to me!). We spent 30 amazing minutes, just the five of us, swimming with the playful, curious and extremely friendly whale shark! it was a little scary to have it come so close, mouth agape, but we soon realised it was just really, really friendly. it was an absolutely amazing, surreal experience.

      we didn’t experience any of the negatives – we were the only people out on the bay the entire day (maybe due to the time of year or that it was full moon!), and the fisherman were really sweet and kind. We brought snacks to share and everyone was very conscientious – no sign of cruelty or unethical behaviour! We went out 2 days later to try again, but didn’t find any whale sharks even though we went even further and to more bagans, but we still had a great time snorkelling a different island on the bay with the kombongers dive group (they dived).

      i highly recommend aris as a guide/contact. he is not doing it for the money as he works for the government as a surveyor. I reckon he would charge between 4-5 million for a day out on the bay with him, instead of the usual half day experience! He will organise it with you in advance, and won’t let you down like i’ve heard said of other guides. And really, nabire is not easy to navigate so having someone who speaks english and knows the area is a real help. Please only contact him if you’re serious and willing to pay a fair price for his organisational skills and his time. his number is +62 812 4029 578 or you can mail him at or find him on instagram on wambrauwnapiaris (aris wambrauw).

      useful tips
      1. 88 aegan is a great coffee shop in nabire with wifi – near the supermarket. it’s a funky place that locals frequent and it has really good coffee and juices!! fresh juice! there’s also a restaurant called zaytun nearby which has pretty good food and a bakery (bit more expensive). 88 aegen is probably the coolest spot to hang in nabire (and where i ran into aris) and also has a boutique next to it with t-shirts and, oddly, perfumes for sale.
      2. the road to sowa is really good most of the way, the last 30 km or so deteriorates into some rocky gravel and you need a car with high clearance
      3. you can stay in sowa homestay and maximise your chances of seeing whale sharks as you can be first out in the morning (theoretically), but you’ll pay per day for the boat (1.5 + 400 fuel). Mr naja can be bargained with if you can speak bahasa but has limited english. it’s a very basic homestay (cost 500 k per couple including 3 meals, mostly fish etc). very nice family, but accommodation is not in any way luxurious. aris can help arrange.
      4. apparently an italian guy came to sowa homestay by hiring an ojek (scooter taxi) directly from the airport to drive him there, and stayed a week! now that’s budget travelling. you could potentially also hire a bike/car yourself and make your way to sowa homestay if you’re feeling up to it (but you’d need time to figure this out). bear in mind that barely anyone speaks english in nabire that we could find so this might be difficult to do!
      5. it takes 2 hours by car to reach sowa, weather permitting. As a long distance bike/scooter traveller, i’d double that time and be sure to expect rain.
      the drive back takes longer as you’ll likely experience rain and more dangerous conditions at night.
      6. nabire is really polluted with plastic etc. bring your own reusable bottles, straws etc and try not contribute to the problem.
      7. People are amazing in nabire. It’s really not a bad place to hang for a few days if you have to.
      hope this info helps!

  10. Hi, we are planning a trip to Nabire in April an would like to do the tours with a local guide. Could you help us by letting us know, how to contact a local guide in Nabire?
    We would also like to to some snorkeling trips. do you know good spots near nabire?

    Thank you for your help and thank you for the good homepage 🙂
    Kind regards

  11. Thank- you Katy and Jeff for a very informative site and for your additional attention and email, it was greatly appreciated.
    Having just returned from a trip this january I would like to share our experience to help fellow travellers looking to do the same, and possibly help you to update a few recommendations on the site. I would recommend a few amendments to the referred boatmen SEM It seems he is not as reliable as this site leads one to believe, I do realise that every experience is different and I can only speak of our experience and that of a fellow traveler we met at the hotel, who shared with us his own experience with Sem which seemed to mirror ours.
    I had been in contact with Sem and had arranged a tour through him, i have lived in Indo for 7 years and can speak the language so was able to communicate well and also understand for the usual delays that a third world country and remote destination presents ie. (lost phone, poor signal, on a boat all day, holidays etc) Sem got back to me about the whale shark tour however when ever i asked regarding his homestay option he would go radio silent for a few days after. Knowing the culture, (indonesians don’t like to tell you no, so they will either tell you nothing , as in this case, or will “lie” and tell you what they think you want to hear so as not to upset you, they don’t see it as lying, culturally they see it as not upsetting you” So we booked our own accommodation at Kamusioh guest house. Sem had arranged to pick us up at the airport and take us there.

    We were going to be in Nabire from 31st-4th and whale sharks 2 and 3rd. We arrived in Sorong on the 31st only to realise i had made a mistake and booked our flights for the 31st of jan rather than 31st dec there were no flights to nabire until the 2nd.. FAIL!

    i contacted Sem and let him know our new dates and stressed the importance of we now only had one day only to do the shark tour. He replied with “ill be ready and waiting” We then heard nothing from him for two days, upon our arrival he was not there to meet us, we did not stress too much and made our own way into town only to find the guest house all locked up and no-one around. So we made our way to the Grand Papua Hotel. They were full, but could offer us accommodation at another “Sisterhotel” close to the airport. It is less a hotel, and was more of a room with bathroom- but perfectly clean and comfortable for Nabire standards , we had tea and coffee and delicious breakfast on site and were able to return to grand papua hotel and buy dinners if we chose to do so. We borrowed a bike from our accommodation and rode over for dinner each night (5mins on bike) and we were also offered a lift back in the car should we prefer. The sister hotel (currently has no name) is literally across the road from the airport so we walked to catch our flights the following morning hahah perfect!
    i would like to stress that the manager at the Grand papua, his name is Stanis, was incredibly friendly and helpful and went out of his way to help us and make sure that we were looked after. He went above and beyond in his attention to our needs.

    Back to Sem, I tried several attempts at contacting Sem in the lead up and day of our arrival and when i finally made contact with him on the 2nd he answered but was clearly drunk out of his mind, slurring his words and making no sense whatsoever, but managed to tell us he’d come over to the grand papua to meet us. We waited for him for 2hours and when i called again, this time his son answered and said his father is sleeping (passed out drunk)
    As we only had one day to do the tour and this was now 5pm the night before, I decided to make other arrangements. The manager at the Grand Papua, Stanis helped us immeasurably by putting us in contact with someone who could arrange a boatman last minute.
    I think its important to bear in mind that all of these contacts are only as good as they are at the time. and also important to bear in mind that this is a small remote town, there are no systems in place or direct protocols to follow, it is currently just a matter of “having a contact who knows a guy, who also knows a guy who can arrange a guy” there are plenty of people that can arrange a boat, and a boatman for a fair price, if you show up and ask around at your hotel/guesthouse, arrangements can be made.

    We arranged a boat with a guide called Septian +62 85145776670 he works at the tourism office and agreed for me to share his number here. Stanis at the Grand papua can also assist his number is +62 81339484264 He helped arrange a boat and tour package we went out for the day, had water and fruit on the boat and the most delicious lunch prepared for us, fresh caught and BBQ tuna, it was a perfect day, we were very happy and very grateful.
    Sem showed up at the grand papua that night at 7pm, I happened to be there for dinner, Sem was clearly still drunk and shouted at the manager Stanis, demanding he see James ( he was too drunk to remember my name is jess and that I’m a girl and not a guy) , Stanis did his best to get rid of him but being still drunk he was a bit belligerent refusing to leave, so i went out and explained to him that i had tried to contact him, but he had not answered so i had made other arrangements. He was not happy and showed me photos on his phone of korean tourists he said he had taken out the day before as some sort of “look what you’re missing” the photos were quite sad. The tourists were lying on top of the sharks posing for photos holding on to the sides of the sharks the head. No respect for the animals whatsoever. Very sad to see. least to say we did not go out with Sem. We had also tried several times to contact Kris as listed on this site but the number was not active.
    A note on the whale sharks: the experience is amazing and an absolute privilege however it was saddening to see at the Bagans, tourists and guides alike completely disrespecting the animals. People were trying to ride on their backs, hand feed them, stand on them, bumping them, sit on them for selfies and completely overcrowding them, whole tour boats would show up and at times there were 30 people in the water all swimming on and over one shark, or were hand feeding them and putting their hands down into their mouths. it was disgusting. I plead with anyone looking to have an experience with whale sharks to Please take with you the education and respect these beautiful creatures deserve and please speak up and ask people to stop any of this behaviour should you see it, be it from other tourists or your guides. Look do not touch. the experience is just as magical.

    The saddest part of it all for me is if its like this now, when its still quite difficult to get out there and organise, what will it become when tourism picks up and it becomes accessible? it will only get worse. It actually made me think twice about posting contact numbers on the site as, I do not want to contribute to mass tourism,or the behaviour i saw at the Bagans in any way, I can only hope that anyone using these contacts can do so with the same respect for conservation as this site promotes and to advocate for the sharks.
    It was a privilege to share a day with these beautiful creatures – not so much for the humans.

    • Hi Jessica, Thanks for your detailed post and all of the helpful information for fellow travellers! We are sorry to hear about your experience with Sem. It sounds like the level of service he is providing has changed dramatically (he used to be quite reliable and was trying to be respectful around the animals which is why we had recommended him) and we will certainly be more cautious recommending him in the future! Tourism, when developed very thoughtfully, can be helpful for conservation in many places. But more often than not, we have found that in less traveled and remote places, responsible tourism must be insisted upon by conscientious travellers like yourself. Thanks for posting your observations about behaviour around these amazing sharks – hopefully reading this will inspire more of the people who do visit the area to insist on better behaviour among the guides and the other travellers.

  12. According to Melissa Andrews recommendations I just contacted Aris, and he quoted me 900.000 for a car, 2.000.000 for a boat and 1.000.000 for his service as a guide. Almost 1.500.000 higher, than he did less than a month ago. No way I will use him. Probably, it’s better to negotiate a boat trip with sowa cottages owner directly to awoid all midlemen, who want to get easy money from bule.

    • Hi, I deleted my earlier post as it clearly created confusion. Aris is my friend, that’s why I got a cheaper price. 4 million for an english speaking guide including all costs is a great deal for nabire, also because you get to go out for an entire day, in a more remote part of cenderwasih bay, and have an experience that promotes conservation. Aris is reliable, perfectly on time and a really great guy. Please note the costs of getting to sowa and back, boat hire etc are high, and paying your guide under 100 dollars (1 million) to take you out for an entire day is not a bad deal at all! I am reposting accordingly.

      Warm regards,

  13. Hi everyone, please note on the above post that if you want to do the trip with aris he will charge about 4 million as he needs to make some profit out of this. please don’t contact him unless you’re willing to pay a fair price for his expertise and organisational skills. thank you!

  14. Hi Katy and Jeff,

    I think I am the “Italian guy” melissa refers to above … ‘spose its easy to mix up Australian with Italian! Such a great time staying with Thonce at Sowa … I think this is the Mr Naja that she refers to here.

    I did travel by scooter from Nabire with a local guy … small back pack on my back … not recommended but what an adventure … especially those last 20 kms.

    I Stayed with Thonce & family of ella, Aldi, Juan & Gustav for a week and enjoyed their basic food … as a vego I was easy to cater for! Stayed in their cute little hut on the beach with no phone or internet … what a relief! … saw 2 white people in 7 days … what a relief!

    The chooks laid eggs on my bed or back pack in my room for my breakfast … thanks girls! I am sure they laughed at me as I cleaned the whole beach of plastic bottles and piled it up against my hut.

    tropical rain came down most nights. lying on my mattress … I could look out my open door across Cenderawasih Bay taking in the lightning show before sleep overcame me … only to be awakened by the next clap of thunder.

    I went out with Thonce snorkelling with the Ikan Paus on 3 separate occasions for a total of about 3 hours. My first experience was dropping in only to have a 10 metre male swim right at me at 3-4 knots. I seriously had no choice but to gently put my gloved hand on top of his head and slowly push off to the side. They are a beautiful beast … so curious and calming.

    Drank room temp beer with Thonce most days at the grocery store 10 minutes walk away … we were able to communicate in Bahasa with the help of an off-line translator on my phone.

    One day, Thonce took me out to the island closest to Sowa. Told me to go a for a flap which I thought would take 15 minutes.. An hour or more later I have snorkelled virtually the whole island looking down at the Cenderawasih Bay floor with 30+ metre vis … not surprised to see an unexploded Japanese shell lying amongst the coral … kept my distance.

    I probably paid Thonce overs at about $AU80 a day for everything … including the boat trip back to nabire … not doing that scooter again! when I go back I will pay more! But I wont make the same mistake of paying him the balance on the last night … he went out and got extremely drunk … he wasn’t up for much chat that next day going back to Nabire … but he still let me take in one more dive with the wonderful Cenderawasih Bay giants of the Deep.

    One of the most enjoyable weeks of my life but please remember they are a beautiful people the West papuans in a paradise surrounded by danger. Be respectful of the ongoing civil war with the central Indonesian govt and the West Papuan locals.!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo4fZnXMg5lfQgrOaA!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo4YNLvjoYTOIAyJ4w!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo4TedEuaGBzhniAdg!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo1zGsNZA2Athp8x3A!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo1ZVi_QK9lZUr-FBQ!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo1rG4HmNUN_wd-Bnw!AhmDYR6IgAMlgo4rhfQPhaKZG9FP-A

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