Embarking on The World’s West Papua Expedition
We joined the Ship on January 13th in Palau. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s an archipelago nation of over 500 limestone islands. Only a few of them are populated. There are only about 25,000 people altogether and most of them live on Koror.
It’s a paradise for divers and snorkelers because the entire country is a marine reserve. This country seems to have invented sustainability. They banned all plastic in the country several years ago. The water is crystal clear and the whole area is just beautiful. It’s really a paradise and the people are lovely.
Several other Residents and Guests got on in Palau because this was the beginning port for the West Papua Expedition. This Expedition is designed primarily for the divers and snorkelers on board. If you’re wondering are there many of those, we have 46 divers and over 80 snorkelers on the Expedition. That’s a lot of Zodiacs in the water. The World brings a special Expedition Team on board to help with all the water activities. There are also other specialists on board to lecture on the culture in the region, on the marine biology, WWII, and other areas of interest. There’s never a dull moment!
The one activity I’m sorry I missed is the day everyone was swimming with the whale sharks. There are apparently several places in the world where you can be in the water with these amazing creatures, but none as remote as here. Fisherman attract the whale sharks to their fishing platforms by throwing this “fish soup” into the water. It attracts the whale sharks and they start feeding. The Zodiacs brought the snorkelers out to the platforms and everyone got in the water with these huge creatures. They are so big and have such tough skin they don’t really have many predators and don’t seem to have any fear of humans. As big as they are, they pose no threat to human beings. I rode out in one of the Zodiacs and it was amazing to watch.
Although we weren’t participating in the water activities, we did visit the towns and villages. I would describe the places and people we are visiting as remote, but not isolated. The World is the largest Ship by far most of them have seen and we’re a big deal when we arrive in most places. When we docked in the first port of Biak, it felt like the entire town came to the dock to greet us. That said, these people have plenty of exposure to the western world. As I keep saying, this area is a paradise for divers and is well known throughout the world. Many people come here for diving, but usually in small groups.
The native people we’ve encountered have all been incredibly friendly to us. The most fun is when I take a picture of someone and they immediately pull out their cell phone to take a picture of me. I’ve now been photographed throughout West Papua! The villages all survive by small farms, fishing and the limited tourist trade.