The port town of Kaimana sits on the south-west coast of West Papua overlooking the eastern approach to Arguni Bay which almost dissects Bomberai Peninsular. Dotted with palm-fringed white sand beaches lapped by clear blue water, rugged limestone cliffs crowned with green tropical vegetation and picture perfect islets, the entire coastline from here south to the magnificent Triton Bay is stunningly beautiful and slowly gaining a reputation as the Raja Ampat alternative.
The scenery below the water is as stunning as it is above. Along with Raja Ampat and Cenderwasih Bay, Triton Bay forms part of the so-called Bird’s Head Seascape conservation area which marine biologists now regard as having more fish and coral species than anywhere else on the planet. Species that are considered rare anywhere else are found here in abundance and it was only five years ago that the Triton Bay Walking Shark was discovered. Bryde’s whales and dolphin are often seen out in the Namatota Strait and the soft coral gardens are alive with fantastical creatures such as delicate nudibranches and the rare yellow pigmy seahorse.
Tanjung Erana off Triton Bay is regarded as a fairly reliable place to swim or dive with the whale sharks that pass this way. Whale shark encounters are not guaranteed and depend to a large extent on sightings by local bagan fishermen to point your boat captain in the right direction but if you get lucky it’s a thrilling experience to swim alongside these majestic giants.
The region is obviously a highly regarded diving location but it’s also ideal for snorkelers as the water stays at a fairly consistent 29˚C all year round and depths usually 20m or less with excellent visibility. When you’ve had enough of watery activities, it’s easy to find yourself a deserted beach to lie on or explore some of the tiny fishing villages along the coast. Ask your boat captain to take you to one of the shifting “bagan” fishing platforms scattered along the coast which local longboat fishermen use as a base.
The limestone cliffs around Bitsari Bay just east of Kaimana and Namatota Island further to the south have some extensive rock art galleries believed to be around 3,500 years old. The little village of Lobo tucked up in Triton Bay has a monument to the short-lived Dutch fortress “Fort du Bus” established there in 1828. It was abandoned only 7 years later after most of the soldiers stationed there succumbed to a malaria outbreak.
The tiny Venu Island south-west of Kaimana is one of several sea turtle nesting island in the region and is a designated turtle conservation area. Beginning in 2011, Conservation International (CI) in collaboration with the Center KSDA West Papua initiated local patrol teams to protect the nests and hatchlings from natural and human threats and collect vital data. Visitors to the island are welcome so grab a boat and take an overnight trip. With the help of the knowledgeable CI officers you should be able to witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs during the nights and hatchlings being released into the ocean at dawn.
The only way to access Kaimana is by air and with Wingsair/Lion Air now offering scheduled flights several times weekly from Sorong, it has become much more accessible in recent times. Rumour has it that Garuda will soon start servicing Kaimana too so watch this space. There are also direct flights from Manado to Kaimana by Air Express 3 times a week. For the latest on scheduled flight services, check tiket.com.
Kaimana has basic facilities such as a BMI bank, several local restaurants and basic commercial accommodation including several homestays, a few one star hotels and the three star Kaimana Beach Hotel. Prices range between 250.000-800.000Rp per night. The recently opened Triton Bay Divers Beach & Dive Resort is the only other commercial accommodation in the region. If you’re chasing a budget option you can likely find a family to put you up in one of the coastal villages or alternatively, take a tent and camp out. If you plan on camping near a village, be courteous and ask the headman for permission.
Unfortunately, there are no public boat services operating in the area other than a government boat that runs passengers and cargo between the villages three times a month and is definitely not a viable option for sightseeing. This means you’ll have to charter a longboat or speedboat out of Kaimana. Due to the high price of fuel in this region expect to pay Rp. 1-2 million per day for a longboat and Rp. 4-5million per day for a speedboat. Make sure you bring your own snorkelling gear.
The only other way to visit the region is aboard one of the liveaboard boats dropping into the Kaimana and Triton Bay region on their way to or from Raja Ampat.