We love diving at Tanjung Mangguar in Cenderawasih Bay. The rock formations above and below the water are perfect examples of ancient sedementary rock which has been compressed by tectonic movement. The site is full of fish; schooling barracuda, bannerfish and batfish. The bommies have colourful softcorals and the size of the sponges is impressive. There is also good macro to hunt for including nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses in the seafans on the wall and critters on the sand plateaus.
This trip was a little different. We decided to spend the entire day in the area and include a visit to the village of Napan-Yauer and an adventure to see the endemic Birds of Paradise and a night dive in the bay in front of the village where we got lucky with some cool shrimp, nudibranchs and bobtail squid!
Birds of Paradise
Damai I was anchored in the bay and we took the tenders to the village pier at 5am and were met by Moses. He had arranged for himself, two further guides and two university students from Manokwari to accompany our group on the Bird of Paradise walk.
Once everyone was on board we continued around the headland to a small landing beach where the trail began.
From the pebbled beach we walked sharply upwards and along a narrow ridge where the climb grew steeper. Fortunately there was a wooden railing! It was a short but reasonably intense walk
along a rocky, leaf strewn, muddy Papuan jungle pathway opening onto a standing area.
We had success with the birds! There were several seen displaying. We counted between 6 and 8 but the jungle was quite dense so its difficult to be sure of the exact number. The sound of the birds calling was fantastic and overall the experience was well worth the climb.
The way down was tricky as the path was slippery and there was not much by way of support. We took it slowly but even the able-bodied among us slipped from time to time on both the way up and way down. Everyone was pretty muddy afterwards but no injuries!
After breakfast and a pleasant day diving at Tanjung Mangguar we returned to the village in the late afternoon. Some villagers were dressed in traditional dance wear and playing instruments. An archway had been erected on the beach and we were asked to wait in the tender by the university students so that we could be officially welcomed to the island.
The villagers danced and sang on the beach and we were each brought forward to have our feet pressed into sand on a woven tray and given a garland of seashells. Members of the welcome group took each of us by the hand and we proceeded to dance around a central tree before being seated and given a fresh coconut. The dancing continued.
The villagers had made souvenirs; some from shells, others carved from wood or tree bark. Everything was sold at a reasonable price and what was lovely was that the money went directly to those who had made the items.
We were given a tour along the main street to the school, shown the betel nut tree and the university students gave us some history about the village. The students are visiting as part of a tourism degree. They help Papuan villages like Napan-Yauer clean up, offer activities to visitors, encourage handicrafts and educate about the importance of the local environment.
The village itself was very clean. There are 29 houses for several families and they were all decorated with well-kept gardens and a few animals, chickens and pigs, here and there. There were not many old people but it was nice to see plenty of children around and they always make you feel welcome. Hello mister!
The real village character was “Mama Yakamoto”. She was exuberant and friendly, hugging and holding our hands. She accompanied us throughout the whole visit and we all liked her! We really thought that she would jump in the tender with us and follow us back to the boat!
Our contribution to the village for Moses’ time and for the activities that they organised was presented in a formal ceremony in which the whole village participated. What a great day!
Please visit our Cenderawasih Bay Gallery
For more stories about village life in Cenderawasih Bay please read Part III-Villages and their People