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Only in Indonesia & Papua New Guinea: 5 Unique Discoveries

Some destinations focus on unique cultural highlights, others on pristine natural settings and wildlife. But in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea you won’t have to choose; the isolation of these islands has resulted in the evolution of extraordinary avian and aquatic life while at the same time preserving unique cultural monuments and indigenous arts. These compelling elements all come together to create a travel experience like nowhere else in the world. Here are just some of the extraordinary discoveries you can only make when you venture to this remote region.

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Spotting Rare Avifauna & the Red Bird-of-Paradise on Gam Island

Twitchers take note: The skies, trees, and water in the Asmat region will give you enough ticks to fill an entire “lifer” list. Among the avian treasures: Blyth's hornbills, crowned pigeons, yellow crested cockatoos, and a panoply of multihued kingfishers. But the jewel in the crown is the elusive red bird-of-paradise, known in Indonesian as the cendrawasih merah. This stunning scarlet, gold, and emerald bird is only found on three tiny atolls in the Indonesian Archipelago, including Gam Island where, if we're lucky, an early morning outing on our brand-new itinerary brings the possibility of a sighting. Keep a keen eye out for the male’s signature plumage: a train of ornamental crimson red feathers with whitish tips. And on both sexes, two long black tail feathers that look like glossy ribbons twirling in the wind.

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Snorkeling with Giant Clams
in Raja Ampat

The Coral Triangle surrounding Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is home to more than 500 types of reef-building coral and 75% of all coral dwelling species known to man, creating one of the richest and most intricate marine areas in the world. Diving and snorkeling in this underwater Eden will bring you face-to-face with a profusion of spectacular marine species not found anywhere else on Earth. And one of the true highlights has to be the neon-hued giant clams. Measuring nearly five feet across, and weighing upwards of 500 pounds, they’re not only the largest clams in the world, but also the biggest bivalves, and they are an unforgettable sight nestled in the coral where they can live for one hundred years.

Studying Ancestral Woodcarvings in Asmat

The fascinating riverine world of the Asmat region is one of the least explored places on Earth. Shielded largely from the outside world, the Asmat believe there is an intrinsic relationship between humans and trees, which they consider to be the source of life. Their intricate wood carvings are their way of communicating with the spirits of their ancestors. Usually only found in museums, here you’ll be able to see the traditional carvings at their source, including war shields and dugout canoes, carved oars, figures, and the impressive ceremonial Bisj poles that stretch 20 feet into the air. 

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Visiting the Weaving Village
of Watublapi 

Stepping onto Indonesia's Flores Island is like stepping back in time, especially when it comes to the creation of the intricate ikat textiles for which the island is known. The indigo, red, and yellow fabric woven in the village of Watublapi is considered to be some of the best in the world. Although most modern weavers use industrial-made yarn and dyes, the Watublapi create their spectacular designs from yarn made of handspun local cotton and natural dyes crafted from their own garden produce. Not only can you watch the fascinating process, but at the cooperative where the weavers work, locals will share their traditions of dance and music, too.

Exploring Skull Caves & Rock Art in Kokas

On the surface, Kokas in West Papua seems like a typical small fishing village. But delve deeper into the lush surroundings and you’ll discover hidden treasures below the surface, or more specifically on the surface in remote caves. Throughout the area are reminders of the ancient Macassan culture, including a skull cave where 20,000-year-old skulls, placed by descendants to honor the dead, decorate the dirt interior; plus, caves decorated with prehistoric rock art depicting handprints and animals. Don’t worry, while the skulls are real, the Tapuraran, or “blood paintings” as locals call them, get their appearance from red ochre that’s been applied to the cave walls.

Be one of the first to join us aboard our brand-new itinerary as we set sail for the lush tropical islands of Indonesia & Papua New Guinea.