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GL BAL TREASURE

INDONESIA

62

arine scientists have established that until recent times, the bay was geologically isolated from the fow of the Pacifc tides. This isolation has somewhat consecrated Cenderawasih to be an ancient sea with a high percentage of endemic fsh and coral species found nowhere else on the planet. Conservation International’s senior consultant, Dr. Gerald Allen, an ichthyologist, proclaimed the bay, “the Galápagos of the East”, based on documented fndings of an “evolutionary cauldron” of new and unique corals, shrimps and fsh species. Extensive surveys documented 995 species of fsh and over 500 species of corals - that is about 10 times more than the entire Caribbean combined! Lured by the thought of new discoveries, I made two sojourns to this primordial sea in the last two years.

There is something decidedly adventurous and exciting about fying through fve airports in three days, hopping from a Singapore Airline double decker Airbus 380 jet, to the Express Air 18-seater turbo prop plane, to arrive in Manokwari*, and be promptly whisked away to a quaint harbour next to a raucous fsh market. We boarded the MSY Seahorse with tons of camera equipment and high expectations for a 10-day Cenderawasih Marine Park expedition.

Though my primary agenda was for exploring sites that have never been seen before, and capturing pictures of deep water animals in shallow water, the major attraction at Cenderawasih is the recent discovery of congregations of whale sharks ( Rhincodon typus ) around local fshing platform (bagans), in the southern part of the reserve. While there are a number places in the world where whale sharks congregate, such as the Galápagos, Belize, Western Australia’s Ningaloo reefs, and Donsol in the Philippines, the sharks are only resident for a period of one to three months before moving away. From the local fshermen, we now know that the whale sharks in Cenderawasih are denizens, visiting their fshing platform throughout the year.

M

Page 14 - Global Treasures E

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