In early February, our guests had the opportunity to observe a team from Conservation International (CI) mount a satellite tag on a whale shark. The satellite tags record location, depth, and water temperature, and transmits that data every time the dorsal fin of the shark breaks the surface. This information will allow them to monitor the whale sharks movements over the next two years. According to CI, their program is the only one of its kind in the world. They currently have tagged less than 20 whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay and only 4 in Triton Bay as of Feb 2017.
Very little is known about whale sharks. CI’s monitoring and ID program here and in Cenderawasih Bay indicate that well over 90% of the 100+ individuals who have been identified so far are young males. They don’t know where the females or the adults are, and it is becoming apparent that Cenderawasih & Triton Bay must be some kind of nursery for young whale sharks. Of the sharks that we have seen ourselves here, most are between 3~9m. Our guests help contribute to the database by providing photos of the area around the shark’s left dorsal fin for identification.
Triton Bay Divers would like to thank Dr. Mark Erdmann, Abraham Sinapar, and the team from CI for the opportunity to observe them in their work. To learn more about CI’s whale shark monitoring program, please check out this link:
If you come to Triton Bay, it won’t take long before you realize the area has some spectacular topography. Visitors have remarked that some places remind them a little of Palau, and a little of Wayag in Raja Ampat. Two of our first guests this season, Markus Roth and Karsten Heinrich, brought along drones and provided us with some stunning aerial photographs. What a way to kick off the season!
From top left: islands in Triton Bay that are probably best experienced from a kayak; the resort built just off the beach and surrounded by the tropical rainforest of Aiduma; Little Komodo with its rich and diverse reef hidden below; a Bryde’s Whale – they have been a common sighting for us in the summer of 2016; Our little bay with the sunset in the distance and the resort barely visable. Thanks for the photos Markus & Karsten!
Triton Bay Divers has recently been featured twice in the Swiss Diving magazine Nereus! For those who read German, please check out the article by Andrea Rothlisberger in the June issue, and by Thomas Haider in the August issue (part 1). Additional photos from Thomas can be found on their website at this link. Photo above by Thomas Haider.
Even before my first visit to Triton Bay, I had known there was a resident population of Bryde’s whales here. But throughout the first few months we never saw them, and I admit I had doubts as to their existence. When I finally saw a water spout (but not the whale itself) I knew the reports were true. Eventually we did see the whales, but it was well into our first season. Sightings are still rare and far between.
Bryde’s Whales (pronounced as “broo-dess”) are baleen whales and are similar in appearance to minke, fin, and sei whales. There are two, maybe three different types of Bryde’s whales; the ones around Kaimana are coastal and are here year round. This particular species prefers warm water – it is the only baleen whale that spends all its time in tropical or sub-tropical water. They feed on anchovies (which are also favored by the whale sharks here!) and krill and grow to a maximum size of around 16m. For more information on this species, please check out this link.
These whales are not easy to approach as they just submerge if the boat gets too close. One August day coming back from Kaimana we saw them breaching from afar. We approached slowly, killed the engines, and waited. The hope was that they would come check us out, and one did, allowing me to get some video. This particular whale was about 10m long judging from the distance between his dorsal fin and his blow hole. There were at least two of them, and most likely more as we saw the whales surface from at least 3 different directions around us. It was such a thrill to see this animal up close and words just can’t come close to describing the feeling.
One thing we knew right from the beginning when we first started building was that the land at the back of the resort was very fertile. Here was untouched rain forest and the land took months to clear. At first we thought we had cut down too many trees, but within a few months all the tree stumps we thought were dead had regrown two or three meters. Now, after two years those tree stumps tower five or six meters. When we were building, someone ate papaya, and papaya must be the world’s fastest growing tree. From nothing, a papaya tree can reach three or four meters in a year if it gets enough water, and the resort must have about thirty trees by now!
But not all plants grow as fast and as easily as papaya. Some plants like lots of water, some don’t. Last summer it rained once in three months; this summer maybe there was only one day that it didn’t rain! So even though the papaya trees have done very well, it has been almost impossible to keep plants such as bouganvilias which don’t like too much water. Additionally, the land at the front where the bungalows are is quite sandy, so it has been a challenge to grow flowers there.
But for the most part we are quite happy with the variety of plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables that we have growing here. In addition to the many coconut trees, we have mango and wax apple trees which are seasonal. There are a few banana trees that are beginning to bear fruit, and we have grown tomatoes, long beans, melons, and chile peppers. The boys have found wild orchids around the island, and we have planted a few that are just beginning to blossom now.
Below is a gallery of some of the plants that we have here. There are a few that I don’t know the names of, so if anyone can help it would be greatly appreciated!