Lembeh Strait, Remote Halmahera Islands, and Raja Ampat
March 7-19, 2024
You should join this Halmahera liveaboard snorkeling trip, to three very unique and stunning marine paradises of Indonesia. First you will spend a day snorkeling in Lembeh Strait, looking for rare and unique marine critters. But most of your days will be spent exploring the very remote islands of Halmahera, which is considered one of the last frontiers of less explored reefs in Indonesia. Then you will cruise to Raja Ampat, and snorkel its astoundingly diverse reefs and swim with manta rays.
If you want to experience some of the healthiest and most abundant coral reefs on Earth, this trip will fill you with delight. You will be visiting three areas that are within the famed Coral Triangle. Lembeh Strait is famous for unique creatures like frogfish, nudibranchs, and maybe even seahorses. The islands of Halmahera are so remote that they are still very pristine with shallow hard and soft coral reefs, and a great variety of fish life. Raja Ampat is considered the epicenter of marine biodiversity, with more species of coral and fish than anywhere else in the world.
Your group of snorkelers will be aboard the Mermaid II liveaboard, a 108 foot steel yacht that has pioneered explorations into Halmahera.
This trip is being run by our partner and friend Ben and his team. Based in the U.K., they are experts in the Coral Triangle, run amazing excursions, and have a great appreciation for the underwater world.
Your group of 18 snorkelers will be guided through some of the best snorkeling spots on Earth, on this 13 day trip.
Check Out This Video from the 2023 Trips
Where in Indonesia Will You Be Traveling?
All three of the areas you will be visiting are in Indonesia, and are part of the region known as the Coral Triangle.
Your tour begins in Jakarta. After your international flight arrives there you can relax for a night at the Jakarta Airport Hotel. Your group and guide will meet for dinner at the hotel. The next morning your group will fly together to Manado. When you arrive in Manado crew from the Mermaid II yacht will greet you and take you by car to the harbor to board the yacht.
You will first spend a day snorkeling in Lembeh Strait, on the northern tip of Sulawesi. Then you will cruise to the Halmahera Islands, and spend six days snorkeling. Finally you will cruise to Raja Ampat and spend three days snorkeling there.
You will then be transferred to Sorong Airport, and your group will fly to Jakarta where the tour ends.
What Will You Experience Snorkeling in Lembeh, Halmahera, and Raja Ampat?
Your first day of snorkeling will be in the Lembeh Strait. This is a very unique marine ecosystem, and different than the other areas you will visit on this trip.
It is famous for its black volcanic sand slopes and shallow reefs, that are filled with some of the world’s most unique and often weird critters.
Here you will look for frogfish, leaf scorpionfish, nudibranchs, seahorses, and the gorgeous Banggai Cardinalfish.
There will then be an overnight open ocean crossing from Lembeh to the first island in Halmahera.
Your cruise will focus the next six days on the very remote and untraveled area of the Halmahera Islands, which are located between North Sulawesi and Raja Ampat. The Mermaid II is one of the few companies that offers trips into this area, so you are very unlikely to be in the water with any other snorkelers. The area is so unexplored that most of the sites visited have yet to even be named.
The reefs in Halmahera have astounding biodiversity, and are very healthy, offering beautiful shallow reefs abundant with hard and soft corals, and clouds of reef fish. You will also get to see many types of pelagic fish species, from hundreds of barracuda, to small Black-tip Reef Sharks and Manta Rays. A scientific survey by Dr. Gerry Allen noted over 800 species of fish, second only to Misool in Raja Ampat.
When touring through the Halmahera Islands you can expect to see not only a wide variety of corals, but also Black-tip Reef Sharks, large rays, Napoleon Wrasse, the huge Bumphead Parrotfish, tuna, and Giant Trevally.
Most of the snorkel spots are around small islands, with gently sloping reefs in great depths for snorkelers. You will see beautiful sea fans, barrel sponges, fields of staghorn coral, and gorgeous colorful soft corals.
You can expect to see large schools of mackerel, spadefish, and unicornfish on most outings. You will also see turtles, sea snakes, eels, crabs, shrimps, and pipefish. And clouds of pink and purple anthias hover over the shallow reefs, along with huge schools of fusilier. It is not uncommon to see five or more species of each – butterflyfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, anemonefish, and angelfish – on each snorkel site!
The area is also excellent for night snorkeling, where you will likely see cuttlefish, octopus, and squid, small rays, and crocodile flatheads, as well as the Halmahera Epqulette Shark, which is a type of bamboo “walking” shark.
The views above the water will also be stunning as you cruise through volcanic islands over turquoise waters, with small traditional villages dotting the shores.
After another overnight open ocean crossing, your adventure will wrap up with three days of snorkeling in amazing Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is considered the biodiversity center of the Coral Triangle region. There are nearly 1,500 species of reef fish, 600 species of hard corals, seven giant clam species, seven species of sea turtles, and 57 species of mantis shrimp. And pelagic life is abundant in the area.
You can expect to see healthy coral gardens dense with hard and soft corals in perfect snorkeling depths. In fact Raja Ampat is known for excellent snorkeling in particular because of the amount of life on the shallow reefs. You will find large volumes and varieties of fish schools, and will have good chances seeing bigger fish such as manta rays, reef sharks, and schools of barracuda and jacks.
Depending on the weather and conditions, your crew and guide will choose what area of Raja Ampat you will snorkel. You may make your way south into Misool, or stay in northern Raja Ampat.
Misool is in the southern part of the Raja Ampat archipelago. It has unique soft corals with vibrant colors and unique structures. You will find a vast range of snorkeling sites like coral covered walls, reef flats, pinnacles, and placid lagoons which all play host to a wealth of marine life. Fields of gorgonian fans can be seen in the shallows whilst colorful hard coral gardens rise to within breaching distance of the surface – this really is some of the finest reef snorkeling you are likely to see anywhere in the world. Not only that, but the reefs here are in superb condition.
In northern Raja Ampat you may visit the Fam Islands, indulging in all the iconic snorkeling sites and marine life that make Raja Ampat famous. The areas around the Dampier Strait are where you can find shallow cleaning stations for mantas, wobbegongs become a lot more prevalent, walking sharks can be found on night snorkels, village jetties are a safe haven for large schools of fish, while the reefs around the mangroves offer one of the most beautiful and unique snorkeling environments.
What Is the Mermaid II Liveaboard Like?
The Mermaid II is a 108 foot (33 meter) long twin engine steel yacht that has been exclusively chartered for this snorkeler-only adventure. She is a very comfortable and safe ship for exploring the remote regions of Indonesia.
There will be 18 snorkelers, along with one of Ben’s snorkeling guides, as well as a full complement of crew.
There are eight deluxe cabins on the main deck, and two budget cabins on the lower deck. All of the deluxe cabins offer the choice of either a double bed only, or a twin bunk bed configuration, with large panoramic sea view windows, air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms.
The budget cabins have twin bunks, a vanity sink, air-conditioning, and share a bathroom with one other cabin via adjoining doors.
There is a sundeck in the front area of the upper deck, and a shaded outdoor lounge in the rear of the upper deck, as well as an air-conditioned lounge. The entire upper deck is a great place to lounge between snorkeling sessions, and to enjoy the views, sunsets and sunrises, as you travel.
There is an air-conditioned restaurant in the front of the main deck, where you will be served delicious meals featuring local species and fresh ingredients. The buffets are a mix of Asian and Western food.
The entire rear of the main deck is where you can store your gear and also where you either enter the water directly, or where you will board one of two rigid inflatable boats that will take you to close snorkeling spots. These smaller boats have ladders to help you get back on board, with crew to assist, as well.
Trip Details and How to Sign Up
This is a small group charter and we expect it to fill quickly. Your spot is reserved with your deposit. Contact Ben below for deposit instructions.
March 7-19, 2024 – One double occupancy Deluxe Cabin available.
Deluxe Cabin: $7895 US per person (Twin/Double Share)
Budget Cabin: $7350 US per person (Twin/Double Share)
The initial deposit for this trip is $800 US per person. At 12 months before departure there is a $1000 US per person interim deposit, and at six months there is another $1000 US per person interim deposit. The final balance will be due three months before departure. A few payment options are available including debit and credit cards.
Individual travelers – Ben will happily find someone of the same sex for you to share a room with. If he cannot find you someone, no single supplement surcharge will apply.
- 1 night accommodation at Jakarta Airport Hotel
- Round trip domestic flights, transfers, and connections (Jakarta-Manado and Sorong-Jakarta) with 20kg/44lbs checked baggage
- 11 nights accommodation and full board (all meals) on the Mermaid II Liveaboard
- A guide from Ben’s team
- 3-4 snorkel sessions per day
- International flights
- Snorkeling equipment
- Port clearance, harbor tax, national park fee: $275 US per person paid on board
- Fuel surcharge
- Travel and health insurance
- Alcoholic drinks, laundry and general sundries
Ben and his U.K. based team are the organizers and leaders of this trip (more about them below). Galen and Nicole from TropicalSnorkeling.com are promoting this trip, but all signups, trip organization and payments are made to and managed by Ben’s team. TropicalSnorkeling.com does receive a referral fee in exchange for promoting the trip, at no extra cost to attendees.
How to Sign Up or Learn More?
Use the contact form below to contact Ben and his team to request more information about them and express your interest in signing up. They will get back to you shortly with full details.
More About Ben and Our Partnership
Ben (pictured with Nicole) is our friend and snorkeling trips partner. He and his team are based in the U.K. and have over 20 years of experience guiding in Asia and beyond. He has been running his own business since 2010 and is primarily offering guided snorkeling trips, but he started with diving. He began offering snorkeling specific trips because he was aware that snorkelers often get the short end of the stick when thrown in with divers. He and his team love the freedom and low stress of snorkeling, and are very aware of the different needs of snorkelers versus divers, in terms of the reef depth, and calm surface conditions needed.
From our experience going on two of his snorkeling trips we found them very well organized, the guides were fantastic and very helpful, and the underwater experiences were exceptional. Snorkeling groups really get the benefit of all of Ben and his guides’ years of experience in the water, and with different resorts and liveaboards.
All of his trips are small groups of 12-18 guests, or with a similar ratio of snorkelers to guides. These are premium trips including nearly everything you will need, accommodation, meals, transportation, and more.
His company is licensed and insured. Barring extreme circumstances they do not cancel trips.
Learn More About the Yacht
Completed Trip Dates
February 24 – March 8