This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Russel Wallace, the renowned Victorian naturalist and co-discoverer of the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection with Charles Darwin.
To celebrate the milestone the Indonesian expedition cruise operator, SeaTrek Sailing Adventures is offering the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and explore, on land and underwater, the areas around North Maluku, the Papua region and the biodiverse region of Raja Ampat that so captivated Wallace.
Options include a series of special expert-led trips in the company of acknowledged Wallace expert, Dr George Beccaloni, departing on 20th September and 4th October 2023 and 6th February 2024.
Evolutionary biologist and science historian Dr Beccaloni has spent many years researching the life and work of Wallace and is the founder and Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project. Throughout the tours he will be offering special lectures and will be available to engage with guests to offer an even deeper understanding of Wallace’s discoveries.
Wallace is regarded as one of the greatest naturalists of all time. In addition to jointly publishing the theory of evolution with Darwin in 1858, he made major contributions to biology and diverse subjects including glaciology, astrobiology, anthropology and epidemiology. Wallace spent eight years in the region that is now Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and the book he wrote about his journey, The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan, and the Bird of Paradise, is one of the most highly regarded scientific travelogues of the 19th century.
The October SeaTrek journey, In Search Of Wallace And His Living Treasures With Dr George Beccaloni, is a 12-day itinerary from Ternate in the Maluku Islands to Sorong in West Papua, travelling aboard the traditional, UNESCO-heritage Indonesian wooden pinisi sailing ship, the 12-cabin Ombak Putih.
One of the first stops includes a visit to the village of Dodinga where Wallace was living when, in a fit of malarial delirium, he discovered the mechanism which drives evolutionary change – natural selection.
Further opportunities for naturalists will be pre-dawn forest walks to try and spot colourful lesser birds-of-paradise and the red bird-of-paradise, one of the species Wallace was most keen to collect. With the help of SeaTrek’s knowledgeable guides it might be possible to see these rare birds perform their elaborate courtship displays.
Off the western coast of Bacan there will be the chance to explore the forested slopes where Wallace made some of his greatest zoological discoveries, including the place where he first saw what he called “the most beautiful butterfly in the world”, the golden birdwing butterfly.
As the boat makes its way through the Dampier strait, home of some of Raja Ampat’s premier reefs, there will be time to visit Yenbeser village where Wallace spent some months. Over the course of voyage there will be opportunities to snorkel in coral rich waters, explore reefs teeming with fish, swim in lakes filled with stingless jellyfish and snorkel amongst giant clams.
Other highlights include visiting a partially submerged cave with a cavernous grotto adorned with stalactites and seeing prehistoric cave paintings, as well as a visit a coconut crab sanctuary to see the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod.
Based in Bali, SeaTrek is one of the premier expedition cruising operators in the Indonesian archipelago, with over 30 years’ experience showing guests the distinctive beauty and charm of Indonesia’s exotic islands. Their vessels have highly trained crews and tour guides and offer a variety of charters, scheduled cruises and expert-led cruises for travellers that want to explore the unique natural wonder, history and cultures of this far-flung corner of the world.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of SeaTrek Sailing Adventures