Raja Ampat Take – Two…
Raja Ampat Take – Two
Our second trip of the two-part photography workshop with Alex Mustard and I don’t think I have ever seen so many returning guests with such big smiles on their faces and looking soooooooo happy to be back onboard the Indo Siren, especially after only being off the boat for less than 24hours! When the 5 new guests were aboard and settled in we received our port clearance and then it was time to head back down to the beautiful area of Daram.
Andiamo was a favourite for our guests on the last trip and did not disappoint this time either. We jumped twice on this dive site as it has so much to offer. There is, of course the pinnacles but also the beautiful topography of the two islands themselves…. Spectacular and very difficult to get the divers out of the water! We then hopped in at the Candy Store where the soft corals were all out and the shallows were just beautiful! Some divers didn’t even go below 6m the whole dive! It was then time to cruise down to Yillet Kecil for our first night dive of the trip.
We planned to spend a little longer in the south this time and our next stop was the beautiful and fishy Boo Windows, where the currents this time helped with my modeling technic and I think we actually managed to get some pretty nice shots. Some guests from the week before who were already happy with their windows shots, decided to start the hunt for the Misool (Red & White) pygmy seahorse and they were successful with some very special photos to prove it. Second dive Boo West where we had a rather photogenic turtle who didn’t mind being chased around the reef too much our guests got great shots of him munching away on his breakfast. We decided to head west to Wayil Batan for the afternoon as Gorgonian Passage! Where as usual the current was running which made it extremely difficult to model for Nadia and Alex, I felt like I had run a marathon by the end of it all.
Something a little special for us on Day four of this trip as we headed over to the Islands of Pele to dive Kalidescope and Toblarone, we had 8 mobula rays cruise on by as well as spotting the bargibanti and denise pygmy seahorse. Suzy tried out some back lighting on some soft coral which looked pretty cool. Back to Wayil Batan for dives three and four and we hit wedding Cake/Batu Kecil which was especially fishy and we had beautiful conditions for reflections and snells shots. Again we had to pull the guests out of the water. Fiabect – Nudi & Tank Rocks, Yillet Kecil for our last chance to photograph the Misool Pygmy Seahorse and then a Sunset dive of Boo Windows! Which we loved…. Before we knew it an hour was gone! Whoops. After the dive we cruised up to the islands of Farondi to overnight and be ready for our last two dives in the South before heading north to Dampier and Yangeffo. Currents had picked up significantly in the morning and tides were certainly not doing what they were supposed to so it was a quick change in dive site and we hit Wagmab Wall for some macro shots. Loads of beautiful nudis and plenty of seahorses to share around. After lunch we went for a “jalan jalan” to the northern side of Farondi and Wagmab to a hidden lagoon where we explored the huge bat cave with all of the stalactites and mites!
Day seven and the weather has certainly changed. Pouring with rain first thing in the morning yesterday and today, so the hope of beautiful splits in the mangroves was not looking hugely optimistic, however Citrus Ridge as our first dive was “awesome”. Wobbegongs, seahorses, nudis, barracuda, jacks, batfish, beautiful soft yellow corals and Julian squeezing the thigh of a diver from another group thinking it was me ….. very entertaining! The sun was starting to peak through after breakfast so they decided to give it a go in the mangroves and had a great time with modeling cuttlefish, crocodile fish, archer fish, and many more. The divers headed over to Mangrove Ridge and I have to say I have never seen it so fishy at the top of the reef. A school of huge bumphead parrot fish, hundreds of different schooling fusilier and plenty of macro, the mushroom coral pipefish, and dancing (signal) goby being my personal favourites. Apparently the Mantas were not all that fussed by the weather either today so didn’t show up to their cleaning station but we did have wobbegongs and jacks and barracuda… oh and the pontohi pygmy seahorse of course. The next morning we hit Sardine Reef, unfortunately along with another boat. Apparently the girl that had her thigh squeezed enjoyed it and wanted to chance her luck again ;0) Very fishy and also for those still in love with macro – yes there were more Pontohi pigmys to be seen. For the second dive we were hoping to check out Mikes Point but the currents were whirling around the reef so we decided a better option was Cape Kri instead for a gentle drift dive and also a rare sighting of some harlequin shrimp.
Back to Misokon for a day dive! Such a beautiful site and plenty of Pontohi to go around. Julian found a rather injured blue ringed octopus of which Jarret got a great shot! On our previous trip everyone had had a great night dive on Saonek Jetty and so we decided to hit it again this time in hope for more of the same. We had toad fish, bobtail squid, candy crabs, cuttlefish…..fab! Keeping everything crossed for our last chance at getting up to The Passage but the skies were still gray and wet! So we decided to hit Blue Magic again in the hope for mantas in the morning instead (where are you mantas!!!!???), followed by popular request Mioskon again and then a day and night dive on Arborek Jetty!
Final dive day and it was over to Manta Sandy to try to get our first sighting of some mantas! And yes they were there and performing nicely!!!! Some guests had opted for some macro photography and Phil got his best Pontohi shot on manta sandy – go figure! We also had Pegasus sea moth, orangutan crabs and much much more! Currents picked up on our way to Otdima for our last dive of the trip with the large schools of sweetlips and so we were a little late to drop in. Regardless of the current and our guests flying along the reef everyone enjoyed it as we hadn’t really experienced much current on this trip! Some made it down to the sweetlips and had plenty of time to take some sweet shots. A good day on the whole to finish off our trip. It was time to head back to Sorong and on the way we put the sails up for those that wanted to take some pictures! The sun was shining now which was great! In the evening Alex had put together yet another great slide show from the trip. We really enjoyed your company and getting to explore some new locations. The level of photography was incredible! Hopefully some competition winners in the future! Keep us posted! Take care and we hope to see you blowing bubbles with us again really soon! Leeza & Indo Siren Crew
Photos by Suzy-Walker-Toye, Andy Deitsch and Julian Cohen