Discovering the Banda Sea

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Discovering the Banda Sea

pygmy-sea-horseOur 100% Australian group from Dive Adventures arrived on the Indo Siren liveaboard on the afternoon of Oct 28. After introducing the yacht, its crew and the safety procedures, we just had to set up our diving gear and photo equipment before dinner. Late in the evening, we left Maumere on Flores Island for an exciting crossing trip which will bring us to Sorong on Irian Jaya in 15 days. We made our check out dive in the warm and clear water of Tanjung Gedong. We already spotted various marine life from Orang-utan crab to dogtooth tuna. Then we dived twice on the beautiful Serbete Wall eastbound and westbound. A strong tropical shower surprised us and our group preferred to relax onboard rather than diving at night.

bamboo-sharkOn the morning of our 3rd day, we dived the tiny Soangi Island once on the East side (the most colorful) and once on the West side. Then, after a 2 hour boat ride, we anchored in front of Lamalera, where villagers are still hunting whales as their ancestors did for generations. An afternoon dive at White House delighted the macro lovers; a baby frog fish was also spotted. After a friendly visit to the villagers, we dived again the same site at night and watched bamboo shark, lobster and flounder. After an overnight travelling to the East, we reached Beang Abang a small village on Pentar Island and stayed there for the whole day. Without lifting the anchor, 2 different styles of dive can be done, depending on the side of the bay. The West part of the bay is covered by black sand. We made 2 muck dives, in the morning and at night, full of crabs, shrimps, squids and cuttlefishes. Also 3 seahorses were spotted as well as a furtive mobula ray. Before and after lunch, we dived twice in the East part of the bay. That landscape was made of soft and hard coral. On and between the bommies of coral, we found a majestic painted frogfish, some ribbon eels, mantis shrimp and leaf scorpion fish.

seahorseContinuing our trip to the East, we stopped at Pura and Ternate, 2 islands close to each other. At Anemone valley (a very well chosen name) there is not a single metre square, which is not occupied by an anemone. With a visibility of more than 35m and some moderate current, we were drifting, literally, on a carpet of anemones. Then, during our 2nd morning dive, we explored The Arch, a wall full of cracks and small caves which are convenient shelters for a multitude of sweetlips, trigger fishes and snappers. At noon, we started our 24 hour boat ride to our next island to explore. It gave enough time for Her Honor Judge Kerry and Prosecutor Terry to sentence some of our “delinquent divers”.
Isolated in the Banda Sea, the volcanic island of Gunung Api (The fire mountain) has incredible clear water where we enjoyed a unique show. All around, a ballet of sea snakes (some of them more than 2 metres long) chasing their favorite prey… but, fortunately, ignoring divers completely. Beautiful black spot eels and huge dogtooth tunas were the other participants of the show. After further 14 hour North East navigation in the Banda Sea, on day 7, we reached 2 more isolated islands: Mai and Kadora, small and flat as a Maldivian island. Easy morning dives in calm water along an impressive wall; we had opportunity to watch some barracuda, small reef shark as well as the first green turtles of our diving safari.

mandarin-fishThere isn’t a dull moment on S/Y Indo Siren, time is passing very quickly and we are already beginning our 2nd week onboard. We anchored in front of Banda Island, to dive near the jetty before dusk and watched plenty of mandarin fish making their beautiful dance. The following morning, we took the opportunity to visit Banda Neira, a small city full of colonial history. Later in the day, back in the water to practise our favorite activity, we dived twice on the wall of Hatta Island to admire its beautiful and huge sea fans. Koon Island may be small but it was the place for great encounters: 5 hammerhead sharks during the first dive, then at the 2nd dive we spotted a leopard shark resting on a sandy terrace and during the 3rd dive we were following huge groups of shaded batfish and fusilliers.

guest-partyOn day 11, we approached Misool Island, the most southerly of the Four Kings. There at Magic Mountain, all divers were expecting to see manta and we actually saw 2 of them. Along with a juvenile reef shark, a wobbegong shark, Napoleon wrasse, a hawksbill turtle and a school of shaded batfish swimming around us during the safety stop, all these made this dive a great dive. Despite lower visibility, during the 2 following dives we saw a group of bumphead parrotfish, some trevallies as well as a reef octopus. Then it was time to party to celebrate Christopher’s birthday.

groupWe made 3 more dives near Misool, but due to poor visibility, we decided to move north to Waigeo island, one of the 4 kingdoms making Raja Ampat. It was a right decision as we were able to find better visibility there. At Otto reef we saw plenty of glass fish on beautiful corals. Then, at Blue Magic, we were lucky enough to find a huge Wobbegong shark sleeping under a coral table and at Mioskon a big group of bumphead parrotfish. Already 2 weeks have passed on board. Nov 10 was our last diving day of our special safari. We dived again at Mioskon and at Cape Kri where we watched an incredible number of hawksbill turtles. Finally it was time to navigate to Sorong, to spend the last night partying and to let our Australian guests prepare to travel back home.

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