Stunning Corals and Huge Fish Schools

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Stunning Corals and Huge Fish Schools

group-raja-mapat-on-indo-sirenThird trip into the Raja Ampat season and we had a great mix of guests from Colorado, USA as well as Singapore and Hong Kong, Belgium and Canada and last but not least Switzerland! When all guest settled on board we went for our big boat briefing as well as our muster drill. Late at night the captain pulled up anchor and the Indo Siren started her cruise in direction Batanta Island and after a smooth crossing we arrived as planned at 6am, just in time for our first beautiful sunrise. Batanta Island is pure muck diving, so after the big dive briefing all guests got ready for their check dive at “Algae Patch”; black sand and a gentle sloping reef with 20 different types of algae and sea grass, phenomenal! Nudibranchs where ever you look, wonderpus, devil scorpion fish, lion fish, emperor shrimps, porcelain crabs and cleaner shrimps on all kinds of soft coral just an amazing start. We did two more dives in Batanta Island “Happy Ending” and “Reflection”, before taking the direction down south to the famous Misool Area. 13 hours smooth travel on an almost flat sea!

pic51In the Daram Island area we made our first dive in the morning at “Candy Store” with a 40-50m visibility, two small limestone islands divided by a small valley and plateaus on each side, amazing walls full of gorgonians and each different type of gorgonian has its own pygmy seahorse family. For our next two dives we opted for “Living Colours” and “Andiamo” to be surrounded by schools of batfish and yellow fin barracudas and again almost every second gorgonian teaming with pygmy seahorses, great visibility and walls of pink and purple soft coral, only to be interrupted by walls of orange and yellow soft coral. For the night dive we sailed to the south of Misool to “Yellit Kecil”. “Boo Windows”, a beautiful limestone island with several holes in its stem was the site of our next morning’s dive it being high tide the windows are under water and you can look through them. We had plenty of fish action too with schools of yellow fin barracuda, giant trevallies hunting on blue striped fusiliers. Bumphead parrot fish coming for cleaning, hawksbill turtles feeding on sponges. It’s just teaming with life. Next stop our most southern reef “Magic Mountain” a big submerged reef also bustling with life. Already upon arrival we were greeted by dolphins on the surface, underwater its like coming straight out of a Discovery Channel documentary; schools and schools of fish surrounding the pinnacle, patrolled by white tip reef sharks and the occasional grey reef shark checking out all the commotion. For the afternoon we went back to Boo Island and did the afternoon and sunset dive in “Boo East” followed by “Boo Windows” in a golden sunset mood. Just across from Misool Eco Resort our early morning dive was “Tank Rock” followed by “Boo West”, “Nudi RocK” & “Whale Rock”. Plush fields of soft coral, Gorgonians, Leather corals and finger corals; the diversity and critter density is amazing. Staying in the Misool area we dived close to Wayil Batan Island, the first one “Gorgonian Passage” is a small passage between two lime stone islands lined on each side with beautiful gorgonians. Afterwards we grabbed a mooring in the entrance of a beautiful bay in close range of our other three dive sites, “Wedding Cake”, named after its shape and “Dunia Kecil” the small wall followed in the evening by “Barracuda point”. All day we have been the only divers in the area meanwhile between the dives we took the Kayaks and dinghies for a cruise up the bay surrounded by shallow turquoise water and a ring of limestone islands. What a Kodak moment!

pic27First stop in the morning “Yellit Kecil”. We returned to this fantastic dive site for a day dive this time. A colorful wall again over grown with soft corals and gorgonians. Big schools of fusiliers, sardines and snapper chased by hunting bat fish, jacks and long nose emperors. In the shallows we had stone fish, scorpion fish, octopus, turtles and candy crabs on pink plush pompom soft corals. Afterwards we started our slow drive up to the north. First stop being the reef “Anti Chovy” a submerged large pinnacle in the blue with 4 towering almost chimney like pillar rock formations. With clouds of fusiliers, sardines, big eyed mackerels hunted and chased by giant trevallies and blue fined jacks, it’s just amazing. Further north we went for the last dive of the day next to Balbulol Island to a dive site called “Love Potion”. Again we had stunning rainbow colored soft coral walls, full of critters, just breathtaking. Last stop in the Misool Area was a fantastic lagoon tour with our dinghies and kayaks couple with plenty of Bintang in cooling boxes and heaps of fun. Balbulol is an island formation made up of lime stone pillar mushroom mountains and shallow turquoise water, almost like a labyrinth that leeds you to a secret secluded miniature world. We opened up our Bintang pool bar surrounded by walls of tropical lush vegetation, orchids and hanging plants birds like Parakeets and Cacadu’s. Floating in chest high clear water on a sandbank, that’s what I call chilling and relaxing! Just in time for sunset we started our 13 hours trip up north to Waigeo Island for some great diving and some big stuff!

arborek pier raja ampatHurrah we are in the north, first stop is Yangefo and Gam Island, between both islands is a small horse shoe like channel with mangrove lined embankments. What beautiful scenery for our first dive at “Citrus Ridge”. This ridge gets its name from the yellow and orange soft corals that grow in the slopes, it’s a small plateau on the entrance to the mangrove lagoon and the morning drift dive took everybody’s breath away. We had wobbegongs and schools of snappers and fusiliers, Bump head parrot fish, morays, stone fish, scorpion fish an array of hunters as well. Second dive of the day “Lalosi Reef”, a big ridge submerged underwater lying in a channel, starting at 5m with gentle slopes of hard and soft coral, that bottoms out around 25m at the deepest part. We had again wobbegongs, black tip reef sharks, Hawksbill turtles, schools of fusiliers and bumpheads, stingrays and a halmeda ghost pipe fish. Dive three and four we moored up right next to Arborek Island and dived just under the wooden jetty and the beach facing the local village. This is always a great critter dive, from all kinds of nudibranchs to cuttlefish and octopus, crabs and schools of small fish under the jetty, hunted by lion fish and bearded scorpion fish. Between the dives we went to visit the people of Arborek and play some volley ball with the kids.

manta 1Good morning rainy season, all night it has been raining and also quite windy so we went for “Manta Sandy” in the hope it would clear up a bid, but no chance. The waves went up to two meters and boarding the dinghies became almost impossible. We decided to run for cover and a small chance of a morning dive, back to the Mangrove Island of Yangefo. What a good idea this was, inside the horse shoe creek, we had calm water and no wind so we could, a bit delayed, still do our first two morning dives. In the afternoon we gave “Manta Sandy” another try and have been lucky, the weather had calmed the waves were better and we had “Manta Sandy” all to ourselves. Two Mantas needed an urgent scrub and us delighted divers lined up for the show. Yanbeser is our last stop for today and after dinner a small group went for the night dive spotting the elusive Epaulette (walking) shark.

wobbegong-under-marineThe Dampier Strait was to be our last port of call for this 10-night liveaboard safari. First dive ag “Miokskon Island”; a beautiful small island with a large plateau around, protecting it, the island is used by thousands of flying foxes as sleeping ground. It has also an indigenous seahorse, the Mioskon Pigmy Seahorse and we were lucky and found it for our guests, next to Wobbegongs and schools of Yellow striped snappers, Octopus, Turtles, giant morays and Napoleon Wrasse. Our last dive of the cruise was the great ride at “Cap Kri”. This one mile long reef sloping from five to 25m has amazingly healthy hard and soft coral and teams with schools of fusiliers, snappers, sardines, bumphead parrot fish, big eyed soldier fish, big eyed sweepers, giant trevallies, blue fined jacks, black and white tip reef sharks, all is seen as we whoosh past in a 3knot current drift dive. What a ride! Afterwards we rinsed and cleaned all equipment and started our sailing back to Sorong arriving just in time for a glorious final sunset and afarewell cocktail on the sundeck.

Time to say goodbye once more, we had a fantastic eleven days again with an amazing mix of guests, our young and agile” Singapore Gang”, battling a cold, but standing their ground. Our seasoned and well-traveled “Colorado Rocky Mountain Gang” not giving any ground to the Singapore bunch, the Belgium and Canadian buddy team standing their man against all weather conditions. From us on the Indo Siren, thank you for making this such a great trip we loved having you on board and maybe one day, hopefully soon we see you guys again, somewhere, someplace on one of our yachts in the Worldwide Dive and Sail universe! Sampi Jumpa Lagi, Alex and the crew of the Indo Siren!

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