Raja Ampat - West Papua
The sparsely populated Raja Ampat Islands comprise more than 1500 islands just off Sorong. With their sublime scenery of steep, jungle-covered islands, fine white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons, spooky caves, weird mushroom-shaped islets and pellucid turquoise waters, Raja Ampat is without question one of the most beautiful island chains in the world.
The name of Raja Ampat comes from local mythology that tells about a woman who finds seven eggs. Four of the seven eggs hatch and become kings that occupy four of Raja Ampat biggest islands (Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo and Misool), whilst the other three become a ghost, a woman, and a stone.
And this is where my next Scuba Diving Adventure begins, after 30 hours of flights, transiting, more flights and a 2hr ferry ride from Sorong to reach Waisai.
From my recent diving trips, MMF Internship and general Bali experiences I finally committed to do a Liveaboard Trip through the Islands of Raja Ampat, 'The Last Paradise' with some local Indonesian friends.
After reaching the MY Blue Dragon, we were given a briefing, allocated rooms and unpacked our dive gear, hoping for an afternoon dive. However we were called to the top deck for a meeting to be advised the boat is currently embargo to the Port of Waisai as the previous Skipper had hit some coral and caused damage.
Well, not the news anyone wanted to hear, nor was there any imminent remedy to the issue as the Indonesian Police, Port Authorities and Owner were in headlock discussions about the issue and huge fine penalty. Even though we we not allowed to leave and sail the Islands we were very close to Central Raja and some amazing dive sites.
Arrangements were made to get us in the water and head to the likes of Blue Magic, Cape Kri, Sauwan Darek, Mangrove, Sardine reef and Mikes Point...plus more over the next few days as we were land locked at Saonek Jetty.
These sites certainly delivered, how ever for me and many others on Blue Magic we had no Manta's in particular any Oceanic Manta which was high on my to see list. I must admit Cape Kri had me coming to the surface screaming in jubilation of joy, as it was just tooo much to reflect in words. On this dive at around 35-40 metres the site to see are the groups of Sweetlips fish who are calm, inquisitive and photogenic.
My favourite photograph of the Sweetlips on Cape Kri
Day after day as tensions get high and frustrations rise concerned about the loss of a dream scuba liveaboard vacation for all involved who have travelled from all over the World. A meeting was convened with the Owner who spoke with us about the matter, and listened to our frustrations and concerns about the loss of the trip and monies spent.
Finally after several land locked days we left the confines of land, however it was toooo late to head to Misool and other areas of Raja Ampat that are a must see and to dive. Some of the sites we finally got out to dive were, Melisa's Garden, My Reef, Keruo Channel, Arborek Jetty, Manta Ridge, Yenbuba Jetty and Lalosi.
Some examples of reefs and marine life
Part of the Raja Ampat trip usually includes the mandatory visit to the Geosite Piaynemo Lookout day trip and hike. Was nice to get off the boat, hit some 'terra firma' and walk up to the lookout. There we shared many laughs, photo's and moments to up-lift everyones spirits. The day was warm and slightly muggy but well worth the moderate climb to appreciate the views and take some time-out from the past few days.
Time to re-board the Blue Dragon and head to some more dive sites further out in the Central Region, this is what we came here for, Let's Go Diving as the was literally no time to waste. As we kept steaming out to different site, there was one day where we had the most amazing, idealic and picturesque Surface Interval you could ever ask for at Pasir Timbul.
Living on board an Indonesian Phinisi you get up close and personal to your dive buddies and all the crew as there is not much room on board, the dive deck and the rooms. This makes for a personal trip and divers are like minded as you can hopefully see in our faces of the photos below.
In closing Raja Ampat left me wanting more as I did not get to experience South island and dive sites of Misool, and in particular for me Manta Sandy. Let's just hope there is another chance to experience it in full in the very near future.
May I leave you with a photograph I am proud of as I only shoot with a compact camera. This is around the size of a cooked grain of rice in a sea fan that the Seahorse mimics making it very difficult to find and focus on.
A Pygmy Seahorse, the Hippocampus bargibanti