Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat
Sorong, Indonesia

 


Time to leave already.

That’s sad.

I had a bit of a lie in, until 8am. Before going to put all my dive stuff out into the sun.

It is still wet. Annoying.

I had some fruit for breakfast and sat around until it was time to leave at 10.30am.

It didn’t take too long to get to the airport, back along the unpaved road, through the village and past some cows grazing through mountains of plastic rubbish. For this flight to Sorong, checked luggage was only 10kg. I seem to have around 24kg now. And for the first time, I had to pay excess. A grand total of £13.

The airport is tiny. But has about 5 mini eating places! A couple of not very exciting shops and a room to sit and wait. We left a little bit late. People faf a lot here. And always sit in the wrong seats. I don’t get it.

The plane was a smallish propellor place. Not a big fan of these!

The resort had given me a packed lunch for the place, which was cute. I had asked for just rice and tempeh. But instead I got given rice, tofu and garlicky oily vegetables. A bit annoying, but can’t complain as it was kind of them to prepare!

We landed at 2pm and my pick up was waiting for me, to drive to the harbour to join the boat! I was the last person to arrive. T

he drive through the city was not too exciting. More like a town. With standard colourful Indonesian buildings and chaotic (mostly motorbike) traffic.

Everyone was already ready. Gear set up. And they were already starting all the briefings. So it was a complete rush to set up my stuff, set up my camera and going diving straight away!

The dive was in Sorong bay, just outside the city. It was a relatively shallow reef, at 12m. Pretty average reef. But something new – a wobbegong shark! Or, another name being a carpet shark. It is brown and flat and has a mouth covered in tassels. And a bargibanti Pygmy seahorse which was cool.

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After the dive, we started sailing. Out of the mainland and towards the national park.

Sunday 20 November 2016

We sailed all night, only arriving at 5am. Which woke me up..! We are in such a beautiful place, surrounded by small rocky islands. But it’s cloudy and raining. So disappointing.

Out at 7am and before we had even jumped in we could see mantas. We sat at 10m for the whole dive watching 3 mantas circle around in front of us for an hour.

Annoyingly by camera housing fogged.

I was hungry, but breakfast was a bit disappointing. Nothing vegan. So I just had some oats. And then we were going again.

Doing the second dive in the same place, but starting from a channel. The current was so strong we were all separated and nearly swept off the reef. Saw a black tip zoom by. But then we were back at the manta place and they were still there. 2 of them this time. So stayed there for the rest of the dive! So silly that I hadn’t brought my wide lens. And the visibility wasn’t great.

Lunch was so good. Spicy tempeh and rice. And then a bit of a rest before the third dive. I nearly fell asleep, but just as I was falling asleep, they rang the bell to get up and go diving again.

This dive had great corals. It would have been so pretty in the sunlight. If there was any..! Had a black tip swimming past a few times. A pontoi Pygmy seahorse – so cool! And another wobbegong just hanging out on the top of the reef.

The rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to clear slightly.

5.1478736000.manta

We were going out for a hike at 5pm. On the small speedboats we entered a lagoon, surrounded by small rocky islands. We had to clamber up some tree roots to get out of the boat. Then scramble up the dirt, slipping on loose rocks, to reach the top of the island. The views were great, back over the lagoon.

Sadly we aren’t going to the postcard picture of raja ampat – that is much further away. There wasn’t much of a sunset, due to the clouds. But the views were great.

And back down the way we had come. I was surprised that Being so awkward, I didn’t fall!

5.1478736000.rocky-islands

Monday 21 November 2016

The engines started at 5am and woke me. But we weren’t diving until 7am. And the sun was finally out! The first dive was a submerged reef with potential for a strong current. But despite having to drop through 20m of blue water to reach the reef, it was surprisingly calm.

The visibility today was much better, the water was so blue. And the corals were really nice. We dropped into a massive school of fusiliers. Nothing too exciting, a small school of chevron barracuda, some tuna, another pontoi Pygmy seahorse (which is really cool).

Breakfast was much better today. They actually had options I could eat! So had some porridge and fruit.

A local family had driven their small boat up to ours and were selling coconuts. The boat bought some and they were so delicious! The best coconut water I’ve ever tried. But was then feeling so full…! We weren’t meant to dive again until 11am, but seemed to be running early. So we were off at 10am.

This time, to a large rock. Again the corals were really nice. Some large seafans. And something new – a mushroom coral pipefish. A small white string like worm weaving around a mushroom coral (which is like an anemone). Was cool. Plus some standard things – hawksbill turtle. Towards the end of the dive, we swan through a hole in the rock. Loads of soft corals around.

This week consists of diving and eating, as it was then lunchtime! More tofu…which I’m not a massive fan of.

For the next few hours we drove to a new spot. And I was feeling so tired. I fell asleep for a few minutes, then we arrived and off diving again! We were parked in a bay, between some beautiful forested rocky islands, surrounded by mangroves. But not muddy mangroves. These mangroves are on a coral reef. The afternoon was in the mangrove reef and very similar to Mabul in landscape. But severely lacking in life. That is one thing I have noticed here, the lack of animals living in the reef. There was a really nice sunset, with an orange sky. And of course, time to go diving again. Not the biggest fan of night dives. And this came with drift, which is even worse. So the group was on top of each other. Again, nothing too exciting. Soft coral crabs, prawns and a Pygmy cuttlefish. When we surfaced, it had started to rain. After we had had such a sunny day!

Dinner was at 8pm. So late! I was so hungry. But my options were limited. So kecap manis on rice. Everyone got dessert too. And I got a slice of the usual melon. Whilst I really like melon, not particularly exciting.

5.1478736000.1-reef

Tuesday 22 November 2016

I was up again at 5am, with the crew power washing the boat outside my window…! So I watched the sunrise and it looked to be a nice sunny day again.

The first dive was nearby the dives we had done yesterday afternoon. On one of the other nearby rocky islands. The soft corals were amazing and we had really good visibility. There were a few schools of fish around – bat fish and barracuda. A free swimming wobbegong and a moray (no idea why everyone got so excited about a swimming giant moray…!) The water was so flat, it was like glass. And we ended right on a small white sand empty beach. So pretty.

The boat was parked up nearby a mangrove island and whilst we had breakfast (porridge and fruit) several eagles and other eagle-like birds were swooping around and diving into the water around us. They were huge.

5.1478736000.2-reef

Not much of a break before heading off diving again. This time the visibility wasn’t great and the corals not too exciting. Didn’t see much. A wobbegong hiding under a rock a cool bright yellow nudibranch that I’ve not seen before. And a devil ray zooming past. Back on the boat and time for lunch. I never get much option for food, so had rice with peanut sauce. And some melon. And we set sail again. We sailed near to a small village. Literally about 10-15 houses. And a million children. Our third dive was along the reef next to the village. The reef was bland and not exciting. The only good part of the dive was at the end. Underneath the jetty, the sun was going down and the light was shining through the wooden beams. Bat fish and rabbit fish were hanging out underneath. Really pretty.

5.1478736000.under-jetty

I wasn’t really feeling like night diving. But I was told it was good. And I didn’t want to miss out. But it was 1 hour of literally nothing. I saw a few prawns (not exciting) and that was all. Completely not worth getting cold and wet for. The most exciting part of the evening (definitely not diving, or a dinner of plain rice) was that we had phone signal again. After 3 days of absolutely nothing.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Today I was feeling really tired. And hungry. And my ear was really hurting.

I have been taking antibiotics, which briefly helped. But I ran out. And my ear infection came back worse. But luckily I can still equalise. So I can still dive.

The first dive was at Cape Kri. This is a sand bar and one of the most famous dive sites in Raja Ampat. This is where it was first noticed that the area is very biodiverse. I can’t say I was that overwhelmed. Some nice coral fans. A serverns Pygmy seahorse. But then the end was really good. First a small school of jackfish. Then a school of chevron barracuda. Yellow tail barracuda. Unicorn fish. Snapper. Red tooth trigger fish. Thousands of them. All swimming around together. So cool. A short break and we were out again. This time to another famous dive site around here – Blue Magic. This has the potential for oceanic mantas. But we weren’t so lucky. A school of jackfish and that was all. The third dive was at an ok reef. A nice school of blue striped snapper. But nothing else.

I definitely wasn’t up for night diving tonight. I didn’t need to be cold and wet for no reason. And was being miserable. I even properly showered and dressed and went to the dive briefing, just because I had nothing else to do. But the briefing was for a sandy rubble slope. No coral. Lots of rubbish. And I was sold. Muck diving is my favourite. And am I pleased I went. As soon as we went down I was on top of a small cuttlefish, 10 plus washfish (several species) and then 2 Ambon scorpionfish.

IMG_8994

Ridiculous! I’ve never seen those before – they’ve been on my list for a long time. But they are incredibly rare and are barely even seen in Ambon anymore (where they were discovered and named after). And a small frog fish. The only annoying part of the dive was the site was relatively small and most people have zero buoyancy control or self awareness. So there was a lot of people kicking up sand all around me.

5.1478736000.reef

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