We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are on track for a memorable New Year. We celebrated Christmas and New Year's aboard the Seahorse (www.indocruises.com). The Seahorse is a traditional "Pinisi"-style vessel built for diving. Most of Indonesia's liveaboards begin their lives as Pinisi schooners, the traditional Dutch-Bugis hybrids that have been used for the last few centuries as inter-island trade vessels. The Seahorse was conceived as a dive vessel and many dive-friendly features were built into the design so it is one of the better Pinisis we have sailed on.
We had excellent diving both in the northern and southern regions of Raja Ampat. We found a few new sites, a couple of which were world-class, and visited some of our favorites. Maurine hadn't really gotten to know the Fiabacet to Boo area of SE Missol that well, so she was very excited to be able to spend a few days in the area. That one stretch of reef is truly extraordinary, actually worthy of its own book. I could go on and on about the details of the place but words will never do it justice. Come diving with us and see it for yourself.
Currently the only way to visit the region is on a liveaboard, but soon all you who prefer land-based will have a way to see these reefs. Missol Eco-Resort is about 8-12 months away from being a reality. (They have a website but I'm not sure what it is, just google the resort by name and you'll find it.) The owners are doing an incredible job. They've done their homework with the locals and are building the resort out of driftwood they scavenge from the beaches. The facility is lovely, and the location is drop-dead gorgeous! The bungalows are on stilts over the bay, so every room not only has a view but a hammock over open water. A research center is under construction for scientists to study the region's fauna and a local "village" is being built to house the workers. This resort will be state-of-the art and an "eco-resort" in the truest sense of the word. Their biggest challenge will be accessibility, but then the best places are often the most remote. We wish them the best and will be monitoring their progress over the coming months.
After our tour of Raja we returned to Bali for a few days and then flew west, to Singapore, in order to arrive in PNG, only a few hundred miles east of where we had been for the last month. It is truly a case of "you can't get there from here" as it is impossible to fly from Papua, the Indo province, to Papua New Guinea. We are now on New Britain Island (PNG) at Walindi Resort (more lovely than we remembered) waiting on the tons of gear to arrive that are required for our next adventure: advising Howard and Michele Hall on their latest film project, the sequel to their acclaimed "Deep Sea 3D" IMAX film. Before you get the wrong idea rest assured that Maurine and I haven't given up the still cameras, we are here for our "critter-wrangling" abilities. We are looking for content; Howard and crew will do the filming.
We are very excited about the region where we are slated to film. Alan Raabe, owner of Febrina and Star Dancer, has visited the south coast of New Britain over the years but the area we are going has never been on either ship's normal itinerary. From what Alan says, however, we might be in for a real treat. We have to steam half-way round New Britian to get to the site which is only 30 miles as the crow, or should I say the bird-of paradise, flies from Walindi. We will be diving off black sand beaches with cool water upwellings, freshwater inlets and an occasional village thrown in for additional organic input to complete the mix. It sounds like lot like Lembeh! They've seen frogfish, rhinopias and odd octopi on previous trips so we are primed for exploring what we hope will be the newest hot-spot.
Stay tuned for the report. You'll likely have to wait until we are back in the states, however, since we won't have internet access until the trip is over. That will be in February. Stay tuned...
Happy New Year,
Burt and Maurine