Happy New Year,
Maurine and I are spending a few days R&R in lovely Sorong, aka So Wrong. Sorong is the gateway to West Papua and the Raja Ampat (R4) Islands. We are presently at the midway point of a 3 month diving survey to discover new sites and revisit old favorites. The results of our surveys along with the photos we are creating will be included in the guidebook we are producing on R4 in conjunction with Conservation International (CI). We have a couple of days break between trips and are presently at CI's offices, which is about the only place in town where we can access the internet.
Don't get me wrong Sorong is not the worse place we've ever had to stay but it certainly ranks in the top 5! Sorong is an oil town with few tourist amenities or infrastructure. Lonely Planet is spot on when they say, "Sorong is not a place to linger!" Actually it is getting better as more tourism (mainly diving) comes to the region. Since the air service into and out of Sorong is not the "best", tourists occasionally get stuck for a night or two. We are attempting to locate the best attractions Sorong has to offer. It is a difficult task. There are couple of decent restaurants, an internet lounge, and a comfortable hotel. Fortunately too, there is a good company that offers bird watching tours. Bird watching in Papua is outstanding and the chance of viewing two species of Bird's of Paradise on a day trip out of Sorong is likely.
We just returned from the newly opened Misool Eco Resort located in the heart of southern R4s best diving. The resort is "Conde' Nast Traveller" beautiful. The setting of the over the water bungalows is stunning. The resort is truly "eco", 90% of the wood used in the construction was milled from driftwood. When you consider they have more than 500 feet of over the water boardwalk you begin to realize, that is a lot of driftwood. If you are interested in visiting or knowing more about this incredible new resort check out their website, www.misoolecoresort.com.
Prior to our visit "down south" we were guests aboard Kararu Dive Voyages live-aboard, the Cheng Ho. With Cheng Ho we dived mostly in the north and were able to show the cruise directors some of the new sites we found on our survey last September. They were quite impressed by the sites and we were quite impressed by them! We had been hearing good things about Kerry and Hergen for over a year and they lived up to the hype. They were outstanding and rank right at the top of our list of the best cruise directors we have had the pleasure of meeting! Visit Cheng-Ho yourself and see what we mean, www.kararu.com.
R4 is really two destinations, the north and the south. It is possible to see both in one trip but you'll only barely see the highlights. If you have the time it really makes since to visit twice or do back-to back trips with different itineraries. We have a hard time deciding which region's diving we like better. It usually just boils down to where we are at the time. When you consider the caves of Uranine, the critter sites in Aljui and southern Batanta along with the stellar wide angle sites near Kri, Yangello and Fam you would have to say the diving in the north is more diverse. However, the south is home to one of the favorite places we have ever dived, the unique Blue Water Mangroves. And, of course, the sites near Fiabacet/Boo and Wagmab/Faroundi offer the most beautiful and diverse reef scenics on the planet. So it's really a toss-up.
So far this survey's diving included revisiting sites in the north and exploring new ones in the south. Many of the new sites we visited while staying at MER were stellar. The resort dives a number of locations not yet "discovered" by the live-aboards and many of them are outstanding. One day we went to the remote Daram island chain in the far east. We found a few great spots including a dive we are calling "The Candy Store". The site was unbelievable, two small rocks surrounded by submerged pinnacles, walls and ridges. There were so many fish and so much to see we didn't know where to begin. We were just like kids in a candy store. This is now one of our favorite spots in all of R4. We only spent one day in Daram and found 6 new sites. Many more await discovery. This is an area we hope to revisit sooner than later and feel sure will become a welcome addition to the itineraries of the live-aboards.
When checking our email this morning we read the latest news from Michele and Howard Hall about their new IMAX film, "Under the Sea-3D". From our previous blogs you will remember we worked with them on that project last year in PNG and Indonesia. The film is nearing completion and will open nation-wide in over a 100 IMAX theaters on Feb 5th. For those of you in Austin look for it at the Bob Bullock Theater on that day. Make sure and stay for the credits; our names should appear near the very end in the smallest print possible, but what the heck it will still be in 3D IMAX! So now that we are about to be famous we'll be looking forward to the rich part too.
We head back to sea the day after tomorrow. We have 3 more liveaboards and one more land-based resort to visit before completing the survey. We should be back in Bali in late February. Since we won't be able to access the internet between now and then don't expect a blog entry until we get back to Bali.
Hugs and Fishes to all,
Burt and Maurine