Don’t get too excited this blog’s title does not refer to a stellar new divesite we recently discovered but to the fact that a friend just wrote saying she loved the blog, but we appeared to have DROPPED-OFF the radar screen recently. I know in the last blog entry I promised to be diligent about writing more frequently, but we’ve been very busy and time has again slipped away. Hopefully you have noted we put our time to good use and, in addition to other projects, have redesigned our website. A special thanks goes to Peter Blumtritt for his site design.
At the end of May we returned from Singapore where we received new visas and, in early June, I headed to Komodo for a trip aboard one of our favorite live-aboards, 7 Seas. It had been a couple of years since we had dived in the park, and even longer since we dove our favorite southern sites in Horseshoe Bay and Manta Alley. Even though the water in the south was cold, we had super encounters with the mantas, and Cannibal Rock, although it clearly shows wear and tear from too many photographers lying on the reef, was still glorious. The fishy sites in the north, like Crystal Bommie and Castle Rock, were better than ever. Both sites had more fish including big fish, like dog-tooth tuna and GTs (Giant Trevally) than I remembered from previous visits. Sharks, too, are returning to these sites. Castle Rock has a small pod of dolphins that frequently visit and are becoming accustomed to divers. Komodo’s popularity is well deserved.
In the meantime we continued to dedicate most of our waking hours to the guidebook, “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat”. To make a long story short, it is finished! We took delivery on them last week. The effort was monumental, especially toward the end, but the result is a book we are proud of. We went to Jakarta for the 48-hour non-stop print run. I should give credit where credit is due. Maurine and our publisher, Sarita Newson, pulled the back-to-back all nighters since I had to leave after the first day to prepare for a month in Komodo again aboard 7 Seas.
It hasn’t been all work and no play, however. Right before going to Jakarta for the book’s printing, we had to leave Indonesia again for a visa renewal (we have to exist/reenter every 2 months). We went to Bangkok, Thailand this time. We are lucky to have access to Air Asia, one of the world’s fastest growing airline companies. They offer no-frills budget airfares throughout SE Asia. So a trip to Thailand is quite affordable. In Bangkok, we hooked up with Mark, one of our best friends from Austin. He was in the area on business, but more importantly his significant other, Bo, is Thai and her family lives in Bangkok. Mark really knows his way around the city and Bo’s family treated us like royal guests. It also just happened to be my birthday so we had ample reason to take advantage of Bangkok’s remarkable cuisine and nightlife. My birthday started at 4 AM with a visit to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) to pray with the monks. It ended at a back-street noodle house 22 hours later with a bowl of the best Pad Thai on the planet! Some of the activities must remain censored, no sordid details! Let me assure you, however, we had a grand time, although we all paid for it the next few days. Our thanks go to Mark, Bo’s family, and our incomparable taxi driver, Sam. Sam knows Bangkok and everything that is available in Bangkok!
I left for Komodo the day Maurine returned from Jakarta. Ten days later, with the first bound copy of “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat” in hand, Maurine boarded the Damai, a new liveaboard, on it’s maiden voyage. This is the ship we have chartered for our 2010 dive itineraries. The ship proved itself and Maurine was very impressed. Congratulations to Damai’s owner Alberto. No doubt, Damai will quickly become one of the favorite liveaboards in Indonesia’s fleet.
As planned I, aboard 7 Seas, rendezvoused with Maurine on the last day of her cruise aboard Damai. Maurine “jumped” ship and joined 7 Seas for another cruise. Our lives had been a whirlwind for the past weeks so it was great for us to be together and for me to see the book. We had a lovely cruise visiting the best Komodo had to offer both north and south. We found two different species of Rhinopias in Horseshoe Bay and the big fish action in the north was spectacular. Dragons were abundant both on the beaches in Horseshoe and on the Rinca Island walk. Every nest had a female dragon guarding it so there were plenty of photo-ops.
Next week Maurine and I will join our friend Fred Dion, former owner of Underwater Photo Tech, now part of the Backscatter group, in Manado. We will dive Lembeh and Bunaken. We are really looking forward to being with Fred again, and seeing our divemaster friends at Lembeh. Hunting for critters in Lembeh is so much fun, it’s like an Easter egg hunt! We will be back to Bali toward the end of September. “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat” will debut here in Indonesia at the prestigious Ubud Book and Writer’s Festival the first week in October. Then the last week of October we will fly to the states for a visit with family and friends. It will be a whirlwind of activity starting with my mother’s 97th birthday in Texas, quickly followed by a trip to Connecticut to visit M’s sister, then down to Florida for the guidebook’s US debut at the annual dive industry trade show DEMA. After the show we will return to Texas for another week before heading to what we hope someday to be our new home, upstate California. We’ll stay there until Thanksgiving when we head back to Bali to continue the battle to save the world’s reefs one book at a time.
BTW, “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat” will be available from the website as soon as they arrive in the states. It will likely still be a couple of months, but keep checking. We will also be sending out a newsletter about the book’s launch and our Secret Sea dive trips for 2010. Most of the trips have sold out but we do have a few spots left on our November (2010) Raja Ampat trip. Let us show you a Raja you’ve never seen before!
Burt and Maurine