Maurine and I just returned from another wonderful trip to Raja Ampat. We’d like to thank all our Secret Sea dive buddies for joining us. And we’d like to thank new comers Ray & Sheri and Rita & Dieter for fitting in so well. As some of you may recall this trip’s original itinerary was planned to begin in Ambon, then to transit through the Banda Sea, before finishing in Raja Ampat. Due to two major storms, on either side of the equator, our live-aboard The Seven Seas was not able to meet us in Ambon. Everything had to be rescheduled. Many of our divers, expecting to meet us in Ambon, were already in the country, but they were scattered all over Indonesia’s archipelago. What a mess! With 7 Seas help we were able to locate everyone, reschedule flights, etc. and the trip started on time and finished successfully in Sorong. Major kudos and our heartfelt thanks go to 7 Seas.
Our mission, photographically, on this trip was to fill in a few gaps for our upcoming guidebook, Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, which will be published later this year. In fact we will be house, or should I say, office-bound for the next few months until we go to press. The book will be an expanded version of our original guidebook, Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, published in 2009. The new book is planned to debut at DEMA in November and will include Cenderawasih and Triton Bays along with Raja Ampat.
One of the highlights of the trip was the best Manta encounter we’ve ever had in Raja. We’ve never had manta interaction like this before! There were 8 mantas around the site for the entire dive. They seemed to enjoy our presence and frequently swam out of their path to play with the divers. Jerry had a manta hovering over his head for 15 minutes while Ingo snapped away, and Linda filmed the scene for 7 Seas. BTW, right next to the manta cleaning station, and just out of the mantas path, is a small group of coral heads where a few cometfish live. Unlike most cometfish, which are very shy, these fish seem accustomed to divers and don’t mind being photographed. The group also photographed sea moths on the slope above the mantas, so now you need both macro and wide angle for the manta dive. What a dilemma!
Other highlights include Todd’s incredible spot of a frogfish carrying its eggs on a night dive at the Cendana pier in Aljui Bay. Dave got some great images and we plan to use one in the new guidebook. At “Happy Ending” on Batanta we found both a mimic and a wonderpus octopus. And on a new night dive at Balbulol, which we call “Surprise”, dive guide and cruise director Karl found a blue-ring octopus. Fortunately I did a rare night dive was able to get a couple of nice images. Even though we had to deal with a stiff current “Mayhem”, one of our favorite sites in north Raja, proved worthy of its name. We had fish galore and even a few grey reef sharks, spotted by Rowan, joined in the frenzy. “Blue Magic” also surpassed expectations with massive schools of barracuda, trevally, surgeonfish and fusiliers all swirling together.
For those of you who have never been to Raja and would like to go with us please see the “Travel” page on our website for availability.
So now the fun begins. While most of you are enjoying springtime we’ll be at our desks for the next few months working on the text and layout of the new guidebook. We’ll keep you posted on our progress from time to time.
Cheers and Best Fishes,
Burt and Maurine