Raja Ampat, W Papua, Indonesia1 February 2019 - 11 February 2019
As always, we were way behind our vacation planning. But there was one diving spot on top of our list, which made the decision as to where to go, an easy one. The season was right, Chinese New Year holiday around the corner and after some research we found the perfect boat for trip to explore Raja Ampat (West Papua, Indonesia).
Flying to Sorong from Singapore was fairly straightforward and after a night in planes and airports we were greeted by the Ratu Laut crew, our fellow divers and a steaming Papuan coffee. A two-hour ferry ride with the usual entertainment of Indonesian love songs and Chinese action b-movies brought us to Waiang. There she was waiting, our home for the next ten days: Ratu Laut - Queen of the Seas!
Shortly after boarding we set sails (or better, revved up the diesel) and headed towards Misol. Being rainy season, the weather was on the wet and windy side so we skipped the introductory dive and headed straight into the passage. The further out we were, the bumpier the ride got. We tried to keep dry and â¦ our meals in the digestive system. Not that easy with 2m breakers crashing over the bow. Since the weather got a bit uglier during the night, the captain changed course and headed back to more sheltered waters.
The first two dives the following morning were not where we planned to, but judging from the âcheck-outâ dives, things looked very promising. We spotted the elusive and utterly funny looking Wobbegong shark, followed by manta rays on the next dive :) The seas were calming down; we continued the crossing and arrived in Misol the following morning.
From then onwards it was sleep, eat, dive, rest, dive, eat, rest, for eight more days! The reputation of Misol and its biodiversity did not over-promise - the dives sites were amazing! Coral gardens you could not even imagine being landscaped. A fantastic sea of colours shapes and patterns. And so was the marine life. The sheer abundance of reef fish made each of the almost thirty 60+ minute dives a swim through a fish encyclopaedia. And for once we did not even have to rely on the fish and creatures identification books but got lectures and all questions answered by Katrin, the Barefoot Conservation's marine biologist. The Raja Ampat area was so far spared from the devastating coral bleaching due its slightly cooler seas. Let's hope it stays that way! The conservation efforts on land as well as the coast will help to save the underwater-jewels too. Local fishermen were mostly catching sustainably, often using our lights at night to lure their prey to single fishing hooks â one by one. Their dugout canoes hardly ever feature electric lights, left alone an engine, so our illumination gave them an edge on hunting and us the chance to catch a glimpse of unchanged local customs.
After diving for several days around Misol we were heading back to Central Raja Ampat, stopped at bommies or sub-sea mounts in the middle of the ocean. Always curious of what we would find in the deep blue. Surprises abundant, sharks, sea turtles, schools of barracudas, octopuses, there was so much to see that BrÃ¶ did not skip even a single night dive for once. Amazing â¦ and we would have loved to catch this all on film, if only a) we were better photographers (especially trying to get the 5 species of the tiny pigmy sea horses into focus, and b) if we wouldn't have flooded our camera halfway through the trip :( Oh well, leave bubbles, and take memories only, this time :)
Our boat was the perfect home for ten days at sea. Booked only to half capacity, we've had the 4-person cabin in the bow to ourselves. Being in the very front of the yacht meant the occasional roller-coaster ride with special effects like spraying water when the breakers managed to wash over the bow and through hatch, and washing machine view though the portholes. Even when sleeping we were close to the wet element :) Luckily though, it was mostly sunny and we made good use of the lounge areas on top of the boat and in front of the wheelhouse, reading books, listening to the ocean, watching dolphins and enjoying sunsets with an ice cold drink.
The meals were served in the roomy recreation area and we managed to develop a fondness for not only the delicious local food, but pancakes and Nutella as well :P The morning ritual started with a loud bang on the ship's bell, sleepwalking divers climbing up the steep stairs, blinking into the morning sun and sipping coffee. The dive masters and the sweet and charming cruise director explained the upcoming dive on expertly and artistically drawn maps on the white board, and off we went to the dinghy. Well, after squeezing ourselves into the wet suits. Group Beingno-MÃ¼ller as usual made up the rear :)
Not only Eureka was charming, but the whole crew was always smiling, making sure the equipment was ready, waving us good bye and greeting us again after another dip in the big blue. They were all working seamlessly together to make our trip a happy experience and made sure we could focus on the diving and more so, to process all the impressions we brought up from the depth of the oceans, or, well, at least the topmost thirty metres or so :)
Weâve had a fun group to pass the time during the surface intervals and spent the evenings laughing and drinking Bintang. Just like carefree pirates do!
Thanks to the boat crew, dive guides, and everyone from the Barefoot Conservation who made the trip a special one!
Check out the YouTube Video from our fellow divers Tessa and Andy!
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