The Seven Seas Indonesia Liveaboard Adventure & Yacht Charter
Newsletter May 2012

Shooting the Coral Triangle - East of Flores

An Expedition Report by Mark Heighes with Photographs by Benjamin Kahn

Blue whale in Pantar Strait shallows
Blue whale in Pantar Strait shallows
Large male Sperm whale near Alor
Large male Sperm whale near Alor

Two years ago, Lida Pet-Soede and Valerie Taylor hatched an idea to shoot a film about the world's most diverse marine environment; the Coral Triangle, covering Eastern Indonesia and surrounding island Nations.

After several meetings in Australia with Wild Fury Productions, the necessary funding was secured to produce a three part TV series on the Coral Triangle, and a date was set for a filming expedition onboard the Seven Seas. The shoot was to begin in Maumere, Flores, and the expedition would be working its way East along the Northern shores of the island chain that forms the Nusa Tenggara Timor (NTT) Province. Well known operating grounds for the Seven Seas crew, which has spent years here developing our East of Flores itineraries.

Our Eastern most point for this May 2012 film expedition would be the island of Wetar, which is part of the Southeast Maluku Province and which is where the "Forgotten Islands" of the Southern Banda Sea beginů But that's another story for another time. From Wetar we were going to work our way back via the Savu Sea following the Southern coastline of NTT and finally back up into Maumere Bay.

The Coral Triangle

"The Coral Triangle is the world's centre of marine life. It is home to 75 percent of all coral species known to science and more than 3000 species of fish, including valuable species such as tuna, groupers and snappers. Tuna produced from Coral Triangle waters is worth more than US$ 1.5 billion annually. Coral reef related fisheries in the Philippines and Indonesia alone are valued at around US$ 2.5 billion per year. Marine tourism in the Philippines and Indonesia combined is worth at least a billion US$ as well. So that's 5 billion reasons right there to preserve this area...

But the Coral Triangle is also home to one of the highest human population densities in the World, directly providing food and livelihoods to more than 120 million people in the area, and benefiting millions more worldwide. Seafood provides a third of the dietary protein of people living in this region. Over-fishing threatens this area and the jobs and food it provides to its people. A film showing the beauty and magic of this area could help millions of people realize what is at stake when this would all be lost. The work of governments and conservation groups needs to be supported much more by people who will say and show that they care to preserve this important place."


Impressions of Filming TV Documentary "The Coral Triangle"

By Lawrence Blair, with Photographs by Benjamin Kahn

This was an excellent 'extreme stress test' for the operational abilities of the Seven Seas, her crew and her remarkably even-keeled Captain Mark Heighes, while filming the first of a 3-part TV series on "The Coral Triangle". From Maumere in Eastern Flores and back again, via Komba, Adonara, Lembata, Pantar, Alor, Wetar and Solor, with malingering full-moon current-torn straits in between. It was virtually 24/7 for 2 weeks, laden to the gills with filming and deep diving equipment, plus cinematographers, directors, presenters, ichthyologists, reef and cetacean experts, volcanologists and cultural anthropologists - all shouting loudly and pointing in different directions.

There weren't enough bunks aboard to accommodate all of us, so various bodies slept scattered about topside, and the dining saloon was so stuffed with gear that we had to disperse with our plates throughout the vessel to eat off our knees. Yet we all got on wonderfully well, and returned with spectacular footage of crocodiles in Wetar, Sperm whales (underwater) in the Savu Sea, undescribed species of fish from over 100 meters deep, and the erupting Komba volcano, whose glowing missiles narrowly missed our rubber ducky. Komba pretended to be rhythmically erupting at precise 23 minute intervals, but changed its mind as soon as we parked beneath it. We also captured great footage and interviews with the itinerant Bajo Laut tribe, kite fishermen, seaweed cultivators, giant fish-trap weavers, ikat ladies, 'crocodile clansmen' of Wetar, and more.

Rhinopias scorpion fish at Lembata
Rhinopias scorpion fish at Lembata
Dropping down where no diver has gone before
Dropping down where no diver has gone before

In addition to captain Mark, thankfully assisted by his experienced first mate Karl Klingeler, we were accompanied by his famously aquatic aunty, Valerie Taylor - an inexhaustible font of terrifying stories - as well as his brother Jono, as tenacious an adventure cameraman as one could hope to find. Whenever they could 'steal' a speedboat, Benjamin Kahn, the world's expert on Indonesian cetaceans, would charge off with Jono for five hours at a time, tracking, identifying and attempting to film whales. Benjamin located at least six species of whales, and managed a poignant shot of Jono, or rather of his snorkel, bobbing amidst some nine surrounding Sperm Whales which had finally got used to them.


Cruising The Seven Seas with Kids

It is not only hard core expedition work or underwater photography or diving and cruising for the experienced travelers that we focus on with Seven Seas, although we have a passion for all the above. We also love the adventure of cruising and diving with families, beginners and kids! We have taken our own children around the Indonesian Archipelago with live aboard vessels (mostly with Captain Mark at the wheel, of course) since they were babies, and we designed the Seven Seas with all those different types of expeditions as well as comfortable family trips in mind.

Diving with the kids
Diving with the kids
Diving with the kids
Diving with the kids

In the early days, before the Seven Seas, the kids would sit in the rinse buckets waiting for divers to come back from their dives, after a great few hours playing on deserted beaches. Now that they are growing up, they join us on dives, or go snorkeling, and get to do hikes each year a bit more challenging as they grow more confident. At 9 and 14 years old, standing on the top of a big hill in Komodo and looking down at the snorkel site where they just saw 26 manta rays at close range, Laura and Eva know exactly why they keep coming back. Sharing experiences in unspoiled nature while travelling to the remotest areas, safe and comfortable onboard the Seven Seas, is something that will stay with the kids for the rest of their lives.


Coral Triangle Day, 9th June 2012

Raja Ampat

WWF and its partners are launching the first Coral Triangle Day on 9 June 2012. An interpretation of World Oceans Day in this part of the world, the Coral Triangle Day is happening in the weekend, on a Saturday, right after World Oceans Day, to enable more families and children to participate.

This event is the first-ever regional marine celebration of its kind, which will be held simultaneously on different locations around the Coral Triangle region including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other countries in the Pacific. It aims to put the spotlight on ocean conservation and put much needed focus on the Coral Triangle as a globally-significant eco-region and modern-day icon of the natural world.

The Seven Seas - Grahalia Tiying Gading 18, Suite 1 - Jl Tukad Pancoran
Panjer Denpasar 80225 - Bali - Indonesia
[email protected]