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|Newsletter February 2013|
In this Newsletter:
» Trip Report Raja Ampat, 30 Jan - 13 Feb 2013
» Newly Updated Schedule
» Raja Ampat Testimonial by Marty Hood
» The Forgotten Islands - New Video by Linda Johnston
Trip Report Raja Ampat, 30 Jan - 13 Feb 2013
by Linda Johnston and Karl Klingeler
During our latest two week Raja Ampat cruise, we were blessed with beautiful weather, calm seas, outstanding visibility in the Misool area, as well as a fun group of guests with whom to share it all with.
We took advantage of the good weather to make a trip out to the Daram Islands, which are not visited as frequently as the more well-known sites. We were rewarded with some of the most rich & colourful reefs our guests had even seen, as well as baitfish swarming & shimmering in the shallows, as they moved as one entity while being chased by trevally.
During a day of muck diving in the black sands of Batanta, we were rewarded with a wonderpus and what may well be the first sighting of a Rhinopias Eschmeyeri (Paddle-flap scorpionfish) in Raja Ampat. This fish is rarely sighted due to its ability to blend into its environment. It was beautifully coloured and very sought-after by photographers. I had to film this fish, so I waited until our guests were done and took a few shots. Later, I couldn't resist descending a second time to film it again, resulting in a rather long safety stop!
Later in the trip, Manta Sandy did not disappoint. We snorkeled with several mantas feeding on the surface. One came so close, its wing-tip actually grazed the camera port. On the second dive, we watched them being cleaned below by a team of butterflyfish and wrasses, for no less than 75 minutes! On our last day, we were lucky enough to see several oceanic mantas at Blue Magic in the Dampier Strait, making the reef mantas of Manta Sandy look small in comparison.
We always like to offer a day at Yanggefo to introduce people to the unique habitat of the mangroves, with their archerfish, orbicular cardinals and halfbeaks. We also had 2 spectacular dives at Citrus Ridge, one with no current and one with current, so we could see the soft corals in all their splendor. For one lucky guest, who opted to do the dusk dive, she was rewarded with a splendid courting display of mandarinfish. For some of our guests, this was their favourite day of the trip.
Other highlights of the trip included a white frogfish perfectly blending in with the white sponge it was sitting on, a total of 6 sargassum frogfish of various sizes, some in their sargassum and some free-swimming on the surface, 3 species of pygmy seahorse, a couple of free-swimming wobbegongs and the ever-present amazing bundle of sweetlips at Otdima.
On a not so positive note, however, it was disturbing to see so much blatant illegal fishing in Marine Protected Areas, especially in Balbulol and Farondi, where it is common to see the reefs strewn with fishing line and nets and there is a notable lack of big fish. On the dive site No Contest, fishermen fish continuously. Although we have reported this in the past, it is sad to see that it is still going on and has been for a number of years. The Seven Seas tenderboat crew noticed that one of the fisherman in Farondi had caught a sailfish, so they picked up Karl & the snorkelers so they could see it. Wow, what a beautiful fish. Karl immediately offered to buy it if the fisherman would release his catch. They agreed on $5 and Seven Seas boat crew set the fish free. Unfortunately, it was too late and we watched as the fish sunk into the depths. Later, the fisherman came to the boat to collect his payment. While chatting with him, we learned that all these fishermen come from Ternate to fish for the big boss, who is a local living in Misool. They fish until June, until the south easterly trade winds prohibit them from fishing. At that point they go home to Ternate, returning to the same camp in Balbulol as soon as the weather allows.
On a more positive note, in the MER MPA No-Take-Zone, we saw on one dive schools of black fin and pickhandle barracuda, big-eye trevally, 4 species of shark, a dolphin mother & calf, clouds of fusiliers and schooling batfish. We also regularly had in the MER MPA common sightings of good size groupers and napoleon wrasse, both species targeted by the fishermen in Balbulol. There are also 2 new patrol posts, one on Yilliet and one on Kalig, to help enforce the no-take policy. In the Dampier Strait MPA, we saw 6 species of shark, 2 whales & 2 species of manta, although we regularly see fishing in the Mioskon area.
Raja Ampat is a very special place and we applaud the efforts of the many people who work so hard to protect and preserve it.
Linda & Karl
Photos: © Edward Lang
Newly Updated Schedule
» CLICK HERE for our newly updated schedule with availabilities until middle of 2015.
Raja Ampat Testimonial by Marty Hood
Marty Hood was a guest on a Seven Seas charter with Mike McDowell in January 2013:
"I wanted to thank you all for the wonderful trip that I had and to express my appreciation for your friendship, kindnesses, patience and sharing your experiences and knowledge with a beginner. I have traveled to many countries and experienced life from numerous points of view, but somehow this topped them all. I could not have asked for better company, more beauty, more warmth, more colors, or more fun and enjoyment. I was in heaven. I wanted to squeal with delight many times but held myself to a more respectable level of behavior. But inside. there were times when I was bursting with pure joy. I don't think there was ever a dive when I was actually ready to get back into the boat.
I am still in amazement at the beauty of a world that I had only seen with a mask and snorkel prior to this adventure. I didn't even know what I didn't know. I was so lucky to be able to visit an amazing other world.
I had asked several of you if you remembered your first diving experiences and some were able to describe part of the occasion. Now I have memories and knowledge of pygmy sea horses, nudibranchs, bommies, Wobbegongs, Manta cleaning stations, Epaulette sharks, gurnards, neutral buoyancy, anemones, colors that I didn't know existed in such vibrancy and patterns that were unbelievable and spectacular.
It is probably difficult for most of you to remember a time when these were not in your vocabulary and memories. Thank you for showing these to me. It is snowing and expected to be 18 degrees Fahrenheit tonight. Life goes on. Springtime will surely come followed by the pleasures of summer. In the meantime, I will close my eyes and remember."
The Forgotten Islands - New Video by Linda Johnston
The Forgotten Islands offer some of the best diving in Indonesian waters. Attractions include gin-clear waters, patch reefs and coral bommies, spectacular wall dives on impossible drop-offs.
For more information about the Forgotten Islands please click here. The next trips are scheduled for November/December 2013.
The Seven Seas Team
The Seven Seas - Grahalia Tiying Gading 18, Suite 1 - Jl Tukad Pancoran
Panjer Denpasar 80225 - Bali - Indonesia