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|Newsletter March 2013|
In November of 2012, a group of multi-talented scuba divers, scientists, writers, and a Guitar-Doug, set out from Maumere (Flores) to explore the islands East of Flores, via Komba, Lembata, Pantar, Alor, Wetar and out into the Forgotten Islands of South Malukku in the South Eastern Banda Sea. Nancy Barron reported on the adventure in the Los Angeles Times:
Cruising East of Flores through Forgotten Islands
By Nancy Baron, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Perched on the edge of a skiff, I felt a trickle of sweat inch down my cheek. A heavy scuba tank pulled at my back as I adjusted my mask, feeling claustrophobic in all this gear and anxious about making this dive.
How did I get here? I had come a long way to be sitting on this gunwale under a brilliant sun somewhere in Indonesia's Banda Sea: flights from Los Angeles to Bali and Flores, then motoring on calm seas past volcanic islands and coral atolls, white beaches and palm trees.
One cone-shaped island called Kombu fumed with smoke and ash, its rumbles punctuated with a thunderous roar every half-hour as it spewed lava and unleashed an avalanche of fiery-red glowing rocks the size of trucks.The scenery was stunning topside. But my husband, Ken, and I had come to see this underwater world, part of the Coral Triangle, widely considered the planet's most biologically rich and diverse marine area.
We had signed on to a two-week dive trip on a traditional Indonesian wooden schooner — the kind that inspired Joseph Conrad's novel "Lord Jim." This one, at 108 feet, was painted red and called the Seven Seas, a luxurious motor sailor designed for scuba divers who want to go to the ends of the Earth in comfort.
How did we get here? Planning a cruise on the Seven Seas
From LAX, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Virgin AustraIia, Malaysia Airlines, China Airlines and EVA offer connecting service (change of planes) to Denpasar International Airport on Bali. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $950, including fees and taxes.
I recommend going a few days early to explore Bali before the official trip begins. The Seven Seas will arrange domestic flights from Bali to Flores to meet the ship, as well as the return, and will include hotel layovers at an additional cost. For safety reasons, on the return it is necessary to spend at least 24 hours after the last dive before flying.
To enter Indonesia, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival and have proof of return or onward ticketing. Most tourists can obtain a Visa on Arrival (VOA) for $25 for a 30-day stay or $10 for a seven-day stay. Payment is in cash at the immigration desk upon arrival at the Bali or Jakarta airports.
Snorkeling with the Seven Seas, February 2013
"We were hesitant to book a snorkeling boat trip with scuba divers, thinking that we would miss places good for snorkeling. But as promised, Seven Seas was excellent for both. If the dive site was not suitable for snorkelers, we were taken to an alternative place with a separate tender. Both the time spent and the number of snorkeling trips were more than adequate. The guides constantly pointed out things we would never have seen by ourselves. It was so much fun!
Near the surface the colors of the coral are so magnificent. We saw so many types and beautiful coral! Maybe only an artist would know that so many different colors existed.
We saw exciting creatures like the wobbegong, walking shark, white tip and black tip sharks. We saw dolphins, turtles, barracuda, crocodile fish, frog fish, tiny nudibranchs, and sea snakes. We swam through beautiful and flowing schools of fish, like fusiliers and tiny silver fish. We swam through non-stinging jellyfish. We saw sergeant fish guarding their eggs. All of the sea was full of marvelous animal and plant life."
A happy group leader about her Raja Ampat trip
"Raja Ampat on Seven Seas was beyond words, but let me try to describe this magic experience anyway... We had great visibility, very prolific schooling fish life, very dense and pristine soft corals, fans and hard corals, great critter action, and all this topped up with mantas galore... well, one can't really go wrong with Raja.... So what was it then that made our trip so super special and unique?? Well, diving Raja aboard the SEVEN SEAS !!!!
Not only did the Seven Seas propose a trip longer than any other liveaboard was offering , a whole SIXTEEN days diving all over Raja Ampat with all the comforts and beauty the Seven Seas is famous for, we also had the privilege to be treated like kings and queens yet again by the outstanding Seven Seas Crew and Cruise Directors Linda and Karl.
Captain Wahyu and his formidable Crew were, yet again, top of the tops!!!! From the perspective of a dive guide with years of experience in the trade, they are the best any guest and any boat owner could wish for!!!! Always accommodating, always huge genuine smiles, gentle and extremely professional and knowledgeable, and safer than safe!! Always working effortlessly well beyond the call of duty!!
Linda not only produced a beautifully filmed and very skillfully edited video, perfect memories for all of us to take home and share with our family and friends, she also provided us with very valuable and professional advise on underwater photography, and her gentle presence on board was greatly enjoyed by all of us!!
Karl is a dream Cruise Director. He works very well with the Crew, always trying to provide the best diving possible, and no effort to please is ever too much!! His enthusiasm is limitless!!! The dive guides Tommy and Irwan have eagle eyes and are a definite asset to the Seven Seas. And, last but by all means not least.... we really miss Chef Niko's magnificent cooking .... eating back home will never again be as rewarding.... Sixteen days on Seven Seas were too short and we all had mutinous thoughts, ready for yet another lifetime on our favorite liveaboard EVER!! We are already planning our next trip back to Indonesia.... and it will have to be on the Seven Seas yet again!!"
Raja Ampat liveaboard trip on the Seven Seas - from ScubaBoard.com
"My wife and I took a 14 night trip on the Seven Seas through Raja Ampat. It was our third trip to Raja Ampat, and the diving was excellent, as was the boat. The crew on the Seven Seas was uniformly good. The dive guides were helpful and knowledgeable, and the rest of the crew were also good at their jobs. There were 14 passengers on our trip, 12 divers, and surprisingly, 2 snorkelers (who also had a great time)..."
The Seven Seas - Grahalia Tiying Gading 18, Suite 1 - Jl Tukad Pancoran
Panjer Denpasar 80225 - Bali - Indonesia