East of Flores

The Seven Seas News - November 2013

East of Flores on the Seven Seas, October 2013

Trip Report by Ron & Christine Blake - Dive Fish Snow Travel

At last the wait is over and we head off to our fourth trip on the Seven Seas. Having explored Raja Ampat & Komodo on previous trips, we now look forward to our 12 day trip East of Flores. The Kiwi contingent from Dive Fish Snow Travel quickly pick up on the cameraderie from previous trips. After introduction to the rest of the team, the banter quickly follows with our fellow team from South Africa, Switzerland and USA, over dinner.

Dinner time

Day 1: check-out dive "Rays' Rush Hour" - hundreds of blue-spotted rays, darting around the sea floor in courtship. The rest of the day's diving was stunning, pristine reefs, a squadron of eagle rays paid us a visit on the third dive. Then, at the end of the day, drinks & snacks on a remote sand spit. Just us and the sea birds. Just after an amazing sunset, we headed to the mangroves to see what we had only seen on Nat Geo - thousands of fruit bats leaving for their nightly feasting on fruits from the mainland.

Eagle Ray squadron

Day 2: not every day you open your curtains to find you are surrounded by volcanoes (some of them still billowing out puffs of ash). Dived 2 sites in the area and 1 snorkeling site, where the corals were pristine, thousands of small colourful fish. The divers saw many large white tip reef sharks. The afternoon spent relaxing, while we cruised on flat seas to our location for dinner, which was dinner by lava light. We were a couple of kms away from a very active volcano, with eruptions every 20 minutes. Having dinner outside on the upper deck, while watching the molten rocks glowing as they rolled down the side of the mountain into the sea was amazing.

Day 3: everyone well and truly settled into the routine and raucous laughter heard from the dive deck. The kaleidoscope of colour from the many different types of corals and fishes. Amazing vis. Just on snorkel, we saw bumphead parrotfish, dogtooth tuna, grouper, school of barracuda, a field of garden eels and many amazing critters.

Dogtooth Tuna

Day 4: arrived at Alor after a comfortable night's crossing. First dive/snorkel clowning around a bay about the size of 3 aircraft carriers, absolutely covered in clownfish and anemones, amazing pristine hard and soft corals. In amongst the anemones and tiny sand patches, was the busy mantis shrimp, blue ribbon eels, crocodile and scorpion fish and numerous nudibranchs. Second dive - the next bay again covered in anemones and fishes, being in front of a village, we watched the men bring up their fish traps and some spear fishing from their hand-made boats. Third dive - lots of current, wall dive, thermocline - chilly, but amazing drifting past all the colours, soft and hard corals and sponges in many outstanding shades. Small school of albacore tuna, two barramundi cod, lots of big angel fish of varying kinds and, of course, the crocodile fish. On the return to the main boat, we were surrounded by a hundred dolphins, all leaping out of the water, playing. After leaving the dolphins, we saw a blue whale and one of our group was lucky enough to see it under the water. The night divers came back to the boat raving about the Spanish Dancers and other night-time critters - the end of another awesome day.

Divers and reef

Day 5: Village trip and while the rest of the group were away, we snorkeled a FAD and a wall - saw an eagle ray, lots of juvenile fish, batfish, sweetlips, many striped and many spotted, cute little yellow boxfish, clowds of baitfish. Irwan found a large yellow nudibranch he had never seen before on the FAD. The rest of the day relaxing and taking in some Vitamin D.

Day 6: Everyone well and truly into the routine: eat, sleep, dive & camera prep. Went for a dive out on the point at the end of a cliff, depth fell away quickly, took Martin to his deepest dive ever, 34m, where there were schools of blue triggerfish. Headed back up to the drop-off, where there was a myriad of soft and hard corals, all out feeding, barrel sponges and the overhangs covered in anemones, while keeping a look out into the blue a 40kg dogtooth tuna, followed by a smaller one, came cruising by.

After a delicious Indonesian-style lunch and a power nap, we were back into the water for our snorkel. And what an amazing snorkel it turned out to be . The sun was shining, the water crystal clear, the reef only a few metres below us. Garden eels waving in the sunlight, then a juvenile blue ribbon eel extended out of his hole, trying to take a meal out of the two gobies nearby. Shortly after, a large mantis shrimp came out of his hole to clear the dead coral away. On the way back, we saw a yellow warty frog fish - amazing to see on snorkel.

Divers and reef

Day 7: Early morning steam with the guidance of dolphins alongside, we came to our site. The island was arid, but not so underwater. First dive a muck dive. After 20 minutes of looking at critters, Ron got lured into the deep of the shingle bank, where he found half metre sea pens and large white unusual coral trees, a snake eel and six blue-spotted rays feeding in the rubble, a large lizard fish and his friends all darted into a hole. The snorkeling again was awesome: schools of fish and soft corals, all feeding, the leather corals looking like velvet. Came across a stick with three filefish and a juvenile batfish. One filefish decided to leave and turned pale like the weed, drifting into the blue. A small crab decided to jump ship. The last snorkel was in the shade of a cliff and we wondered if this was why all the corals were out feeding. The colours of greens, yellows and oranges of the corals and sponges were incredible.

Day 8: Well, what can one say? Yet another day of blue skies and sunshine. We started the day with fresh fruit, toast and expresso coffee on the deck, while discussing the day's diving and snorkeling that Karl had briefed us on last night after dinner. Alcatraz and Mecca, or should have been coined as "fish on steroids": the usual prolific array of soft corals was overshadowed by the size of the fish. In 30 years of diving, not only had Ron seen his biggest GT yet, about 40 kg, but there were three of them, making the rest of the school tiny by comparison. We wonder if the GT's have now become the top predator here? There were also super-sized schools of snapper and trevally and large schools of angelfish. While cod and seabass were seen, others saw a Queensland grouper. Plenty of tunnels, archways and caves, the place to be to see big fish.

Cess decided to join me on the snorkeling trip. While the vis was not the best, we saw very large schools of fry and baitfish. The plate corals were enormous. John, our dive guide, found many very large boxfish, schools of triggerfish and a very large barracuda.

Divers and reef

Day 9: Well and truly in holiday mode, woke up to a wonderful sunshiny day and our view was a stunning, long, white sandy beach, fringed with turquoise blue water. Team excited to dive a blue clear water off-shore reef - vis amazing, covered in a tapestry of colour - gorgonian fans and soft corals and barrel sponges, vast plate corals near the surface. Saw two dog-tooth tuna and a small school of barracuda. Near the reef was a city of anthias and numerous blue tangs. One could tell by the numerous flashes that the shutter-bugs were having a field day! The reef had two points with current flowing over it and that was were all the action was happening during the second dive - the dogtooth tuna and blue trevally making pack attacks on the smaller fish. Two large hawksbill turtles were seen on the way up to the safety stop.

After a wonderful dinner, we spent most of the night travelling to our next destination.

Day 10: Muck diving day all day. Decided to go down to the 26 metre mark and was rewarded with a forest of soft coral trees with half a metre high trunks and rounded cauliflower tops (deep purple in colour), with coral clumps in between where large moray eels and numerous shrimp were hanging out together. A school of large, grey sweetlips in the same colour as the sand. Meanwhile snorkeling, we saw several different types of lionfish, devil scorpionfish and blue ribbon eels, numerous mantis shrimp, dragonets, a large school of blue-lined snapper, flounder and very large barracuda and, of course, the highlight: the yellow/green rhinopias.

Bamboo Sharks

Last Day: 2 dives on a very large reef, vis incredible, saw sharks - black tips and eagle rays. Snorkeling we also saw sharks, leaf fish, blue ribbon eel but the Maumere parrotfish remained aloof. It was like our own large aquarium. Afternoon spent on a village tour - really interesting and fun learning about ikats, the local weaving, and traditional village life.

Sadly, all good things come to an end. It was great diving with our friends and we made new ones. Everyone was amazing to get along with and we all leave as good friends. The crew have been fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble. The food was excellent - a mix of European and Indonesian. The dive guides, boat handlers, Cruise Directors and the whole team have made the trip for me (as I am a paraplegic) more enjoyable. All went the extra mile to ensure I never missed out on any of the experiences. We look forward to returning on our fifth group trip.

Sunset cocktails

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