East of Flores - April 2014

The Seven Seas News - May 2014

Back Out East of Flores 2014 - Trip Report by Marty Hood

As soon as we stepped foot on the Seven Seas, all of the efforts and fatigue of 34 hours in the air was all but forgotten. Being welcomed by some old friends on the crew from a previous trip made us feel right at home and ready for adventure. We knew that new friendships were inevitable.

Each person brings anticipation and hope for the next two weeks. We ranged in ages from 10 to 74 so our hopes were as varied as our imaginations. For some it was a brand new experience and for others they seemed as at-home under the water as they are on land. But even to those most comfortable in the blue, there was still wonder and appreciation from the smallest nudi-branch to the giant whales.

At this moment, we are about half way through the adventure and have had surprises that have awakened all of our senses. No one could have imagined the sensation of the rumble and explosion as rocks spewed high in the air, trailing glowing red lava from the depths of the earth. Dining by the side of an active volcano was a surreal experience. It was difficult to give in to the need for sleep knowing that the next explosion could happen at any time.

Komba eruption
Komba eruption

Since the early days of the Morris family dive trips, there has been a quest to find the elusive rhinopias frondosa, a rare scorpion fish that they have tried to find for 25 years. During a pleasant afternoon dive, we saw Irwan giving the "victory" sign with two fists in the air. We all knew that something was afoot. We gathered around and were able to witness the rare species watching us…watching it. It didn't seem long until suddenly there appeared Fred and Sue. They had been back on the boat but eagerly joined the dive when they were informed that the search was successful. You could see Fred's grin even in full dive gear.

Rhinopias frondosa
Rhinopias

When asked about highlights of our adventure so far, there were many thoughtful answers. "Every inch of the reef was a wonderland. I didn't know what to look at first." "The city of anemones was my favorite." "Getting to see my first octopus was definitely a highlight." "Watching my family enjoying each other" was evident with three generations of the Morris family. "The patterns, colors, movement and shapes always amaze me." "The abundance of everything." "The frog fish and the volcano stand out for me." "I really liked seeing the kids in the village and having them follow us." "We got to dive a new area and they even let us name it! That was very cool." "Watching Savannah and Maya getting to dive was very exciting." "I am amazed at how well organized and in sync the crew is and how they work so hard to make it all perfect." "I want to gather the colors to last me through many winter days." "I have always wanted to be able to find octopus and cuttle fish. I have had the pleasure of finding more than my share on this trip." "I have loved everything about the trip but a new wonder for me has been watching the cuttlefish hunting for food. We have seen them two days in a row and it is amazing to see." Watching the thousands of fruit bats or "flying foxes" was another treat at sunset after spending some time on a sandbar finding treasures.

We are now nearing the end of this grand adventure and have experienced many glorious dives as well as spending a beautiful day looking for and finding majestic whales. We were able to make the acquaintance of what seemed to be the grand daddy of the pod of about 16 whales. Two of our group had a very up close and personal experience with the granddaddy whale that is probably telling this same tale to his family and friends. "There seemed to be a strange species of remora trying to latch on near my tail. I encouraged him on by 'drafting' so he could keep up, but he must have decided to wait for another ride. It is true," he promised his grand children.

Whale watching
Whale watching
 
Whale watching
Whale watching

Only with a person next to the whale for comparison were we able to see how enormous these giants are. Each time we would see a spout of air blow above the water, we would veer in this direction and would often be quite close. We would watch and hope that they would stay just a little bit longer but would cheer and bid them farewell as they would fluke and go deep into the blue. We learned that as they would surface with very little motion, their "bushy blow is directed low left and forwards." We were all becoming better educated as is evident in this saga.

Seeing sharks under the water is always a treat and Karl seemed to have the knack for calling them to parade by. But seeing a fin above the water as two of our boys jumped in from high on the bow was not quite as enjoyable. Being from a family with constant humor, they were not sure if the yells and insistence to get quickly out of the water was a bamboozle or a real threat. Gratefully they jumped in a boat and after viewing their "Go Pro" were convinced that this was not a joke. Their mothers' hearts took a few minutes to return to a regular cadence.

A group photo on the "Playground" was a dance of precision. The newest divers joined the photo shoot as well as the "after-photo gymnastic festival." The flips, somersaults, outer space jumps and ballet were an amazing sight to behold. We expect that if this becomes an Olympic sport, this team is ready for gold.

Cuttlefish
Lionfish

After the Olympiads had finished, the group moved on to a spectacular dive. Near the playground, a small bommie was rich with an abundance of life. Housing was obviously at a premium because it was crowded with at least 7 lionfish, numerous clown fish, wrasses, and anemones housing several different families.

The barbeque on the beach was a treat for everyone. The sunset, the music, excellent food and drink and a wild game of "mother elephant" topped off the day.

It is amazing that there are some with such a keen eye for finding hidden surprises in the most unlikely places. A lone white frogfish that didn't even seem to be breathing thought that he was safe from our intense stares. A group of leaf fish doing their "lean, lean shake" dance and two crocodile fish blending perfectly in their little overhang were discovered. Only their eyes moved as they telepathically told their mate "don't move, I've heard that they will eventually go away." A little Sargassum frogfish was whiling away the afternoon when he was whisked away for a stunning performance choreographed by the dive guides. They returned him home but he may have enjoyed the limelight so much that he might be considering a permanent gig.

Sargassum Frogfish
Scorpionfish

During one morning dive as we descended, a beautiful banded sea crate gracefully ribboned through the corals. We were able to follow his dance for quite some time. The bright blue and yellow ribbon eel was curious enough to be lured out of his hole while being chummed by a dive-pointer strap.

The effort and disguises that many creatures create defy the imagination. Sometimes when they were pointed out, it took a few moments to adjust our eyes to see what was right in front of our noses.

A giant Bumphead or Napoleon wrasse came around a point and was an immediate hit. He seemed a little shy from the attention but stayed long enough to tickle our senses.

Coral Grouper
Glassfish

The opportunity to fly underwater with the current becomes a reality where it is usually only experienced in our finest dreams.

Alas, it is time to leave this Shangri-La under the sea. We will be forever grateful to Linda and Karl as our gracious, humorous and very knowledgeable cruise directors. The crew is amazingly accommodating and very fun-loving, which makes each dive a grand adventure. We appreciate the expertise of the chefs in the kitchen and our wonderful waiter. Those who work diligently behind the scenes that keep the boat, engines and cabins in perfect order are very much appreciated as well.

We hope that someday the stars will again align and we will come together again. Thank you.

Marty Hood


Irwan & cuttlefish

» Click here to see what our guests had to say about this trip.

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