The Seven Seas News - September 2014
East of Flores, August 2014 - Trip Report by Ed Warner
Photos by Alan Robinson, Gerry McCormick Ray, Linda Johnston & Karl Klingeler
Greetings from somewhere east of Flores.
Well, here we are, another year another trip on the Seven Seas. Maybe not every year, but we're pretty lucky at that. Last time was the Banda Sea - "The Forgotten Islands", a trip not to forget. This time we sailed from Maumere in central Flores, eastward to Adonara. "East of Flores" could be renamed "The Smoking Volcanoes". For those of you with a geological interest, Flores has a whole lot of active volcanoes, mostly of the explosive andesitic variety. We anchored in nearly circular features, the first three days at Adonara and Lembata surrounded by near and distant volcanoes. The biggest, Ili Wariran, recently erupted, white and yellow (sulfur) ash from the crest to the flanks. The diving was typical of the "Coral Triangle" - many species of the more common fish like butterfly fish and angelfish. Plus, the exotics like ghost pipefish and pygmy seahorses (bring a magnifying glass) and crocodilefish. Then, look out into the blue for the passing pelagics like dogtooth tuna, Spanish mackerel, hoards of fusiliers and other baitfish. If you're lucky, sharks, and more sharks - reef sharks and others.
I suppose I could describe a typical series of dives. Last night we did a night dive in the Pantar Strait, a muck dive. I saw 12 tiny shortfin lionfish, one octopus, what must be the world's largest nudibranch, at least 25 cm long, a cockatoo waspfish, dark red in color. This morning, getting ready for the first dive of the day we encountered hundreds of spinner dolphins. Someone shouted "thar she blows" and off we went in the dinghies chasing two blue whales. Our boat had the closest encounter. We could see the pale bluish-grey skin and the pattern of spots. Returning to the boat we got ready for 'anemone city.' An extraordinary dive along the edge of the strait where the bottom was covered by millions of large and small anemone. The typical anemone fish was Clarke's. I found one with beautiful tomato anemone fish.
We headed into the Savu Sea to search for blue and sperm whales. Unfortunately, a storm over northern Australia had kicked up whopping big storm waves. We retreated back to Pantar Island and anchored, along with two other boats, the Pintido and the Waow in a little sheltered cove. Not to worry, the beach was volcanic ash, so we went muck diving again. For those of you that have dived the famous Lembeh Strait of northern Sulewesi, that little muck dive was just as good. We saw robust ghost pipefish, spiny seahorses, more tiny shortfin lionfish, pegasus sea moths and all kinds of anemone crabs. Every little structure of bigger critter had some rare thing living in it or hanging out around it. East of Flores a disappointment can rapidly turn into a novel experience! On the return from one dive we stopped to look at a fishing platform which used coconut fronds as FADs (fish attracting devices). Karl floated out in the blue and in a bit of flotsam no bigger than your hand he found a sargassumfish - like a very ornate frogfish!
One of the benefits of turning back towards Flores was anchoring a second time under Ili Wariran. This time, the volcano was smoking away. All morning it belched out grey to white clouds of ash and water vapor in puffs that put us in mind of Indian smoke signals. Back to Lembata we dove Tanjung Bacatan, a very long, vertical drop. I went deep and saw 8 white tip reef sharks, 20 dogtooth tuna, big old snappers, napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrotfish. Moving on to Pulau Babi, at a dive called Dambilah we ran into reef cuttlefish and a big black frogfish. The biodiversity of the Coral Triangle is everything you have read about.
We finished the trip with a fantastic beach walk combining sundowners with a dinner lit by bonfires. Including "East of Flores", we have now done just about every Seven Seas Itinerary. Each is different and each very special.
Ed Warner ((Denver, Colorado)
August 21, 2014
» Click here to see what our guests had to say about this trip.