The Seven Seas News - January 2016
Return to Raja Ampat, December 20th 2015 - January 1st 2016
Trip Report by Karen Zirinsky. Photos by Andy Rothenbach.
We finally left Sorong by late morning on Sunday and steamed towards Mioskon. What a pleasure it was to be on The Seven Seas again, this time with Karl and Linda and a lovely group of Americans, and Swiss guests. All the pressures and tensions of real life melted away as we motored towards our first anchorage.
On board were 2 children who needed to do their open water dives to complete their certificate, and my son who has his certificate but had not had much experience. The kids went with Karl and Linda to refresh their theory knowledge. The rest of us jumped in the water, blew a few bubbles and were awestruck by the wonders we encountered.
Our intrepid dive guides, Irwan and Jefry found Pygmy seahorses, morays, a grey reef shark and the speciality of the region - tasselled wobbegongs. Wow! What a way to get back into diving.
It was my son's birthday and Irwan presented him with a birthday fish which was used to point out a scorpion fish. From the blue an Oceanic Manta came in to offer birthday wishes as well.
Day 2 brought us to M Sandy. We were forbidden to say the M word until we actually saw the Mantas! And see them, we did. After we entered the water, we almost landed on a turtle. Then we 'hung out' at the cleaning station and an oceanic manta cruised past. It was a rather brief visit and there was a general 'air' of disappointment. Finally Andy did a perfect impression of a manta and 2 real ones swam in. We had front row seats for the manta ballet as the 2 rays gracefully twirled and floated above us in time with our symphony of bubbles.
From the large to the small, we also found 2 sea moths, twin spotted gobis and more pygmy sea horses.
The night dive under the Arborek jetty also yielded some unusual sights. The biggest lion fish I've ever seen, a juvenile banner fish, a stonefish and scorpion fish.
Day 3 on Citrus ridge proved that it is well named. The profusion of orange soft coral was astounding. I didn't realise that there are so many shades of orange. The highlight was a large crocodile fish lying on a rock.
The afternoon was spent snorkelling at the edge of the mangroves. What an interesting juxtaposition of coral and mangroves, not to mention the archer fish, half-beaks and orbicular cardinal fish which make their homes in between the roots of the mangrove trees.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day were spent at Waigeo. Aside from the rushing currents the wall dives were very beautiful. An array of hard and soft corals and 7 pygmy seahorses on 1 fan!! The constant refrain of 'No current, no fish' proved true at many of the sites. It was like swimming in a fish bowl surrounded by anchovies, or fusiliers. I was pleased that I wasn't confused with dinner.
The following day was at Keruo. There were beautiful islands and diving with an amazing variety of hard corals. An ornate ghost pipefish, a black tip shark and a turtle were found in the shallows. Although the site was called Melissa's Garden, it should have been called turtle paradise. We saw a turtle at every turn and at least 3 sharks. The visibility was the best it had been all trip.
Wagmab bay was also a productive site. During the night dive we saw a harlequin ghost pipefish, and ornate ghost pipefish, pygmy sea horses and the Raja Ampat Walking shark. During the day we had an escort of barracuda for the whole dive and a manta sailing past in the blue.
We managed to squeeze in a dive at Yilliet. It is always magnificent to see mantas coming in from the blue and it is truly an awesome experience to witness them hanging patiently while being cleaned.
I cannot detail every dive but each time we went below the surface, we were treated to a beautiful variety of soft corals, large fans and unusual hard corals. Every dive we saw a different nudibranch- who knew there could be so many colours and sizes.
The profusion of so many species of fish was amazing and there were many juveniles squiggling around making it almost impossible to photograph them.
The final 2 dives left everyone planning their next trip on the Seven Seas. We saw 2 octopus, Raja Ampat pygmy sea horses, a turtle, and ornate ghost pipefish, a scorpion fish and had the unique opportunity to swim through the "Boo Windows".
What a wonderful trip. Every moment was "Bootiful". Karl and Linda are gracious hosts, each member of the crew goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone has a great time and the dive guides took such care of the kids and ensured they started on their diving journeys in a manner that will leave lasting memories of fun and adventure.
Thank you to everyone.
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