Diving in Raja Ampat, photo by Howard Hall

The Seven Seas News - February 2016

Return to Raja Ampat

By Ed Warner. Photos by Edward Lang.

In August, 2014, we took our fourth Seven Seas voyage, this time "East of Flores". Sitting around during the second half of the cruise, the Sundowner conversation brought up the topic of 'if and when' we might return to sail again on the Seven Seas. Carl, of the Carl and Linda tag team who run the boat, was standing near the railing of the dining deck which is directly in front of the bridge. Jackie, my wife and diving partner said "what about we return to Raja Ampat?" RA was our first cruise on the Seven Seas in 2007, a year after the boat was commissioned.

Carl piped up, "Sorry Ed, but the boat is fully booked. You won't get a charter to Raja Ampat before 2017.

I looked up at him aghast. "Huh?" I'm quite articulate in a crisis. "Huh? The boat is filled for two years?"

Carl grinned. "Hold on Ed. There's a guy who hasn't paid his deposit on time, maybe Jos is ready to turn the charter over to you."

"Ok, well, I'll drop Jos an e-mail when I get home."

"Don't be silly. Let's give him a call on the satellite phone." Carl called Jos. He offered me the charter. "Uh," I swallowed hard. I could get a few couples to come along, but a whole charter? What was I thinking? I remembered one of my 'rules of life': don't overanalyze. "Sure, why not?" I had just taken a full charter.

Photo by Edward Lang

I filled half the boat by leaving the bridge and telling my dive friends what I had just done. I filled the other half within three days of returning to Denver. We know quite a few folks who love the Seven Seas.

Raja Ampat is one of the best diving areas in the entire world. It is almost exactly at the center of "The Coral Triangle". It's that area from the Philippines southwestward to Bali, east to the southeastern tip of New Guinea and back northwest to the northern Philippines, closing the triangle. Marine biologists consider The Coral Triangle the center of ocean biodiversity. You might see two species of butterfly fish off Rangaroa. Off Misool you might count twenty five. RA is also a leader in marine protected areas. In this 'El Nino' year, I can report that water temperatures are normal and there is virtually no sign of coral stress. No bleaching, no die off, no increase in disease. The hard corals are magnificent - enormous green or tan table acropora and spiraling montipora studded with spires like a magical city seen from above. Giant mounds of boulder Porites. The animal life living on and swimming around the reefs is dramatic - many endemic species found nowhere else, like the barred rabbitfish whose bar and body lines are just different enough from the fish book to make you stare. From the huge schools of big stuff, like hundreds of schooling barracuda and dozens of bumphead parrotfish looking like a herd of bison crossing the shortgrass prairie - to the little guys: the nudibranchs and the pygmy seahorses - we were overwhelmed by the drama swirling around us.

Are we coming back again? Of course. Before departing the boat we had booked a cabin on a 2017 cruise and a charter for November, 2018 to "The Forgotten Islands."

Safe Diving,
Ed Warner

Photo by Edward Lang

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