Newsletter December 2020
Seven Seas Solitude
By Mark Heighes
2020 has been a year most of us would like to forget. After Covid paralyzed the world in March the crew took the Seven Seas on a six day non-stop crossing of the Banda Sea from Papua back to our home port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
During the month of September, with no end of Covid in sight, and the Seven Seas still patiently waiting on her mooring for things to return to normal, the thought of steaming back empty across the Banda Sea, with no guests onboard, and only to wait in Papua for Covid to end, was not particularly appealing. As I was locked down far away in Australia, I could visualize all the tiny islands and reefs scattered across the Banda Sea like gem stones surrounded by the crystal-clear water we call Banda Blue. Then I thought of the flat calm conditions we usually experience during the month of November as we island-hop our way East and then North towards Papua for our season in Raja Ampat.
The idea of not stopping and just sailing past these fascinating remote locations we have come to know so well, was like complete madness to me. The fact that there was going to be no other operators out there made it even worse. We would have it all to ourselves. This was surely a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
Even though I could not take part myself, I decided to put a small select team together and have them embark on a journey that would end up covering over 1300 nautical miles during a 19 day expedition that skirted the Southern rim before crossing the deepest sea in relation to is size on the planet...the Banda Sea.
The main criteria for the "invitation only" to this expedition was firstly that they had to already be in Indonesia. Each individual also had to contribute towards food and other expenses related to the expedition, but most importantly each member of this team would contribute towards the 2 main objectives of the expedition which were:
- To make contact with local communities on some targeted islands, and establish conservation agreements with these communities.
- Capture professional images and video of everything we would encounter both above and underwater. These images and this video footage was to be used for marine conservation purposes, support education and improve awareness.
It took a while to get the group together but we managed to recruit a team of 8 individuals many of whom have been working together on conservation related issues for over 20 years. Over the next few months we will be giving you some insight on what this team managed to achieve and what adventures they had on this Epic trip that departed Maumere on November 1. On route the photographers and videographers recorded over 20,000 images and video clips and we will be sharing the highlights with you on our website, via Facebook, on Instagram and in our newsletters starting with this one and continuing in the following months. Hope you enjoy.
I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone involved and the incredible team of like-minded people who managed to achieve something positive during some of the most difficult times the world has ever seen.
Looking forward to sail with you all again sometime soon!
We Will Never Forget These Islands
By Lida Pet-Soede. Photos by Foued Kaddachi, Tommy Schultz and trip participants.
"We will never forget these islands." That is how we all felt, truly, after this EPIC trip...
While I did not feel particularly heroic at the start of our EPIC trip into the Forgotten Islands of Eastern Indonesia, especially because I was a bit worried how I would deal with the relative lack of communication that we would experience during most of the voyage, I was surely going on an adventure covering an extended period of time.
And how EPIC it turned out to be: A full month aboard the Seven Seas, how lucky we felt. The crew and all travelers were double checked and found healthy, the Seven Seas has survived the few months of laying at anchor remarkably well, the seas promised to be calm and the weather would be sunny so we were ready to go. More importantly, perhaps, Mark had put a small team of seasoned travelers and photographer/cinematographers together to capture the beauty of the forgotten islands and its people. Last but not least, a mix of young and weathered marine conservation and fisheries experts would join me to try and initiate a few conservation agreements with some of the people living in villages near some outstanding reef areas, that Mark and the Seven Seas had come to know over the decades.
The first week the Seven Seas crew led by Captain Rivai ("Pai") and expanded with Gustaf assisting Nico in the galley, was with just a tiny team in and around Komodo National Park. Joining Jos and I, we had Foued Kaddachi, a well-known member of Seven Seas family, guiding some of its cruises, and a very accomplished photographer, with an outstanding style and the skills and remarkable ease that allow him to sneak up all non-expecting marine life in the shallowest and deepest (!) waters! The tiny team further included Peter Mous, who leads the very significant Indonesian fisheries program of Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN), an Indonesian conservation group and affiliate of The Nature Conservancy. Lastly, the Komodo team included Tommy Schultz, who is a professional photographer, and creates amazing photo-stories with some of the world's most famous surfers and about people and culture from some of the most remote parts of Asia. The three of them share a big passion for free-diving.
Upon arrival in Labuan Bajo, we were glad to see old friend and Komodo park ranger Mr. Saleh who has been patrolling the park against blast fishing for several decades now. With most other live aboard vessels in port, we were the only divers at each site. While we saw several fishers operating in the no-take zones of the park, and we got the feeling that there was less large fish around on the dives, the corals are generally in good condition and we swam with lots of turtles who were not in the least bothered by us. I did most of the early morning dives and during the day I was able to facilitate a virtual workshop or two and get a lot of work done in my 'office with a view'.
» CLICK HERE FOR LIDA'S FULL TRIP REPORT AND MORE PHOTOS
'A Pirate Looks at 40' Performed on the Seven Seas
Tommy Schultz was playing a bit of guitar on the roof of the Seven Seas at sunset while we crossed from the Banda Spice Islands to Koon Island in Maluku. Cinematographer Alex Del Olmo filmed his cover of Jimmy Buffett's 'Pirate Looks at 40' using the new DJI Osmo Pocket II.
Aerial shots done with the DJI Mavic Pro 2, and Underwater shots were done with the DJI Osmo Action camera. Thanks again to DJI and Urban Republic for the equipment and support.
Click here to watch video
Diving in the Time of Pandemic - Ambon to Sorong (Nov 21-30, 2020)
By Robert Delfs
A dive trip on The Seven Seas always promises adventure in stunningly beautiful coral seascapes, fish and marine creatures galore, well-planned and perfectly timed dives, good company and companionship above water and below, enwrapped in the care of the vessel's expert and friendly crew. In all these respects, this all-too-short trip from Ambon to Sorong through the north part of the Banda Sea, north through the Seram Sea to the south part of Raja Ampat - led by Cruise Director (and camarógrafo excepcional) Alex del Olmo and Captain Abdul Rifai H. Djudje (AKA Captain Pai), with super dive guides Irwan Andriani Endey and Jefry Dotulon - was of course no exception. This was my 22nd voyage on The Seven Seas since its inception and launching in 2006, and I've done trips in the region on other vessels, so I feel comfortable saying that on this boat, excellence is the norm. It just gets better year after year.
Yet in almost every other aspect, to those of us privileged to be on board, this trip was very special, even extraordinary. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, resort and liveaboard-based diving at this time is essentially limited to Indonesian citizens and expatriate residents who hold work permits. The hope is that it will soon be possible to expand access to sustainable ecotourism activities, with all appropriate precautions and protections in place, in the very near future.
This was the first opportunity for most of us to be able to do extended days of diving on a first-class liveaboard boat since the Covid-19 pandemic struck Indonesia in March 2020, effectively shutting down all recreational and nature-focused diving and ecotourism in Indonesia and throughout the rest of the world for the better part of a year. As such, this trip was a treasured chance to escape briefly the tedium and restrictions of a locked-down existence, working from home and meeting with colleagues and friends via zoom or WhatsApp for the past nine months, always aware of the much higher price paid by those unfortunate enough to contract the virus themselves or whose loved ones were stricken.
» CLICK HERE FOR ROBERT'S FULL ARTICLE AND MORE PHOTOS
Update: Temporary Covid Terms
As there is still no information regarding the Indonesian Government's plans for the reopening of the country to International tourism, we have decided to further extend our "Covid Terms" to June of 2021. In the meantime we are very hopeful that the great news about vaccines will help us all return to normality by the middle of next year.
» CLICK HERE FOR FULL DETAILS
The Seven Seas - Pertokoan Simpang Siur (Kuta Poleng) C1 - Jl. Setiabudi
Kuta, Badung 80361 - Bali - Indonesia