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Raja Ampat Trip Report - Part 2 (and Photos)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Steppenwolf, Dec 3, 2014.

  1. Steppenwolf

    Steppenwolf Well-Known Member

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    Day 4: Still at Misool but in a different part of the reef system. The morning dive was at Nudi Rock where conditions were quiet at the start and we saw several nudibranchs and other usual stuff. Then Monce, one of the Indo guides buddying me for the dive, decided to be a bit adventurous and went to the edge of the reef where we were caught be a rapid upswinging current that drifted us past all the colourful stuff for 10 minutes. When we were finally released, we were in 3m of water! We stayed on top of the reef at 6 to 7m for another 20 minutes, swimming with the bumphead parrotfish congregating there. The second dive was at Batu Kecil, another very lush and colourful reef in the area. Among other things, I saw and photographed a tiny hair-like shrimp (Plerogyra sinuosa) resting on bubble coral. I also saw another Nembrotha yonowae nudibranch. The afternoon dive was at East Kalig, another well-known macro site. Apart from the tiny stuff, I also saw a clown triggerfish and a mantis shrimp. This reef had many “painted walls” giving good photogenic backdrops. The night dive was at Elephant Rock where we were supposed to jump at the protected side. But in the darkened confusion of the tender, people got their fins mixed-up and there was a couple of minutes delay. The boat had shifted and we dropped into strong current…..at night! While the rest were trying to fight against the current, Monce and and I drifted with it, found a quiet zone wand explored there. We saw several lobsters, crabs, shrimps, a large scorpionfish and a massive sea snake that slithered past my face. A great dive.
    Day 5: Last day at Misool. This was 10th November, my 59th birthday which I had not advertised and hoped no one noticed. After we suited-up for the morning dive, the crew lured me to the edge of the boat and then grabbed me and dropped me over the edge before I could escape! Therre was a “Happy Birthday!” song afterwards and it turned out everyone was in on the joke. Anyway, we had returned to Shadow Rock hoping to see more manta rays for the morning dive and we were not disappointed. We went to the rockier side of the reef with less coral but more plankton and saw 4 of them, 3 white-grey and one black, all close-up for several minutes. There were also several large tuna and wrasse hunting smaller fish. For the second dive, we moved to the northern part of Misool to Emily’s Reef, another rich and colourful coral with lots of juveniles darting around. This reef also had several sea anemones with attendant clownfish pretending to be aggressive. By now the aforementioned leak in my second stage had become too much and I had to change it to a rented one for subsequent dives. The afternoon dive was at Three Towers, in-part a fast drift dive past very colourful hard and soft coral teeming with snappers, trevallis, groupers, parrotfish, tuna, pufferfish, regal angelfish and of course, nudibranchs. As we were moving out of Misool to Batanta we missed the night dive but instead the entire crew surprised us with an impromptu fancy dress ‘cabaret’ for my birthday benefit and with everyone joining-in, it turned out to be a nice party. They had even baked an excellent birthday cake for me. I felt extremely touched by the gestures.
    Day 6: We had moved out of Misool overnight and arrived at Batanta in the early morning hours. Only 2 dives were scheduled here before moving to Gam. The early morning dive was at Pulau Dayan West and the current was extremely strong when we jumped in. We had to drop to 20m and push ourselves along using the metal pointers as anchors. The early part of the dive was a kelp jungle with lots of nudibranchs but further up there was plenty of coral and fish, including several yellowtail pipefish. For the second dive we went to Pulau Dayan East, where the current split, leaving a “quiet zone”. The sloping reef was not very pretty with only a few clumps of coral but we saw loads of nudibranchs, a superb wobegong shark and a school of bumphead parrotfish.I got close in front of the shark and was taking pictures when it shot out of the crevasse and brushed right past me! The latter part of this dive was an exhilarating fast drift.After lunch we moved out of Batanta and went to Gam. The afternoon dive was at Gam Corner and here we saw a lot of macro critters, juveniles, emperor angelfish, oriental sweetlips, anotherwobegong shark and several moray eels. Further-up a couple of mobula rays, looking like mini-mantas, swam past us. The night dive at Citrus Reef was one of the trip’s best and we saw lots of critters. A large crocodile fish, several nudibranchs, flatworms, a baby cuttlefish, a slipper crab (I think) and another large octopus were all on show.
    Day 7: Gam. The morning dive was under bright and sunny conditions again and we started with Citrus Ridge on the other side of the reef ‘valley’.The coral was rich and colourful and all the usual suspects were present. We were supposed to look for ghost pipefish and we found two, but photographing them was harder than I had imagined. Later we saw a large school of marauding barracuda and a small turtle, the latter coming-up for its own “safety stop” with us. The second dive was ay Mayhem Ridge, so called because of strong and unpredictable currents. It was not bad at all at first as we swam past barracuda, blue-spotted stingrays and yet another wobegong shark. As elsewhere, there were plenty of nudibranchs. Then the current got stronger and we did a mini-drift past a turtle and clown triggerfish, the latter being blown sideways by the current. The afternoon dive was very unusual in that it was at Mangrove Reef where we could swim along and occasionally between tree roots at depths between 2 and 5m. Fittingly, there were several crocodile fish, velvet pipefish, a free-swimming turtle and other critters. The night dive at Yangefo Corner was another memorable experience with decorated crabs, shrimps, stingrays, pufferfish, a superb adult cuttlefish and several banded sea snakes ‘flying’ to the surface. But the piece de resistance was right at the end when I (and only I) saw and photographed a rare epaulette “walking” shark.
    Day 8: We had moved overnight from Gam to Dampier Strait, where we were going to do all the remaining dives of the trip. The morning dive was at a sandy reef aptly called Manta Sandy because there is nothing but sand and a few clumps of hard coral. We were supposed to anchor ourselves with reef hooks and wait for the manta rays to come, but they never did. After a while I started exploring around and found a few nudibranch including another Tambja morose, a couple of crabs, a sea horse, a stingray and a moray eel. But the funniest sight was right at the end when we saw a huge pufferfish nonchalantly resting under an overhang a few inches from a wobegong shark’s mouth! The second dive at Mike’s Point turned out to be bad for me. The current was strong and the Spanish guide, unfamiliar with the site, dropped us off at the wrong point, right into the teeth of a strong current. I swam with the reef to my right as we were told and within minutes got lost. I then caught-up with one of the Aussies from the other group who was himself lost and we signalled to each other to stay together and search for the others. But the current had carried us to a totally different and unfamiliar part of the reef and after 20 minutes we decided to surface safely. We did, only to find ourselves very far away from the boat and out of sight of the tenders. To make matters worse, we were downcurrent form the boat and so there was no prospect of swimming for it. It took a good 25 minutes for the boat crew to spot us but we were OK. The afternoon dive at Blue Magic was a controlled drift dive by contrast and we moved along lush coral and colourful fish. The highlight was massive octopus in a nook and I patiently waited to get a good photo. The night dive was a semi-muck dive at Saonek Jetty and predictably, we found a lot of macro, razorfish, a stargazer and a fast-disappearing bobbit worm. Further up were a couple of stingrays and some odd crabs that I could not identify. An interesting dive to say the least.
    Day 9: Dampier Strait. The morning dive was at Mioskon and despite a cloudy sky, the diving conditions were excellent with calm seas and great visibility. This is a superb reef typical of Raja Ampat with lots of coral and fish life. Groupers, snappers, fusiliers, catfish, sweetlips etc etc, they were all there in plenty. We saw more wobegong sharks, a moray eel and a couple of blue-spotted stingrays. The conditions were more active for the next dive at Cape Kri where a strong current helped us along for a while. The reef was just as lush as the previous one and towards the end of the dive we saw a large black-tip reef shark swim past us, swimming against the current without a care in the world while we hung-on. The afternoon dive was at Sardine Reef where the scene was dominated by a massive school of blue snappers and another of butterflyfish (I have never seen them in schools before….only in pairs). The other reef fish were there too, along with a white-tip shark eyeing them for his/her tea. Further up on top of the reef we had to anchor ourselves to watch a school of bumphead parrotfish as we did safety stops. We went back to Mioskon for the night dive where among other things we saw an ornate spiny lobster and a banded moray eel. A funny part of this night dive was that there appeared to be a banded shrimp wherever I pointed my light, including one on top of a moray eel’s head!
    Day 10: This was the last diving day and there were just 2 pre-lunch dives scheduled. The first was at a reef called De Puta Madre, which I believe means “F…ing good!”. It was indeed very colourful and I saw quite a few nudibranchs and a couple of large green moray eels. I then chased a wobegong shark getting a short video clip of it free-swimming. For the last dive of the trip we went to the eastern part of Mioskon, where among other things I saw my second epaulette shark close-up. It is a small but very colourful shark that tends to hide from divers under nooks and crannies. As we rose for the safety stop, I swam through a dense school of sweetlips and at one point was almost covered by them. Afterwards we did the usual washing of gear and keeping them out to dry before slowly starting to repack. We had a long trip back to Sorong harbour but arrived by evening. The Americans went to one restaurant and the Aussies to another while I preferred to remain on board and chat with the crew. Just as well because neither group appeared to have enjoyed their outing.
    Day 11: To my surprise,we were not kicked out of the boat at 8am as is the practice with most liveaboards. The Americans left after breakfast as they had a morning flight to catch but the Aussies and I did not have to leave till noon. The crew even checked into the domestic flights for us, booking me all the way to Jakarta as requested. After having my dives attested I settled-up, not forgetting a large gratuity to the crew for making my birthday so memorable.They had arranged airport transfers and saw to booking the luggage through and so we had it all really easy. The Aussies and I travelled together to Makassar, from where they went on to Bali and I to Jakarta.
    I spent 4 days in Jakarta where the traffic is worse than any other city that I have been…..and I have been to a few around the world. I did 3 tours through Grayline and then returned to the UK exhausted. Fortunately, I had allowed myself 3 full days of ‘holidays to recover from a holiday” and needed the time.

    Here is a link to the photos. I went a bit mad with nudibranchs and so please forgive me if you get bored of the critters.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/259415...7647229512723/
     
    Zubar and divewench like this.
  2. furryman

    furryman hmmmm
    Staff Member UKD Supporter

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    Nice one. I will drool over the photos when I get back to my desktop
     
  3. 290315

    290315 New Member

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    Looks ok I guess.......
     
    divewench likes this.
  4. Polly

    Polly Active Member

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    Sounds gorgeous Steppy - guess that's another one we'll have to put on our list. Glad you had fun! :)
     
  5. Wibble

    Wibble Fish don't talk
    UKD Supporter

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    I first thought it was just like diving in the UK with the grey background. Then the photos loaded...

    Wow. Am very impressed.

    Next UKD meeting?
     

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