Raja Manta 10-17th March Raja Ampat trip.
March is arguably when Raja Ampat’s marine life really peaks. This time of year can bring some quite heavy plankton blooms but this plankton along with the strong currents & upwellings that feed the area are the lifeblood of Raja Ampat and one of the main reasons it is so very rich in marine life & bio-diversity. These conditions also encourage plenty of big fish & marine megastars!
Our passengers this trip consist of divers from Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. We were very happy to welcome back , Frank and Florence from Hong Kong and Ian and Lilian from Singapore.
After a relaxing day in Sorong Harbour, setting up dive gear and catching up on sleep we bring up the anchor and move to our favourite check dive, Lampu Merah. On our check dive we were very pleased to find Lampu Merah’s resident Wobbegong sharks have given birth to a perfectly formed baby, we look forward to watching it grow. After check dive it’s a 100 mile motor to Fiabacet in Misool. During the sail we watched a fantastic sunset as we motored through the Selat Sele, a narrow passage of water between mainland Papua and the island of Salawati. Here the scenery of jungle covered coastline could make you believe you are cruising down the Amazon river, simply stunning and a great way to get the trip underway.
The first half of the trip, from day 2 to day 4 we explored the Southern areas of Raja Ampat, diving the marine wonderland around Fiabacet & Misool. There is so much variety & excellent diving in this area it really is a diver's paradise! Highlights included Yilliet Kecil with large schools of Barracuda & pygmy seahorse, Magic Mountain, playing host to a number of reef Mantas, Boo windows with it's unbelievable underwater topography, Nudi Rock where we were able to enjoy hunting Grey Reef & Black tip reef sharks chasing huge schools of fusiliers, Night dives searching for (and finding) the famous Raja Ampat Walking shark and Batu Mimpi, a dive site very few other boats visit, pioneered by us some time ago when Cedric, Stanny, Handy, Anto and Nu were still on Black Manta. Batu Mimpi's corals are pristine and must have the record for the biggest school of yellow snapper in Raja Ampat! Nearly one whole side of the reef is covered by a massive school of yellow snapper. There is also a resident school of Black Fin Barracuda and a huge school of Long Fin Batfish, A large 1m Malabar Grouper was also found at a cleaning station on top of a pinnacle.
However, the undoubted highlight of our Southern Raja Ampat adventure was to be our second dive at Magic Mountain. During this dive we had full sunshine, and although no mantas this time two groups were lucky enough to have an encounter with two Bottlenose Dolphins. The divers were hanging out at a deep cleaning station at 28 meters watching Grey Reef Sharks and huge GT’s chase schools of fusiliers and Oceanic Triggerfish when suddenly they heard the booming sound made by a large school of fish made when they all move together at the same time, known as "Fish Thunder" this usually happens when the fish are being harassed by predators. It was an amazing sight to see the 3m Dolphins come from the blue chasing the schools and a diving memory none will forget!
On to the Northern & Central region of the park for the second half of the trip for days 5, 6 & 7. We started at Yangeffo bay, surrounded by mangrove and rainforest our guests woke up to a cacophony of bird calls from Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Parrots emerging from their night time roosts, an amazing natural alarm clock! The diving was once again superb with highlights including Citrus Ridge, Blue Magic, Sardine Reef & Cape Kri where marine mega stars both large & small were found in abundance. The highlight for the big fish lovers was definately to be enjoyed at Manta Ridge, everyone enjoyed watching 8 Manta put on a 60 minute show for our lucky guests, reef hooks were definately required as the current was ripping!
For those who prefer the smaller things and the challenge of hunting for macro subjects the highlight was our incredible night dive on the coast of Waigeo; Blue Ringed Octopus, Wonderpus, several Reef Cuttlefish and the Coconut octopus represented the Cephalopods. Unusual fish like Ornate Ghost Pipefish and Waspfish were spotted in the sand and muck. Several different Decorator crabs were spotted, including the tarantula like Blunt Decorator Crab. The ‘Shaun the sheep’ Nudibranch was also found and our divers were thrilled to be shown a pair of Common Seahorses clinging to the seagrass in the shallows, these 10cm Seahorses made a refreshing change to the 1cm< Pygmy Seahorses they had been seeing all trip.
We ended the trip with very happy divers indeed! What a trip! Raja Ampat is on fire right now!