KM Black Manta Trip Reports

Nov 5, 2012

Ring Of Fire – Band Sea


Crossing trip 14-23 October 2012


Seasnake at Gunung Api

In August 2011, our cruise leader Cedric shared with me his encounter with more than 200 hammerhead sharks during his crossing trip three years ago. This experience happened at one of the atolls along the Ring of Fire in Banda Sea.

For those who are unfamiliar with this location, the “Ring Of Fire” is a chain of a few active volcanic islands between the tip of East Timor to the north of Pulau Seram (near Ambon) in the Banda Sea.

Live aboard trips are the only way to explore this areas as none of the islands are inhabited. I was very fortunate to be aboard this trip. As we left Maumere (the port after Komodo Labuan Bajo), my heart was filled with excitement as this was our first crossing to the Ring of Fire. It was something new for me because even though we had some good diving in Banda crossings last year, we didn’t cover the Ring of Fire.

On the Black Manta, Bill, Cedric and Gill, who stayed over from the previous Komodo-Maumere crossing, highlighted to us that they swam with four Minke whales in the Maumere bay before we arrived. I was so sad that I missed it…! Unfortunately, their photos were not very clear. Nevertheless, it was a great start for Black Manta.


Kelimutu Volcano at Maumere, Flores

During the trip, our DMs Stanny, Ungke, Gill and Bill visited the famous Kelimutu Volcano. Pierre Rebutfat and PF also came back with great photos of the volcano.  Clearly, this place is certainly not just all about the diving. There are treasures on land to be explored as well!

Once all divers were onboard, we sailed towards Pulau Alor.  Alor is in the eastern part of the Indonesian province Nusa Tengara Timur and is surrounded by many untouched dive sites. Macro lovers will not be left out as critter diving is a highlight in Alor. The colourful slopes in Pura Island are home to not only the cute mandarin fish, but also the frog fish, Blue Ribbon Eel, leaf fish, Harlequin ghost pipe fish, Rhinopias pygmy sea horse and many more.

Cedric entertaining the local children in Alor

At Karl’s Dream, we had a fantastic dive with Thresher Sharks, huge Dogtooth Tunas, Giant Trevally Critter Rhinopias and reef sharks.  On the Black Manta, we spotted what seemed like hundreds of dolphins swimming by our boat and we also saw whales from a distance.

Our next stop, Pulau Wetar, is about 50 nm from East Timor. The amazing 40m visibility enabled us to explore the colourful wall easily.  We dived with tunas and some 500-600 human-sized Giant jacks. We also saw reef sharks, a giant Napoleon wrasse  and hundreds of schooling big eye jacks.

Pulau Gunungapi (Fire Mountain) – the start of Ring of Fire, is a great place to dive with sea snakes. There must have been at least 20-30 big and small sea snakes all around us. It was an awesome experience to see them move gracefully through the water. Often they  swam between our legs and surprised divers by coming up close to their masks. Not only that, fish life was in abundance with Rainbow runners, Yellow fins, dogtooth Tunas, Giant trevallys, schooling surgeons fish… Certainly one of the most beautiful dives I have experienced.

After 3 snake dives, we sailed east towards our Hammerhead dream.  We decided to try a new reef and we had no expectations, but the dive ended up being a great treat for us.  At only 35m, there were 50-60 schooling hammerhead sharks.  I was only 5m away from them and that was really awesome!! Not only that, a Thresher shark two Mobula rays, and the biggest Dogtooth tuna I have ever seen in my life made our dive complete. The tuna must have been at least 1.5m long and it swam like it owned the sea.  We had to scramble to get out of its way!

We did another dive there to confirm the hammerheads were not just a lucky occurrence and we were not disappointed, although there were fewer of them swimming around.

In the afternoon, we sailed to the actual hammerheads point where Cedric saw more than 200 sharks.  As we were gearing up, another dive boat reported that they saw about 200 silky sharks and many, many hammerheads.  After that, we couldn’t have geared up faster than if our lives depended on it…

Well, in the end we didn’t see any silky sharks but we saw 30-40 hammerhead sharks and that was good enough for me. The sharks and hunting  Giant Travelly with great visibility made up all the difference.

 

Trip Report by Vincent Chew
Photos & Videos courtesy of Bonky and Pierre Rebufat