KM Raja Manta Trip Reports

Jun 4, 2015

Trip report WMVESAK 29th May – 1st June 2015

Guests clamoured to get on board MV White Manta for one of our early season long weekend excursions into Indonesia. Vesak is Buddha day.

Sarah La Caze at Pulau Damar - photo by DM: Daniel Kwok.

Only the evening prior to our trip departure, had I stepped off a ‘jumbo jet’ from blighty (England) having spent 2 weeks with my loving family that I hadn’t seen since July 2013. Fantastic people, fantastic place.

I was very pleased to immediately be in the company of some of my best friends amongst the dive masters and guests onboard.

Michael Smith helped to prepare the trip, as he did the previous weekend I was absent. Glenn Wright was there with his partner Jill, and Thomas Knudsen with his partner, Kathlyn. Both Daniels K’s (Kway & Kwok) were amongst the dive team, with whose company, I had the pleasure of, during the Thailand season. Joel Grenehammar was re-united with his logbook, and we were all set to mingle with our esteemed guests.

Some of my favourite regulars included: Andrew & Isabella (the ‘rebreathers’ and talented photographer), Rob (without Agnes, who couldn’t make it due to illness). Patrick & Wyin, Ian & Silke, Cyrill & Jutta, KC & Helen. My ‘Angels’ were back after our Thailand adventures too! Jen, Nora, Kath & Sarah. Marcel joined these glamour girls; he’s not quite so angelic (in this context), but quite fetching in one of our ‘luminous’ orange and yellow wetsuits by the end of the trip. More about that later.

Other returning guests included:, included: Paul, Eva, Salva & Stefan. The latter of whom returned with Felicity & her friend Lee.

I leave Dominic Cleary until last. When I left Singapore last season he was arranging a ‘bubblemaker’ birthday pool party for his daughter, and he was returning for his 10th trip with White Manta. Thanks Dominic.

Newcomers included Phillip, Alex, Peter, Simon & Celine, & Robin.

Batfish & Lee at Tokong Malangbiru - photo by DUP student: Felicity Cumming.

We were released from Nongsa Point Marina about 10.30pm, which was quite late, but to be expected for a holiday weekend and there were many other liveaboards processing their papers at the same time.

Early indications suggested a late start, so I opted to travel to the nearest Anambas divesite, Tokong Malangbiru, my favourite in the archipelago (& Isabella’s).

We would spend the rest of the day there, and since we started at 10.30am, I hoped it would give us flexibility later in the trip to pick the best conditions, since our schedule was for 9 dives.

Malangbiru is a great place to start any dive trip, as it offers an array of beautiful corals, interesting marine life. and landscape, in the shallows and the deep, and furthermore, it is suitable for a night dive.

Only one dive stood out for me, and that was dive 3, when my group, having entered the water in the shallows on the south side of Malangbiru, were lucky enough to witness a whale shark swimming into the slope about 3 minutes into our dive. I don’t know how big, I don’t know much really, I was so surprised so I focused first on my group seeing the wonder of the seas, and then I surfaced at haste - aware of our next dinghy approaching with my 'Angels'. Alas, the whale shark was also surprised, completing a lazy turn before swimming away as I re-descended in proximity to the eagerly expectant throng of divers.


Distant whale shark at Tokong Malangbiru - photo by Felicity Cumming: DUP student.

Somehow we managed to conduct the night dive, all surfacing before 9pm for one of Ting’s special dinners, and boy did we need it! Glenn took the spoils on the night dive with a marble ray sighting.

After dinner we sailed to Damar, arriving about 12.30am.

In the morning we were greeted by another ‘lush’ divesite location – Pulau Damar. This is my second favourite. I thought we’d dive the pinnacle, but a quick tie on with Michael Smith suggested otherwise.

So we quickly favoured a drift to the pinnacle from the somewhat phallically shaped rock on the east side of Damar. Plently saw bumphead parrotfishes & turtles. Glenn & co. drifted in the opposite direction and glowed with a ‘tidy’ report of turtles & cuttlefish amidst a beautiful morning coral backdrop.

A feat repeated by Smithy & Thomas, whilst the rest of us enjoyed the pinnacle with little current, but it was dormant too.

Chris' Angels on the rope at Damar Pinnacle - photo by their DM: Daniel Kwok.

It was time to move on, so we did; to Batu Katoaka. I planned 2 dives in daylight here, I’ve confidence in this divesite, having been fortunate enough to experience it’s finer qualities over the years. I was sure Thomas would see at least one black-tip reef shark, and he did; possibly claiming 2! Katoka is littered with soft corals and punctuated with some ‘grandiose’ coral heads, it is a vast area of shear magnificence. However, nothing was outnumbered by the jellyfish, who would sting all and take no prisoners! Hence the somewhat colouful attire sported by Marcel.

'Undulating' reef at Batu Kataoka with an example of 'the jellyfish' - photos by Felicity Cumming & Daniel Kwok respectively.

I had calculated that the current that had ‘pushed’, would similarly ‘pull’; such is the Einsteinic nature of the ocean, so we arrived at Igara at 6am. Amazingly, before any other boats, but I expected that.

I had gotten up early to check the current and potentially tie off. As it happened I did both and decided that given the conditions we would do 2 dives at Igara, a decision that met with a roar of approval!

They were great, the Igara is great, and a fitting end to yet another superb weekned on MV White Manta.

Special mention went to Felicity Cumming in my group, who at least progessed through Level One Digital Underwater Photography, gaining confidence to move through Level Two soon. Glenn worked tirelessly with his students. Robin Morris achieving his ‘Advanced’, How achieving his Deep specialty and Eva progessing through her Wreck Specialty before starting her Divemaster course next week in Tioman. Well done to those students sacrificing some of their time to improve their diving skills.


It would be folly, not to mention, that this weekend was also marred by the news that one of the most popular divesites in the area, the Seven Skies wreck, has almost been completely demolished for recreational divers by what is suggested to be illegal salvagers. Let us pray that the Igara never follows suit.

#RIPSevenSkies and thankyou for some of my best memories in diving, a loss along the same gravitude as East of Eden in Thailand and Melissa’s garden in Raja Ampat.