Raja Ampat Trip Report
William Dampier discovered this strait in 1700 midway through a three year long voyage in
command of the Roebuck. Massive quantities of seawater are
conveyed through this channel causing the currents to run parallel to the equator rather than perpendicular
as is normally the case in this part of the world. It is
absolutely imperative to time entries to coincide with the proper current phase as we found out on more than
one dive. However, it is these nutrient rich currents that
feed the staggeringly beautiful and diverse reefs.
Dive #1 –
Mioskon - 07:00 a.m. Our first dive in Raja Ampat. I will have to review the
tapes to remember what we saw here.
Dive #2 –
Cape Kri – 11:00 a.m.
This site was our indoctrination to the incredible strength of the currents in Raja
Ampat. Swimming against the current as hard as possible to
reach the point where the large pelagics congregate resulted in a rather short dive. By the time that I reached the diverging currents I was down to less
than 2000 psi. After only about 20 minutes in the area
where it was difficult to shoot anything I reached the turnaround pressure of 1000 psi and allowed myself to
be carried to the exit by the current. It was like filming
in fast forward with resplendent reefs rushing by in a cacophony of colour. Near the end of the dive I was able to shoot some footage of a rather
large sea snake but that was about all I accomplished.
Dive #3 –
Dive #4 –
Dive #5 –
Dive #6 –
Dive #7 –
Dive #8 –
Dive #9 –
Airborek Pier - 08:30
This is a shallow site at the pier adjacent to the village where some people had trekked into
the jungle at 05:00 a.m. in the hopes of seeing the elusive bird of paradise. Good wide angle shots of juvenile bat fish swimming against a backdrop
of the pilings were acquired. We also encountered a
cuttlefish but in very strong current. The safety stop
revealed a pair of signal blennies and a nudibranch in the shallow sand flats.
Dive #10 –
Mangrove Ridge - 11:00 a.m.
Perhaps our most spectacular dive of the trip thus far as coral gardens reach right up to the
mangrove swamp. I managed to squeeze through the mangroves
in the shallows and record the numerous hatchlings that congregate there before they venture out onto the
reef. Pure magic! “Birthplace of an Ocean” will be the
title for the clip.
Dive #11 –
Mangrove Ridge – 02:30 p.m.
This time we crossed the channel to an area
where the reef structure is even more prolific. Again it was
possible to squeeze through the edge of the mangrove swamp to collect images of the beginnings of life in the
ocean. Out on the reef we were able to shoot another wobbegong
shark and a crocodile fish.
Dive #12 –
Storm clouds and rain obscured the light making shooting rather challenging. The wide angle lens also added to the difficulty of shooting the pygmy
sea horses. Expectations were high but this dive turned out
to be a bit of a disappointment.
Dive #13 –
As soon as we boarded the pangas the rain began again. This dive yielded perhaps the most abundantly colourful conglomeration
of hard and soft corals that I have ever seen. The flat
port could not do justice to the proliferation of colour but close-up shots of individual corals turned out
Dive #14 –
Dive # 15 –
Candy Store - night
We returned to Mandiano specifically to shoot the pygmy seahorses. The first attempt I was not able to get white balance set correctly so
went in for a second attempt after everyone else had finished. This sequence of video turned out much better. However, Jonathan and Pierre hadm already departed with the dive
master and so Bob and I were left alone. Nearing my NDL for
the depth I ascended to shallower water and then Cedric, the dive master, showed up to escort us across the
channel to the other pygmy sea horse. It was a quick shoot
since I was already low on air but I managed to acquire a bit of footage. Unfortunately me second video light died on this dive.
Dive #16 –
Our first dive of the day yielded soft corals of just about every colour imaginable along with
several nudibranchs, numerous reef fish and even an octopus hiding in his lair. This dive was shot in wide angle and the site will be re-visited to
short some close-ups.
Dive #17 –
Not as much opportunity to shoot macro but
managed to acquire several fish portraits.
Dive #18 –
Dive #19 –
Dive # 20 -
Dive # 21 -
Neptune’s Fan Sea
Dive # 22 –
Dive # 23 –
This site was named by Cedric, our dive master,
for the people who participated in the dive. This is a site
that had not ever been dived previously and we discovered a sea mount resplendent in hard and soft
corals. I filmed a cowrie sliding across the reef as well as
some small shrimp and crabs that are often seen at night.
Dive # 24 –
We have entered the no fishing zone near Misool Eco Resort and it is a dramatic change of
environment. There are numerous schools of literally
thousands of fish hovering around the top of the reef. This
is what the ocean would look like if it were left alone to replenish. Hard and soft corals and huge sea fans provide shelter from the
currents for the small fish while predators lurk just off the reef.
Dive #25 –
Rock and Stroll (Tank Rock)
Another spectacular site offering nudibranchs, an octopus, a pygmy seahorse along with the
numerous, requisite reef fish waiting their turn to be cleaned at one of the cleaning stations.
Dive #26 –
Again we are greeted by schools of baitfish as we descend onto this pristine reef. Nudibranchs, a flatworm, moray eel, napoleon wrasse and three mobula
rays offer photographic opportunities.
Unnamed site – night dive
Large epaulet shark was the highlight of this dive.
Dive # 28 –
If this site is an indication as to what happens to a reef when it is designated a “no take”
zone then all reefs should be similarly protected. This
dive was absolutely amazing! Once we reached the sandy
outcrop, schools of large and smaller barracuda swung around us in circles awaiting their prey. Thousands of small bait fish swim through the coral
passes. A large cluster of orange anemones host clown fish
and cleaning stations are everywhere.
Dive # 29 –
Boo Island – The Window
Large marble ray was the highlight of this dive.
Dive # 30 –
Boo Island – The Window
Went back with the fat port to film nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and other assorted small
stuff. Also had a close encounter with a pair of napoleon
Dive # 31 –
Misool Eco Resort – night dive
Dive #32 –
nudibranchs were located on this site.
Dive # 33 =
Large cave with numerous nudibranchs.
Dive # 34 =
Dive #35 –
Dive #36 –
Algae Patch Too
Wobbegong, robust ghost pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish and nudibranchs.