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Raja Ampat Trip Report

Dampier Strait

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 – Mike’s point

Dive #4 – Yembesser

Dive #5 – Otdima

Dive #6 – Manta Spa

Dive #7 – Manta Spa

Dive #8 – Sawingerai Bay

Dive #9 – Airborek Pier  - 08:30 a.m. 

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. 

Misool

Dive #12 – Candy Store

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 – Andiamo

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 very well.

Dive #14 – Andiamo

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 – Kaleidioscope Ridge

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 – Kaleidioscope

Not as much opportunity to shoot macro but managed to acquire several fish portraits

Dive #18 – Kepotsal

Dive #19 – Kepotsal

Dive # 20 - Barracuda Rock

Dive # 21 - Neptune’s Fan Sea

Dive # 22 – Barracuda Rock

Dive # 23 – Dramatic Mount

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 – Nudi Rock

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 – Whale Rock

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.

Dive #27– Unnamed site – night dive

Large epaulet shark was the highlight of this dive.

Dive # 28 – Nudi Rock

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 wrasse.

Dive # 31 – Misool Eco Resort – night dive

Dive #32 – Three Sisters

Numerous nudibranchs were located on this site.

Dive # 33 = Goa Farondi

Large cave with numerous nudibranchs.

Dive # 34 = Goa Farondi

Dive #35 – Algae Patch

Dive #36 – Algae Patch Too

Wobbegong, robust ghost pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish and nudibranchs.

 

 

Katyk BriceƱo
"Amazing!!! Beautiful!!" 
 
Daniel LaFrance  
"Beautiful, akin to an underwater spiritual experience of sorts."
 
Walter Marshall   
"Whenever I watch your videos I am just taken away." 
 
Shaun Diaz   
"Well done, very well done. Mysterious, gorgeous and deeply inspiring... The best part is I am not naming any of it. It is nature in its most perfect and beautiful form." 
 
Christie Lopez  
"David...the video is beautiful and so is the music!! I love the music!!!!" 
 
Brian Dodd
"I just wanted to thank you for the moments of peace and beauty these clips brought to my hectic life."