Seek out the camouflaged pygmy seahorses of Indonesia on our 11 night

Special PYGMY SEAHORSE Cruise with Dr Richard Smith

2016 Raja Ampat 11N Cruise: Embark SORONG, 5 February 2016 - Disembark SORONG, 16 February 2016

Dr Richard Smith biography

Dr Richard Smith combines an in-depth academic knowledge of the marine environment with a goal of educating and impassioning people about the ocean through his images.

Richard learnt to dive in 1996 and since then he has logged over 2500 dives.

Diving allows Richard to indulge his love of natural history and through his skills as a photographer he is able to communicate his love to a wider audience. Richard's academic background enables him to document the ocean realm with unique and stunning images.

His undergraduate honours degree in Zoology and Master's in Marine Ecology and Evolution were followed by the first ecological research on pygmy seahorses.

In 2007 Richard began researching for his PhD on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, which was awarded in April 2011. His work focuses on the gorgonian-associated species, Denise's (Hippocampus denise) and Bargibant's pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti). His focus was population dynamics, reproductive and social behaviour, habitat use and conservation. Richard's ground breaking research found these diminutive fish to be surprisingly pugnacious and promiscuous, have one of the lowest population densities of any seahorse and be sensitive to certain actions carried out by divers, such as the use of bright lights and accidental touching of them or their gorgonian home.

Richard is regularly published internationally with a primary focus on conservation, marine life and scuba related travel, for publications including: Sport Diving (Australasia), Alert Diver, Asian Diver, Scuba Diver AustralAsia, Sport Diver (UK), Australian Geographic, Dive Photo Guide. Richard also supports conservation initiatives such as ARKive, The Zoological Society of London and EDGE of Existence (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) with images.

  • Follow Richard on HIS FACEBOOK PAGE and find out more about his work at WWW.OceanRealmImages.COM
  • Keep up to date with this specific trip at our FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

  • Dive RAJA AMPAT with Dr Richard Smith

    5 ~ 16 February 2016

    Join us to explore the famous dive sites of Raja Ampat, which offer everything a diver could wish for - from the majestic manta ray to the photogenic pygmy seahorse!

    Your adventure begins at the port city of Sorong at the western edge of West Papua (previously known as Irian Jaya). Sorong is almost equidistantly located between Indonesia’s famous ''island of the gods'' - Bali - and the capital of neighboring Papua New Guinea - Port Moresby (roughly 1,060 nautical miles east of Bali, versus 1,080 west of Port Moresby). This special cruise features talks from pygmy seahorse expert Dr Richard Smith, who will be sharing his experience of studying and photographing the various species of pygmy seahorse.

    Famed as the world's epicentre of marine biodiversity, the Raja Ampat area offers vibrant underwater colours but also majestic landscapes; a perfect destination for keen photographers. The waters of the region's 1,500 virtually untouched islands, boast over 1,300 reef fish (25 endemic species), 600 hard corals and 75% of all known coral species, plus 13 marine mammals and 5 species of endangered sea turtles.

    Wobbegong sharks hide under colourful coral shelves and the elusive Epaulette "walking" shark comes out at night. Jump in at Neptune Fan Sea for a great drift dive, rushing along a gulley past giant colourful gorgonian seafans. Manta Sandy is well-known as one of the most consistent spots for finding congregating mantas.

    And who knows, maybe there are even some new species just waiting to be discovered? So make sure you play close attention to sea fans, which cover the walls and slopes at most dive sites in Raja; and be on the lookout for anything from the ‘commonly-seen-in-Raja’ Hippocampus Bargibanti to a potential new Hippocampus that could join the growing list!

    Read more about this destination at our page on DIVING RAJA AMPAT. Or for details on pygmy seahorses see Richard’s own page on PYGMY SEAHORSES.


    Set sail from Sorong at the western edge of Papua, for a 12-day/11-night cruise, ending back in Sorong. Raja Ampat offers the most striking biodiversity on the planet. Famous dive sites such as Misool, Dampier Strait, Manta Sandy and Boo are all on the agenda. This area is known for its vibrant underwater colours but also its majestic landscapes, making it a perfect destination for keen photographers. The only problem with diving here is that you’ll be so spoiled by the near-perfect conditions that you may never want to leave.

    As many divers know, Indonesia is located in the very centre of the Coral Triangle and the variety of species seen underwater is truly astonishing. In certain bays and around small islands, you can find more species than in the entire Caribbean. In Raja Ampat, Gerald Allen (world-famous ichthyologist) counted the incredible number of 284 different species of fish during a single dive. In the same area, 465 different species of corals were found. As a result, scientists nowadays believe that this destination is the world's current no. 1 spot in terms of biodiversity.

    In terms of water temperature and recommendations for wetsuits, for most dive sites in Raja Ampat you can expect 27-30C+ (80-86F+) so a 3mm wetsuit or even a skinsuit is usually fine. For repetitive diving days you may start to notice the cooler thermoclines more than usual, so prefer to wear a slightly thicker wetsuit and/or a hood, but usually 3-5mm is sufficient. We don't recommend gloves as this can encourage divers to touch corals or delicate reef areas, but for night dives, where you could be more likely to bump into fire coral etc, many divers do prefer earning a full length suit and hood/gloves.

    SAMPLE CRUISE ITINERARY "Raja Ampat (Pygmy Seahorse)"

    12 Day/11 Night Sorong-Sorong Cruise

    Day 1 Embarkation in Sorong

    Raja Ampat means 'Four Kings'. In an archipelago of over 1,500 small islands there are four main islands or 'kings' - Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta, Misool. The majority of Raja Ampat is in Marine Protected Areas. These islands usually experience varying visibility depending on the weather conditions and warm water around 27-30C (81-86F).

    Day 2-5 Misool, Raja Ampat (13-14 dives)

    Misool is in the south of Raja Ampat and we will dive at the many small islands in the southeast. Southeast Misool is famous for the profusion of colourful soft corals and sea fans beautifully draped all over the reefs. Take a look at some photos taken in this area in our SOFT CORAL HEAVEN PHOTO ALBUM.

    We will stay three and a half days in the Misool area, on Day 5 we will complete 1-2 dives before traveling to the central part of Raja Ampat. There is a possibility to visit Tomolol Cave that has a river-sized waterway running through it. We take a 30-minute tender ride through a pearl farm and into the rugged interior. Once at the cave we float and paddle our way inside to enjoy the amazing rock formations. There is a large opening at the other end and also aa 'secret' cave to explore. This tour is dependent on receiving permission from the pearl farm and local village.