GREATER RAJA AMPAT 22 Dec 2021 – 4 Jan 2022

GREATER RAJA AMPAT

14 Days/13 Nights Sorong – Sorong Cruise Itinerary

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).

Days 2-9 Misool, Raja Ampat (29 dives)

Misool is in the south of Raja Ampat and we will dive at the many small islands in the southeast. Over the past years Misool has become Raja Ampats best diving area, being famous for the profusion of colorful soft corals, sea fans beautifully draped all over the reefs and a huge amount of all kind of fishes on every single dive. Take a look at some photos taken in this area in our album Soft Coral Heaven.

The islands in southeast Misool are grouped by areas. Here are the names of the areas and dive sites we may visit (weather permitting):

Misool – Boo Area

Boo Windows is the famous dive site in this area. It is best known for the “windows” or rounded openings on the end of the largest rock that completely pierce the reef from the surface down to about five meters/fifteen feet. Although the two rocks appear separate from the surface they are in fact connected underwater by a magnificent reef draped in soft corals and brimming with fish. See photos of the Windows here. Boo Ridge is an underwater ridge coming off the eastern point of Boo Island. Both sides are covered in huge gorgonian sea fans. At these dive sites look out for turtles, reef sharks, pygmies, nudis and schooling batfish, fusiliers and snappers. Shadow Reef is a submerged seamount south of Boo.

The fish life here is profuse with napoleon wrasses of all sizes, baby white tip reef sharks sleeping under the table corals, schooling barracuda and batfish and for the lucky ones maybe a manta ray circling the cleaning stations. Birthday Cake is a beautiful ridge in the Boo Area. Look for pygmy seahorses, flatworms and nudibranch in the deeper section and beautiful soft corals in the shallows, where we even have seen the famous “walking shark” – epaulette shark. Eagle Nest is a seamount close to the island of Warakaraket. With the right current we have been lucky to see lots of fish action, including grey reef sharks, giant travellies hunting in clouds of fusiliers and even manta rays.

Misool – Yuliet Area

The tiny islands of Yuliet and Romeo both have surrounding plateaux in the shallows that slope down to reefs or small walls. At Yuliet there is a good chance to see the ‘Santa Claus pygmy’ a red colour variation of the Denise pygmy seahorse. In the shallows are large coral heads completely covered in colourful soft corals. Schools of barracuda and batfish as well as napoleon wrasses are often seen here. Romeo is a great night dive where we will look for the endemic epaulette shark, the ‘walking’ shark.

Misool – Fiabecet

Fiabecet area has a selection of dives where the colourful soft corals and beautiful sea fans literally smother the reefs. The soft corals here are truly outstanding. There is a deep underwater ridge connecting the island of Boo in the east to the island of Kalig in the west. In parts this ridge moves up shallower and forms the dive sites of Boo West Corner, Batu Kecil (aka Tank Rock), Nudi Rock, Whale Rock and Kalig Ridge.

Expect healthy fish life, pygmy seahorses galore, nudis, colourful anemones, reef sharks and perhaps a Wobbegong shark. Anti-chovy is a large underwater seamount with some deep pinnacles covered in stunning corals. Mobula rays, golden trevallies and Napoleon wrasses can be found here. On top of the seamount look for turtles, stonefish and reef octopus.

Misool – Wayilbatan Area

Neptune Fan Sea is a small channel between two islands with a shallow wall completely covered in some of the biggest gorgonian sea fans you will ever see. At the start of the dive explore the beautiful coral heads where huge groupers can be hiding. Then drift along the wall and enjoy the view of the sea fans, stopping once in a while to find the tiny pygmy seahorse. Four Kings is a stunning dive site made up of four underwater pinnacles. Swim from one rock to the next enjoying the soft corals and fish life. Look out for schooling big eye jacks, spadefishes and grey reef sharks. Wedding Cake, Dunia Kecil and Wayili Rock offer chances to see schools of batfish, trevallies, barracuda, pygmy seahorses and reef octopus.

Misool – Daram Area

Daram is the most easterly point of the islands we might visit in Misool. The reef at Andiamo is stunning and is large enough for at least two dives. There is a submerged pinnacle where sea fans are surrounded by schools of fusiliers and batfish. A short swim across a sandy bottom brings you to the main reef lush with soft corals. In between the two islets is a gap thick with sea fans and is excellent for wide-angle photography.

Look out for black tip reef sharks and Napoleon wrasse, if you can see them through all the fish! Candy Store is so named because the first divers to explore this reef felt like kids in a candy store. Huge sponges, beautiful soft corals and sea fans cover this dive site, especially in the valleys where schools of fusiliers, butterfly fish and sometimes barracuda gather. Warna Berwarna in Bahasa Indonesia means “Vibrant Colors”. Expect to see sea fans in all possible colors and watch out for pygmy seahorses. On the north western side of the island there is a beautiful ridge coming out where tons of fusiliers and orange spotted trevallies hang out in the blue. The shallows are covered with healthy hard corals and often we get to see schooling bumphead parrotfishes.

Misool – Pele Area

Kaleidoscope is so called because of the profusion of colours produced by the huge soft corals draping the shallow rocks and coral heads. A ridge extends out west from the island which can full of fish when the current is running. Back at the island finish the dive under the overhangs.

Misool – Sagof

The little islets of Baby Rock and Two Tree Island create amazing dive sites with abundant fish life. There is a resident school of batfish at Baby Rock and Two Tree Island is often full of thousands bait fish. The Watch Towers is a massive seamount with tons of black coral in the deeper section. Schools of yellow snappers, barracudas and giant trevallies can be found in the up-current side. On the hard coral plateau look out for Wobbegong sharks and crocodile fish.

Misool – Tomolol Cave

There is a possibility on this day to visit Tomolol Cave that has a river-sized waterway running through it. We take a 20-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 a ‘secret’ cave to explore. This tour is dependent on receiving permission from the pearl farm and local village. Check our Tomolol Cave photo album.

Day 10 Batanta Island (4 dives)

Batanta Island is the only black sand dive we will be doing during this trip. Here we will be doing some creature hunts from mantis srhimps to the elusive Rhinopias or one of our favorite to look for is the juvenile Wobbegong, the size of the palm of your hand makes it one of the most rarest creature on the site. Black Beauty is a place where we will spent all day diving in the same site but every dive is completely different, the sandy slope is also covered with algae which is the perfect place for creatures to hide, such as ghost pipe fish and frog fish. Different octopus like the wunderpus or the algae octopus have been seen here.

Day 11 Penemu Area (3 dives)

Penemu is an island west of Waigeo with a selection of dives sites. Melissa’s Garden is the most well known. Here there are very healthy hard coral reefs in the shallows and a beautiful coral garden sloping to the sides where schooling fish hang out in the current. Wobbegong sharks like to sleep under the coral heads and inside the large cup corals here. Hundreds of anthias dance in and out of the corals where you might also see a sea snake.

Penemu Wall and My Reef are also great dives in this area. After the two morning dives we will visit the viewpoint in Penemu where you can appreciate the iconic Raja Ampat view of the groups of islands nestled inside beautiful blue lagoons. Check out our Beaches & Islands album. At sunset we will dive at Batu Rufus. There is a shallow swim through framed beautifully by soft corals and sea fans. Below this is a sloping reef where hard corals shelter cardinal fish in the shallows and in the deep, Pontohi seahorses and nudibranch can be found on the coral heads.

Days 12-13 Dampier Strait (5-6 dives)

The strait that flows between Waigeo and Batanta is rapidly becoming known as having really good diving in Raja Ampat as a result of the nutrient-rich ocean currents passing through. Everything that makes for a wonderful dive can be found here. But even beyond the usual delights and the satisfaction of spotting prized macro subjects such as the newly discovered Pontohi pygmy seahorse on the coral heads, there are surprises to be found in every dive.

The fish life in this area is as plentiful as can be expected at sites with a great deal of healthy hard and soft coral. Wobbegong sharks can also be found at any of these dive sites, especially at Mioskon. Cape Kri holds the impressive record of 374 fish species identified during one 90-minute dive. Blue Magic is a submerged seamount where there is a chance to encounter Giant manta rays.

Ironically, sardines are about the only reef fish not found at the site of Sardine Reef, but you won’t even notice as you see swarms of fusiliers, surgeonfish, trevallies, rainbow runners, sweetlips and bannerfish practically blocking out the sky swarming over a reef decorated with sea fans, soft corals and huge orange elephant ear sponges encrusted with pastel colonies of tunicates. One of the more unique thrills of this site is being able to hear “fish thunder” – the loud booming sound made when a large number of fish move rapidly through open water.

There is also a small village with Sawandarek Jetty. In the shallows the jetty posts are covered in soft corals and below look for sweetlips, big eyed jacks and massive green turtles. On the reef see huge giant clams nestled among pulsing soft corals. At night look for huge lobsters and maybe even catch a glimpse of the endemic epaulette shark, the ‘walking’ shark. The reef also provides shelter for many interesting small animals like hermit crabs, flatworms and the very cute pughead pipefish.

Between the dives there is an opportunity to visit the village on Sawandarek Island to see the traditional way of life for these island people. Be ready to be greeted by many children who are more than willing to pose for photographs. Anyone joining our cruise is more than welcome to bring along some goodies for the children at Sawandarek. Obviously the children love sweets but we encourage people to bring pencils, pens, notebooks or coloring books – all of which don’t rot their teeth! The school always needs more materials and the girls love hair clips and bands. Please try to limit the amount of plastic packaging, leave this at home where it can be correctly recycled.
An optional tour in the Dampier Strait area is a hike in the jungle to see Birds of Paradise. There will be an extra charge for this tour and it is dependent on the weather and all of the guest’s preferences.

On the last full day of the cruise there will be one or two dives depending on the flight times out of Sorong the next day. After the dives we will travel back to Sorong.

Day 14 Disembarkation in Sorong

Total dives: 41-42 dives

KOMODO FOCUS 9-17 May 2022

KOMODO FOCUS

9 Days/8 Nights Labuanbajo – Labuanbajo Cruise Itinerary

Day 1 Embarkation in Labuanbajo

Day 2 Komodo-Flores Channel (4 dives)

Currents in this area can be quite strong and we have to dive according to the tides. There are many dive sites and the sites chosen will be dependent on the currents. Finish the day with a great night dive at Wainilo. Komodo is an excellent place for spotting macro critters and the reefs and corals are spectacular too. See some photos here.

Sebayur Kecil

This island at the east side of Komodo National Park is a perfect spot to do our check-out dive as currents tend to be very mild here. We start the dive on a white sand patch were we can look out for blue spotted stingrays, garden eels and other sand inhabitants. Continuing to the east the reef gets into a beautiful hard coral wall. Leaf scorpionfishes, reef octopus and morey eels are only a few of the inhabitants of this site.

Tatawa Besar

This is a thrilling drift dive that starts off from the northwestern tip of Tatawa and continues down the western side towards 15 to 20 meters of depth. The surrounding fish life is profuse and you will see an endless field of stunning orange soft corals as you glide along. Swim past coral heads inhabited by schools of sweetlips and batfish and look out for turtles feeding on the reef. Mantas have been encountered here as well.

Batu Bolong

Underwater this rock is covered in a huge amount of soft and hard corals and full of fish life. In the shallows watch anemone fish and look out for turtles munching on the corals. Giant trevally, white tip reef sharks, snappers and emperor fish tend to congregate here. This site presents particularly good opportunities for both macro and wide-angle photography.

Wainilo

This night dive is situated off the north of Rinca Island. In the shallows, the hard coral reef is home to many different critters, including juvenile harlequin sweetlips and batfish. Away from the reef, the sandy slope is scattered with pulsing soft corals that hide demon stingers and starry night octopus. Different types of nudibranch, frogfishes, harlequin shrimps and even wheedy rhinophias have been seen here.

Day 3 Walk with dragons/Middle Area (3 dives)

Loh Buaya (walk with dragons)

Your day will begin with an exciting visit to Komodo National Park where you will be able to take a stroll with the famous dragon! Take a look at our Komodo Dragon photo album here. As you walk along the paths, also stay on the lookout for deer, wild boar and birds in addition to the giant lizards. After the walk we move to the middle area of Komodo National Park.

Takat Makassar

This is an exhilarating drift dive along the shallow flat bottom interspersed with patches of coral reef teeming with life. There are chances to see manta rays, turtles, eagle rays and white tip and black tip reef sharks.

Siaba Besar

This spot is a nice combination with a white sand area where we can find some great critters as frogfishes, ghost pipefishes, devil scorpionfishes, upside down jellyfish and a big amount of flounders. On the hard coral area watch out for big green turtles, leaf scorpionfishes and pajama cardinalfishes.

Siaba Kecil

This little island offers a beautiful drift dive with some nice overhangs where sweetlips, snappers and trevallies can be found. After the drift we finish the dive in a pretty shallow staghorn coral area with hundreds of anthias and feeding hawksbill turtles. Have a look as well into the blue, very often we see eagle rays passing by.

Batu Tengah

This dive site is located in the middle of the Komodo National Park, 12 nautical miles to the north and 12 nautical miles to the south. The translation of Batu = Rock, Tengah = Middle. With a slope to the east of the site and a coral garden to the west Batu Tangah is a beautiful site where we often get to see turtles, cuttlefish and juvenile white tip reef sharks that hide under the table corals among the hard coral garden. Napoleon wrasse and big groups of snapper swimming on the slope with all the colourful decoration of the soft coral make Batu Tengah a high quality dive site.

Day 4 Rinca Island (4 dives)

The water temperature here and in the southern dive sites over the next few days can be a little cooler dropping from the normal 28/29 degrees Celsius (82-84 Fahrenheit) to a possible 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). Also due to the infinite nutrients in the water creating the amazing biodiversity in this area the visibility can sometimes be a bit greener. Neither one of these factors can spoil the amazing diving to be had in these areas.

Horseshoe Bay is in the south of Rinca Island and we spend one full day here. Here we dive the famous Cannibal Rock, one of the top ten dives sites in the world according to some diving publications. Watch dragons, wild pigs, deer and monkeys roam the beach and take a tender ride or kayak to get a closer look.

Cannibal Rock

This outstanding dive site covers a large area with sandy slopes in the north, deep mini walls in the east, a plateau full of life in the south and rocky areas in the west. The nutrient rich bay creates the most spectacular congregation of hard and soft corals in all parts of the dive site. Sponges, ascidians, sea squirts and tube anemones are abundant. A great diversity of nudibranchs can be seen here, along with frogfish, turtles, cuttlefish and other reef fish too.

Yellow Wall of Texas

As the name suggests this wall at the southern entrance to Horseshoe Bay is covered in yellow and orange soft corals. A tiny critter, the ladybug, comes in its multitudes here. Nudibranchs decorate the wall that usually has a slight current enabling you to slowly drift along and enjoy the view.

The Boulders

Inside the bay and opposite Yellow Wall of Texas there are large rocks that continue underwater to create places for large rays to rest and even sometimes nurse sharks hide in these underwater crevices. The boulders are covered in corals becoming a paradise for marine life.

Torpedo Alley

A marvelous night dive named after the pancake sized torpedo rays that can be found here. Coconut octopus, seahorses, colorful squid and the bizarre bobbit worm all live in the black volcanic sand. A very shallow dive with a maximum depth of 10m/30ft, spend time looking for all the strange inhabitants among the rocks, soft corals and in the sand.

Day 5 Manta Alley/Pink Beach (4 dives)

Manta Alley is located on the south end of Komodo Island. After two dives looking for manta rays we head up to the middle of Komodo Island to the Pink Beach area.

Manta Alley

Manta Alley is located in Tora Langkoi Bay along the south coast of Komodo. The dive site in fact barely pierces the ocean’s surface at the end of a line of rock islets. As can be guessed from its name many manta rays are known to frequent this site and it is the most popular one in Komodo for spotting them. The area can be described as a deep gully that works as a funnel when the tide changes, causing the water to rush through at speeds of up to three to four knots with the fall and rise of the tides and up to one knot even during “slack water” periods. Watch the mantas being cleaned on the North side or enter the ‘Alley’ to see them hover effortlessly in the current.

Pink Beach

The simple topography makes this site an ideal afternoon dive. A mini wall can be found in the middle of the reef, where clouds of glassfish swarm in the cracks and crevices. An abundant amount of fish life and unusual critters make their home here, including leaf scorpionfish, crocodilefish, nudibranchs and frogfish. On one side of the wall is a sloping coral reef full of life. On the other is a sandy area with healthy staghorn corals growing and providing shelter for juvenile harlequin sweetlips and barramundi.
Loh Liang Bay
This white sand muck dive is around the corner from Pink Beach situated inside Loh Liang Bay on Komodo Island. Search for all sorts of critters here – bobtail squid, flamboyant cuttlefish, frogfish, nudibranchs, Ambon scorpion fish, cockatoo waspfish and large moray eels living in the shallow rocks.

Day 6 Noth Komodo (4 dives)

Two celebrated dive sites await you, just north of Gili Lawalaut Island. Crystal Rock and Castle Rock are both incredible locations, boasting the key elements for any impressive dive site: a wide variety of healthy corals covering the reef, plus tons of fish – both big and small and all sizes in between! There are more exhilarating dives in this area, Aquarium, Coral Garden, Gili Lawalaut Lighthouse and a bit more to the northeast Batu Montjo, along with good night dives on healthy hard coral reefs off the island of Gili Lawa Darat. Between the dives there is a chance to visit Gili Lawalaut Island and take a short trek to the top of the hill for a wonderful view over the Komodo-Flores channel.

Crystal Rock

The rock jutting out of the surrounding crystal clear waters explains how this site got its name. But what is truly memorable here are the large schools of fusiliers and anthias flitting over the gorgeous soft corals and impressive table corals. In the deep blue, you can also see at times large tuna, mackerel and other fish schooling around a small mound to the northwest. A lone eagle ray is often spotted here cruising in the currents.

Castle Rock

Castle Rock is a submerged pinnacle situated a kilometre further north from Crystal Rock. Its exposed location means strong currents but experienced divers will love the thrills to be had on this dive. In fact, the main action comes from watching the staggering amount of fish such as batfish, groupers, midnight snappers and impressive schools of fusiliers and surgeons whipping past. Of course, divers aren’t the only ones interested in the huge amount of fish here, which explains the giant trevally as well as whitetips, blacktips and grey reef sharks hunting around for their next meal.

Aquarium

This beautiful shallow dive site on the southwest corner of Gili Lawalaut offers a good possibility to see manta rays passing by. Big coral formations surrounded by thousands of glassfish offer amazing wide angle photography opportunities. White tip reef sharks can be found in the sandy bottom area and hawksbill and green turtles can be seen along the calm flower coral reef.

Coral Garden

We start the dive in a white sandy area with stunning coral heads and big barrel sponges. Watch out for leaf scorpionfishes, hairy squat lobsters, morey eels and different types of stingrays. The reef converts into a beautiful hard coral wall where thousands of fusiliers and dozens of trevallies and snappers can be seen.

Batu Montjo

In the northwest of Komodo Island, Batu Montjo is a perfect site to dive as a third dive with a amazing formation of hard corals in the shallows. Many boulders covered with gorgonian sea fans lie in between the white sandy slopes. This combination of hard corals and gorgonian sea fans with all the fish swimming in between the coral garden makes for a perfect relaxing afternoon dive. Leaf fish, mantis shrimp, jaw fish and turtles are often seen at this site.

Gili Lawalaut Lighthouse

On the north of Gili Lawalaut there is a lighthouse at the end of a long reef. When the tide is going down the dive starts on the reef with a drift to the corner. At the corner there are big schools of batfish, snappers, surgeons with napoleon wrasse and reef sharks also hanging around.

Day 7 Sangeang Island(4 dives)

The island of Sangeang is located northeast of Sumbawa. It’s a fairly small island but you’ll notice it right away since most of its landscape consists of Gunung Api, an active volcano. This natural phenomenon has made for some amazing topography, such as steep ridges dripping with hardened lava. There are several excellent dive sites here, all with good visibility, allowing you to truly appreciate the healthy reefs of soft and hard corals as well as different types of anemones.

Hot Rocks

Here the volcano has left its mark below the surface as well. In the shallows observe volcanic bubbles escaping from the seabed through air vents. Put your hands close to the ‘hot rocks’ and feel the heat from the sulphur-covered rocks. Besides the usual tropical reef species ribbon eels, cowries and Bargibanti pygmy seahorses can also be seen here.

Lighthouse Reef

This site presents many contrasts in terms of natural features and marine life. Strong currents can prevail in the exposed areas but there are also sheltered spots. Down around 20 metres macro lovers will be delighted, as the base of the wall and large black sand slope is excellent for spotting countless nudibranchs and other colourful critters.  Black coral bushes hide ghost pipefish and saw blade shrimps.

Black Diamond

The rocky formation up in the shallows with fingers of coral going to the deep are covered with black coral and crinoids in any colour you can imagine. The black sand acts as a background to all the colour of this dive site and the corals will stand out in a way that you’ve never seen before. Among the black coral we often get to see one of the most incredible masters of camouflage, the ornate ghost pipefish and as the name suggests any ghost pipefish are a plus for divers. Big reef octopus, peacock mantis shrimps and nudibranchs are also seen here.

Bontoh Reef

Is located in the west part of Sangeang volcano where we have incredible sunsets and for this reason Bontoh Reef is a perfect place to dive as a third dive and night dive. With a very shallow area of black sand and small rocks covered with algae that gently slope down, Bontoh offers one of the biggest populations of spaghetti garden eels coming out from the sand. Among the small rocks is the perfect place for creatures to hide from predators and photographers. Critters spotted here include painted frogfish, juvenile angelfish, mantis shrimps and while we are swimming out in the sand we have the chance to see the wunderpus or mimic octopus.

Day 8 North Komodo (1-2 dives)

On the last full day of the cruise there will be one or two dives depending on the flight times out of Labuanbajo the next day. We will spend half the day around Gili Lawalaut. After the dives we will travel back to Labuanbajo and spend the rest of the day relaxing and preparing for our famous photo contest of the trip.

Day 9  Disembarkation in Labuanbajo

Total: 24 – 25 dives