RAJA AMPAT - BANDA SEA
sample itinerary & dive spot information
Once you arrive in Misool, you are surrounded by one of the most fascinating landscapes you can imagine. Hundreds of small islands all shaped by time into sculptures that only nature can produce. The topside it's out of this world but once your head is under the water you start to understand the concept of variety of colours. The soft corals are unbelievable, all kind of colours and at all depths. It is not unusual to be among a dozen of different ones only a metre or two down!
Between Kaimana and Misool we´ll make another stop. Let us say that the diving, although not disappointing, is not at the same level as the others, but seeing the spectacular waterfall flowing down from the hilly rainforest straight into the sea is a breathtaking view! Lagoons where we can swim in and the possibility of a refreshing waterfall shower? A great sensation! In this are, for the first and only time our main goal will not be underwater one. It will be a pigmy, but not the sea horse kind; we'll be looking for the rarely seen Papua pigmy Kangaroo, which happens to live there!
Close to the Kri resort there is outstanding diving. Probably the corals are less spectacular than in Misool, but that is compensated by the schools of fish like in Sardine reef and Kri corner. These sites are just fabulously filled with fish and pelagic action is always expected. At the west site of Mansuar area mantas can be seen in great numbers.
Pulau Pisang is situated half way between Misool and Fak Fak and offers a great stop on the way. The reefs are healthy, no bleaching and fish life is abundant, turtles, bump heads, napoleon wrasse and the usual schools of fusiliers that attract trevallies are among their residents and mantas have been spotted on several occasions. We still haven't found a cleaning station, so we are supposing they are migrating without intention of staying permanently... neither are we.
A few miles sailing from the Bandas we arrive at Pulau Soangi. A nice wall that ends up in a ridge where encounters with pelagics (tunas, rainbow runners, barracudas, trevallies) are always a thrill, as is the presence of a number of hammerheads that we spot regularly.
The wall itself is worth the dive, huge barrel sponges, even bigger fans, colours, soft corals on the wall and hard ones in the shallows... immaculate conditions!
Obligated stop to go for a cultural tour, the fort, the governor's house, the church, nutmeg plantations, the chance to have a beer on land with the locals...
Let's not forget the diving, both Pulau Run and Pulau Ai have pristine clear waters, lovely walls and good fish life, we might go a bit deeper in search of more hammerheads, big fish can be seen here as well, napoleons, schools of black snappers, bumpheads etc.
In diving there are a few really unique areas in the world and the dive under the pier of Banda Neira is on of them... The size of the mandarin fish are just out of this world, you might need a wide angle lens!
Hey, if you have the perfect shot of the mandarin fish and you are looking for other critters, cockatoo wasp fish, flying gurnards, frog fish, juvenile barramundis, , juvenile emperor angle fish, juvenile sweetlips, juvenile local kids... plenty of chances!
We will not miss the hard coral garden under the lava flow of Gunung Api, the impressive volcano that dominates Banda. It erupted in 1988 and now it is a miracle to dive in a garden that has grown in such a short period of time.
Batu Kapal, at the entrance of Banda offers some of the bigger fans you will see and it is full of life, a real fishy dive.
A bit south is Hatta, consisting of an underwater coral garden with a friendly school of bumpheads and some white tips among its highlights. To finish the area in Banda Besar we will dive the underwater window.
Only a few hours away from Ambon, but so different, it is the best example we know of a village taking care of a reef. The reef is as it was hundreds of years ago. The locals have protected it and now it is an outstanding diving site, many people's favourite dive.
The hard corals on the slope are unbeatable, the sandy bottom in the middle offers shelter to sting rays of different sizes, sharks patrolling the depths (white tips and grey reefs) if we are lucky leopard sharks sleeping on the sand, turtles that will pose for us, and because of our Spanish accent you will be able to dive in between a "eschool of YAKS" isn't that unique??
By the way, apart from all the fish, life, the perfect state of the reef and the pelagics approaching and patrolling the slope, there are mangroves in the neighbourhood and we have been lucky enough to dive with a resident dugong (I think Murphy's law is more present here)
The diving around the island is great, the wreck in the bay is full of life, pilot whales sometimes come close to the pier, but without a doubt Laha offers the best diving and is an unforgettable experience. Laha could be compared with Lembeh, it is pure muck at its best: mimics, flamboyant cuttlefish, rhinopias, ribbon eels, ambon scorpion fish, frog fish by the dozens, ghost pipe fish... you name it, it is all there, and Murphy is normally not around. Photographers... get ready!
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