Mother Nature at its best

The Archipelago of Raja Ampat/Eastern Papua

This group of about 1600 mostly uninhabited islands off Sorong has some of the best diving in the world. It’s definitely a highly recommended trip although it might take you a while to get there.

Little known until the last few years, Raja Ampat’s sheer numbers and diversity of marine life as well as its huge, largely pristine coral-reef systems are a scuba dream come true. The islands are a truly natural phenomenon with enormous biological diversity. The amazing marine landscape means that underwater photography was on the top of my list during our stay. Yes, you guessed right, the usual team, Rochelle and I had a one-week-escape from Bali. Sparsely populated islands, white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons, spooky caves, weird mushroom-shaped islets and pellucid waters, in other words an isolated paradise.

The best way to get around is probably on top of a liveaboard. Arriving in Sorong after a 6-hour flight and after another 6 hours of stopover time is not probably the best introduction but anyway that’s what happened to us. We picked Wicked Diving as our liveaboard operator and their beautiful pirate ship “The Jaya” which proved to be a wise choice.

On board the “Jaya” everybody was wonderful. From the local crew to dive instructors and guides you couldn’t ask for a better combination. Our trip seemed more like a scientific expedition than a dive liveaboard. The knowledge that these guys have blows your mind.

Cheers, guys, thank you for all your effort and patience. It was an honor to dive with you.

Our trip took us to the southwest of the archipelago. The four biggest islands are Waigeo (with the small but fast-growing regional capital, Waisai), Batanta, Salawati and Misool. The Dampier Strait between Waigeo and Batanta has many outstanding dive sites, so most accommodation options are on Waigeo, Batanta or on the three smaller islands between them: Kri, Gam and Mansuar.

On board of the “Jaya”, apart from the seven people that made up the local crew (Sorry, guys, for not remembering your names) were Steve and Pit, Martyn, Ricky and Prue as our dive instructors and guides. As for the rest of us12 guests, this is how we were described on their blog:

-Dutch pals Alexander-bump-his-head-alot and Ronni with the extraordinary wardrobe (or so we hear); UK solo travellers and professional shark spotters Sabrina and Kate; Eve and Gidi who are having a break from their children in Israel; Ruthless worm players Boris and Christine from Germany; Excitable Singaporean Sharon; The couple who are pretty sure they got married in Korea, Zeph and Jennifer (USA and Canada) and Ioannis from Greece and his better half Rochelle from Australia who are both having respite from their life in Bali, the lucky devils. I almost forgot to mention the dive instructor and walking shark fetishist Beck that posted this.

Time went by really fast but what a time that was. Mother Nature at its finest. My days’ rundown: diving with manta rays, sharks and shoals of schooling fish, exploring reef slopes with some of the widest diversity of corals in the world and experiencing   the best macro diving of Raja Ampat. And as if this wasn’t enough, at the end of the day a perfect ocean sunset view from the deck of the “Jaya”. Sounds good? Wait until you actually live it.

*For details on that trip plus many, many more, please visit the Wicked Diving site or their blog at http://wickeddiving.com/blog/

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