This year's Insider Divers Christmas & New Year trip took us to Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Over 11 days we saw everything we asked Santa Claus to bring us, including Mantas, Mobulas, sharks, wobbegongs, snakes, turtles and extras such as the Santa Pygmy Seahorse. Check out the video by Gregor Seatong / Fate Images.
Raja Ampat is the center of the center of biodiversity. Over 70% of all reef forming corals are represented here and over 1000 species of fish. In the past decade it has seen a lot more protection allowing reefs to recover and shark populations to thrive.
Right from beginning we got presents from Aqua-Santa - on the check out dive we already saw Wobbegongs and Pygmy Seahorses. It was going to a be good trip.
SOUTH RAJA - MISOOL
We first headed to the Southern area around Misool as I had heard that Mobulas had been sighted hunting silversides at Puri Pinnacle. The South of Raja is much more remote than the center so there are less boats here. As you can see our vessel the SeaSafari 8 is practically alone here.
Second dive of the day was Puri Pinnacle and the Mobulas were there! Like small stealth fighters they would cruise in formation around the massive silverside school. Every now and then Maverick would decide to dive into the cloud and the troupe would follow in formation. A true Nat Geo moment.
Next day was Christmas and we got merry above and below the water. We even had a secret Santa party where everyone got cool presents of more or less usefulness. Some of us got more than we asked for - Matt got a lens cover that miraculously appeared on the dive.
This is the beach were we spent sunset on Christmas Eve. Pretty decent I would say.
Aside from amazing coral dives we dove at Magic Mountain which is also known as Shadow Reef. This is one of the prime sites in Misool. An underwater sea mount with lots of currents around it, it is a popular Manta Ray and Shark cleaning area.
And Santa put another one in the bag - we saw a rare leucistic Manta Ray which is essentially a Manta with extremely low pigmentation looking almost entirely white. Not only that, it was also an Oceanic Manta Ray with at least 5m span. According to MantaMatcher.org has only been documented once two years ago - also at this site. (it was at 6.30am so the pictures are somewhat grainy)
Also in the south of Raja Ampat is a beach with tons of baby black tip reef sharks.
We also tried our hand a couple times on blackwater diving. It is always a gamble but we found some interesting critters.
And another nugget of South Raja is a recently discovered jellyfish lake. When the water levels fell after the last ice age certain pockets of water got trapped and get fed only by rain water and underground seepage. The dark water is the lake on this drone photo.
As a result the water is brackish and almost no fish survive in here. But stingless jellyfish thrive here. There are only a few lakes like this in the world and the Raja Ampat ones have only recently been discovered. There is no infrastructure and the climb over the rocky ledge was pretty hairy, but once you are surrounded by thousands of jellyfish it so worth it.
We then headed north over night and arrived in the Fam Islands. While the diving was rough this time and not that enjoyable we had a great visit to the famous viewing point.
The coral reefs in the North are absolutely stunning here. In Yangefu area we had stunning visibility and swimming Wobbegong sharks.
Then hit the jackpot one more time at Manta Ridge. This site is a plateau which has extremely strong currents that push over it. The Mantas love strong currents. Just at the edge of the ridge we hooked in and then around 10 Mantas came in for extensive cleaning sessions. They let us come so close that we could see the cleaner fish at work in detail.
The center of Raja has so many nice sites particularly around Cape Kri. Tons of fish everywhere as well as turtles and snakes.
A famous thing about Raja are the jetty dives. On the last days we did some more amazing dives in and around the village jetties. Check out the cracker photos by Gautam!
This is also where we did our obligatory group photo. Smile everyone!! ah well.
What an amazing trip. Thanks for a great crew aboard the SeaSafari 8 and a group of fabulous divers! Till the next time!!
INSIDER DIVERS is a service offered by Simon Lorenz for divers who want to dive with like minded divers in the best dive spots in the aquatic world. Simon and his guides accompany every diving trip. All itineraries are bespoke, and especially arranged to provide the best possible dive experience. You will dive with the best operators and learn the most about the region where you are diving. Our trips come with free background presentations on flora and fauna, and our trainers can help with any questions or training needs with regards to your diving or photography skills. On most trips Simon will offer several photography coaching presentations.