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Dive Travel Raja Ampat | March 2020 | Pt.3

Hi Divers,


After such an epic adventure we will have to write separate articles later to conclude and describe our top dives of our time in Raja Ampat. But for now this will be our last blog about our recent dive trip in this underwater paradise. During our last three days we continued with four dives per day, so I will mainly focus on describing all the dives as that is what most of you are mostly interested in anyway I guess.

We started with Sawandarak Jetty, Sardine Reef, Mioskon and finished off with a night dive at Saonek.


Sawandarak Jetty

We get in near the jetty and followed the reef to the right. It is an easy dive without current and we don't go deeper than 15 meter. The visibility is good and we can see the poles of the jetty clearly. Sunbeams are piercing the water and some table coral is growing on the poles. Around the poles it is busy, sweet lips, batfish, damsel and parrotfish are all hanging around the jetty. The table coral on one of the poles divides a group of sweet lips and a school of rabbitfish. That's a good start of the dive! After all that we spot a school of barracuda's and a green turtle chilling on the stag horn coral. A couple of meter further we see a second green turtle relaxing under a rock. It is huge! Estimated size is 1.5 - 2 meters. We leave it alone and continue to dive for another 30 minutes during which we are constantly followed by big batfish. And on top of that all Luka finds a Blue Dragon. Barely awake, but this wakes me up!


Blue Dragon, credits Luka

Sardine Reef

After fulfilling our surface interval we get in and are directly amidst a school of fusiliers. And after a couple of minutes we see a black tip resting on the sandy bottom. Although we keep our distance, it swims away. After a while we meet the shark again, trying to finish its morning nap. Within the first minutes of the dive we are already spoiled! We continue our way along the slope of the sea mountain to encounter more and more fusiliers. They are joined by trevally, unicornfish, butterflyfish, groupers, triggerfish, and we also met a rockmover wrasse. There is so much fish to see and there is also a lot of action going on. The fusiliers are passing on all sides, trevally are accelerating and agitating the other fish, small groups are foraging, sharks are passing by. It is really difficult to follow everything! Near the end of the dive I see a white tip circling around. It is a bit curious and comes to check me out. At about 1,5 meter it turns and swims away. And right before our safety stop I see a young white tip. It is less curious and swims away directly. But that doesn't take away the sheer greatness of this dive!


We return to the resort for lunch and to rest up. At 16.00 we depart for an afternoon and night dive.

Mioskon

After Sardine Reef, this dive was way more calm. But we saw a lot of cool animals. The visibility was bad, maximum of 10 meters. Luckily the two barracuda's that are hanging above the reef are huge so we can spot them easily. There is a lot of soft coral to see. And I don't know how he did it, but our guide finds an orangutan crab under a anemone. I am so happy that I bought the macrolens for the Gopro for this kind of situations. I managed to capture it quite good. In the remainder of the dive we spot several nudi's, two wobbegongs, a Pontoh's Pygmy seahorse and a frogfish!



Saonek

We are big fans of nightdives so we look forward to this one. Luckily this time there isn't any current, so we can take our time to scout the reef. Of course we see less big stuff, this time it is more about the small life. There are several flatworms, nudibranch, boxer shrimps, hermit crab, scorpion fish and a swimming sea feather. Maybe this was the least impressive dive of the day, but still pretty good with all the small animals.

Satisfied we return to the resort for a late dinner and good nights sleep. The next day we have the most anticipated dive of Raja Ampat on the program. Cape Kri! After that, Dugong Bay is planned. The afternoon is still open to choose.

Cape Kri

This dive is regarded as the beste dive in many lists on internet. However, we have a bit of bad luck on this dive. We see several nudi's but almost no big schools and no sharks. And Cape Kri is known for the shark sightings. Unfortunate, but nature does not parade around waiting for us.


Dugong Bay

On this site we see a lot more life. We spot nudi's, clownfish, several schools of fish with fusiliers, trevally, jacks and surgeonfish. And than, the one animal Nima was hoping for to see... a blue ringed octopus! One of the most venomous animals in the world. So small and so beautiful! At the end of the dive we see a giant cuttle fish hanging between some hard corals. Its like the cherry on a pie!


After this dive we return as usual to the resort. On the way back Jo asks me what dives we would like to do in the afternoon. I get to choose as today is my birthday. Yeah! So I choose to do pinnacle/sea mountain dives, as these dives were the most impressive. Jo suggests, Lau Lau and Chicken Reef. These are new dive sites for us so the choice is easy, we go with the suggestions.



Lau Lau

This reef is a pinnacle dive. The reef is not big and it is pretty shallow. Right after we get in, I am still checking if Nima and Luca are OK. Luca starts pointing like crazy. I turn around and below us is a huge oceanic manta, estimated size is 6-7 meters. It is circling 10 meters below us. We prepare our camera's and descend as quickly as possible. We get to film it for quit some time, but it swims away as soon as we hit the top of the reef. Wow, what a start of this dive! After this direct action we look around and it is busy on the reef, no crowded is a better description. There is so much fish, but we don't have the time to look around, the manta is back! Or wait, it is a different one. It's a little bit smaller, but also an oceanic. It keeps its distance, but is clearly circling around. After a while I start to look around, there are big schools of barracuda (two species), trevaly (several kinds), sweet lips, triggerfish, fusiliers and clouds of damsel. I am trying to capture all of it on video. While I am turning around I see in the corners of my eyes a shadow moving. It is the manta again. It didn't leave. In the next 20 minutes I drop down on my knees on the sand and try to slow down my breath and move very slowly. All to lure the manta closer. It is working, the manta is circling around, coming back and leaving again. Every time it returns it swims slowly towards me. Almost stops and looks at me. At least that is my impression. So cool, it feels like it is making a connection! After a while the manta swims over my head. What an experience this is. I decide it is time to look around the reef. During the whole time that I am exploring the small reef I see the manta circling around. Besides the manta we discover a huge batfish, it is probably around 75 cm big, a little bit further we also see a pontohi pygmy seahorse and a scorpion leaffish. After that I am looking around for the manta but I don't see it. Once again i drop down on my knees and start looking around. And than suddenly, it swims over my head from behind. It is so close that the tip of the left wing almost grazes my face. I can feel the water pressure from the motion of the wing! Shortly after, it is time to go up. Below us is the manta still circling around. On the surface everybody is excited like crazy. What an epic epic dive. And what a special way to celebrate my birthday!


Watch this movie to experience all described dive sites in this blog!


Chicken Reef

Still a bit breathless we go the next dive: Chicken Reef. Another sea mountain so expectations are high. Unfortunate the visibility is limited, somewhere around 10 meters probably. At the beginning of the dive we stumble upon a murene and Luca spots a shark. Not a bad start! We continue the dive and a couple of minutes later we can all see a whitetip reef shark passing by. And although the visibility is bad we see a lot of fish around us. Lots of fusiliers, lots of unicorns, trevally and also barracuda's. Untill the end we are joined by a lot of fish, again a whitetip, a large humphead, groupers and large schools of golden sweepers. Another great dive!


I don't know if it had anything to do with my birthday, maybe yes maybe no, but it doesn't matter. This day of diving was awesome, epic, spectacular, everything! We are sure now, we do not want to leave anymore. Let us stay in Raja Ampat!


Our last dives are planned at Melissa's Garden, Arborek Jetty, Manta Sandy and Kuburan


Melissa's Garden

Like before, Melissa's Garden amazes us with the big beautiful corals. We manage to find a lot of macro life, with a couple of pygmy seahorses and again a Pontoh's pygmy. We also find another blue dragon and like before we do our safety stop above the big fields of stag horn coral which are covered by clouds of fish.


Arborek Jetty

This dive near the jetty is quite shallow, allowing the sunlight coming in. We get to see a lot of different species. We see several nudi's, again a blue dragon, a large octopus, signal gobies, flatworms, a walking scorpionfish, giant murene, golden sweepers, and of course the jetty poles crowded with lots of sergeant fish.


Signal Goby, credits Nima

After a great homestay lunch on Arborek Island, we go for our last dives to Manta Sandy and Kuburan. Unfortunate I made a mistake with the batteries of my Gopro and therefore there is no video material of Manta Sandy and Kuburan in the video.


Manta Sandy

Unfortunate there are no manta's to see this time. So we have some time to goof around. The dive guides are performing some sort play and we look around for underwater life. We encounter nudi's, anemoneshrimps, mantis shrimp and a hermit crab.


Kuburan

This is our last dive in Raja Ampat. It is not a dive teeming with life as we like it best. But we already did some amazing dives, so no complaining. Still on the boat a competition starts between the diveguides to find a ghost pipefish. It is one of the few animals we hoped to see and until now we didn't. Luck must be with us because half way through the dive Fritz finds it. I don't know what the price was, except our gratitude of course!

This is the last blog about Raja Ampat, after this there were no more dives left. In total we did 26 dives with Meridian Adventure Dive and we were not disappointed. Raja Ampat was very kind on us with all of the amazing dives we did. It was truly an epic experience. On top of that we were also spoiled by Meridian, the service was great, the resort was excellent and above all the people were very friendly. We would like to thank all of the staff and the dive guides at Meridian!


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