Crinoids, sea fans, and soft corals oh my!

Raja Ampat—December, 2019

Diving in Raja Ampat and Lembeh Strait were on my bucket list. Lori and I went to both this December. Our friend Deb joined us, as did our old dive buddies Murray and Jen from Chicago and Paul and Bonnie from Vancouver.

While in Lembeh Strait, we stayed at the Lembeh Resort, which turned out to be a fine resort with good food, service, and diving. For Raja Ampat, we cruised with Blue Manta, which was quite a step up from the Aggressor fleet (sorry Waynes). We not once had to pick up and walk with our tanks, and the rooms have plenty of room so that more than one person can walk around at a time. And the boat has a large camera room!

After enjoying the captions below, you can view larger versions of the photos by clicking on them. This will open a new tab in Google Photos. Use its menu to start a slideshow, or select a photo and press the Info button to view captions and maps.

The video of the diving aboard the Blue Manta was created by PJ Widestrand. He graciously allowed me to load it to YouTube for viewing by friends and family only. To respect his wishes, if you would like to see it, please send your request by email and I'll send along the link. By the way, it's great!

Drone footage shot by fellow diver Bader Al-Kazmawi.

Preamble (Saturday, 2019-12-14)

Lori and I got lucky and didn't have anyone in the seat between us for the 17(!) hour flight to Singapore aboard a Singapore Airlines jet. The seats were comfortable. We didn't use our butt pads. We spent the night at the Crowne Plaza in the airport, where we met up with Paul and Bonnie.

Singapore to Lembeh Strait (Monday, 2019-12-16)

We lost a day crossing the international date line. We started the day in the hotel with a beautiful buffet breakfast with all sorts of international things.

Immigration is wholly automated at the airport, so there weren't any lines at the time. Further, they locate the security checks at each gate. This has the effect of eliminating long security lines. Each gate has a water station beyond security.

After a relatively short (3:15) flight from Singapore to Manado, we circled once to let a squall pass through. As it was, it was pouring at the airport. We were met at the airport for our 1.5 hour drive to the resort. The last bit was by water taxi. About 10 of the Lembeh Resort staff greeted us at the dock including managers Tarkan (Afghan who lived in England) and Kathrin (from Germany) and dive shop manager Gita (also from Germany). We checked into room 1, which was very nice.

We organized our dive gear and attended a dive briefing followed by a good video about the dos and do nots of diving in Lembeh Strait. Murray and Jen showed up at dinnertime.

Diving Lembeh Strait (Tuesday, 2019-12-17)

We made three muck dives. Interesting stuff. We dove Nudi Falls, Hairball, and Aer Bajo I. I didn't want to get my wet suit wet, so I dove in my bathing suit. I finally started to get a bit cold after the third dive. Our dive master, Vadly, wrote down the names of each living thing he identified on a slate. This was incredibly useful for later identification!

We found the food at the resort to be excellent, plentiful, and spicy!

Off-gassing (Wednesday, 2019-12-18)

Although a few of us went for a morning dive, it was an off-gassing day for us. We dried our gear and I took photos of the resort. And we had more awesome food, packed, and had a nice sundowner party on our deck at #1 before dinner.

Manado to Sorong and Blue Manta (Thursday, 2019-12-19)

Up at 4. Caught the flight to Sorong, aided in the airport by our handler hired by the Lembeh Resort. We were picked up at the airport by the blue Manta crew, and they took us in three buses to the marina. We were introduced to the boat and the crew and drove out to our first checkout dive site (Red Light District) which had lots of great animals. We then motored overnight towards Misool.

Egoi's dive briefings were unique. He showed the dive site on Google Maps. He left the waypoint for each dive site enabled so we could see our movement across the region.

Rather than draw the dive site on a white board like other organizations, he created a diorama, incorporating Vaseline, toasters, cookie boxes, Lego characters, rolls of tape, towels, and other items from the boat. It was creative, and fun.

Here are the dive sites, as listed by Egoi. His comments, not mine :-).

  1. Red Light District, Sorong, West Papua UNESCO Heritage ;)
  2. Whale Rock, Misool Marine Reserve
  3. Nudi Rock! Misool Marine Reserve
  4. Yuliet, Misool Marine Reserve
  5. Romeo, Misool Marine Reserve
  6. Karang Bayangan AKA Magic Mountain, Misool Marine Reserve
  7. Boo Window, Misool Marine Reserve
  8. ANTICHOVIE!!! MADNESS! Misool Marine Reserve
  9. Hangover Sunset, Wayil, Misool
  10. 4 Kings! Wayil, Misool
  11. Wedding Cake, Wayil, Misool
  12. Gorgonian Passage, Wayil, Misool
  13. Tank-Nudi Rock, Misool Marine Reserve
  14. Andiamo, Daram, Misool
  15. Candy Store, Daram, Misool
  16. Two Tree Island, Sagof, Misool
  17. Convergence, Batanta
  18. Dayang Wings, Batanta
  19. Melissa┬┤s Garden, Penemu
  20. Batu Rufus, Penemu
  21. Manta Ridge!!! Dampier St.
  22. Mangrove Ridge, Yanggefo Island
  23. Sawandarek Jetty, Mansuar Island
  24. Crazy Zoo, Waigeo
  25. Cape Kri, Kri Island
  26. Blue Magic, Dampier St.

An overview of all of our dives in Raja Ampat

Sorong to Misool

Misool Island of Raja Ampat, where we started our diving in Raja Ampat

Misool to Batanta and Piaynemo

The northern section of Raja Ampat, which includes our first dive and our last days of diving

Gam to Sorong

Unfortunately, at this point the water alarm in my camera housing went off so I aborted the dive and didn't take any more photos under water.

Sorong to SFO (Friday, 2019-12-27)

Woke up a little earlier than usual for a light breakfast, said our goodbyes to the crew, and boarded our Garuda flight to Jakarta with Bonnie, Paul, Murray, Jen, Krystal, Keith, and Alice (who we met on the boat). I thought I'd have to pay extra luggage as Lori and I had a combined 53 kg in three bags instead of 40 kg. As I had read in the DAN Raja Ampat article that a 23 kg bag of dive gear was free, I said that two of the bags were dive gear. We did not pay extra fees.

We said our good-byes to Murray and Jen and Krystal in Jakarta, and boarded our Eva Air flight to Taipei, where we then said our good-byes to and Bonnie and Paul. We endured lots of heavy turbulence on last leg home to San Francisco. Surprisingly, I actually slept for most of the first 7 hours. And then watched Ad Astra.

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