Birostris Ballet in the Four Kings

By Foued Kaddachi. Photos by Thomas Koenye.

Leaving the port of Sorong well behind us on the first day of our adventure, we are crossing the Dampier Strait towards Waigeo Island, the first of the “Four Kings” that dominate the Raja Ampat archipelago. As we are cruising along the east side of the second King, Batanta Island, we are welcomed by the sound of the blow from a sperm whale, swimming right next to us heading north.

The heavy rains of the last week have brought lots of logs and debris into the strait, somewhat compromising the safety of navigation and also the quality of diving and snorkeling, so we decide to head West out of the strait, to Penemu Island where we plan to dive the astonishing reef of “Melissa’s Garden”. And after a marvelous day on the reefs at Penemu we start cruising to the south, towards the third King, Misool Island, with a pod of dolphins around the Seven Seas and the sunset on our starboard side.

Personally I have never seen the Misool marine protected area completely deserted by the growing liveaboard industry, but there we were, on day 6 of the trip, without any other boat around us…

With the dive sites all to ourselves, we enjoyed the magical site called “Karang Bayangan” as much as we wanted and witnessed a very polite behavior between a grey reef shark and an oceanic Manta ray (Mobula birostris), sharing a cleaning station at the same time… one after the other patiently waiting for their turn. I had never seen this either!!!

The next day on the same site, we dove for 66 minutes, with five oceanic mantas performing a perfect “Birostris Ballet”. We, divers and snorkelers, are all the fortunate audience of the morning show… What a very special treat for our guests, many of whom have known these Indonesian waters for decades but never experienced such a magical underwater dance.

It is with enlightened hearts, the last day on board, while heading back north towards the fourth King Salawati Island, that everyone starts reflecting on the magic of Raja Ampat. Still under the spell, and before we reach Sorong harbour, our final destination, some of the passengers already start planning their next adventure with us…

See you back on board soon!

Foued Kaddachi
Raja Ampat, January 2021

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