By Carolyn Tyler. Photos by Carolyn Tyler, Leslie King, Dani Jordan, David Forbes and Alex del Olmo.
The Seven Seas has been my live-aboard vessel of choice for many many years, and I have enjoyed cruising Raja Ampat, the Spice Islands, East of Flores, and Komodo more than anywhere else in the world. I suspected that our private charter for the Forgotten Islands would be the crème de la crème of dive itineraries and it was, indeed, beyond everyone’s expectations.
From our first dives after leaving Maumere (especially the dazzlingly lush and colorful Anemone City), our group knew we were in for a mind-boggling sensory experience. I think we all cried in our masks with gratitude, awe, and reverence more than once whilst beholding the pristine and dense coral cover and seductive walls of “Japanese floral arrangements”.
Some of my group’s favorite highlights were: Drifting over the endless hectares of pastel patchwork quilts of bubble anemones and attendant clownfish in Anemone City, and the bumphead parrotfish at Kalapa. The variety of vistas, from macro to pelagic—adorable pregnant pygmy seahorses and swarms of schooling fish at “To Dai For”, and Gaudiesque structures created by never-before-seen types of corals, giving an impression of Fibonacci geometry. Not to mention the pristine crystalline beach adventures and above-water cultural experiences.
Our group of 15 friends bonded even more when we all encountered a friendly and curious cuttlefish, who let us observe her depositing eggs into the staghorn coral branches. I noticed that generally, the sea life in this area was much more camera shy than other dive locations, probably because they do not encounter our kind much way out there. It is definitely more of a wilderness experience in these far-flung islands.
Other favorite memories: The utter darkness of the sky due to the lack of nearby civilization, giving the Milky Way the perfect velvety canvas from which to shine extra brightly. We had a full moon sing-along party with some of our resident musos, and a crazy fun Halloween party with full crew participation, borrowing our Burning Man costumes and joining in the hilarity. Captain Wayhu in his pirate cozzie, Irwan in his bustier and blonde braids, and Alex and Karl got their swashbuckler on. But “Little John” will forever be etched in our minds as “best cross-dresser” in my “Carmen Miranda” outfit (which he refused to part with at the end of the trip!).
The visibility was excellent 90% of the time, and the water was perfect—warm, but not too warm (and not a single sign of coral bleaching, thank God). I saw only one piece of floating plastic and one other boat in our 12 day cruise. The visit to the remote and lovely island of Dawera, with its tidy little village and sincere people, who gave us a beautiful welcome dance and reception, was a touching experience, although those who partook of the palm wine will likely remember the hangover more. As a jewelry designer, I get a lot of inspiration for designs from the undersea world, so I was especially surprised and honored when the elders of Dawera brought out their heirloom golden treasures from the VOC period in a rare showing to their “bule” visitors. Perhaps they, too, were under the influence of the festive drink!
It was especially poignant for me to be on Karl’s last cruise, after enjoying 10 years of his leadership, as he handed over his infamous zebra bandana to the new (awesomely talented and very dashing) director, Alex. A novel and delightful benefit of being on the Seven Seas is the privilege of watching the expertly crafted underwater short films of their new director, acclaimed award-winning film producer, Alex del Olmo, PhD, from Barcelona. We also enjoyed Lawrence and Lorne Blair’s Ring of Fire, and Valerie Taylor’s many superb films on board.
Additionally, the chef Totok has raised the bar on live-aboard cuisine, with healthier and tastier fare than ever before. Fresh salads and coconut water right from the nuts, lots of veggies, fresh-caught fish, etc. left everyone feeling very satisfied and appreciative. And the upgraded décor and dimmer lights creates an ultimately comfortable ambience.
I look forward to two more trips with this amazing crew in 2019! Deep gratitude to the owners, Mark and Jos, and everyone on board who works so hard to make our treasured memories of a lifetime.