By Frances Hunt. Photos by Jane Barron.
DIVING AND SNORKELLING WITH DR ROD SALM
In the 1970’s I was lucky enough to become a part of a group of young families, most of whom had known each other since, as students, we spent many happy hours crawling and climbing through various Australian caves.
We started camping with our kids, often snorkelling at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney. The kids grew up, had their own families and left us to share all sorts of holidays, still snorkelling at Jervis Bay, swimming with whale sharks in Western Australia and camping around Australia.
With retirement has come a sense of liberation and the ability to enjoy roads less travelled and unusual experiences.
Some of our group had previously enjoyed the delights aboard the Seven Seas in volcanic Indonesia, and when Jane suggested we join her for a similar 14 day snorkelling/diving experience in the seas around Komodo and Flores twelve of us jumped at the chance. The only other passenger, Ellie, a vivacious young American girl, joined in with us extraordinarily well. Rod Salm, our coral expert, and his wife Suze added to our knowledge of the reef biota and the effects of climate change and were a most welcome addition to our occasionally disorderly group.
We lazed on comfortable decks and discovered a touch of luxury on the Seven Seas, but our group remained enthusiastic in the water and out. We were excited to see the wealth of corals, sponges, colourful and weird fishes and critters ranging from sharks and manta rays to squads of iridescent fusiliers, anthias, hawksbill turtles, parrot fishes, moray eels, venomous snakes, which land to mate and produce their young, and many more. There was such variety! For the snorkelers the shallows were just as exciting as the deeper areas on the outskirts of reefs. The divers were equally happy with the sightings deeper down.
The experience of being closely checked out by a group of manta rays and their ancillary followers was a highlight for us all. They showed no fear, only apparent curiosity. This despite the fact that many continue to be hunted for their gills so valued in Chinese medicine.
We snorkelled or dived two or three times a day for an hour at a time and, also enjoyed shore excursions. On Komodo we saw dragons in their natural habitat and, in Flores and Alor, we visited two remote villages where the locals danced for us and showed us the very beautiful traditional ikat sarongs that the women weave for themselves and their families, as well as to sell to appreciative tourists.
The presentation from Jo Marlow, at the Misool Foundation office in the town of Larantuka, East Flores Island, was another highlight. We learned about the efforts of the Misool Foundation to end the hunting of manta rays and whale sharks and the amputation of shark fins. Seven Seas made a welcome donation.
Our ship, the Seven Seas combines graceful traditional ship design with modern comfort: a gourmet chef and the most helpful and friendly staff anyone could wish for. Early introductions between staff and passengers facilitated friendly relationships. Yovin who helped serve our many meals also doubled as a skilful masseur.
On a sadder note, one member of our group was badly injured in a fall and it was the fast and professional response of Karl the Tour Director and crew that probably saved his life. He was given oxygen and taken to a local hospital for evacuation to Singapore and subsequent repatriation to Australia. Throughout the whole process the owners and staff provided personal support and liaised with hospitals and insurance providers to assure the provision of the best possible medical treatment.