By Anita Lococo. Photos by Group Members and Foued Kaddachi.
We, as a group, were so lucky to experience Raja Ampat, together, from the backyard of our home island, Bali. Soma Temple, a long-time resident of Bali invited her family and friends of whom her grown up kids were raised in Bali, with their own families, and her friends also seasoned residents sailed off from Sorong on the Seven Seas to the outer eastern limits of Indonesia, Raja Ampat, where most of us had never been despite the many years we have lived in Indonesia.
Mostly a group of snorkelers and a third of the group, divers, we were immediately in the water with our masks when we hit the high seas of turquoise rings surrounding “camel hump” islands (Mioskon) protruding with tropical forests. Once your face immersed beneath the surface of the water, a technicolor world envelops you with all its majesty of landscaped coral as only the hand of nature can arrange in such magnitude of flowing order with sprinkles of sunlight glittering on thousands of species of fish, still some without names, and the vast coral sea life. Seven Seas does not miss a beat with 3 snorkel/dives per day, always announced by the ring of the ship’s bell, by our master diver and trusty guide, Foued Kaddachi .
During our 10-day sojourn, we experienced swimming with sharks, turtles, mantas and the region’s community of reef fish including families of gobies, wrasses, damsel fishes, gropers, moray eels, cardinal fishes and surgeonfish, only to mention a few among the plethora of biodiversity in this preciously protected area of the world. We explored the areas of Melissa’s Garden, Wayag, Dayang, Wai, and Kri. The most spectacular for most of us was swimming with the mantas, a most intelligent creature of enormity. With its graceful dance moves like birds gliding in water, we were able to come close to this harmless and curious creature. I could see it looking right at me as it passed so close with its tender turns and then the multitude of schools of fish following and swimming in circles around me. It took my breath away. The divers deeper below, where inspecting a Japanese fighter plane shot down during World War II and others had the delight of seeing little leaf fish, who actually looked like leaves, on the shoreline.
Such outings as visiting the villages of Yenbuba and Arborek with the Christian Church as the center of town, the houses neatly arranged in rows with picket fences with little gardens were an insight to the culture of the people of this region. They smiled and greeted us with as warm affection and luckily most of us could speak to them in Indonesian.
Afternoon gatherings on white beaches with the ship crew playing guitar and entertaining us as we sipped our margaritas were moments of recalling the day’s adventure as the golden sun set on the magic of this place that took us from time. It was a trip of a lifetime and we knew it.
I cannot conclude without remark about the comfort of the Seven Seas boat, the attentive and friendly crew, the excellent food in abundance, and rocking gently at night in an air-conditioned cabin to sleep to rest up for another day of adventure in the wonderland of Raja Ampat.