By Mark Heighes
2020 has been a year most of us would like to forget. After Covid paralyzed the world in March the crew took the Seven Seas on a six day non-stop crossing of the Banda Sea from Papua back to our home port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
During the month of September, with no end of Covid in sight, and the Seven Seas still patiently waiting on her mooring for things to return to normal, the thought of steaming back empty across the Banda Sea, with no guests onboard, and only to wait in Papua for Covid to end, was not particularly appealing. As I was locked down far away in Australia, I could visualize all the tiny islands and reefs scattered across the Banda Sea like gem stones surrounded by the crystal-clear water we call Banda Blue. Then I thought of the flat calm conditions we usually experience during the month of November as we island-hop our way East and then North towards Papua for our season in Raja Ampat.
The idea of not stopping and just sailing past these fascinating remote locations we have come to know so well, was like complete madness to me. The fact that there was going to be no other operators out there made it even worse. We would have it all to ourselves. This was surely a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
Even though I could not take part myself, I decided to put a small select team together and have them embark on a journey that would end up covering over 1300 nautical miles during a 19 day expedition that skirted the Southern rim before crossing the deepest sea in relation to is size on the planet…the Banda Sea.
The main criteria for the “invitation only” to this expedition was firstly that they had to already be in Indonesia. Each individual also had to contribute towards food and other expenses related to the expedition, but most importantly each member of this team would contribute towards the 2 main objectives of the expedition which were:
- To make contact with local communities on some targeted islands, and establish conservation agreements with these communities.
- Capture professional images and video of everything we would encounter both above and underwater. These images and this video footage was to be used for marine conservation purposes, support education and improve awareness.
It took a while to get the group together but we managed to recruit a team of 8 individuals many of whom have been working together on conservation related issues for over 20 years. Over the next few months we will be giving you some insight on what this team managed to achieve and what adventures they had on this Epic trip that departed Maumere on November 1. On route the photographers and videographers recorded over 20,000 images and video clips and we will be sharing the highlights with you on our website, via Facebook, on Instagram and in our newsletters and continuing in the following months. Hope you enjoy.
I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone involved and the incredible team of like-minded people who managed to achieve something positive during some of the most difficult times the world has ever seen.
Looking forward to sail with you all again sometime soon!