By Melissa and Brandon Cole. Photos and video by Alex del Olmo.
“That was my favorite dive ever!” Our friend Kari’s excited proclamation upon surfacing, and her accompanying smile, says it all. From the first dive at Andiamo in the Daram Islands southeast of Misool, to the last dive at Blue Magic in Dampier Strait, our most recent cruise on our favorite dive boat in the world will be hard to top anytime soon.
This trip actually began some three years ago, while we were exploring South Komodo and East of Flores. While still onboard Seven Seas, plans were laid to reunite with our dive buddies in West Papua. And here we are, deep in the heart of the Coral Triangle, enjoying 12 nights of fish and invertebrate soup in Raja Ampat, the cauldron of creation for marine life large and small. Curious mantas majestically soar above us, wobbiegong sharks hide in plain sight beneath us, turtles munch contentedly on soft coral, sea fans and soft corals in full bloom sway in the currents, and hundreds upon hundreds of species of fish swirl about in a kaleidoscope of colors. Rivers of anchovies flow over reefs and along walls. Tornados of jacks hypnotize. Octopus hunt amidst the rubble while muscular menacing dogtooth tuna patrol the blue. Tiny crabs and shrimps and nudibranchs gain gravitas when our cameras focus on them, bringing the Lilliputians to life. When we’re not breathing compressed air, we scale steep limestone cliffs to explore a secret jellyfish lake, poke our masks into the shadowy submerged world of mangrove forests, and snorkel with baby blacktip reefs sharks in their shallow, sandy nursery. Our drones capture the surreal beauty of Misool’s maze of jungle covered karst islets from high in the sky, and our LED torches light up the night beneath the jetties at Arborek and Aljui to reveal weird and wonderful creatures.
Diving in such an amazing part of the world with such an experienced operation, feasting on delectable meals under the stars, sharing stories of life and scuba with dear friends, we quickly fall into the comfortable rhythm of dive-eat-smile-dive-eat-smile-dive-eat-smile. The familiar faces of many of the Seven Seas crew– Captain Pai, Yovin the hostess and masseuse extraordinaire, Imam who always seems to know what you need before you do, Big John the gentle giant, Jefri with his supernaturally keen critter spotting skills, do-it-all Ardy, silent and steady Bakar, cheery and considerate Niko— make it seem like only days since we were last in their kind and competent company. Our adopted Indonesia family grows with the addition of the other crew members we meet for the first time. The new kid on the block, Cruise Director Alex, is superb underwater and above as guide, entertainer and organizer. Who knows, maybe in time the Catalonian will even be able to find his own pygmy seahorse, if he hangs around Jefri and Sadat and Irwan long enough to learn from the masters! All the hardworking men and women onboard took great care of us 24-7. On behalf of the 14 friends (Kari and Reggie, Michelle and Marc, Karen and Angus, Janet and Larry, Brook and Brian, Simon, Robert, David, and Matt) with whom we had the pleasure of adventuring, we offer heartfelt “Terima kasih” to the entire Seven Seas team both on the water and behind the scenes in the office on Bali. Good health and happiness to you all. We hope to join you again soon, sailing somewhere through Indonesia’s incomparable seas.
Melissa and Brandon Cole