Raja Ampat (Northern and Central), Indonesia
|Looking out over "Little Wayag"|
King of WondersWith Mark’s mom safely on board and all the provisions stowed away, we headed north to begin our exploration in the underwater world of Raja Ampat. If you are a scuba diver, you have likely heard about this group of islands and seen fascinating photos in diving magazines. This area is world renowned for its vibrant reefs and amazing sea life, and we couldn’t wait to check it out. In all, we spent 3 months in the Raja Ampat waters, with sights and experiences that could comprise an entire book, but for now, let’s dive in and look at some of our favorite field trips through this spectacular archipelago.
|Climbing the craggly Wayag Staircase|
|The view from the summit made the precarious climb worth it!!|
|Sarasvati anemone shrimp (photo by Matt on SV Perry)|
A few days after we arrived, our friends on SV Perry showed up and it was time to do some diving! Throughout our time in Raja Ampat, it was so reassuring (and fun!) to dive with Matt and Jen. It just provided that extra sense of security to have two dinghies along instead of one. There were a few instances when fuel lines broke or other unpredictable things happened that would have been very hard to handle with only one dinghy there. Safety aside, though, It was simply a lot of fun to have other eyes searching for sea creatures and macro reef critters, capturing what we were seeing through another camera lens. Matt has a sweet camera setup with super zoom, which beautifully captured the intricate details of what we saw.
|Anchored and stern tied in Wayag, kids could swim to the beach!|
Mark’s mom, Mariellen, has come out to visit on the boat a few times now. So, she knows what to expect and has figured out how to jump aboard and seamlessly join the crew. This time, she became a student, as well, getting refreshed on her basic scuba skills and even learning how to drive the dinghy and paddle board! Go, Nana, Go! Elizabeth stepped right up into the role of teacher, and gained confidence as she led her grandma on a dive by herself and taught her the ins and outs of driving an outboard motor.
|Three generations diving together! Mark, Mariellen, and Elizabeth|
|Kitted up and ready to go!|
|Watercolor 101 with Kerry|
|Lawson explaining how pearls are formed|
During all our time in Raja Ampat, we did not see one crocodile, although they are said to live in the mangroves that line some of the islands. Divers have reportedly been attacked in certain areas, so we steered well clear of those. In the end, there were no scary croc encounters for us to tell about, but there were many amazing animal sightings during our time there. I have never seen such interesting and intricate sea life before - bright blooms of magenta and orange soft coral, sea fans wider than I am tall, tiny nudibranchs, bizarre wobbegong sharks, and giant manta rays. Each dive was unique and extravagant. We experienced swift currents, steep walls, swim-through arches, submerged sea mounts, sheer rocky outcroppings, stacked boulders, gentle slopes of sand, and some walls with coral overhangs jutting out over our heads up near the surface.
|Wobbegong shark gliding by to check us out (photo by Kerry)|
Raja Ampat is truly the best diving I’ve ever seen, and we were so glad we’d put a compressor on board prior to arriving. This addition has literally opened us up to diving opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We can do two or three dives a day and fill up our own tanks, making us a completely self-sufficient dive live aboard. Too bad we don’t have housekeeping and a cook on board like the huge phinisis that catered to the diving tourists visiting in droves to dive these iconic waters. In Sarong, we’d been surrounded by the wooden schooners, even getting the chance to walk around one of the most luxurious ones, the Mutiara Laut. These boats do three to four dives a day with dive guides and a full crew who prep all the guests’ dive gear and ferry them around to the best dive spots.
On the Field Trip Live Aboard, we are the crew. Mark had his hands full with five divers. He ran around refilling tanks, loading them into the dinghy, driving the dinghy, helping all us ladies get geared up, leading the dives, and then undoing and redoing it all when we returned to the boat. We all pitched in as much as we could, but he carried the brunt of the workload. Thankfully, diving in these gorgeous places was all the payment he required. :)
|Ready to dive! (Our Buff headscarfs keep hair |
from tangling in our masks - we don't dive without them!)
During every dive in the Four Kings, I found myself in awe of the One King who had created such a kaleidoscope of wonders and hidden it where it would take mankind hundreds and thousands of years to ever discover. I couldn’t help but feel like I had a front row seat beside the artist Himself as He revealed His majesty and glory in each and every stroke.
|Kubaryana's Nembrotha nudibranch|
(Photo by Elizabeth)
Psalm 104:24-25 New International Version (NIV)
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
Wayag - Raja Ampat, Indonesia from Mark Silversetin on Vimeo.