We’re having the time of our lives diving here in Misool. Every day we explore a new dive site and discover more underwater delights. Mostly these are wall dives or submerged reefs with masses of soft corals and fans. Sometimes there’s so much to see it’s almost overwhelming knowing where to focus the camera, and unfortunately without a wide angle lens we can’t get the big panorama shots (it’s on our wish list!). We’re still trying to improve on our photography skills, but we’re doing our best to document what we can of this unique and amazing subterranean world.
Balbulol has been stunning and it’s hard to leave, but after a week it’s time to go exploring further afield. Our next destination is only 12NM away at the Daram Islands on the south-eastern point of this island chain. They’re very rarely visited by private yachts because they’re exposed to the elements with no suitable tie-up anchorages (this area is part of the Marine Conservation Area and the rules stipulate no anchoring within 300 metres from a reef and no anchoring in depths less than 40 metres. Yikes!) Luckily for us, before we left Sorong Wick told us that two new moorings had been laid here and he was keen for us to check them out. OK, we’re happy to oblige!
But good grief, are they expecting a visit from a Cunard cruise liner? These things are ginormous! As we get closer we see they’re constructed from soft foam covered in weatherproof material so we’re slightly reassured that they won’t destroy our hulls, but puzzled by their location – quite a way off from any of the islands and completely open to wind and swell. It seems the live-aboard phinisis have rejected them, they’re all anchored closer in behind the islands. Oh well, nothing for it but to give it a go. The second mooring is another couple of miles away further south, so given the glassed-out conditions we raft up with ‘Jams’ for the night. Big mistake – no wind but a persistent rolling swell makes for an uncomfortable night, we bounce and jerk like balls in a pinball machine. Plan B is implemented – Jams moves to the other mooring for the night and then comes back to raft up during the day while we’re diving. Much better! But these moorings also pose a hazard to catamarans – with wind against tide the mooring ball gets lodged between our hulls. Luckily no damage done but it’s a close shave – a couple of inches higher and it would have ripped our lovely new trampoline. The only solution is to make the pick-up line as short as possible.
Like elsewhere in Raja Ampat it’s challenging to dive here from a dinghy because of the strong currents and topography of the dive sites. But we’ve worked out a good system with ‘Jams’. We rotate ‘dinghy duty’ – one person on the surface minding the dinghies while the other three dive. It works a treat. Bruce has also worked out a good system for Toucan’s filling station – a big bucket of water and an umbrella to keep the tanks cool while being filled (it helps to maximise the fill). He tells me that a cold beer to keep the tank fillers cool also helps, and he and Murray enthusiastically test this theory on a daily basis – they keep muttering about needing more data…
As we’ve already discovered, trying to predict correct time for slack tide is something of a black art and we’re rarely on the money – but that’s OK because with current you also get more fish and more colour from the soft corals. However, a reef hook is invaluable in these parts – it allows you to hang in strong current rather than being swept away, and it’s useful when doing a safety stop.
We continue our circuit of Misool, moving west where there’s another tie-up option at Kalig. This is a bit more exposed to the NW than Balbulol, but convenient for several other gorgeous dive sites – Boo Rocks, Tank Rock and Whale Rock being some of our favourites.
We’re just around the corner from Misool Eco Resort, and as we’re getting a bit low on dinghy fuel we pay them a visit in the hope of being able to buy some benzene. No joy on the benzene unfortunately but they’re friendly enough and give us a tour of their dive facility where Bruce drools over the expensive camera set-ups their high-paying guests have on display. It’s all way out of our league I’m afraid!
For those of you who’ve had enough of underwater photos, our next instalment is (mostly) non-diving related – we go in search of the ‘love lake’ and we’ve heard rumours about a jellyfish lake that sounds intriguing but no-one seems to know where it is. Challenge accepted!