Rediscovering the Playground

Since Christmas last year we’ve been out and about in the Raja Ampat islands, rediscovering some of our favourite places from last year, and they haven’t disappointed.

New Year was spent in the beautiful northern archipelago of Wayag.  It’s usually buzzing with Phinisi tourist dive boats and luxury yachts, but this time it was eerily deserted, thanks to Covid. But it did mean that there was plenty of room for the gathering of the Raja Ampat cruising fleet – as far as we’re aware, there’s a total of only ten cruising boats in the whole area and seven of us were in Wayag for the traditional beach gathering and letting off of fireworks.  Like everyone else on the planet, we were very keen to see the back of 2020 so miraculously we all managed to stay awake to see the New Year in – quite a feat for cruising yachties who are usually inspecting the back of their eyelids by 9pm!  It was also our 25th wedding anniversary, so we enjoyed a double celebration and a bottle of duty-free bubbly we managed to bring with us from home. What a treat.

Beautiful Wayag
Our own private beach for the New Year’s celebrations
Happy 25th!

Most of our days have been spent diving old and new sites and trying out our additional camera equipment we bought in Australia.  The wide-angle lens is a winner, but sadly the second strobe light has turned out to be faulty, so we continue to struggle to get enough light into some of the shots.  Regardless, it’s fun, and we’ve been fortunate to have some spectacular dives.  Diving here is often challenging because of the strong currents, so nearly all the dives are drift dives, some faster than others – a reef hook is an essential piece of equipment to stop you getting swept away. The complexity multiplies when also trying to manhandle a camera and lights and stay in position long enough to get a photo but not too long that your diving buddies have disappeared in the current! We have a core group of divers here, so it helps that we take turns to do ‘dinghy duty’ on the surface and pick up the others at the end of the dive.  This time we decided to hire a local dive guide and boat for some of the trickier dives – it was well worth it and reasonably priced when the cost was split between 5 or 6 of us.  Our two dive guides, Stanley and Jackie, were amazing – they were able to find the teeniest tiniest critters like pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs that we would never have seen in a million years, and instead of our usual hit-and-miss approach to finding the dive sites, they were able to drop us at exactly the right spot.  We’ve seen manta rays, turtles, and sharks on nearly every dive, but sadly we have no good manta photos (yet).  However, here’s a sample of some of the underwater wonderland we’ve been privileged to enjoy:

Healthy, vibrant corals everywhere
Giant clam
Oriental Sweetlips
Harlequin Sweetlips surrounded by glass fish
yours truly drifting among the gorgonian fans
These Chromodoris nudibranchs are tiny but oh so pretty
My friend the cuttlefish
Another colourful Chromodoris nudibranch
So many fish!
Map pufferfish
Blacktip Reef Shark
Crinoid collection
A yawning tassled wobbegong shark – so well camouflaged it’s easy to swim right over the top of them
No need for a wetsuit – the water’s a warm 29-30 degrees c

2 Replies to “Rediscovering the Playground”

    1. Thanks Suzanne – yes, still plenty of healthy corals and abundant fish life, but we’ve noticed coral bleaching starting in some places and the water temp has definitely increased since last year, so that’s a worry. As on the GBR, crown of thorns starfish are also a problem here.

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