This very special trip took us from Maumere on Flores through Alor, the Banda Sea and the Forgotten Islands all the way up to Raja Ampat in West Papua 16 days later. We enjoyed a huge variety of marine life and different eco systems as well as stunning topside scenery throughout the trip.
We spent the first day in the Bacatan area, just east of Flores. Nice walls, full of seafans, where Mermaid’s sharp-eyed guides found the first of our Pygmy Seahorses. More were to follow… A big school of Barracudas, Napoleons and a couple of Eagle Rays cruising by made for a pretty good start of this safari!
Alor next, with rich reefs, clear blue water and also some really good muck diving. We were lucky enough to find two super rare Rhinopias here; a red Paddleflap and a stunning yellow Weedy (not that it was anything wrong with the Frogfish, the Coleman Shrimps, the Seahorses or the parade of Nudibranchs…).
Continuing east, Wettar and Damar offered more great diving with really healthy reefs. Barracudas, Grey Reef Sharks, big schools of Jackfish and tons of little Anthias up in the shallows. The biggest surprise here was an unexpected encounter with a massive Great Hammerhead at a safety stop. Impressive indeed!
Now in the Banda Sea, it was time to start looking out in the blue a bit more than before, since these waters are known for congregations of big pelagics, especially Hammerhead Sharks. At one of the atolls we started to see small groups of them already during the morning dives, but things picked up, rather significantly, in the afternoon, with a big school of more than a hundred Hammers. Needless to say, we were all in awe!
The active volcano of Manuk delivered as always; lots of beautiful (and quite inquisitive!) Seasnakes, huge Dogtooth Tunas, big schools of Unicornfish, Barracudas and Black Triggerfish. And a couple of Hammerheads thrown in for good measure!
Next two days were reserved for the Banda Islands – stunning topography and rich in history. Diving not too shabby either, with swarms of Butterflyfish and Red-tooth Triggerfish, Honeycomb Morays, Bumphead Parrotfish and Surgeonfish, all in blue warm water.
On the way up to Raja Ampat, we stopped at the tiny little island of Koon. As always here, lots of fish; a massive school of Batfish, Yellowtail Barracudas, Grey Snappers in big numbers, Pompanos, Turtles and Giant Groupers. We also found a Leopard Shark, rare in this area. The highlight, however, was a brief encounter with a large pregnant Tigershark, peacefully swimming by. Wow!
So, finally we arrived in the famous Raja Ampat to spend the last part of the trip here. Diving some of the richest reefs in the world, we were mesmerized by the colourful corals and the swarms of fish everywhere we looked! The macro lovers onboard got a good dose of Pygmy Seahorses, (including Bargibantis, Denises, Santa Clauses and Pontohis), while the rest spent quality time with Wobbegong Sharks, big Napoleons and friendly Turtles. A great dive at one of the seamounts with several large Manta Rays getting cleaned, made for a memorable ending of this Biodiversity Special trip!