Yes, we did see (quite a few!) majestic Manta Rays on this trip (more about that later), but the highlight dives were the ones we did in Misool (south Raja Ampat) totally surrounded by fish! Schools of Barracudas, Batfish, Yellow Snappers, hunting packs of Giant Trevallies, Grey Reef Sharks, thousands of Fusilliers and the ever-present clouds of Silversides. Mesmerizing and absolutely mindblowing!
Some of the healthiest reefs and most beautiful corals in the world can be found here, and we spent the first few days taking it all in. An encounter with an adorable Walking Shark at one of the nightdives put smiles on our faces and added extra value.
We did a scenic lagoon tour in the Penemu area, and had a stunning late afternoon up at the viewpoint, enjoying the iconic limestone islets of Raja Ampat.
Yanggefo, in one of the mangrove areas of Raja Ampat was up next. Usually a mangrove dive means low visibility, but here you can have a unique experience in blue water with plenty of, mostly juvenile, fish. We also spent quality time with a very cooperative Octopus and had a curious Wobbegong Shark swimming around us!
Best chance to see Manta Rays is probably near a cleaning station. There are a few around in Raja Ampat, and we got a good look at one of these impressive elasmobranchs as it was getting a spring cleaning at a seamount in the south. You can also find them in the Arborek area, central Raja, and at an afternoon dive here we had solid Manta action for the full hour with six or seven big Mantas!
Last part of the trip we stayed in the Dampier Strait, and had a good mix of both wide and macro opportunities. Two really cute Pontohy Pygmy Seahorses lighted up our morning dive, and later in the day we had massive schools of Jackfish and Barracudas, a few Grey Reef Sharks and nice congregations of Sweetlips.