The crossing is undoubtedly the most amazing diving trip you could ever do in Asia, and some might argue the world. Where else can you spend sixteen days on a beautiful boat, Mermaid II, diving the most remote and pristine reefs, walls, and pinnacles available available in what the scientists have proven to be the most bio-diverse waters of the world.

Starting in Maumere, east Flores, on December 6th Mermaid II left for our Crossing through the Banda Sea and into Raja Ampat on a sea of glass with two blue whales as escorts from the harbor, it was a very good start and we hadn’t even dipped a toe in the water. The encounters and sights we saw were equally impressive and awe inspiring as the two behemoth whales that just crossed our bow. Walls cascading with rainbows colored soft coral were a staple though the Banda Sea along with thriving schools of shimmering pelagic fish like giant and big eye travellie as well as colorful reef fish like the clouds of pyramid butterfly fish. Groups of scalloped hammerheads were spotted in the blue on a handful of location as well as large groups of mobula rays which were found courting in Koon and then again in Raja Ampat as they hunted the shoals of anchovies which blocked out the sun at times.

The protected bays in the Banda Islands led us to a pod of mellon head whales which seemed to take up the entire bay. There were easily one hundred or more of these small toothed whales resting on the surface and allowed us to snorkel with them for some time. Floating on the surface surrounded by fifty or more singing whales was easily one of the highlights of the entire trip. Once we entered Raja we were greeted by dozens of the giant oceanic mantas at just about every site in south Misool and then again in the Dampier Straight. For me, the photographer, it was almost too much to handle. It took some serious concentration to focus on the one manta aproaching when a school of jacks is to to my left, barracudas above and grey reef sharks to my right. A photographers dream and nightmare all rolled into one amazing moment after another.

It didn’t matter where we dived, every thing was just absolutely incredible, pelagic chaos everywhere, and we were the only boat as far as the eye could see!

Mermaid II Maumere-Alor-Banda Sea-Raja Ampat cruise
Dec 6-21, 2015

Alex Lindbloom
UW Photographer