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August 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Arenui, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia

a unique critter haven, but a notch below luxury

from the August, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

A whopping 13 Rhinopias sightings broke Arenui's record, besting the previous eight seen on a trip to Alor. Now, this may mean nothing if you haven't been to the Indo-Pacific, but the Rhinopias, a member of the scorpionfish family, is among the must-sees for divers seeking the exotic -- and why divers take out second mortgages to make these expensive trips. Rhinopias, camouflaged loners with limited range, walk about on their fins, an exotic sight. And to view the load of macro critters in these waters, I put my magnifying glass to a lot of use, especially to peer at the half-inch pygmy seahorses, the more common pink with red warts (it was first named in 2008 as Pontohi), white with yellow patches, and Denise's yellowish-brown one. I also ogled an ornate ghost pipefish, exotic in its spiked appearance when contrasted with the halimeda, which looks like a segmented green leaf with a long snout.

The ArenuiYes indeed, this April dive trip was designed to find unusual and fascinating critters, but they often live in not-so-beautiful places, so magnificent coral sites were at a premium, by choice of the tour directors. When I dived this area aboard the Komodo Dancer six years ago, we covered many more colorful coral sites, but then I saw far fewer exotic macro critters. Generally, the terrain varied from sloping walls to coral bommies, and mostly blacksand rubble with lots of hiding places for the critters and tiny fish. With water varying from 77 degrees in the south to 83 degrees along the northern route, diving was generally quite pleasant, though occasional thermoclines made it seem much chillier.

When I arrived in Maumere, Flores, to board the Arenui, the traditional Phinisi design tickled my senses. Built in 2009 from 70 percent recycled local wood, she is 140 feet long, with an ironwood hull. Her massive sails are only cosmetic, because they provide insufficient power. Once I boarded, I had to wait in the hot and humid dining area (no air-conditioning!) while the two cruise directors escorted guests by pairs to their rooms for a prolonged briefing. A cool drink was no consolation for the stultifying half-hour wait, but I was then pleased by my AC-cooled cabin, twice the size of cabins on other liveaboards I've traveled. One of four on the main deck, it had a large window, a desk and chair, wardrobe, twin beds kitty-corner to each other, colorful linens and even choice bed pillows. In the ensuite bathroom, the shower drained through wooden lattices, but it was not vented, so I needed to hang my towels in the cabin to dry. One deposited toilet paper (oh, those marine heads) into a lidded container which was, thankfully, emptied twice daily....


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