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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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October 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Raja Ampat Explorer, Raja Ampat Indonesia

same stunning reefs, same fish, one-third the price

from the October, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

At 6:30 a.m., I stumbled from below decks of the wooden Raja Ampat Explorer, my brain still fuzzy after the 15-hour flight from Germany to Sorong, with stops in Singapore and Manado, Indonesia. The sun was just rising above lush, green mushroom-shaped islands dotting the calm ocean. Suddenly, I saw a drone sent up by a diver to show the maze of tiny green islands scattered over several miles, all surrounded by inviting reefs and clear blue water. A good omen for my next 10 days of what would be great dives in an awesome place.

Approaching a dive site on Raja Ampat ExplorerAlthough this was my third time to Raja Ampat -- the first aboard the Pindito, the next I split with Kararu Voyager and Max Ammer's Sorido Bay Resort -- the destination is pricing itself out for all but deep-pocket travelers. So I tracked down a budget-priced liveaboard -- $2100 for 11 nights -- for an August trip -- not the ideal time, as it is typhoon season. However, despite choppy seas, cloudy, humid days in the high 80šs, 80 percent of my dives were five-star amazing.

Take the site Batu u Wayag. Before we backrolled off the tender, Wilson, my group's eagle-eyed divemaster, briefed us thoroughly on the topography and creatures, and, as he did daily, directed us to achieve proper buoyancy control. Once down, he helped out the two guys with the biggest cameras who were interested in critters. After I spent 15 minutes in one spot waiting, I was bored, and Wilson signaled I could kick onward. Soon a huge, nearly black manta sailed by in the 100-foot visibility. I spotted a big Napoleon wrasse on the colorful reef wall, but when I tried to sneak up, it descended. Gaston (we decided to buddy up after meeting), pointed to some table coral where sweetlips hovered, but I could only shrug because they were everywhere, every dive. He signaled again, now to show me a 5-foot wobbegong shark under the coral. After a cautious approach, I got shots of his frazzled mouth and head, and closer yet, his face and his eyes, tiny spots on his huge flat head. A three-foot turtle feeding on sponges allowed me close-ups of its barnacle-covered body. I tried to shoot garden eels, which, of course, disappeared when I got within a foot of them. That's when I thought, "Maybe itīs time to buy a really good camera."...

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