The Lesser Sunda Islands never seem to disappoint snorkelers with the region’s vast array of marine biomass. Fish and invertebrates just seem to be everywhere. Beginning our trip in Bali we flew to Maumere and were in the water our first afternoon at Ribbon Eel Reef. Rarely do we, as snorkelers, have an opportunity to observe Blue ribbon eels in shallow water. At this reef we had multiple chances to view these beautiful, sinuous eels in varied stages of maturity, from juvenile, male, and female phases.
Next we headed eastward toward Pulau Adonara for some wonderful snorkels concentrated on shallow sloping reefs that harbored a plethora of macro subjects. Subsequently, our meandering itinerary took us to the West coast of Pantar where we discovered a new set of amazing snorkel sites. This area receives strong currents flowing north and south and thus our first snorkel found us drifting along the edge of a channel where there must have been millions of anthias feeding on unseen plankton. It was certainly one of the many highlights of the trip and we ended up doing this drift over and over and over.
A common site
The following day found us snorkeling in the shadow of a spectacular live volcano, Iliwariran. The bay just to the east of this iconic-looking mountain crowned with plumes of smoke contained several different marine habitats including vertical dropoffs, black sand slopes, and coral gardens mixed with productive seagrass meadows. Fire dartfish, Blacktip reef sharks, Pegasus sea moths, Broadclub cuttlefish, Fingered dragonets, Robust ghost pipefish and much, much more were found in this scenic locale.
The main geographic area we focused on during our adventure was the narrow strait between the island of Alor and eastern Pantar. With high volumes of water continually flowing back and forth through this strait, swirling about the various volcanic islands, the reefs were super-fishy. Sites were variably composed of large swaths of soft corals mixed with robust hard corals and surrounded by reef fishes of every type. One could look in any direction on the reef flats and have ultra-impressive views of vivid wildness, from rare nudibranchs and Spiny devilfish to bright clouds of chromis and fusiliers. We also took time to visit one of the hill tribes of Alor where we witnessed traditional singing and dancing in the heart of their rustic village.
Upon heading back towards Maumere we explored a few new areas including one special bay where calm, clear waters bathed a beach of volcanic rocks. In this stunning bay, the seafloor was almost devoid of corals due to recent volcanic activity but small, colorful fish were easy to view. In one corner of the bay streams of volcanic gases escaped from the seafloor creating bright curtains of bubbles that we could snorkel through. It was magical.
The most difficult part of exploring the underwater environments of Alor was continually trying to one-up the last snorkel as each one was a fantastic journey into healthy reef types. The general opinion of our group was that the region contained more fish than most places on Earth. In the end we couldn’t have expected a better trip, from the gorgeous weather, the raw, tropical island scenery, and of course the incredible marine fauna. Can’t wait for Coral Triangle Adventures to go back to explore more of Alor in May 2018!