Raja Ampat Snorkeling Tour, Dec, 2015 Trip Report
Our recent Raja Ampat trip has to be one of the best I’ve had ever. This was our (combined) 40th visit (or is it closer to 50th?) to Raja and we were finally able to do something we haven’t done before: visit both Misool and the northern portion of Raja Ampat in the same trip! This was thanks to our boat, the Mermaid I that continually sets the benchmark for excellence in small liveaboard accommodations, food, service, and you name it. We started in Misool where we were treated to the spectacular reefs around many of the numerous small groups of limestone islands sprinkled around the shallow waters of Misool’s southeastern coast. Sunshine and calm seas prevailed and our group of 14 snorkelers took full advantage of days packed with marine life.
After a few days of Misool’s reefs, we headed up to the north of Dampier Strait where we could explore a diversity of habitats in search of magical reefs and wonderful critters. Our first stops along Bantata and Penemu Islands gave us a glimpse of what the term ‘marine biodiversity’ really means. The list of fish and invertebrates we encountered would fill a book and the unique habitats found around both of these islands were easily worth the price of admission. Shallow reefs growing right up to white beaches, mangroves, and limestone cliffs were the norm on almost every snorkel! At Penemu, we had the chance to hike up to the summit of one of the limestone cliffs for a nice bird’s eye view of the marvelous area.
Our next stops in Yangeffo, Pef, and Alyui Bay gave us the chance to not only see amazing techno-colored reefs (again growing up to and often underneath lush stands of mangroves) but to see a variety of crazy critters like ornate, robust, and roughsnout ghost pipefish, seahorses, waspfish, crocodilefish, colorful nudibranchs, juvenile cuttlefish, epaulette and blacktip reef sharks.
Our final days of snorkeling took place around the islands of Mansuar and Kri. Let’s see, two species of sea turtle, wobbegong, blacktip and white tip reef sharks, schools of jacks, emperors, barracuda, fusiliers, and thousands of damsels all contributed to the pageantry of marine life that resides around these islands. Oh, and I almost forgot about the six mantas we swam with for over an hour!
As I stated above, this was one of the best and we feel very privileged to have share this experience with some of our special guests. See you in 2016, Raja Ampat!