The second part of our Diving expedition Report...read part 1 here
Day 5 - Diving Karang Island and Atoll, WakatobiTravelling east overnight once more, our bodies routined to the gentle rocking of the waves, we arrived refreshed to Karang Island, Wakatobi. A macro haven delivered on all accounts. A rustic lighthouse, tall and steadfast stood on the islands point determining our first drop point. Steve’s accurately named dive sight ’Fluffy’s Festival Of Fish’ was just that. Schools of blue fin trevally, giant trevally, red-tooth trigger fish and five-lined snapper played amongst the colourful anthias. Each group was not disappointed by the fishiness and all groups mentioned visits of turtles and sharks.
Karang being a volcanic island and interesting to look at from off shore, was a perfect place to dinghy into shore and enjoy some land time. Jagged black volcanic rock littered the entire island creating a stark contract with the turquoise lagoon skirting it. With the midday sun beating down on our shoulders, intensified with the black surrounds, our visit onshore was short - but long enough for Phil to get his quadcopter out for a flight and get some long awaited birds-eye footage.
Ricky, ever in search of an unexplored dive site, directs captain Ahmed to an isolated atoll 2 hours east of Karang. When his tracker and GPS showed a 250m wall dropping straight down, his instincts say ’LETS GO!’ Wakatobi Atoll Drop was another little gem. Fresh, vibrant corals, schools of fish everywhere. A really really healthy reef. Jumping back in at night we see just how healthy the marine biodiversity is. A juvenile freckled frogfish, startled by the torch light, jumped from a sprig of soft coral and was snapped by Jan the macro paparazzi. Cringing, the expansive basket stars bow down to your light, leaving it’s little basket star shrimps to fend for themselves. Behind you, casting your torch out into the blue, resulted in a frenzy of crazy worms, simple organisms, squid and juvenile cuttlefish zipping around as if on fire. Absolutely world class. Dazzling ornate slipper lobsters, white ornate ghost pipefish, cuttlefish and leaf scorpion fish are just a few of the top finds of the dive.
Day 6 and 7 - Travel Days and Big Surprises.The next two days (40hrs) were spent crossing the Banda sea making our way towards Ambon. Our games trifecta tournament consumed the boat with all skills put to the test. Bobby and Laura’s addictive personalities emerged as they fight mercilessly to find colourful squares within an iPad screen. Laura’s hard work did pay off and she was queened the ’Wicked Dots Champion’. Rummykub the ultimate game of patience (Rummykin for those Aussies out there) brought many spectators. Kitty Doctor (Dymphna a feline vet), pipped at the post, was beaten by the modest Phil, The Rummykub champion!
A horse race is defined by those on board the Jaya as an underwater race whereby a horse and jockey work together to cross a finish line. The rules: The jockey must take his/her fins off and be seated upon the horses tank. An honourable mention goes to bobby and her underwater jockey skills, Uwe for his lazy horse and Laura for her galliant sprint but the winners were Sally and Phil. Well done guys… YEEEEEHHA.
yes that Is a KILLER WHALEThose who braved the horse race were rewarded. As we descended down as a group star, posing for a photograph for Ricky, a huge (7ft maybe?) marlin literally came out of the blue, circled us, raised it’s sail and left, leaving the group speechless and poor Ricky was a small package in his pants. :)
Only a few hours West of Ambon, we are all relaxing, scattered around the boat. Barb leaves her conversation with claims of whale sightings. Everyone on the bow, we watch the huge black fins of 9 orcas slice through the dark water time and time again. Slowing down the boat and positioning ourselves nearby the pack, the majestic killer whales curiosity brought them closer. Within meters of the boat, the larger females put on a acrobatic display, summersaulting on the surface, flicking their tails in the air and rolling around showing us their white tummy’s almost as if they were proving to us they were in fact KILLER WHALES.
With fear and excitement we donned our masked and snorkels and jumped into the blue to witness the greatest predator on earth.
Their eyes, black as ink shimmer beneath the surface. A solid black calf and it’s mother graciously moves into our view, followed by an even larger one. This larger one swooped within 1.5 meters of our group before returning to the pack. Hearts racing, camera’s rolling we spend minutes encapsulated by these incredible mammals. An experience the entire group will never forget. Thank you to Osvaldo, Phil and Laura for their steady hands in capturing the beautiful footage underwater and Howard, Pati and Uwe for their impressive above water acrobatic shots.
Day 8 - Diving Ambon and Land TripA boat restock in Ambon meant some great muck diving, a visit to a world war two memorial and access to chocolate. Ambon Island is part of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia and is famous for it’s critter diving. Jumping in for a some night dives straight off the pier, we greeted many of under waters weird and wonderful. Coconut octopus, indian ocean walkman, orang-utan crabs, decorator crabs, a tiny pink frogfish, leaf scorpion fish, snake eels, bobtail squid long-horned cow fish, juvenile octopus, cuttlefish, stonefish, stargazer and nudibrach city were the highlights. Ambon also boasts a pretty cool wreck, SS Aquila. Bombed and sunk by the CIA in 1958, it lays in tact on the floor of Ambon harbour. Covered in colourful soft corals, the wreck is home to swirling school of snappers, fusiliers and jacks, whilst its hull hides octopus, scorpion fish and many other hidden creatures for us to find. The lucky ones witnessed an eagle ray gliding past. Day 9 - Diving Pulau SuanggiDay 9 and well over half way, we have left Ambon behind, heading east once more towards Pulau Suanggi, a tiny dot in the Manipa Straight, south of Maluku. Passing pods of grey and dusky dolphins basking in the sunlight on the surface and even an enormous fin whale stopped by for a splash. Suanggi Island is a remote island covered with greenery. Only a lighthouse and few fisherman shacks (unsure whether they are inhabited or not) can be seen nestled amongst the dense foliage. Boobie birds are the unanimous owners of the island as hundreds of these birds can be seen frolicking in the trees. Swarming white hordes of these birds create a squawking orchestra which we would could hear upon ascent in the surrounding atoll. The one reason to dive Suanggi is to look for hammerheads. Into the blue we went on numerous occasions with the success of one group sighting a large male great hammerhead.
Spending late nights on the sun deck with Terry was always a treat. His extensive knowledge of the skies and seas, his tales of the brave hero’s in constellations above and his courageous sailing adventures were loved and revered among all.
Day 10 - Diving/Exploring Banda and the Spice IslandsAn early wakeup call was eased by the morning view. Below the thick grey clouds, the iconic Gunung Api volcano stood before us. We had made it to Banda. Its’ hardened black lava from its last eruption in 1988 spews heavily into the ocean. A landmark which marks the dive site ’Lava Flow’. Below the water, the coral has rejuvenated 6 times faster than regular coral growth and in turn boasting an impressive seabed of cabbage coral.
After breakfast we continued to dive closer to Banda Niera spotting some more little critters before entering the tranquil harbour. Leaving our home behind and also our fearless kitty doctor, we made tracks for our afternoon excursion on land exploring the fabled spice island. Andy our local guide, escorted us through the museums, the local history and the town. Making our way up to the fort for a panoramic view of the harbour and surrounding mountains, we explored the jail, the bats and ruins.
A stop up here also gave Phil and his trusty quadcopter an opportunity to fly. Surrounded by a throng of local supporters, he shared his navigation goggles around the bunch, bringing more and more kids up to the historic fort. Great fun. Weaving through the nutmeg and cinnamon plantation, Andy pointed out the historic fruits which had once been worth their weight in gold. The humid forest then opens out into a courtyard where a banquette was splayed before us. Mr nutmeg himself poured us cinnamon tea and urged us to sit and try his goodies. Rumour swept through the group like rocket fuel that nutmeg was an aphrodisiac quickly turning our innocent little tea party into a schoolyard of giggling teenagers. With much banter and laughter we nibbled upon ’doddles’, munched on fried potato relished with nutmeg jam and poked away at the other tasty assortments. As the sun sets behind the volcano, closing another day, we sit drinking a cool beer together (the nutmeg still in our systems) reminiscing the adventures of the past few days. Just another day onboard the Jaya.
Stay tuned for the final chapter!!!
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