Indonesia Trip, Sept. 16-Oct 7, 2007


I did a three-week dive trip to Indonesia in Sept-October, which was very capably arranged by my friend Drew Wong. For those of you who are geographically challenged like me, Indonesia is a republic in Southeast Asia consisting of more than 17,000 islands spread over 3,000 miles. It is the world’s fourth most populous country, with over 234 million people.

The trip required five plane flights each way. I went from San Francisco to Hong Kong, then Singapore, then Bali. After an overnight, we took domestic flights to Ujung Padang, then Ambon. Repeat same on the way back, except our flights started out of Sorong, where we ended up after +1,000 nautical miles (most travel was at night). We dove in the Banda/Seram Sea and the itinerary included Raja Ampat (”four kings”), which is an archipelago of 1,500 islands and cays located off the northwest tip of West Papua (known as Irian Jaya until recently).

 



Our liveaboard dive boat was the Seven Seas, an upscale schooner which just started up in 2006. A roomy boat with a length of 100′ and a 25′ beam, this is a classy operation–for example, we were served four meals daily (we got second breakfast, just like hobbits). Freshly dried towels after every dive, waited on hand & foot by a crew of 14, etc., etc.
 


Of course, it didn’t hurt that while the boat can hold up to 18 guests, we were 11, and I had my own room with double/twin beds for the 16 nights I was on board. Each room has it’s own bath, and individual AC which actually worked when you adjusted it. There was also plenty of space on board to work on cameras–mine are in the photo above because I didn’t get around to taking the shot until the end of the trip, and I’d brought my rigs to the room to break them down for repacking.

 



The above photos serve to illustrate the yin & yang of our trip–you can see the reefs are gorgeous, but you can also tell from the color of the water in
the background that the visibility was often–challenging. Guest Robert Delfs, an ex-pat who lives in Bali and has been on numerous Seven Seas trips, said this was the worst viz he’d seen. These were the times to practice your close-focus when shooting with a wide-angle lens.
 





On the other hand, we also experienced dives with all the blue-water backgrounds a photographer could want….

 




Indonesia is a “macro paradise,” but I made a conscious effort to mostly shoot wide angle, even to the point of leaving my 105mm & 200mm “mas macho” macro lenses at home (on purpose, as opposed to my usual method of forgetting things). Why? I could say it’s because I shot a lot of macro on two prior trips here (one to this general area in 2002, and another to the Komodo area further west in 2001), but you can always find new macro subjects to shoot, so that’s not it. I’d say the real reason is that I’m kinda “tired of macro.” That said, I did bring the 60mm, which is flexible for slightly wider macro subjects such as the two cuttlefish above, and when combined with the pricy ($500) Macro Mate adapter (can be slipped on and off depending on the subject) you get up to twice life-size (2:1) reproduction. I used that combo for the above anemonefish, shrimp and blenny shots–none of these are rare subjects, but I was attracted by the area around each.
 




Tasseled wobbegong sharks (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) can be hard to spot, but three were pointed out to me on dives at different locations during this trip. Fellow guest Craig Ruaux showed me the first (top, left) which was in a cave, and Divemaster Tommie pointed out one (top, right) that was under a ledge. Thanks, guys! The shots at lower left and right above are of the third shark, which guest Celine Vignolles found. This shark was large (6-7 feet), but had its tail curled up so that you could get the whole animal in a shot while still being close. Best of all, it was lying on TOP of a ledge (albeit at a depth of 90′), without the roof of a cave or coal head over you to hinder camera placement. Merci beaucoup, Celine!
 



One shallow area off an island in the Triton Bay region didn’t have good water visibility generally, but there was some soft coral growth near the surface, so I tried "reef meets rainforest" shots.
 




This was my favorite dive location of the trip, in Raja Ampat southeast of Misool (one of the four main islands from which the “four kings” gets its name). Raja Ampat has been called “one of the last true frontiers of wild diving on the planet” and this spot makes you a believer. At times both the reef and the sun were blotted out from the massive schools of silversides as they were chased over us by various species of feeding jacks (bludger trevally, rainbow runner, etc.)

 


Here are a couple of photos guest Robert Delfs took of me during the incredible dives off Misool–I’m in the middle of that humongous swirl of fish in the shot above left.
 


As if the fish schools weren’t enough at this place, I saw mobula rays circling up in the water column, then this manta ray swam out of the blue and up & over me.


This shot was taken on our last dive–at a spot called Melissa’s Garden, near Cape Kri. Not a good photo (the sea krait was foraging up current, and we were being pushed swiftly the other way), but notable for its size–as you divers can tell from the reef surrounding it, this was about an eight-footer!
That’s it for this trip, folks!

Best to all,
Ken
http://www.seaimages.org

 


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