In search of the Spice Islands
At the beginning of 2007 Drew Wong sent me an email asking if I was interested in a trip to the Banda and Seram Seas to partake in diving some pretty remote sites. The offer was very tempting ad within about 3 seconds I had said yes.
This was going to be our playground:
Not only were we going to remote sites, but on board the Seven Seas would be a number of fantastic photographers and videographers. It was going to be a treat to be able to see them at work first hand and maybe learn a bit from seeing them work.
Nice-London-Singapore-Bali-Ujang Padang-Ambon on the way out
Sorong-Ujang Padang-Bali-Singapore-London-Nice on the way back
with two stops in Bali to get over the trip hassles and hang out with the gang in paradise…
British Airways for the NCE-SIN sectors
Garuda for the Bali-Ujang Padang sector
Lion AIr Ujang for the Padang/Ambon sector
And Express Air for the Sorong/Ujang Padang sector
These last two are internal indonesian airlines – must admit that the group was a bit anxious, the planes and flying styles being somewhat exotic, but hey to get to the last frontier one has to suffer!!!
We sailed on the Seven Seas, a traditional indonesian hull that was refitted for diving and luxury!!!
This is a very comfortable boat, all cabins have bathrooms and are air-conditioned. There’s a huge dive platform at the front, the dinning area is large enough for a full boat, and the top sun-deck is a fantastic place to rest and watch the sea go by.
In addition, we had a few changes set up at the back where a large camera table area was awaiting all the gear on board with some nifty nets to ensure nothing fell during the crossings.
The boat’s captain is Marc Hayes, a pioneer from this region, a great sailor and a great diver to boot. He is helped by 14 crew members who take care of you in style from the beginning of the trip all the way to the seeing off at Sorong airport. (and Yofin makes a mean margarita, thanks Yofin!!!)
Stew and Tommie were the guides on this trip. Fantastic eyes, great readings of the current and a willingness to help discover this region all made for excellent support during the dives.
We sailed approximately 1000 nautical miles, most of the time at night or the end of the day, so as to not lose too much time, from Ambon to Nusa Laut, to Koon, the Spice Islands and then the sail back up towards Fak-Fak and the fabled Raja Ampat area.
We set foot on remote and un-inhabited islands, visited Banda Neira where nutmeg originally came from and the theater of brutal wars between the english, the dutch and the portuguese, tasted nutmeg jam (excellent) and also saw the final words of a french noble etched in glass before he was taken to be executed.
We anchored in areas where our only neighbours were the lush green scenery and the sea. Oh and also some eagles fighting for food and territory.
And to top it off, we only one other dive boat, towards the end of the trip and that only lasted for a few hours.
We had aimed for being there in the inter-monsoon period; we los that bet as monsoon lasted a bit longer than usual. This lead to poor viz, heavy and green waters at times, but it was still fantastic. I can’t imagine what it would be like if the weather held.
Basically our fist briefing was: you are all grown-ups, responsible and experienced divers. So all I ask is that you do not go into deco, for the rest of it, you can choose to follow the guides or not, it’s up to you. This is what Marc told s and it’s just the type of diving I enjoy.
Currents were interesting at times, but each time you popped your head out of the water, the tenders were there to pick you up. Thanks guys!!!
Well this is the centre of the ring of fire, and with that comes bio-diversity galore!!! From the super-macro (pygmies in every fan) to normal macro to mantas and nearly everything in between. You have to come and experience it for yourself, there is so much to see. We even ran into a saltie crocodile underwater. Now thats’ a sight some people won’t forget in a while!
I had made a vow to work on wide angle shots this trips, and even though the viz did not play, I still forced myself to shoot the 15mm FE. However once in a while the 100mm and 500D close up lens came back out, that’s soul food photography for me!
I know that the rest of the group shot a lot of macro and had a fantastic time, I am sure they will be posting some of their images on their sites, so don’t forget to check them out!
I loaned my video camera to a fellow diver who had flooded his setup and he took some amazing footage. It will just take some time to work on the footage and get some clips up. Please come back soon for updates on that`.
Well Neptune took his toll on this trip: a Nikon D2x, and Canon 5D, a number of strobes and my Fish Eye spotting lamp… What can I say, it was an expensive trip…
17 days of utter bliss, from the scenery, the diving, the boat, my fellow divers, this was one FANTASTIC trip! I can’t wait to get back to this part of the world. I know where I will be spending my next winters…