SAMPLE CRUISE ITINERARY "MALUKU-BANDA-RAJA AMPAT"
14 Day/13 Night Ambon-Sorong Cruise
Day 1 Embarkation in Ambon
Day 2 Ambon Bay
Diving in Ambon bay is at the top of most people’s to-dive list. Ambon is a perennial favourite destination simply for the staggering array of creatures that can be found here. The dive sites are a hidden treasure of amazing critters, including the recently discovered species of frogfish (the psychedelic frogfish) but also Rhinopias, mimic octopus, zebra crabs and dozens of different nudibranch species.
A very popular find and photographic subject is the eponymous Ambon Scorpionfish in differing hues of red, pink, green, yellow and orange, but keep an eye out for many other members of the scorpionfish family too, including the spiny devilfish, stonefish, zebra lionfish, ragged-finned lionfish and leafy scorpionfish – all venomous but gorgeous! For those who want a change from nosing around after tiny creatures, a shipwreck covered in deep pink and purple soft corals offers a great alternative and is an irresistible lure for the profuse amount of fish in the area.
Another family group well-represented here are moray eels and you can generally find snowflake, fimbriated and curious white eyed morays residing in crevices or even gliding among the reefs. A close look in the sand reveals camoflauged crocodilefish, while a careful study of the gorgonians might offer a nice surprise sighting of a pygmy seahorse.
This area is also a good spot for catching a glimpse of ornate ghost pipefish and the extremely rare halimeda ghost pipefish, which is similar in shape to a robust ghost pipefish and whose name comes from its resemblance to the green halimeda algae.
Even the end of the day here seems magical, as dusk arrives and you observe the enchanting mating dance of mandarinfish coupling just above the reef. Plus, night time is when the truly bizarre creatures venture out, such as stargazers, along with the majestic, such as Spanish dancers.
Day 3 Hukurila / Pintu KotaHukurila Cave
Before heading back to Ambon, we stop at Hukurila Cave, to experience a fascinating dive site located underneath two rock arches. These natural formations can be seen from the surface and lead to a swim-through covered in sponges and soft corals, making for a great descent into your dive. This site is very popular, offering divers the thrill of making your way through twisting passages and caverns and canyons swarming with life.Pintu Kota
Pintu Kota, which means “gate of the city”, is located between the villages of Airlow and Seri, off the southern coast of Ambon Island. It gets its name from its shape, as a massive rock pointing seawards with an opening at its bottom. Through this “gate”, you can actually see the island’s coastline off in the distance. It is an ideal place both for snorkelling and diving.
Day 4 Nusa Laut
Even though it is located only a few hours away from Ambon, Nusa Laut presents quite different scenery and showcases the positive effects of a village taking care of its reef. In fact, the reef remains as unspoiled as it was hundreds of years ago. The locals have taken steps to protect it and the result is an outstanding site that is the favourite of many dive enthusiasts.
The hard corals covering the slope must be seen to be believed and the sandy floor is home to rays of all types and sizes. There are white tips and grey reef sharks patrolling the depths and playful turtles can be spotted as well. Look out for the big group of bumphead parrotfish munching on the reef.
Day 5, 6 Banda Islands
Most widely known as one of the main stops along the old spice route, the Banda Islands are rapidly gaining a reputation for having some of the best diving in the country. The remoteness of these islands in the midst of the wide expanses of the Banda Sea has given it a fascinating, colourful history, including the fact that it was once a home to exiles of all sorts.
Unlike other areas, with high populations and subsequent pressure from fishing, this Bandas’ relatively small human population has been a blessing for divers – offering a vibrant, healthy reef system rich in biodiversity. Fish are present here in incredible numbers along with huge gorgonians and sponges and some truly monumental hard corals.
The islands themselves are volcanic, but with climbable mountains covered in lush green vegetation. Intriguing remnants of the old lucrative spice trade are still present in Banda Neira and offer a taste of colonial times. Explore Pulau Naira and spend the morning walking through its historic little town. The town is full of interesting houses dating back to the Dutch and English periods. It’s also well worth a trip to the well-preserved Fort Belgica, with its fantastic views overlooking the waters that surround the island.
However, the real hidden attraction of the Banda Islands is the immense variety and quantity of both large and small fish species. At most sites, you will see enormous schools of fusiliers, thousands of redtooth triggerfish and hundreds of schooling pyramid butterflyfish. Many more species are worthy of a mention, but listing them all still wouldn’t do justice to the experience of diving such a colourful and packed reef.
The sunset dive in the harbour is one of the best sites in the world to see the photogenic mandarinfish. Plus, throughout the Banda Islands there are sightings of spinner dolphins, orcas, and other whales such as pilots, blues and humpbacks. Whatever your preference, from the tiny critters to the giant pelagics, this area offers unbeatable opportunities to see creatures both big and small.
The currents here are usually moderate, with good visibility and calm waters, but there are certain spots with stronger currents. Of course, our experienced dive guides will thoroughly brief you on the conditions and plan according to divers’ experiences.
Day 7 Koon IslandToo Many Fish
Our next stop is Koon Island, located south of Seram Island. There is only one dive site here and its distinctive name of “Too Many Fish” is well deserved. What really makes Koon so special is its location over a deep trench, which falls away to over 3000 meters. All the big sea creatures that migrate from the north to the south of this region, such as orcas and other whales and sharks, have to pass right through these waters. You can also expect large schools of all kinds of fish. Depending on the phase of the moon, strong currents can make this site challenging, but that also means a truly unforgettable dive.
Day 8 Boo / Fiabecet Area - MisoolBoo Rock and Boo Point East
We spend our day exploring Boo Rock and Boo Point East, where we regularly see large Napoleon Wrasse and Green Turtles. Boo Rock is best known for the ‘’windows’’ or rounded openings on the southern end of the largest rock, that completely pierce the reef from the surface down to about five meters. Although the two rocks appear separate from the surface, they are connected underwater by a magnificent reef draped in soft corals and brimming with fish.
South-east Misool is famous for the profusion of colourful soft corals and beautiful sea fans that smother the reefs. In fact, this Fiabecet area offers dive sites where the soft corals are truly outstanding.
Day 9 Wayilbatan Area - MisoolNeptune Fan Sea
Neptune Fan Sea is a small channel between two islands, with a shallow wall, that’s completely covered in some of the biggest gorgonian sea fans you will ever see. At the start of the dive, explore the beautiful coral heads where you may find a wobbegong shark or even a huge grouper hiding. Then, drift along the wall and enjoy the view of the sea fans, stopping once in a while to search for a tiny pygmy seahorse.Wedding Cake and Wayili Rock
Diving at both Wedding Cake and Wayili Rock we see schools of batfish, trevallies, barracuda and even a walking shark at night.
Day 10 Wagmab Area - Misool
Wagmab and the Farondi Islands offer several different dive sites. Between dives, take a Jungle River Tour to see the secret lagoons around Wagmab Island.Eddy Cave
Drop down into Eddy Cave and then re-surface inside to see the stalactites hanging from the top of the cavern. Outside the wall is full of overhangs and caves, where divers are likely to encounter groups of snapper and large groupers resting at the bottom.Grouper Net and Wagmab Corner
At Three Sisters, dive at Grouper Net and Wagmab Corner looking for wobbegong sharks resting under ledges or on top of cup corals. Sea fans cover the walls and slopes, so be on the lookout for pygmy seahorses.
Day 11 Batanta
Batanta Island is a great opportunity to really experience the amazing diversity of diving in Indonesia. There are two special muck dives, along the south coast, that offer close encounters with all sorts of intriguing critters.Black Beauty and Happy Ending
At Black Beauty and Happy Ending look for tiger shrimps, ghost pipefish, mimic octopus and many nudibranchs. During the night dive here, bobbit worms, white V octopus and frogfish can be found hiding in the black sand.
Day 12 Manta Sandy / ArborekManta Sandy
The first two dives of the day are at Manta Sandy, well-known for Indonesia’s much bigger visitors, as it is one of the most consistent spots for finding congregating mantas. It is easy to spend a whole dive observing these majestic animals, as they somersault through the water while being cleaned by several species of wrasse and even butterflyfish. In addition to the cleaning, they come to feed on plankton carried along by the currents and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness the unforgettable sight of a ”manta train”, where a dozen or more mantas gracefully glide around in a sweeping circle, following each other head-to-tail.Arborek Jetty
The afternoon and night dive are both at Arborek Jetty, another favourite for many divers. In the shallows, the jetty posts are covered in soft corals and down at the bottom we find pipefish, cuttlefish and octopus. The fish life in this area is as plentiful, as can be expected at sites with a great deal of healthy hard and soft coral. The reef also provides shelter for many interesting small animals, like hermit crabs, flatworms and skeleton shrimp. The newly discovered Pontohi pygmy seahorse can be found on the coral heads and make sure to seek out the giant clam nestled among the pulsing soft corals. At night, listen for the toadfish croaking from under the rocks.
Day 13 Dampier Strait
The strait that flows between Waigeo and Batanta is rapidly becoming famous, as it offers some of the most spectacular diving in Raja Ampat - as a result of the nutrient-rich ocean currents passing through here. Everything which makes for a wonderful dive can be found in this channel of water. Beyond the usual delights and the satisfaction of spotting prized macro subjects such as Pontohi pygmy seahorses, there are surprises to be found on every dive here, as waters from several oceans meet up offering a real mixture of ocean life. Ironically, sardines are about the only reef fish not found at the site of Sardine Reef, but you won’t even notice as you drift past schools of fusiliers, surgeonfish, trevallies, rainbow runners, sweetlips and bannerfish. The fish life practically block out the sky, as they swarm over the reef, which is stunningly decorated with sea fans, soft corals and huge orange elephant ear sponges encrusted with pastel colonies of tunicates. One of the most unique thrills of this site is being able to hear “fish thunder” - the loud booming sound made when a large number of fish move rapidly through open water. Cape Kri, Blue Magic, Chicken Reef, Kerupiar Island and Mioskon are all dive sites in Dampier Strait full of these wonders.