Monday, September 24, 2012

Seven Dream Diving Spots

I read an article featuring Indonesia's seven best diving spots in Garuda Indonesia's inflight magazine. I've been dreaming about those places since then. For now, I can only save, save and save while waiting for the day when I can go there. 

The original article is written by Rahadiansyah. I rewrote it and added a few information here and there about the places. The listing goes as follows...

1. Raja Ampat, West Papua
Wayag lagoon. I got this photo while perusing kaskus, but there was no information on the photographer. If you know, you are so allowed to send me an angry email (containing the credit info, of course) and I'll give the credit where it is due.

Known as the Amazon of the seas, the Raja Ampat islands are a diver's wet dream. According to the WWF, the first comprehensive survey here discovered almost 1,000 species of tropical fish -- with a large proportion of those has previously been unknown. Raja Ampat comprises more than 1,500 islands, four of which are quite sizeable (Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo).

In an environment like this, liveaboards is the best way to explore the area. "For land-based diving, Misool is the best," explains Cahyo Alkantana, underwater-wildlife filmmaker and host of Kompas TV's Teroka. Compared with Indonesia's other diving havens, Raja Ampat is expensive. However, according to Divemag Indonesia chief editor Riyanni Djangkaru, the higher prices here are understandable when one considers the riches on offer. "There are no cheap diamonds," she asserts.

My colleague Peeyutz who had been there said that the best time to visit is December-February. Also take precaution on malaria as the area is one of the malaria epidemic areas.

Highlights: Manta, walking sharks, glassfish

2. Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara

Komodo dragon on the land. Source

Manta rays under the water. Source
This national park was recently included among the New7Wonders of Nature. The marvels of nature are not only found on the land, in the shape of those iconic giant lizards, but are also found in the sea in the form of all kinds of fish and coral.

"This National Park is like a department store. It's all here, from the little creatures like crinoid shrimp to big fish like manta rays," says Anton Hendrawan, producer of Trans 7's Dunia Air program. One unique thing about the spot is the way sea creatures are relatively easy to be approached. "Once I bumped into a turtle here," Riyanni Djangkaru enthuses.

Highlights: Hammerhead shark, giant trevally, manta

3. Weh Island, Aceh

Both photos are from here 

Nine months before the 2004 tsunami hit Aceh there was a commotion on Weh Island, which lies just off the province's north coast. A mega-mouth shark was stranded on the island's shore and this was only the twenty-first ever recorded sighting of the mega-mouth shark in the world. The mega-mouth sharks have not reappeared since the tsunami, although Weh still attracts divers by the score due to its great collection of marine wildlife.

"There's a lot of hard coral here and its character is macho, very manly," says Delien Yusuf Sulaiman, underwater photographer. For those looking for new sensation, Fransiska Anggraini, Scuba Diver AustralAsia Indonesia's chief editor, recommends the Sunrise Dive package from the Lumba-lumba Diving Center.

Highlights: Barracuda, bigeye trevally, Napoleon wrasse.

4. Bali

Mola mola in Bali. Source

The so-called Island of Gods is Indonesia's preeminent beach, nightlife and hotel zone. For divers, it is the top destination for observing mola mola (ocean sunfish). "August is the peak time to see mola mola," says Erwin Kodiat, co-founder of Nudi Pixel and D Scuba Club.

Nudibranchs are another Balinese diving attraction. According to Nudi Pixel website, Bali boasts the most species of nudibranch in the world."In his book, Helmut Debelius claims that Bali is the capital of sea snails."

Highlights: mola mola, nudibranch, bobbit worm

5. Lembeh Strait and Bunaken Marine Park, North Sulawesi

Mantis shrimp with eggs in Lembeh strait. Photo by Mike Bartick

Hairy frogfish, also by Mike Bartick. Both photos are found here

Bunaken's main attraction is a steep undersea wall that is home to hundreds of species of fish and coral. Another strength of this marine park is its easy access, as it lies just a 30-minute boat ride from Manado coast. Meanwhile, nearby Lembeh is a favorite with fans of muck diving.

"The amount of trash on the seabed does not make for pleasant undersea vistas. However, the trash itself gets used by many strange creatures as places to live," explains Anton Hendrawan.

Highlights: Blue-ringed octopus, nudibranch, flamboyant cuttlefish

6. Cendrawasih Bay National Park, Papua and West Papua

A man swims with a whale shark in Cendrawasih Bay. Photograph by Michael Aw for National Geographic. See the original photo here

This national park is famous for its collection of corals. Recently, a new attraction has emerged: the world's biggest fish whale shark. Their body can reach up to 12 meters in length, about the size of an average bus. In many equatorial countries, whale sharks are only seen during certain seasons. However in Cendrawasih Bay, they have been swimming all year round. "It doesn't depend on the month. There are always a minimum of five whale sharks," explains Cahyo Alkantana. "The last time I was here I saw 20 whale sharks ranging from 12 meter to 15 meter in length."

Highlights: dugong, whale shark, wobbegong

7. Alor, East Nusa Tenggara

Shot by Winnie Leung in Alor. Photos are found here

Many divers claim that Alor is the best diving destination in Indonesia, although it only has four operators offering regular tours to the area. On the other hand, divers can have as much space to conduct exploration."Perfect diversity, overflowing quantity," says Riyanni Djangkaru."In Raja Ampat, I struggled to find mandarin fish. But in Alor, almost every spot has them." Alor has around 50 diving spots, most of which are only suitable for experienced divers.

Highlights: frogfish, nudibranch, skeleton shrimp

OK, now let's get back to work. 

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