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The allure of Alor

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Diving in Alor and the surrounding islands brings rich variety to any dive trip, not only from the different types of dive sites there are to choose from but also the wealth of marine life to be found. As the nutrient-saturated currents flow through the Pantar Strait they bring with them fuel for corals and fish; enough to support an abundance of creatures and subsequently the numerous villages dotted about the islands.

Life buzzes all around, schools of fish sway in the tides and tiny odd-shaped creatures find a place to camouflage from predators. As fishermen go about their day, young children laugh and splash in the shallow water from their tiny dug-out boats and the ladies supplement the family income through ikat weaving sales. It is impossible to put a finger upon one thing that makes diving in Alor so attractive, it is the whole that comes together to bring a wondrous experience.

Critter Diving

Beangabanga small inlet bay in the south west of the Pantar Strait, offers dives along a dark sand slope dotted with soft corals, anemones and algae where all manner or odd creatures have made their homes. As we back-rolled in an instant hit of cold water raced down my 5mm wetsuit. Brrr its only 23C but in a moment this is forgotten as the critter hunt begins. Day dives brought forth frogfish in a range of colours and sizes, Ambon scorpionfish, too many snake eels to keep count, flabellina, armina, and thecacera nudibranchs, a whole host of decorator crabs, numerous crinoid shrimps and squat lobsters, Tozuma shrimp, seahorses, sea moths and harlequin crabs. During our night dive I lost count of the vast numbers of octopus we spotted scurrying about and a couple of bobbit worms poked menacingly out of the sand … if you have seen the recent Blue Planet 2 episodes you’ll understand we were a little afraid!

Pak Jan’s Villageon the north of Pura Island, is probably one of the most iconic sites within the strait itself. This is famed as a critter hotspot and it was here we eagerly anticipated seeing the delightful Rhinopias. We spotted both Weedy and Paddleflap varieties during our dives dive, along with ornate ghost pipefish, ribbon eels, crinoid cuttlefish, day octopus and squid. In the shallow, and slightly warmer water, groups of anemones were attended by clownfish, many of which had tongue parasites. Not so nice for the fish but macro photographer Annie was utterly thrilled for the opportunity to photograph this behaviour.

Mucky Mosquejust beyond the entrance to Kalabahi Bay is a classic “muck dive”. Ropes, clothing and other man-made debris can be found along the sloping reef, caught up around sponges and algae to provide homes for all manner of odd-shaped creatures. Thorny seahorses, colourful ceratasoma nudibranchs, zebra crabs, colemani shrimp, crinoid cuttlefish, squid and day octopus were among the favourite sightings. Whilst a night dive turned up a starry night octopus, frogfish and schools of razor fish. My favourite though, and a first time sighting for me, was the harlequin ghost pipefish.

Walls, Slopes & Seamounts

The coral laden walls of Pantar, Alor, Pura and Reta islands simply stun divers. Schools if triggerfish, surgeonfish and wrasse are the most common sightings but you can have the odd surprise of a manta ray or for us lucky few – a mola mola. At certain times of year schools of hammerheads can be seen cruising along the outer reefs too.

Valley of the Clowns was a definite favourite with our groups for its carpets of multi-hued anemones and resident anemone fish, porcelain crabs and commensal shrimps. Wobbegong sharks can also be found here and watching the sea apples feed is always fascinating.

Babylon Wall was quite probably my favourite of the wall dives as we found  provided an extra-special surprise when Indra found a microscopic example of the rare Rumigans Thread Pipehorse, otherwise known as the Lembeh sea-dragon, along with tiny “ladybugs” typically seen when diving southern Komodo. With a light current the many leopard anemones dotted along the walls open up to provide stunning scenery cryptic shrimps can be found amongst them but I’m still hunting for my first one of these critters.

Kal’s Dream, named after anthropologist Kal Mueller, is on the western side of Alor Kecil and is a stunning submerged seamount covered in soft corals, resembling cauliflower bulbs, as well as orange tube corals and a variety of hard coral species. The first thing to hit me was the noise. With thousands of fish all clicking away I was reminded of the sound whizzbangs make as they fizz on your tongue. Orange and purple anthias, neon-lined fusiliers and red-toothed triggerfish gathered in swarms over the reef slope, obscuring the almost crystal visibility. Become surrounded by schools of barracuda, batfish and powder blue surgeonfish as you swim down the ridges and look out for dogtooth tuna too.

Piers

Our liveaboard cruise took us from Maumere to Kupang so along the way we stopped for dives in Waiwawong. The pier here is totally laden with corals and a haven for schooling batfish and jacks, whilst the sandy slope is a great place to find short-tailed pipefish, frogfish, flying gurnards and octopus. For us nudi-spotters we spent most of the dive hunting over the fallen supports to find numerous red-lined flabellina, ceratosoma and eurobranchus species.

Beangabang also has a fabulous pier and in the year of diving the area we saw that the corals had grown and become very rich indeed, providing an ideal spot for some wide angle photography and another chance for the nudi hunters to rack up the trip tally.

Something Unique

The children in Alor, particularly those at Pak Jan’s Village, love divers – or perhaps the treats that the dive boats bring? Armed with just their homemade goggles and their wits they bravely skin dive down to where the divers, with cameras at the ready, rest on the sandy bottom. Their laughter on the surface is intoxicating and gives visitors a truly unique experience.

Getting there and Diving Options

Alor can be reached by short flight from Bali via Maumere or Kupang. There are a couple of resorts to choose from, each with highly experienced teams, particularly when it comes to hitting the right time for hammerheads. Alor can also be reached by liveaboard. Our groups dived with Damai 1 liveaboard from Maumere to Kupang, however there are a number of top quality liveaboards offering a variety of itineraries which include Alor.

When choosing sites it is very important to review tide charts and make another current check before getting in the water. You may experience upwellings or swift changes so bring a reef hook or be prepared to go with the flow.


Find out more at: www.dive-damai.com.

Susie has been enjoying the life of a dive instructor, travelling the world diving and teaching. Susie is somewhat of a liveaboard junkie after working as a cruise director in the Red Sea, the Philippines and Indonesia. She has also led trips to Fiji, Palau, Similans, Myanmar, East Timor, the Maldives and the Galapagos, yet she still finds time to do some shore based diving at her favourite sites in the Philippines too. Find Susie at www.heritagediving.com

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Scubaverse UWP Winners Gallery: Christian Horras

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Each month we give the winner of the Scubaverse Underwater Photography competition the opportunity to show off a little more of their work in a gallery. The March winner was Christian Horras and you can see their winning image at the top of this page.


What do you love about diving & underwater photography?

For me it is all about showing the beauty of our world underwater to people that don’t dive and thus can’t see it for themselves. I want to share my own passion for the amazing ecosystem that is so much older than everything we know living on land. As I am from Germany, there are only a few people in my surroundings that have ever seen a coral reef or a shark with their own eyes. It is a big privilege to be able to go diving all over the world and in return it should be our task to arise awareness of this fragile and endangered ecosystem.

What equipment do you use?

I use a Nikon D810 in a Isotta Housing and various lenses, depending on the subject: a Sigma 15mm F2.8 Fisheye, a Nikon 16-35 mm F4 and two Nikon Macro lenses (60mm and 105mm), as well as a WeeFine +13 Diopter. The Fisheye is my main lens, as it allows me to get really close and still cover a big field of view. For lighting I use two Retra Pro Strobes and a Retra Snoot.

Where can our readers see more of your work?

Website: www.christianhorras.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/christian.horras/


To enter the latest Scubaverse Underwater Photography competition, with a chance to win some great prizes as well as have your own gallery published, head over to the competition page and upload up to 3 images.

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Emperor Divers reaches halfway in Covid Diver Heroes Initiative with fourth award

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Emperor Divers have reached the halfway point with their #coviddiverheroes initiative and are still receiving worthy nominations every day! Here, they recognise their 4th winner, another awesome hero from the diving community with an inspirational story of selflessness through the pandemic. Nominated by David White, Phuong Cao wins a free liveaboard trip in the Maldives when she can finally take some time off, and here is her story:

I, David White, would like to nominate Phuong Cao (36) for her tireless efforts fighting this pandemic. Not satisfied with being a frontline hospitalist in New York she took a second job on the COVID team in Guam to treat patients under even tougher conditions on her weeks off! She continues to commute 7750 miles each way and apply herself to both jobs for three months already and counting. Her energy level has no limits and she’s only happy when those in her care are on the mend. I think she definitely deserves a break! I guess the Maldives would be the best choice for her as I know she has dived with you in the Red Sea already.

Phuong Cao

We have been in touch with Phuong who had this to say: “Wow what a surprise! Thank you for the recognition. Holding my breath until I get back underwater!”

The halfway point is a good chance to remind people that the initiative is still running and the Emperor Divers team would love to hear about more heroes, as there are four more to award in the next 2 months!

Do you know a diver who has been heroic this past year? Emperor know that, worldwide, people have had to step up during this pandemic which has affected so many lives. They want to reward some real heroes with free liveaboard trips in the Red Sea or Maldives.

Luke Atkinson, Emperor’s Red Sea Manager, said: “This initiative is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to all those hundreds of people who have taken a selfless interest in looking after the vulnerable in their community. Examples could include healthworkers, carers or those who have come out of retirement to volunteer locally, but really we know there are many other ways people have been heroic.“

Emperor want to hear from people who know a heroic diver who would love to have a free liveaboard trip to look forward to in the future. People need to nominate a Covid Hero Diver and tell Emperor (in 100 – 200 words) why they deserve a free trip, and whether they would prefer the Red Sea or the Maldives. A multinational panel of Emperor’s most loyal and compassionate staff will judge the entries and pick a winner every 2 weeks for the next 2 months. There are two remaining Red Sea and two more Maldives liveaboards to be earned, so get nominating and give that hero a reward for their amazing work!

Winners will be announced by 14th (Maldives) and 28th (Red Sea) of each month. Final entries for Red Sea by 20th May ‘21 and Maldives 5th June ’21.

Entries, comments and questions should be sent to heroes@emperordivers.com.

Terms & Conditions apply: Please contact heroes@emperordivers.com for details.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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