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Ultimate Raja Ampat – The Last Paradise (Part 1 of 3)

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Being an underwater photographer for the last nine years or so, I am always on the lookout for that next “ultimate” photography destination. A place where photography just comes easy and the memory cards fill quickly. A place with so many photography opportunities, you’re constantly deciding which shot to process next.

One place that would continually show up and entice me, is biodiversity hotspot – Raja Ampat. A place regularly nicknamed – “The Last Paradise.” The more amazing images I’d see, from incredible macro, sweeping reefs and majestic mantas to name but a few, the quicker Raja Ampat became top of my dive destination bucket list. Patiently I’d waited for the right opportunity and thankfully, last year, I got the chance to join La Galigo Liveaboard for their Ultimate Raja Ampat safari. Would it live up to my high expectations? Let’s find out…

The private balcony of the Suite on the upper deck

All the best places are remote and that was certainly the case with Raja Ampat. Located in West Papua, Indonesia, it took three flights for me to get there from the UK. A connecting flight to Jakarta from Heathrow via Doha, followed by a domestic flight from Jakarta to Sorong. Once in Sorong, the crew from La Galigo take over and really look after you, making sure the rest of your journey is as smooth as possible.

La Galigo pride themselves on their Indonesian crew, who have collectively spent many years sailing and diving Indonesia. It is a purpose built ‘Phinisi’ style sailboat and dive liveaboard. It really was a pleasure to see when I first laid eyes on it from the speedboat transfer. It was like something out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Completely unique from other liveaboards I was used to and I was lucky enough to be the first guest onboard too. Benefitting from a tour of the boat, the Suite on the upper deck really stood out and is a special room boasting its own private balcony. The deluxe cabins I was in were spacious and comfortable. I then got a taste of how good the food was going to be, a beef rendang bursting with flavour was a great start. 

La Galigo is predominantly a dive liveaboard but they are happy to tailor bespoke charters on request. The boat hosts a maximum of 16 guests comfortably over seven cabins, split over two decks, although 14 guests would be usual for a full charter, whilst being spacious and comfortable. There were 11 guests onboard for my trip, which gave me a pretty good gauge of life on a full charter. All cabins are equipped with air-conditioning and an ensuite with fresh hot water showers. Yes!! They were hot throughout the whole trip, which is always a special feeling after a long four dive day. Although, it was the mattress and pillows that were the winners for me. Super comfortable, it almost made it difficult to get up for the morning dive. I was never going to miss a dive in Raja Ampat though was I?  

Dive guide Fendy providing a dive briefing before another fantastic dive in Raja Ampat

After an initial and thorough boat and dive briefing from cruise director Fareez, it was time to gear up for what we were all here for – the diving. The group was split into three dive groups with three guides, meaning only a maximum of four divers to each guide. A nice ratio, allowing the speedboat and dives to be less crowded and more comfortable. The main boat would be moored very close to each dive site, allowing the first two groups to go out with the speedboats and be dropped in, then one speedboat would return for dive group three.

It all ran so smooth and what was impressive were the dive briefings before each dive. Between Fareez, Aghi and Fendy, they would take it in turns to draw each site on the whiteboard (quite the artists) and explain in detail the plan. Aghi was my guide for the trip and did an amazing job in leading us, looking after us and finding all the amazing little critters we saw along the way.

Wobbegong sharks were regularly seen on our dives throughout Raja Ampat

I must admit, the first dive really wasn’t what I was expecting from a check dive in Raja Ampat; a strong current making it a fairly quick drift dive in some questionable visibility. Luckily I had my macro lens on as the vis wasn’t great for wide angle. I soon got to realise the diversity to expect from the trip ahead though. With numerous critters found along the way, I knew things were only going to get better. The night dive showed that and followed suit, as critter after critter was found from a tiny ‘Shaun the sheep’ nudibranch to my very first wobbegong shark. What an incredible animal they are, lying still in the sand undeterred by our presence; it just looked at us, as we marvelled at its design. I came to Raja Ampat expecting to see a wobbegong but not so soon and so easily. A great start but hopefully I would get to see one later with my wide-angle lens on.

Yenbuba jetty provided some great compositions with the marine life under it

It didn’t take long to realise wobbegongs are a staple of diving in Raja Ampat, but this didn’t make it any less incredible each time we saw them. The very first dive the next day at ‘Blue Magic’ in the Dampier Strait, I hit the wobbegong jackpot for the trip. Not only did I see them resting, I also got to photograph two swimming and was even nearly slapped in the face by one with its pectoral fin. It did a 90-degree turn, swimming between me and dive guide Aghi.

As the rest of the day panned out, I quickly realised life in Raja Ampat was going to be very “fishy.” Dive sites littered with numerous species of fish and big schools swimming in unison were amazing to see, before the night dive at Batu Lima provided another shark species for me to tick off. One of the most unique as well, as the Raja Ampat walking shark strolled into view in the most interesting way I’d ever seen a shark move. A species of epaulette shark, it is endemic to Raja Ampat, which makes seeing one that bit more special. 

The fish life at Sawandarek was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it before

The next day reiterated my initial feelings of fish life in Raja Ampat and to be honest, I never quite imagined it would be this abundant. We started with an adrenalin fuelled dive at Cape Kri. A dive full of life as numerous schools of fish were seen, with barracuda and bumphead parrotfish being the standout. It was also a dive for some relatively big grey reef sharks to make an appearance as they patrolled the reef. Although, it was the ripping current that made the dive unforgettable and a real adventure, before our next dive, that was in complete contrast.

A relaxed dive under Yenbuba jetty made for some interesting compositions and was the perfect divider for the morning and afternoon dives. Diving at Sawandarek on the third dive was one of the best dives I’ve ever done. I’ve never experienced fish life like it and the numerous BIG green sea turtles just added to the spectacle. Swimming amongst the sweetlips, snapper and other schooling fish on top of the coral stage at around 20 metres was a memory that will last with me forever. All this before shallowing up to the jetty amongst schooling jackfish, damselfish and an array of other stars of the show. I just didn’t want the dive to end. Thankfully I got to dive the site again but this time at night and it delivered in a different way. Numerous nudibranch, an octopus, cuttlefish, decorator crabs and more. A critter-filled dive to highlight Sawandarek as one of the best dive sites ever.

A great start to life in Raja Ampat but there’s plenty more adventure to come. Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3. 

For more information about diving in Raja Ampat:

sean@greatwhitesean.com

www.lagaligoliveaboard.com

info@lagaligoliveaboard.com

Whatsapp: +62 812 2000 2025

Numerous nudibranch were encountered on the night dive at Sawandarek

Sean Chinn’s scuba diving adventure started in a freezing cold quarry back in January 2011. Maybe the reason he wasn't instantly hooked! However, after an amazing trip to Indonesia in 2013, he realised he needed to see more of the underwater world. With no photography background, he enlisted some help in developing both his diving and photo skills. This kickstarted his diving and underwater photography adventure which has become something of an addiction. Seeing and photographing wildlife is Sean’s real passion in diving but he is always keen to try new ideas.

Marine Life & Conservation

The Shark Trust Great Shark Snapshot is back

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The last week of July will see the return of the Shark Trust’s citizen science initiative, The Great Shark Snapshot. It invites divers and snorkellers, all around the world, to record the sharks and rays that they see. This year it takes place between the 20th and 28th July.

The event is back for its 3rd year, and it is happening in “Shark Month”, more commonly known as July! To coincide with a series of events that celebrate all things shark and ray.

Divers, their clubs, dive centres, charter boats and liveaboards are all encouraged to show their support by organising dives and events through the week. As well as gathering vital data, the event will provide a chance to celebrate the incredible shark and ray species that live in our ocean.

Information about the species and numbers of sharks and rays the participants find over the week will be added to the Shark Trust’s Shark Log. This global shark census will, over time, allow shark scientists to build a picture of species distribution and any changes that occur

Caroline Robertson-Brown, Marketing Manager at the Shark Trust said “It is great to see this popular citizen science event back for its 3rd year. Whether you are diving your local dive site, or on a trip of a lifetime, we want divers to join in on the Great Shark Snapshot in July. I cannot wait to hear from the divers and dive organisations about the species of sharks and rays that they see. And where in the world they see them.”

It is easy to join in. Just go diving between 20th and 28th July and record every shark, ray and skate that you and your dive group sees. If possible, take photos and some video footage too. Then make sure that you record your sightings on the Shark Trust Shark Log recordings website or by using the Shark Trust app.

The Great Shark Snapshot is a way for divers to get together, go diving, and do something to help shark conservation. Why not dive in?

Find out more here: www.sharktrust.org/snapshot

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Dive into Luxury: Bunaken Oasis Seeks Seventh Consecutive World Travel Awards Win

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In the vibrant heart of Sulawesi, Indonesia, nestled among the pristine waters of Bunaken Marine Park, lies Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort. For the past six years, this remarkable resort has been recognised as “Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort” by the World Travel Awards, and it is now in contention for an unprecedented seventh consecutive win.

A Beacon of Excellence

The World Travel Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of the travel industry,” celebrating the very best in global tourism and hospitality. Winning this award is no small feat and speaks volumes about the exceptional quality and service that Bunaken Oasis consistently delivers. This accolade is a testament to the resort’s unwavering commitment to providing unparalleled guest experiences.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

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What Sets Bunaken Oasis Apart?

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort is celebrated not just for its luxurious amenities but also for the deep, genuine care it extends to its guests. The resort offers a unique blend of elegance and adventure, providing world-class diving experiences in one of the planet’s richest marine biodiversity hotspots.

world travel awards

The true magic of Bunaken Oasis lies in its people. The resort’s staff are renowned for their warmth, professionalism, and dedication. From personalised diving excursions to bespoke hospitality, every team member plays a crucial role in creating a welcoming and memorable atmosphere. Their passion for excellence and attention to detail are key reasons why guests return year after year.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

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Show Your Support

As Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort vies for its seventh title, the support of its loyal guests and admirers becomes even more crucial. Voting for the World Travel Awards is an opportunity for fans of the resort to show their appreciation and help ensure that this gem continues to shine brightly on the world stage.

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How to Vote

Supporting Bunaken Oasis is simple and impactful. Click the link below to show your support and cast your vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort as “Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort” on the World Travel Awards website.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

Looking Ahead

Winning this award for the seventh time would be a crowning achievement for Bunaken Oasis, solidifying its status as a premier destination for luxury diving and relaxation. But more than the award itself, it is the ongoing support and love from guests that fuels the resort’s continuous pursuit of excellence.

world travel awards

Whether you are an experienced diver or simply in search of a serene escape, Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort offers a sanctuary of beauty, tranquillity, and unparalleled service. Join us in celebrating this exceptional resort and help Bunaken Oasis secure its place as Indonesia’s leading dive resort for another year.

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Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

For more information about Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and to experience its magic first-hand, visit their official website.

Dive into luxury and adventure at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort – where every moment is crafted to perfection.

Email: info@bunakenoasis.com / WhatsApp: +44 7785 576331 / WhatsApp: +62 812 4649 6763 

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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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