Story and Photos by Wayne. B. Brown
Raja Ampat is an expansive archipelago, comprising over 1,000 small islands, cays and shoals, surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo (the “Four Kings”). This area is part of the famous Coral Triangle, which officially, is the global nucleus of marine biodiversity. Our starting point was Sorong, a city of over 200,000 people located off the tip of the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s northwest.
Sorong has long been a logistics hub for Indonesia’s thriving oil-and-gas industry but is quickly becoming a scuba diver’s hangout, with excellent hotels and restaurants, and a new airport slated to open this year. We arrived on a new Garuda Airline CRJ 1000 but it is also served with larger aircraft and other airlines. Flights from Bali or Jakarta, connect to either the larger cities of Makassar and Manado or a couple of smaller cities, so you have several options getting there.
Our home for the 10-day charter is the Raja Ampat Aggressor. It is a steel 100-foot purpose built live-aboard yacht that accommodates 16 guests and 13 crewmembers. There are no docks large enough to handle the Aggressor so guests enjoy a short ride out in the yacht’s tenders, from a small jetty in the center of town.
Our dives started out in the central Raja Ampat area in the Dampier Strait at sites like Friwinbonda and Blue Magic. We spent 4 days there visiting more dive sites off the islands of Kri, Mansour and Arborek. We then made the 14-hour crossing overnight, to the southern Raja Ampat area diving the islands of Balbullol, Wayil Batan and Misool. We finished off our diving at Boo Island. The weather was a perfect blend of partly cloudy 88°F days, mirror flat seas and 82°–85°F degree water.
Story and Photos by Solomon Baksh
In 1842, Charles Darwin referred to the Belize Barrier Reef as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” in his study of the origin and evolution of coral reefs. It has now been recognized as the second largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which stretches for approximately 700 miles from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras and Guatemala. The reef in Belize is approximately 185 miles long and is home to three coral atolls: Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef and Turneffe Atoll.
Lighthouse Reef is the most easterly diving area in Belize and it is home to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1970. Although reef diversity is much lower in the Caribbean than in the Indo-Pacific (a result of the geological history of the region), over 1,000 species may nevertheless, occur on a single reef. Belize has a particularly high species diversity for the region, with about 65 coral species and over 300 fish species, compared to just over 70 coral species and about 520 fish species in the Caribbean as a whole.
The Belize Aggressor IV makes most of its dives around Lighthouse Reef, with a couple at Turneffe Atoll, which lies directly to the east of Belize City and is the nearest of the atolls to the former capital city. The Belize Aggressor IV was well laid out. The upper deck housed the galley, air-conditioned dining area and salon.
The diving area was on the main deck. The first thing that I noticed, was the oversized camera table, large enough for about ten full-sized SLR housings with strobes. Nearby, was a covered charging station with ample outlets.
Luminance and the Fluoro experience
Story and Photos by Steve Miller
Night diving is okay to me—just okay. Some people love the experience more than sunny-day diving and
I understand why. It might be spooky, but it is very visual and colorful—more colorful than diving in daylight.
Our brain does a funny thing when we dive, even a shallow sun-drenched coral reef.
We know that all of the reds, orange and yellow are gone, as the water has absorbed those colors. What we actually see are shades of blue, sometimes green or grey but we don’t notice it because our brain interprets the beautiful textures, color and light, and fills in the missing details. Our memory is of a colorful, beautiful reef, not a monotone scene like black-and-white TV.
Capture an image in 20 feet of water without a flash and you will see that the range of colors is very limited but this changes at night. When we carry high-powered artificial lights with us, all of these wavelengths and colors are restored, making the reef look like a different place, this time vibrating with warm colors. Swimming along a colored-up coral reef like this, is the night-diving experience.