Tambora covered over 425 miles, our group did 35 dives and we enjoyed 11 fabulous nights at sea! Our nights were filled with spectacular sunsets, amazing night dives, Bintang beer, tasty Indonesian fare and excited talk about our dives and the itinerary for the next day. What an amazing group of divers!
The diving in Raja Ampat (R4) is, quite simply, out of this world. The reefs are a painter’s palette of color and variety; home to over 1500 species of fish and more marine life than anywhere else on the planet. It is literally the center of marine biodiversity and this dive safari didn’t disappoint. Visibility in the south of R4 was excellent and the magic continued on into Halmahera making the viewing of large seascapes possible. There were abundant opportunities to observe all sorts of symbiotic relationships but sometimes the clouds of fish and invertebrate density on the reefs, in some instances, was a bit of a sensory overload.
Having last been in Raja back in 2017 we were amazed at the amount of reef fish and sharks. The conservation initiatives started in 2008 by Misool Eco-Resort done a great job in the area, continue to bear fruit. It’s not really surprising that if you stop taking fish out of a large, vibrant swath of ocean the result is a bio-mass explosion (YES! The worldwide love of Raja’s uniqueness has enabled it’s protection, resulting in a relationship where both sides are benefiting. A fine example of symbiotic mutualism.).
Most liveaboards head out of R4 in April for points south but Tambora, usually one of the last to leave the area, points her bow to the west. The owner prefers the pristine diving and near-complete lack of other boats found in Halmahera. This worked out fantastic for us as there were only a few ships remaining in south Raja and once we left the Marine Protected Area we basically had the ocean to ourselves for the rest of the cruise.
One of the coolest things about Halmahera is the diversity of the dives sites. Our dives included seamounts, pinnacles, underwater rock formations covered in sea life and towering volcanoes with walls and black sand slopes, covered with critters. It is the perfect environment for new and experienced photographers alike (I love this shot of these two goofy eels Scott Penwarden captured).
There were many epic dive events on the cruise but certainly towards the top of the list was what must have been a mating aggregation of fifty+ dogtooth tuna, circling the Halmahera version of a site called Batu Mandi, before swimming off for who knows where. Naturally, no useful imagery was captured. But the memories live on. How lucky are we when we get to view this natural animal behavior!
The whole safari was an example of what happens when you bring together a group of cool people who love the ocean and put them on a purpose-built boat in one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet.