November 2017 - January 2018

Paradise lost in the middle of the ocean

For many years, Raja Ampat was on my bucket list, just as a dream that we think it’s to far away to get it come true.

Raja Ampat is the eastern Indonesian region and it’s known for the tropical beaches, lush green rainforest and mangrove coastlines. However, the most known feature is the limestone island-peaks in the middle of the ocean, creating beautiful crystal clear lagoons. The diversity of nature in this area is simply stunning.

November 2017 came and I found myself flying to Sorong to meet Sequoia Family once again; visiting one of my dream destinations by boat, and doing what I most love: diving and photography.

The plan was sailing north, to Wayag and do some cool shoots. The sailing was smooth and I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing when I woke up in Wayag … beautiful mushrooms islands covered by green and lushurious “tropical jungle” and turquoise lagoons (the perfect postcard for cosy white sand beach beaches). For 8 days, we explore the region: kayaking in the middle of peak-islands, picnic and sunset bbq on the beach.. The sunsets … each one more stunning than the other. Perhaps the highlight of the Wayag region has to be the crazy trekking we did to reach the top of one the tallest mushroom-islands. I’m used to live in the jungle and, with no other shoe’s option, I decided to trek (aka “climb”) the sharpped limestone peak on flip flops. Although we started the adventure early morning, the tropical-humid-heat was there to remind us where we were but after 1h30 of filming and photos on the way up, we reached the summit. The view from up top was breathtaking and there was no bright sun to dissuade us from enjoying the moment. Even an eagle came to say hello and decided to share the sky with our drone. Also hard to forget is the SUP adventure in the crystal waters of Hidden Bay, were we found ourselves exploring the narrow labyrinths of lagoons created by the the mushroom-islands. Not as cultural as my previous adventure with Sequoia (Maumere-Alor), we also did some village visiting and bird watching, trying to spot the Paradise Bird (mission accomplished).

The diving during this Wayag trip was good, although not as spectacular as I imagine it would be. However, on the way back to Sorong we stopped in Arborek and I finally had one of my dreams come true: diving with beautiful and gracious Mantas.

By the end, the way trip was a lot of fun with good friends (Patrick, my partner in crime for the second time, got some amazing footages; Kyan, Elis, Stephan and Wendi that came as models, the Sequoia’s Crew) and made me dreamed about exploring more about the region.

Not even 2 months were gone suddenly I was boarding into another unforgettable Sequoia’s adventure. Flying to Sorong right after Christmas, I found myself sailing 9 days in Misool … another of my Indo dreams and probably all scuba divers bucket list destination.

After taking a 2h ferry trip from Sorong to Waisai, with Papua Mandiri Ferries (probably one of the best ferries trips I ever made: super clean ferry, both regular and VIP cabins with a huge TV’s for karaoke music that played during all the trip, AC and breakfast snack on the VIP cabin), I was picked up by Sequoia crew.

Not sure how and where to start describing this trip. Despite of a moody weather, with a lot of rain and long sailings (20h from Waisai to Daram, our first stop) I believe this was the trip of my life regarding experiences!

Diving in Misool is an explosion of live and senses, making hard to believe that it’s a real world. The range of colour on every dive site is simply amazing and I’m not sure if a Pantone catalog would be enough to describe how colourful it is!

During my first dive (and by far was not the best one) I literally cried underwater! I couldn’t believe that such beautiful and and healthy reef could possibly exist. So many underwater life in just one dive with millions of fishes schooling around and other small creatures. The fan corals were huge and untouched and them on the way to the shallow for our safety stop … a Wobegon Shark sleeping!!

All dives in Misool are a carnival of colours and life, with lots of different layers of fish to look at: colourful Anthias to all kind of fusiliers, small glass fishes and damselfishes, groupers and playing closer from the rainbow corals and the always cute and also colourful nudibranchs and the dancing snakes. The sea bottom is covered by beautiful soft and hard coral, with no trace of bleaching (in 15 dives I must saw just 2-4 bleached coral). Soon as you look into the blue … more fish schooling around: tunas, jacks, lots of GTs, trevallys, barracudas, wahoos, bump head parrot fishes, napoleons, batfish, sharks, turtles, hundreds of groupers, baramundi cods, … just endless life.

And when you thing that the diving can’t get better … think twice!!!
The first dive of 2018 was probably one of the best dives of my life, and by far the best dive of this trip. In the middle of nowhere there’s a dive spot called Raja Empat (meaning Four Kings) and they call this for a reason as it was a beautiful place were all pelagic were the kings of the dive. It’s exposed to such current that we had to hook ourselves to the reef and every now and then the regulator would free-flow. Soon as we reached the top of the reef (just 5 meters deep) we were welcomed by huge clouds of small fishes, dancing for us, different layers of colourful fusiliers, anthers and damselfishes … so many that it was hardly possible to see something 3 meters away! An then …. a big school of trevallys and tunas. We hooked around 14m, on the edge of one of the pinnacles and waited for the action: when we less noticed we herein the middle of dozens of huge trevallys hunting their breakfast, in such a frenzy that they even hit us!

Hopefully this hidden paradise can remain as it is for long time: remote, unspoiled, pristine and breathtaking.

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