The Hype Over Raja

While scientists consider Raja Ampat as the most biodiverse place on the planet, I had hoped that Raja Ampat would prove to be the absolute best snorkeling and diving destination in the world. But to my dismay, Raja didn’t comepletely meet that expectation when I visited. However, this doesn’t mean that Raja Ampat isn’t the best in the world, as I have spent the majority of my time exploring the Dampier Strait by Palau Mansuar–a fraction of a percent of the oceans around Raja Amapt.

I don’t have much photos for show except for these wobbegong sharks I found while floating around.November 06, 2012—Raja Ampat—64These carpet sharks are one of the laziest in the world. I was extremely lucky to see one swim…November 05, 2012—Raja Ampat—60I poked this one around and it didn’t mind. You can notice that it’s lip has been torn by something like a hook…

November 05, 2012—Raja Ampat—49

Still common in dynamited reefs around Raja–amazing.

Despite my slight let down, diving and freediving in Raja Ampat was mindblowing in the way that it encouraged me to believe the possibilities of the gems I could not explore this time around. Swimming with schools of trevally, barracuda, rainbowrunners, mackerel  tuna at Cape Kri, while carefully avoiding the dozens of stingrays hidden at the waters edge while walking, and turning to see black-tip reef sharks patrolling and wobbegongs sleeping around you wasn’t the real let down. The visibility made diving and snorkeling less enjoyable, as did the difficulty of arranging affordable transport to access different reefs. But the real disappointment came from seeing widespread dynamited reefs around Mansuar (and horrendous amount of jellyfish stings I encountered). Someone has to stop it. In the remote dive sites, the shear number of fish became overwhelming sometimes and from the dock off Palau Gam, I saw some of the biggest and healthiest coral one could imagine in just 1-3 meter deep water. Off the dock, the schools of large reef fish would actually bite your fingers if you stuck it in the water for longer than a few seconds. That was amazing and I believe Mansuar was once like that before the excessive dynamite fishing took place few years ago. BUT, if I disregarded the quality of the corals, the amount of critters in the dynamited zone easily bested Bunaken and anywhere else I have been. It’s a 9/10 in my books, but it could’ve been 10/10.

Oh, I found the epaulette “walking” shark just discovered six years ago while night snorkeling. No big deal.

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