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Dive Damai 1 - Liveaboard diving in Triton Bay, Misool & Halmahera
April 24 - May 8 2012 Trip Report

Trip Report: Dive Damai I liveaboard diving in Triton Bay, Misool, Halmahera.  April 24 - May 8 2012This much anticipated trip that I planned with the owner of Damai 1 Alberto, 2 yrs prior to the trip start date did not disappoint. My dear departed friend Larry Smith (greatest dive master who ever lived) had last been in Triton Bay discovering these sites several years back. Finally I could visit and dive the sights he loved before he suddenly died.

Triton Bay is not easy to get to, from Bali you fly to Ambon, overnight there then fly onto Kaimana (west Papua) to board the boat.

Damai 1 had just come out of refit as now the boat will be taking 10 guests with space for 2 tour leader plus cruise directors. The boat is gorgeous, all wood Pinisi design, very spacious ensuite cabins, lovely main area with sitting area with large video screen, large dining table to fit in oblong fashion. The dive deck is spacious enough with handy private rinse tanks for each person for your mask and camera! The camera room is equipped with charging stations to fit all adapters from most countries and cabinets to hold all your important doo dads.

There is a lovely sun deck, a sitting lounging area with day beds, lounge chairs & bean bags plus another sitting area aft of the bridge area. They have a Bedouin type roof they can put up over the dive deck and sun deck in the heat of the day so you can read outside without getting burned!

The food was excellent, our chef was not afraid to use spice, lucky for our group we all loved the local Indonesian food with all the fantastic flavors and we ate a lot of the daily homemade sambal! The food always varied, plentiful and presented beautifully. We would start the day with the light breakfast and Ketut would then take orders for hot breakfast, whatever you wanted the chef would make for you, western or local Indonesia fare. Same with lunch and dinner, he would ask and advise everyone individually if they wanted what the menu was for the day and if you did not, they would make whatever you wanted, always accommodating.

As things sometimes go in Indonesia, the boxes of fresh lettuce, our tonic water and 2 wetsuits were off loaded in Ambon as they did not fit on the plane . Simon and Andrina are the current cruise directors for Damai 1, they have a lot of experience on boats in the Caribbean, and they did a great job for us sorting out all our little needs and dramas. When the lettuce and tonic did not show up, I was not happy; they hired a boat to bring the shipment when it finally arrived in Kamaina to where we were in Triton bay!

My new strobe stopped working, Simon jury rigged a strobe that a diver left behind to my housing and it all worked for the entire trip, he saved the day!

There were some serious miscommunication issues however with the boat claiming to have all the dive gear for everyone as this is part of the 'Signature Service' so divers do not have to pay excess luggage on the local flights. As it turns out, they did not have the sizes that some of us needed or the type of wetsuit and fins requested. This caused some last minute drama for me to try to get this info out to my guests who were departing in a couple of days and some of us had to repack to fit some of our dive gear. This is a serious issue that needs to get sorted out and they are doing so now.

We started diving at Aiduma the north part of Triton Bay, 'Larry's Dream' a lovely site loaded with soft coral and black coral gardens. Loads of colorful fans, lots of fish and the most notable were the platter size angel fish! I think I dived my all-time favorite site that I can remember in a very long time called "Tim Rock". Absolutely gorgeous, stunning explosions of color all over like a dream, huge black coral gardens of thick white glowing within the murky white water of Triton Bay! Something about the fresh water runoff from the mainland into this large bay mixing with the seawater creates this amazing flora of soft color, fans, large fish and huge thick black coral gardens! The largest Wobbygong shark I have yet seen laying in an under hang thru the black coral gardens .

Trip Report: Dive Damai I liveaboard diving in Triton Bay, Misool, Halmahera.  April 24 - May 8 2012Trip Report: Dive Damai I liveaboard diving in Triton Bay, Misool, Halmahera.  April 24 - May 8 2012

One of the dive masters Gusti ( I have known him from years past) and the other 2 Agus and Ketut were outstanding! They all have eyes like eagles and find the most amazing small creatures that the human eye can almost see!! Here Gusti found a blue ringed octopus to top off this amazing dive, that is always an amazing find and a fun challenge to get a great photo of the changing ultra blue rings, this guy went from gold body to white with glowing blue rings! The current picked up and all the tubastria cup coral exploded into a magic variety of color; orange, red and green! Unreal….

We had some great muck diving at 'David's Rock' in Triton Bay, Iris Strait. Lots of pigmy sea horses in purple and yellow! A lovely array of bargibanti in shallow water than I have normally experienced. The purple ones were tapping back and forth, not sure if that was some sort of mating ritual or maybe they just enjoyed tapping each other? The boys also found us a spiky-hairy small octopus making all sorts of designs, nudi's and very different gobie's and shrimp, these shrimp were very large with dark black stripes, I have never seen this combo before. Schools of friendly bat fish, those platter sized gorgeous angel fish of all the colorful varieties are here. Something wild in these waters I think! Everything is very LARGE. Lots of soft coral crabs and soft coral cowries, oh so pretty!

Another site here called 'little komodo', yep just like Komodo can be, ripping currents and odd water. However the water here was clear of the white milk, I guess the current cleaned it out. Lots of gorgeous fans loaded with 6 to 10 bargibanti's, bommies and reefs loaded with fish and color.

We ended our time at Triton Bay diving '3 sisters' this was a great critter dive, small cuttle fish, 2 kinds of pygmy sea horses, crocodile fish and lovely nudibranchs.

Now for our 20hr steam to Mommon Bay to head northward and to find the waterfalls on the coast. We thought we would try a muck dive so we could get into the water and dive and WOW what a great surprise! I had never seen the smallest of pygmy seahorses, called Pontihi, white with a stripe on the back and a dark blackish brown variety, they are about ¼ " (a quarter of inch) tall, unreal how they can find them in the algae, pretty cool! They also found us a skeleton shrimp, I thought it was only a small brown ball they wanted me to take pictures of, but that was only the smudge of alga it was on, sheesh I hope my pictures come out, never had seen one of those and good thing Simon had a decent picture of it so I could make it out! Sheesh again! Also a very cute small trumpet fish trying to make like the sea whips it was hiding out in!

Another 20 hr steam to Pulau Pisan for a 4 dive, as we continue our tracking north. Pretty wide angle and macro area, clear water! Although oddly enough we had a lot of rain for the start of the dry season! Our first dive we saw a good size Leopard shark, wow. Orangutan crabs in bubble coral, those cute white pipe seahorses in mushroom coral and of course lovely nudi's. I found 2 lovely white faced shrimp with long pinchers in the hard coral with the polyps feeding, very gorgeous unique shrimps. Blue ribbon eels were found here also.

We have now steamed to the southern Misool Islands, a site called 'Candy Store', yes it is! Very colorful fans and now we are into the orange bushes of black coral. Lot of fun overhangs with the black coral makes it very pretty to look at, those very sweet sexy shrimp, the ones that lift up their tails! We dived here making our way up for 4 days. There is no question the extreme beauty of Raja Ampat and why this area of Indonesia has become one of the most relished diving in this country. Most of the dives we did here I have given a 5 star rating to. The stunning beauty of the healthy reefs loaded with giant colorful sea fans, enormous fields of black coral bushes, schools of fish; yellow tail fusiliers, surgeon fish, batfish, other varieties of fusiliers, sweetlips of many varieties, wobbygong sharks.

The reefs here are pristine and perfect. Misool offers gorgeous topography above and below the water, lush green islands, all volcanic of course. Some sites offered up barracuda, schools of jacks and Giant Trevally, the very beautiful striped surgeon fish, and those remarkable HUGE platter size angel fishes, along with an array of brightly colored butterfly fish.

Heading further north in Misool a beautiful site called 'The Windows' was really fun with a lot of fish, a little current helped the fish all ball up, schools of yellow snapper, a gray reef shark (a big surprise), a lot of fish cleaning stations, and the plucked chicken pygmy sea horses! At the surface are the 4 windows which make for beautiful images.

Nudi Rock was an outrageous dive, Maria and I came up, looked at each other and said, 'that was mind blowing'! Big potato cods, dog tooth tuna, millions of fish, such busy water here! At the surface was an area of thousands of damsel fish, they were all over, teaming yellow tail blue fusiliers, ultra violet hot pink anemone and clown fish (too bad they do not come out in pictures), a feeding frenzy of trigger fish, barracuda, spine cheek anemone clown fish, green sea turtle and hawksbill turtle! I called this my ZEN dive; I could have floated there forever taking it all in. Truly a fantastic dive!

Next was a very interesting and unusual day of diving in western Misool, the 'blue water mangroves'! One of the very few places in the world where the reef meets mangroves. We had a lot of fun photographing the mangrove roots in a moody somewhat dark place with the sunlight and reflections of the surface as we are only in a few feet of water. There is a special fish here the Archer fish that we found that is a bit shy, they swim at the surface and spit water when they see an insect they want to eat, it drops to the surface of the water and they gobble them up. They also have these small pretty needle nose fish that make lovely images with the reflection at the surface! There is an area where in a few feet of water are brilliant soft coral bushes at the bases of the mangrove roots, wild and a couple of fans and crinoids. A very cool place, crystal clear water; we made 3 dives here, one in the deeper channel where we had some fun reef and muck diving, large areas of black coral bushes as well.

Lots of nudibranchs and a cute small cuttlefish that tried to look like a leaf.

I forgot to mention at the edge of the mangrove were the very beautiful Bangka Cardinal fish, the markings are stunning, they posed nicely for me. We found 2 rather large nudis in full embrace. Off the beach we made a dive to see what we could find, not as exciting other than a very large and fast school of bump head parrotfish went screaming by!

Now we are moving west and a bit north on our way to Halmahera, dove at another Pulau Pisang island, where we had some wild current (fun for me), a light house at this sight and very crystal clear water. Some big fish here, bump head parrot fish, dog tooth tunas, giant puffer fish looked ill with a big gouge out of his side . Gusti and I played in the current ducking around the bommies taking cover then moving on again, we found a HUGE gray sweetlips hiding and looked wedged in crevasse, he must have been at least 3 ft long or more. We saw a ton of huge sweetlips and very large fish on this trip! As we were doing our safety stop we found a huge Banded Krait-Sea snake, a gorgeous snake I was able to swim with and get some fun face pics of him, I now realized where the producers of Harry Potter's later films found the nasty look of Voldemort, eeeewwww.

We have now made our way to South Halmahera Island. Rain and wind and current put us a bit behind, but we found some great diving here. Super small critter dives. The pretty moray eels with gold speckles on the side, purple and pink squat lobsters on a barrel sponge. The boys always finding the crinoid shrimp, cling fish and squat lobsters in crinoids, soap fish with the little goatee. Some of my group found the small walking shark in a crevasse!

Ketut took us to a great muck dive spot near where they build local boats. What a fun dive; 3 small black frog fish then in rolled a giant black froggie! Cockatoo wasp fish, leaf fish, looked all over for the Rynopia's no luck. These unusual pinky/purple fluffy (things) floating all over, we could not work out what they were? Jellyfish possibly, but not in any book, very odd, or maybe free floating tunicates. In the shallows there were sooo many normal sea horses, all shades of gold and brown and red, some looked hairy, all very shy with heads down. I think I counted 8 that I saw! I found 2 species of eels; the white rimmed eye eel and one with the very pretty golden spots. Juvenile sweet lips, sandiver fish, and a very wild bright white stone fish that stood out like a plastic toy in black sand. Very fun dive.

A site called the Pinnacle, horrid weather, gorgeous site. Great vis here, boys found those miniscule bargibanti pontihi pigmy seahorses, black and white are the 2 colors they come in here. This is a beautiful pinnacle full of life. 3 or 4 blue ribbon eels, in various degrees of maturity, several blue ones, a small black one and a yellow one! Soft coral crabs and cowries, a really loaded site full of many critters.

Our last day of diving at Macatian Island near Ternate, one was a great muck dive in front of the mosc, mantis shrimps, red-brown leaf fish, soap fish, several nudis. We then for our last dive went on the wall next to the muck dive spot. Wow a great productive wall dive with these 2 very small about 1 inch long red shrimps that look like mantis shrimps but bright red! They lived in some sort of sponge with gorgonian, very cool little guys! A cute orangutan crab, a very nice banded pipe fish hiding behind a big sponge on the wall, 2 crocodile fish and several of the larger black nudies with the green polka dots and rhinophors & gills. Also one that was edged in bright orange!

This was an excellent last dive to a wonderful dive holiday that offered an assortment of unique habitats below and above the water. Always something amazing to see and discover when you dive the bountiful diverse waters of my beloved Indonesia!

Thank you to the crew on Damai 1 and my wonderful friends who joined me on this amazing expedition from southern west papua to end in Halmahera. It was great fun and outstanding diving!

Some of us stayed in Bali after the boat, Ubud was relatively quiet with May being low season. I went to visit Jerry and Sally at this gorgeous new villa property I booked for them called The Purist, WOW what a lovely small Utopia off the busy path of Ubud. Only about a 5 minute drive from downtown and yet in a world of lush garden jungle, a Zen like atmosphere of peace and quiet in a very private setting. Each of the 7 units is all a bit different in design and layout. They had a private veranda, plus a covered separate sitting area off in the jungle overlooking the infinitely pool where they could have breakfast that was delivered each morning according to what they wished.

The artwork here is stunning, with a mix of ancient tribal art (my fav) stone sinks to the ground, outdoor showers, beautiful artwork on the walls. The villas created and owned by 2 architects, so you get the picture!

My dear friends Dave and Pong who are my webmasters, invited us over for an outstanding dinner at their amazing house also set in stunning Balinese gardens and nature.

Bali is still one of my favorite places to spend time in, in the world.

Sally & Jerry, I flew off to Singapore after our 3nts in Bali. I had not spent any time in Singapore in many years. To my sheer delight we had a blast! It has changed a bit since I have been there 15 yrs ago. We stayed at the divine Intercontinental Hotel, what a place, ahhhhhh. We walked all over and Singapore is one big shopping mall filled with all the top of the line shee shee stores of the world, I cannot believe how many malls there are with all the same very expensive stores in each one. Who buys this stuff?

They took me to this place where they get the most outrageous fun handmade eye glass frames I think on the planet. This was truly an event! The sisters who own it are good fun and know Sal and jerry for years now. It was time for me to get new driving glasses and I wanted something cool, Holy Moly!!! They help you try on so many different fun and funky frames until they all agree on what looks best. I got a pair of handmade from Japan red framed works of art glasses

Sadly my 3 week trip has come to an end and as I finish this, we will be landing soon in SFO.

Thanks to all my wonderful clients who are my longtime friends for joining me on this extraordinary 14nt diving trip with fun days in Bali and Singapore!

Xxoo Cindi