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The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai I
Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

Page 2

by Juergen Schwarz

THANKSGIVING DAY! We pulled it off! Andrina and Simon found my Turkey, what a quest to get a real turkey in Indonesia!! I brought cans of pumpkin, spices, cranberries, recipes and decorations! Sandy brought those paper turkeys you open and sit on tables along with pumpkins like it, with autumn leaves to sprinkle around the tables. We stayed up with Rita the night before and decorated the table with these fun decorations, as we left we see Eka and Beni come in and pick them up and look at them like they have just seen green men. Hilarious!! They were priceless, none of these guys knew what Thanksgiving was or why we brought all these funny paper things.

I spent the 2 previous days in the galley with the chef Kadek and helper Martin; Simon who helped me sort out all the different measurement conversions and oven temps. Imagine trying to make a full thanksgiving dinner for 13 people with 1 measuring cup? I pre made pie crust, cranberry sauce, pie & stuffing 1 and 2 days prior so on T’day we only had to worry about the Turkey and gravy (made with real stock, no such thing as canned stock here)!!

The most amazing thing was when we were out diving, Jean in the saloon watching the boys, they came up with their own glorious rendition of turkeys with folded cloth napkins, ohhh myyy goshhhh!!! Beautiful works of art on the tables, also fun looking turkeys with paper napkins and the leaves as legs, a hoot!

Dinner was out of this world! Wow! Jean even said as we all sat ready to eat ‘This looks like THANKSGIVING!’ Indeed it did and tasted like it also, from the perfectly done Turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce…. OH and my pumpkin pie – delish! Ate it for a couple of days, yum!

Our dive day on Thanksgiving was outstanding at Nayata. We made 3 dives here in different areas, the wall and also the ‘grouper swim through’. A beautiful swim through-cave with huge white barrel sponges due to lack of light. Pretty colorful soft coral, a lovely blue back-round, always a special place to dive!

The area on top of this cave in shallow water loaded with wonderful small stuff; Percula clownfish, every kind of nudi including 2 solar nudis, I needed a slate to keep track of everything, a non stop parade of wonderful things every centimeter to look at and photograph. This area was also great for snorkelers! Yanto showed me a Saron Shrimp in a cave in the rubble, my fav shrimp that you can only ever see on night dives! Lucky Me!

Getting closer to Wetar and Alor we dived Ranong Island, near Wetar. Not great until we saw a humpback whale!! We tried several times to get in the water with him, but he eluded us, it was fun to try!!! We were close!

Reta Island off Alor, one of, the 3 volcanic islands in the Pantar strait between Pantar Is and Alor Is, fantastic 5 star diving here at Babylon Wall! OMG! Outstanding dive full of life, next to a village! Several tiny small painted frog fish and 1 giant one the size of a football camouflaged in a sponge the same color! Ghost pipe fish hiding with 3 nudis, maybe he was trying to be a nudi? A beautiful colorful reef loaded with soft coral and wonderful critters, including a hot pink scorpion leaf fish!

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

Pura Island houses ‘anemone reef’ the ever famous mile long reef loaded chock full of anemone gardens and anemone fish! Along with all sorts of other critters tucked in between them, my favorite Sea Apples, which I have only seen in Komodo, maybe due to the colder water here? Giant mantis shrimp, nudi’s of all colors and varieties tucking in a colorful bed of life!

On the surface in the Pantar strait are hundreds of dolphins swimming and feeding in pods, very rich water here! Some of us, got in the water to swim and snorkel with them, great fun!

This area of Alor, Pantar & Wetear (east of Maumere) is most magical & loaded with life, the water is a lot colder here due to the meeting point of the 2 seas, the Indian Ocean and Pacific. The currents create upwelling and nutrient rich water which offers incredible diving!

The ever famous dive site, ‘Beangabang’ off Pantar, WOW! A dynamic site that offered us TOO MUCH!
Ghost pipe fish. Baby puffer fish, yellow hydroids with amazing yellow skeleton shrimp and WONDERPUS!!

He was out in the open and putting on a show for all of us! Very similar to the Mimic, just as stunning! Everyone had a chance to see this amazing specimen of octopus, gorgeous they are!

Also on this dive we were showered with; loads of little fish like it was a nursery, 2 very cute baby mantis shrimp out in the open, assertive saddleback anemone fish, a school of small catfish, and a school of swimming squid!

Then next day at Waiwawong Island, yet another amazing 5 star dive site called SIZZLER! Yeahhh! A Rocking hot awesome place! One of those magical shallow dives, from 9 to 15 ft, we had so much to see here! 3 dark red and black harlequin ghost pipefish, 2 of them very big and very pregnant! Another small green one nearby. A smallish bommie 4ft x 3ft very shallow loaded up, to include 5 white and yellow scorpion leaf fish! A dark mottled green frog fish in the large open hole of the bommie, along with a big stone fish with beautiful banded pipe fish, large and loaded with eggs were barber shrimp just hanging out! Not to mention all the hundreds of glassy sweepers to round out this magical rock near the ice factory!

Next dive, ‘Rhino City’ at Waiwawong Is, guess what could be here? Yep, rhinopia’s,,, who can ever get sick of them? We had 2 of the yellow green ones, a bigger and smaller one! There were these crazy large (5 inch round) nudis on the move. Beautiful coloring of blue and beige, large rhinophors and branchs. They ended up becoming one as they got together and were mating! I saw 2 of them, went back found them again, not realizing they blending as one, very interesting they were, just a short way away was a very large ring of white eggs from them! At the end of this dive, Rita found a lovely blue ribbon eel, she was able to get out of its hole, wonderful. Another dive had a black ribbon eel out free swimming, at least I got to see this on video, and they are so incredibly long!

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

Making our way a bit north another productive area called P.Kawula/Tangun Bacatan. 2 Robust ghost pipefish, more hairy squat lobsters on barrel sponge, 2 lovely brown and white leaf scorpion fish, we also saw 2 beautiful black tip sharks- a great find! And at the end a fun mobula manta swam up to me in my video, thank you!

On another dive here the boys found a very large interesting pygmy sea horse, biggest I have ever seen. Loads of fish here again with a white tip shark!

On our way to this amazing very active VOLCANO called Kambo! We actually dived here, right under this blowing active volcano that erupted loudly with big rocks and smoke spewing out!! KABOOM! It was the sound that rocked our socks,, the sound of the force  of this explosion was amazing!

Incredible to see all this huge pristine hard coral garden covered in some areas with 10 ft or more of gray ash! Rather surreal to see this bleak work of nature. As we got closer to where the fire rocks would tumble down to the sea as it entered the water, the thicker ash covered all the hard coral that created a river of solid ash as it cooled and broke into bits down the slope.

The wind was blowing north to south this time of year in NOV - Dec which Damai ended up getting pummeled in ash! Some of us jumped in a tender to get pics of Damai 1 near the volcano, we ended up staying for a long time as the night grew dark and we could see the fire and explosions at a very close range! It was awe-inspiring to be this close to such a loud explosion of fire, sound sizzling like the sound of crackling shrimp,, and dark smoke pouring out, ! We got a big covered in ash, however the Damai left us, trying to get out of all the ash falling. By the time we got back on the boat, she clearly got the brunt of ALL the ash that blew over us and landed on the boat, the poor crew had so much more work to do to get her cleaned up, uggg!

This was a most spectacular site to see, hear and experience for all of us very close and personal to this wild volcano!

A wonderful dive trip aboard The Damai 1 to the Forgotten Islands, I hope they stay somewhat forgotten!

Thanks to the amazing crew of Damai 1 and my fun guests, for a special trip!!

I am going back!!

Cindi LaRaia

The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report
The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip ReportThe Forgotten Islands of Indonesia aboard Damai 1; Nov 19 - Dec 3 2014 Trip Report

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by Kevin Phillips | Quentin Bennett

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