We arrive in Ternate to the sound of the Imam calling the faithful to prayer. It is the height of Ramadan and we are in the North Maluku archipelago where we are to board the Dewi Nusantara for the fourth time. We speed out past a huge green mosque where our three-masted home for the next few days is anchored. She really is a splendid vessel, 5 metres wide and 60m long. The staterooms are luxurious with huge king size beds and a spacious en-suite with piping hot water – just what’s needed after an hour-long dive.
Mourning the loss of our boat-mates Eira and Simon, we are curious to see who we shall be sharing our holiday with. Over half of us are American, all but two self-confessed Republicans; the rest of us liberal Europeans and Canadians.
It’s always interesting to find out what makes people who have different world views tick, so although politics is largely a no-go area you pick up the catalysts. Tax for the rich businessmen and family values for others. There’s not much point in discussing gun laws is there? Anyway we are here to dive so there are enough travellers tales to swap…
A typical day on board is eat (1st breakfast), dive, eat (2nd breakfast), dive, lunch, dive, tea, and then night dive before dinner for some. For me that’s G&T hour, time to watch the sunset over the Papuan sea, weather willing. As you can see there’s a lot of eating and all of fabulous quality, mainly Indonesian, and the pounds can pile on even with small portions and no dessert…[Im pleased to report that on my return I weighed exaclty the same as when I left!]
Our route takes out due south from Ternate, skirting the west coast of Halmahera and down through the Patiente Straights before a long overnighter to Misool in the south of Raja Ampat where we spend six or so days, rather hampered in our dive programme by storms and swell.
We manage a couple of decent excursions: one a steep climb up to a viewpoint over a heart-shaped aquamarine and cobalt-blue lagoon, fringed by emerald limestone karsts. The other is a lagoon boat ride in crystal clear shallow water where we see herons and white
cockatoos. Our resident videographer has fun swooping his drone kamikaze-style over and above us and in and out the hills.
I am nervous about diving since it is barely three months since I broke and dislocated my shoulder. As well as my three variations of gear, I have brought some lubricant with me to ease getting the suit on. An astonished fellow guest says he’s learned a couple of things on this trip, one of which is a new use for KY jelly! After my first dive goes smoothly I do a second and soon I’m up to my three per day quota, and only using Tiger Balm Neck and Shoulder lotion and the occasional ibuprofen. Water therapy works!
The diving is a treat as ever, though I think Covid and climate change have effected the size of fish and the seasons ( the rain!). The former meant that the marine area was not adequately policed and so a lot of the bigger fish are AWOL; nevertheless we are astonished to see a solitary hammerhead glide by like a ghost from the deep; also eight mantas at a feeding station, a marble ray, crocodile fish, lots of different scorpion fish, a rare swimming wobbegong shark and, for the critter-conscious, Pygmy seahorse and cuttle fish, nudibranch galore, gobis, antheas and blennies.
All too soon we are arriving in Sorong where we are treated to a glorious sunset before being drowned as we depart. As we leave our fabulous crew pose for a photo – 24 of them look after 18 guests seamlessly. Thanks in particular to Steven our patient guide and art director; Hendrik, the major domo, for the sundowners; the magic fingers of Ringgo who doubles as a masseur; and Bobby a fellow Liverpool fan who gave us the (wretched) scores. Lastly to cruise director and fellow Swiss Rafael and Captain Andi for keeping us safe.
We will be back!
For more diving photos see Ross’s website https://rosscattell.net/diving/Indonesia-23/indonesia23.htm