Dive Sites Part 2 – Forgotten Islands, Banda Sea & Raja Ampat on the Damai II, Indonesia

Introduction

Raja Ampat is one of the world’s top dive destinations for good reason. The abundance of colorful fish, beautiful hard and soft corals and interesting critters is hard to beat. Throw in a few large pelagics such as mantas and hammerheads and you have an unforgettable diving experience.

The 11 day trip on the Damai II, a luxury dive boat, embarks at Saumlaki and runs an itinerary through the Forgotten Islands of the Banda Sea and ends with several days of diving in Raja Ampat before disembarking in Sorong.

Starting south of Raja Ampat in the southern Banda Sea affords numerous equally impressive dive sites with few other boats around.

I cover the trip in 4 posts. The first 3 posts discuss the dive sites and other excursions. The last post talks about life on the Damai II; diving logistics and getting to Saumlaki, the embarkation point.

Trip Date: October 24-November 4, 2023

Dive Sites – Part 2

Day 5

Fadol North Corner and West Wall, Fadol Island, Outer Forgotten Islands

On the first dive at Fadol North Corner due to one of the tanks being only ¾ full we stayed shallower. Still it was a delight with beautiful mostly soft corals dazzling in the sun lit clear water. We started the dive on a wall but soon went up to the shallower reef. The other group saw a friendly manta, turtles and cuttlefish.

The second dive site, Fadol West Wall, was a different site at the same location. Again we started on a wall that turned into a sandy slope. There was a school of large bumphead parrotfish when we first jumped in. At about 85ft Selim found a large cuttlefish. There were anemonefish on the wall and a purple harry crab on soft coral. Near the end of the dive the number of beautiful soft corals increased in addition to wide expanses of hard corals where we found a large green moray eel.

Wonin, Manggur, Outer Forgotten Islands

For the third dive we changed locations to Wonin Island, another little known island. The dive site was a slope with a garden of beautiful soft corals higher up. Unfortunately, the sun was not out. This was a shallower dive than the first two. The fish were not quite as skittish as at previous dive sites, still shy though. There was a lot of thermocline with cold and warm layers.

Beach Sunset

Between the third dive and the night dive we had snacks on the beach. Pretty, white sand beach and a lovely place to watch the setting sun. Unfortunately there was trash on the beach, mostly various types of discarded plastic shoes, not tons but still unpleasant. They offered beer and wine for those that weren’t doing the night dive.

Night Dive

The night dive was at the same site as the third dive.  A number of interesting creatures – nudibranch, a giant spotted moray eel and crabs. Beautiful soft corals in the shallower water. There was little current and it was not as cold as the third dive.

Day 6

Ultima Frontera, Kaimeer, Outer Forgotten Islands

The first dive was at a bommie. With the top at 50ft this was a deeper dive. Tons of fish and a good variety of hard and soft corals. Visibility was OK but there was no sun. The other 2 groups saw a couple of hammerheads.

Gunung Laut and Uran Kaimeer, Outer Forgotten Islands

The second dive was at another remote bommie. We did not, however, have good visibility. Still had plenty of fish and abundant hard coral but without the visibility and sunshine it just looked dark and gloomy. The top of the bommie was supposed to be shallower but we stayed at 50ft until the end of the dive. My least favorite dive site of the trip so far.

The third dive site was at the most forgotten of the Forgotten Islands. The crew thought this was a new bommie to explore but when they started surveying the area they realized that they had been here before. It was a wall dive with a sandy slope top. The top was shallower than at the other two dive sites.

As the dive progressed the current picked up and was pulling me into the reef making it hard to control the drift. Plenty of fish with a mix of hard and soft corals, but not quite the coral garden we saw on previous dives. Frequent anemone with Nemo fish. There were two sightings of pigmy seahorses. They match the fan coral almost exactly, pink with polka dots.

Day 7

Too Many Fish North, Koon, Seram Sea

The first dive was at a popular dive site because it is one of the few good sites between the Banda Sea and Raja Ampat. Consequently it’s on many liveaboard itineraries. It was another sunken bommie dive. This one has tricky currents. We got an early start, in the water at 7 a.m., to beat the other boat that was already at the site.

When we first went down we drifted along the edge of the bommie on a sandy slope just above the wall down to the end, at about 90ft, where you can see the wall drop off into the abyss. We then had to fight the current heading back towards the top. Along the way we found an octopus sitting on a rock, a couple of stonefish and a crab in a hole. The site has more sand than at some other sites but still has an abundance of hard and soft corals. There were not as many fish as we’ve seen on previous days, but still plenty of schooling fish to keep us happy.

Mika was great helping me improve my air consumption. He had me get down lower, closer to the bottom and out of the current. I was amazed at how just a meter lower could greatly diminish the current.

The second dive was at the same dive site but this time we went in the opposite direction and did a shallower wall dive of sorts. In places it was more a steep sandy slope than a true wall. Visibility was OK but there was not much sun. Some fish but not as many as the name would imply. Saw several scorpion fish, a turtle and a leopard shark. The shark surprised us swimming up in front of me, between me and Mika. Current was much easier to control on this dive.

Pulau Madurang, Seram, Seram Sea

The third dive was a wall dive off a small uninhabited island. There was a thermocline with layers of warm and cold water. The temperature difference shimmers in the water. A lot of the wall was not in good shape with old dead coral rocks and layers of coral rubble. Some sections, especially at the end, were in much better shape with expanses of hard coral and schools of fish. Saw a number of scorpion fish. There was little current. Visibility was not great but improved during the dive. Some sun. Overall this was a shallower, gentler dive.

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