Dive Sites Part 3 – 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 3

Day 8

Boo Window, Boo, Raja Ampat

On the first dive, our first in Raja Ampat, we started in a school of spade fish and descended to a wall. We’ve seen better walls of coral but the fish were abundant, colorful and bigger than at previous dive sites. As the dive progressed the current picked up as we headed to the manta cleaning station. Soon a manta appeared and hung out circling the top of the reef for the longest time. We clung to the rocks at about 50ft. Getting low on air I headed to a shallower reef but it was a fight against the current to get there. Once there, however, the current calmed and I could chill during the safety stop.

Nudi Rock, Fiabacet, Raja Ampat

On the second dive we started on a gentle wall. The reef was not in great shape but again the fish were amazing – small and large colorful fish as well as schools. The sandy bottom in front of the reef was at about 70ft where we saw a wobbegong sleeping in the sand. We slowly made our way to the top of the reef where there were even more colorful schools of fish and bigger fish including a crocodile flat fish. The colorful coral at the top was in better shape. A stunning place for a safety stop and a favorite dive of the trip.

4 Kings, Wayilbatan, Raja Ampat

The third dive was at a fun site with multiple mounts and a few swim-throughs. The strong current in places, however, made the site more difficult. The lower depths did not have an abundance of coral while it was a coral garden at shallower depths. It was shallow enough to do the safety stop on a coral mount. Again an abundance of colorful fish and schools.  Andri found another pigmy seahorse. There were a couple of large scorpion fish at our safety stop at the top of the mount.

Fubar, Pulau Waaf, Raja Ampat

The night dive was at 30ft at the base of a wall with a sloping sandy bottom, coral outcroppings and rocks. The site was loaded with interesting life – scorpion fish, walking sharks, decorator crabs, nudibranch, different kinds of eels, squid, etc. and very annoying small darting fish that would crash into you. They were attracted by the lights. Another guest said they would fall dead after they hit you. Quite unpleasant being pelted in the face and hands by these annoying creatures. Otherwise a fun dive. Some current but overall quite manageable.

Day 9

Kaleidoscope, Pele, Raja Ampat (Near Misool)

The first dive was a wall dive with a slope on one side and a steep wall on the other. The sun came out at the end of the dive. Pretty coral in spots. Schools of small fish but not as many in the mild current. Mika says that in general you need current to get more fish, especially the bigger predators.

Wacko Seamount, Wayilbatan, Raja Ampat

The second dive was similar to the first dive with a wall above and a sandy slope below. The top of the reef was beautiful with a kaleidoscope of colors. Again minimal current resulted in fewer fish according to Mika, but there were more fish than at the first dive site with schools of colorful fish and a variety of species. I loved the top of the reef on this one with all the tunicate.

Neptune’s Fansea, Wayilbatan, Raja Ampat

 We started the third dive at a sandy bottom at 80ft against the current. We found a large ray under a rock. Too dark, however, to tell what it was exactly. We then started our way up a wall covered in bright orange soft coral, the bright spot on a rather gloomy dive. Not as many fish as on other dives.

Hike to Heart Shaped Lagoon Viewpoint

Between the third dive and the night dive we took a short hike up a steep wooden staircase to a view point overlooking a heart shape lagoon. Beautiful evening with great views of the heart below. It’s about 20 minutes up without stopping. No one else was at the site besides our group.

Barracuda Rock, Wayilbatan, Raja Ampat

The night dive was on a wall with a steep sandy slope.  We started the dive with a sprint heading into the current. Around the corner the current calmed and the dive slowed down as we started looking for critters.  Later in the dive the slope turned into more of a regular wall with interesting caves. In one was an electric clam. We also saw decorator and other crabs, nudibranch and shrimp.

Day 10

Magic Mountain, Warakaraket, Raja Ampat

We woke to rain and cloudy skies. Not the best morning for the famed Magic Mountain, a smallish sea mount. This was a hard dive dropping quickly to 80ft and swimming out along a ridge to possibly spot a manta. By the time we got there I was already low on air. I didn’t take many photos. Visibility was OK but not great. There were some fish but not tons. We did see 2 baby white tip sharks on the ridge and a turtle in the shallows. The others that stayed down longer got a good view of an oceanic manta at the top of the mount.  Once at the top there was quite a bit of current and Mika let me use his reef hook for the safety stop.

Puri Pinnacle, Fiabacet, Raja Ampat

The second dive was another sea mount. This time we stayed shallower. The top had an abundance of soft coral and colorful fish. There are 3 pinnacles to the side of the main mount. There was still quite a bit of current in places and at the top of the sea mount where we did our safety stop. We saw schools of fish, big fish, and tons of anemonefish.

Two Tree Island, Balbulol, Raja Ampat

The third dive site was around a tiny island. It was a wall dive with a cave leading to a sandy slope and the top shallow enough for a safety stop on the reef. Visibility was only OK. Patches of hard and soft coral and large fans, but a lot of it was bare looking. A good amount of fish, nudibranch and shrimp/lobster. It was sunny on good portions of the dive, but still not my favorite dive site. Others might like it for the variety of fish and abundance of nudibranch.

Wagmab Wall, Farondi, Raja Ampat

The night dive was on a wall with a steep sandy slope in places. There was a chance to see a blue ring octopus but we did not see any. Saw several crabs, and a couple of basket stars. They look like a plant but move like an animal, very strange. Generally a calm dive with a mild current. The downside of this dive was the worms and darting small fish in the water attracted by the torches. They can be a real nuisance hitting you in the face if you have the torch in front of you.

Day 11

Andiamo, Daram, Raja Ampat

Normally they would do two dives on the last morning depending on when guest are flying out the next day, but we had an injury on the boat and we needed to get to Sorong a bit earlier.

The dive site was at a small island with a pretty sunlit spot at the safety stop and a couple of pinnacles to explore. We started the dive fairly deep. Ok visibility. Some fish but not as many as at other dive sites. Some people saw a reef manta. Not as much coral at the safety stop compared to some other dive sites.

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