Location: Cape Kri, Raja Ampat
The day started out earlier than normal, and while not yesterday’s 4:30 rise, the 6:30 wake up still seemed to provide an obstacle for some of the sleep loving argonauts, which was helped by Margo, who walked around and threw candy at people out of a Cheeze-It box she scribbled a face onto, for the Halloween spirit. Nevertheless, everyone was up shortly after and ready for breakfast, a fantastic meal of eggs and sausage cooked by today’s head chef Preston. After the breakfast, as a reverse of two days ago, the second group of divers, me included, got our gear onto the small boat and soon ferried over on the smaller of the two dive boats, Julia, to the dive shop. At the shop, the first group to arrive, the group I was in, was briefed by one of our guides, who listed the three dive sites we would be visiting today. As we were getting ready to leave on our dive boat, Shannon, no one else but Max Ammer himself, proprietor of all Raja Ampat scuba diving, makes an appearance, talking about how there were some sharks in the shallow water near the dock. We quickly left to go see these few sharks, as he put it, only to be met with 20-30 blacktip reef sharks, just swimming around in the meter deep water, which is more than just “a few sharks.” After that, we were all reasonably pumped up and ready to go out diving, as if we saw a massive school of sharks at the dock, what would we see at Raja’s finest. The drive to our first site did happen to be a good 45 minutes to an hour, which, while not killing the spirits of the divers, did put most of them to sleep. after another groggy wakeup, the gear was soon on, and the pool was open, all divers in the water. as we descended, a spadefish, nicknamed Jerry by me, slowly circled around us, something he would continue to do for the rest of the dive. Outside of Jerry’s companionship, the dive itself was truly a breathtaking experience. schools upon schools of fish hung out on endless coral gardens, and we saw three massive green sea turtles, 6 feet long and easily 5-6 hundred pounds, gracefully gliding through the water as if they were weightless. Jerry even brought his friends at one point, as a small school of spadefish came by, giving us all a good look as if we were the animals and they were the tourists coming to watch us. climbing out of the water was almost painful, as no one in their right mind would want to leave that magical world behind. It wasn’t for long until things were happy again, however, as while we did have to get onto the boat, we were greeted by the local village we had drifted towards, waving to us from their dock as the children jumped off and played in the water. We waved goodbye as we left, passing the second group of divers as we headed to our next spot. Still needing to stay above for a safe surface interval, our group opted to snorkel till it was time to dive, wherein the shallow part of the water was a vast coral reef, everywhere one looked was coral, and finding the sandy bottom was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The second dive was also another journey as well, but if the last dive was a roaring magical circus, this was a slow dance through a meadow. We slowly drifted over the lettuce coral fields, looking into the nooks and crannies for what we could find. The occasional school of fish passing by providing some traffic above us for when we weren’t focused on the floor. But the floor was really the main attraction. Tiny anemones, nestled into the spots corals didn’t root, filled with bright clownfish, dotted the landscape, and a clam so big you could fit a person in (we measured) were some of the many spectacles in this valley of wonders. The ascent from the dive was a different story, as near the top, we passed through the beams of a dock, where schools of fish nestled everywhere, picking and eating away at the algae and corals that encrusted the wood. After the dive, it was time for lunch, macaroni and cheese, and Group one and Group two met up to eat on a small beach, where we scoured the sand and harassed the local hermit crab population, and waded in the water and definitely did not try to push each other into the surf. After our hour respite, we left again for our final dive, which again was incredible but in a different flavor. This dive seemed to have a focus on the more hidden members of the ocean, looking at the small and the camouflaged. A wobbegong shark, a stonefish, nudibranchs so tiny you could fit five on your pinky nail. These were the hidden attractions of the sea. After the dive, we packed up and ferried back to Argo, ready to finish the day. We met up with group two, talked about our differing dive experiences, which was difficult as they did go to the same sites just in a different order, then we talked with the Argonauts who stayed back on the boat, as they had been diving two days prior. Dinner was a hearty pot of vegetarian chili and rice, and after dinner, we talked about scary movies, as we needed some way to celebrate our atypical Halloween.