Raja Ampat Scuba Diving
Located some 20 km east from Misool Island, the limestone cliffs of the islet of Farondi are a firm favourite on any Raja Ampat diving trip because of the unique landscapes that they offer. Tunnels, caverns and diving on sumptuously coloured walls are the order of the day here
Goa Besar is located on the southern side of Farondi. You'll descend in a small southwest facing cove onto a shallow wall top covered in leather corals, plate corals and purple and yellow sea squirts. Azure damoiselles and chromis mark your descent as the flicker around in the bright light.
Head northwest over the shallow ledged garden of yellow soft corals, and down a wall into an underwater cylindrical hole. This chamber is lined with white, green and red black coral bushes, wire corals and encrusting sponges. Red ornate ghostpipefish hang unnoticed in the black corals.
Finally the wall gives way to an overhanging ledge. Follow this cutting down to the east and you'll see a tunnel entrance bottoming out at 25 metres with yellow sponges and green soft coral trees. The tunnel is about 20 metres long and 10 metres wide. Normally you can find midnight snapper and Indonesian sweetlips lurking in the darker corners. The exit way is at 26-35 metres deep, and now you have a choice to turn left and southeast or right and northwest along the island wall.
To the right along the wall are an amazing variety of orange, green and purple soft corals, small fans, foxtail corals and whip corals. Examine the whip corals as they host whip coral gobies and camouflaged shrimps. Take the time to inspect the gorgonian fans too. Raja Ampat is renowned as one of the best places in the world for pygmy seahorses. 1 fan has up to 40 seahorses alone, and you could be lucky to see the pink Bargibanti form, the orange Hippocampus Denise, or an unknown green pygmy.
To the left of the tunnel, if a current is running, you are likely to witness hundreds of slender fusiliers and giant fusiliers cascading down the wall. At 20 metres you'll come across another overhang with fans, and purple wire corals, protective shelter for juvenile coral demoiselles and yellowtail damsels. Ringed pipefish and ringtail cardinalfish watch out at you from their safe hiding holes.
Verena's Garden is at the southwest corner of Farondi Island. The main feature here is a secret air chamber enclosed within the island walls. There are several small holes that allow sunlight to penetrate leaving a shimmering sky blue water surface.
You access the cavern through the entrance at 5-12 metres deep. The entrance way harbours golden cave sweepers and is marked by green fans, white black coral bushes and purple sea ferns. Small blue tube sponges host the splendid dottyback - Raja Ampat is one of the few places where you can see this splendidly coloured and splendidly named fish. The cavern is roughly 30 metres wide and penetrates 20 metres back along a sandy bottom into the island. Check out the sand for nudibranchs, and mimic octopus have been seen here too.
Back outside the cavern, you'll rejoin the wall which drops down to 35-40 metres at this corner of the island. The very pretty oval-spot butterflyfish (bright yellow with a large black spot or patch on its sides) are usually not too far away from here. They are normally found in pairs. Green freckled hawkfish stare curiously at you from every ledge or tree. Its often worth taking a look out from the wall occasionally too for the redtooth triggerfish and longfin batfish.
Heading further west or right outside the cavern entrance way are some ledges at 28-30 metres and another huge overhanging ledge at 18 metres dropping to the sea bed. Small schools of humpback snapper can be seen here and giant orange frogfish. Occasionally a marauding band of a dozen or so bumphead parrotfish may come munching through. Raja Ampat has some large examples of this species, the largest of all parrotfish, at up to 1.5 metres.
The most colourful part of the dive is yet to come though. The shallow reef section here has a fantastic array of soft corals of every colour imaginable, with green gooseberry tunicates adding a delicate touch of artistry to the picture. Search under the corals at the wall structure itself as blue dragon nudibranchs like to congregate here.
Farondi Reef Basics: Wall and cavern diving
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 28 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate
Number of dive sites: 4
Diving season: All year round
Distance: ~215 km west south west of Sorong (13 hours)
Access: Raja Ampat liveaboard
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