Diving West Papua
Sel Pele Bay
Sel Pele is a very large bay located on the western side of Waigeo Island, and is renowned as the best place in Raja Ampat for critter hunting. The bay has a large mouth with a small island in the centre, and an inner bay with pearl farms that can be visited on request.
It's on the south or right-hand side of the bay's mouth, in the first half mile stretch or so, that Dinding Selatan is located. The dive site fluctuates between a 15-25 metre deep wall and a slope, with brown and orange soft corals and featherstars. The low profile silt bottom is speckled with small anemones, sponges, fire urchins, fans and hardy soft corals.
So what makes Sel Pele worth spending a day's diving at? The stars of the show here are perhaps the variety of cephalopods that you get here - everything from the gorgeous but lethal blue-ringed octopus, baby red octopus and cuttlefish. The bottom-dwelling Berry's bobtail squid can also be found on the sandy areas, so watch out for this unmistakable 5cm long, iridescent blue-green, extremely rare creature.
Check out the fire urchins too for zebra crabs, the sea cucumbers for pearlfish, and the sandy rubble for peacock mantis shrimp, flying gurnards, gobies and blennies. The variety of colourful nudibranchs that you can find here is second to none from the tiger nudi, Tambja Affinis, to Lock's nudis. Then there's West Papua's usual pygmy seahorses and full range of ghost pipefish - robust, harlequin, halimeda - and even the shortpouch pygmy pipehorse.
Kebung Kerang is the south side of the small island in the bay's mouth, where the steep bank drops down to 30 metres then down into the bay's main channel at 40 metres. Here the coral coverage is good with lots of gigantic mushroom leather corals, purple soft corals, sea squirts and large gorgonians, interspersed with submerged tree logs.
The fish life is correspondingly more prevalent too if less cryptic, with schools of fusiliers, pale-tailed surgeonfish, goatfish and large 6-banded angelfish. Nudibranchs are also in evidence here with the endemic orange, white and warty Phyllidia Babai and the solar-power nudi, Phyllidesmium Longicirrum, the unusual photosynthesising nudi from New Guinea and Australia.
A word of caution though - the bay can be plagued with large aggregations of stinging jellyfish. They tend to congregate on the surface near the edge of the bay, so they won't bother whilst you are diving, but it's wise to descend and ascend carefully and a little distant from the water's edge.
At The Jetty you will start the dive by exploring the shallows, right beside the jetty that is used by the pearl farm located on Waigeo Island. The little bommies and hard corals that are scattered in the shallows make perfect shelters for crocodile fish, scorpionfish and stonefish, so watch out!
The Raja Ampat dive site is not very big but it is a fascinating spot to investigate in detail. Look out for frogfish sitting squat in their host sponges. Keep an eye out for nudibranchs since Dorid nudibranchs of several colour variations have been spotted here in the past, including the rare Glossodoris Cruenta.
As you proceed deeper you may run into a school of razorfish as they seem to hover upside down for no reason. The cracks and crevices of the reef are full or interesting specimens including banded pipefish, white-eyed and even giant morays, resting after a night out hunting. Crustaceans are around in big numbers here, especially at night when they are much more active. Mantis shrimps are always good entertainment value, scurrying around at break-neck speed and darting nervously into their holes.
Others crustaceans you might see here include big coral crabs, porcelain crabs, spiny lobsters, plus countless creatures that you might find fascinating but difficult to name! Definitely a dive for critters lovers! Night dives promise additional beauties such as orangutan crabs and, if you are lucky, a Spanish dancer and beautiful nudibranchs like the Berthella Martensi.
Review more dive sites of Waigeo Island.
Sel Pele Bay Reef Basics: Critter country
Depth: 5 - >30m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Gentle to moderate
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 28 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: 4
Diving season: All year round
Distance: ~155 km west northwest of Sorong (9 hours)
Access: West Papua liveaboards
• West Papua travel information
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• Papua/West Papua - Indonesia
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