Liveaboard Diving in the Banda Sea Newsletter
The Banda Islands and Raja Ampat on the Seahorse
Banda and more particularly Raja Ampat had been on my "To Do" list for way too long and they didn't disappoint.
Ambon's muck diving was the start of the trip and was very reminiscent of the Lembeh Strait: dark sand and critters including stargazers, mandarinfish, devil stingers, flounders, fingered dragonets and many of the more obscure marine creatures all appeared.
The Banda Islands with their rich history and colourful walls and pinnacles were the stars of the show for the next few days. Dive sites such as Batu Kapal will live long in the memory: sea fans, enormous barrel sponges, and a kaleidoscope of soft corals all set against an ever-changing topography, and with thousands of fish.
The third leg was the much-anticipated Raja Ampat which got underway with the outrageously colourful channel called The Passage: over 8 pygmy seahorses on 1 fan!. Other personal favourites included Hippocampus Denise, the epaulette shark and my personal No. 1 - sea fans with thousands of ghost shrimp, walking around like crazy science fiction monsters.
The Seahorse Liveaboard
All in all, I found the Seahorse to be a very fine liveaboard - a schooner with sensible use of limited space, friendly staff and a good atmosphere.
The lounge is spacious with 3 separate dining tables. There are a many wood finishings everywhere, below decks which are well maintained.
Mostly the decks are well shaded with waterproof fabric, making it easy to avoid the hot sun if you wish.
The Diving Service
Dives are made from 1 of the 2 aluminium tenders taking 10 passengers each. The tanks are moved forward and back from the tender by the crew so there is no lifting for divers to do. The dive crew is helpful and attentive at all times.
The food on my trip was almost wholly Western and went down well with all the guests, especially the freshly baked bread.
Meals are nutritious and varied with plenty of salad starters and fresh fruit for dessert. Snacks are served between lunch and dinner.
We went ashore to Banda Neira, to visit a museum, an old Dutch fort and a plantation where we sampled cinnamon tea and treats with delicious nutmeg fruit jam.
It was very interesting to imagine what the place was like in the past, with Europeans here to make money, and brutally oppressing those locals who dared not be totally subjugated.
All things considered:
If I was to run a liveaboard, it would not be much different from the way the Seahorse operates.
The diving system is efficient without being too military. The boat is well-maintained, comfortable and makes good use of the available space.
Getting there and away:
I slept overnight in Jakarta Airport Hotel (in the airport) which was perfectly adequate for 1 overnight stay. The next morning I flew to Ujung Pandang (Makassar) and transferred to Ambon to meet up with the boat. A 45 minute drive from Ambon airport and we boarded the boat in Ambon Bay. My trip ended in Sorong from where I flew back direct to Jakarta.
Read the full version here: Seahorse trip report
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