Raja Ampat & Banda Sea, Indonesia Snorkeling Liveaboard Trip Report

by Tom & Jan Turner
(Jamestown, PA)

Manta Ray, Banda Sea

Manta Ray, Banda Sea

I wanted to share a story about our experience in Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea on a snorkeling liveaboard. On October 22, 2016, my wife and I took off from Pittsburgh on the trip of a lifetime. After traveling for two days, we were in Ambon, Indonesia, where we met the group that we would spend the next 12 days sailing around Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea.

As we hung out on deck the day that we boarded, we had a Blue Whale cruise by. Great start to a great trip. There were 16 passengers and 17 crew aboard the "live aboard" Pindito. This trip was organized and guided by Wendy, referred to on this website. She has a great company that specializes in snorkeling trips to some of the best areas in the world for snorkeling.

They took us snorkeling in three small, separate groups, three times a day, every day of the trip. Always a different snorkel site with three night snorkels thrown in during the trip.

The difficult part is deciding where to begin in describing the different areas where we snorkeled. We would snorkel for one and a half to two hours, going along a coral reef that just had no end. The amount and diversity of the coral is tremendous. Also, the fish and wildlife were not to be compared with any of our previous experiences. We saw so many fish and critters that we had never seen before, it was incredible. The guides were excellent in helping us to identify what we saw, but there were so many new species, they could not help us with all of them.

We spent two snorkel sessions at Manta Ray cleaning stations. The first one had between six and eight mantas, the largest one being about 18 feet across. The second one, we only saw two mantas, but they are a magnificent creature to have a chance to watch.

We saw Green and Hawksbill Sea Turtles, many different kinds of moray eels, Banded Sea Snakes, clams that were five or six feet across that were very colorful in the muscle section of the clam, nudibranchs of all different colors, black tipped sharks, white tipped sharks, reef sharks, Bamboo (walking) Sharks, wobbegongs (also called the carpet shark), Mandarin Fish, frogfish, clown fish, pipefish, a zillion kinds of fish, some we were familiar with from the Caribbean, most we were not familiar with. We saw mantis shrimp, coral crabs, hermit crabs, several kinds of crab we are not familiar with, all different kinds of sea cucumbers, and undoubtedly some things that are not coming to mind just now.

We have snorkeled the Caribbean and the Florida Keys for almost 20 years. We booked this trip with Wendy as a "trip of a lifetime". It was all of that, and so much more. We had our expectations, and they were all surpassed. It was a wonderful trip.

After our 12 days on the Pindito, we spent a week at the eco-resort Papua Explorers. We had a great time, saw more of the stuff that we had seen on the Pindito. Great house reef, great coral, great fish and critters. It was a great finish to our Indonesian adventure.

Comments for Raja Ampat & Banda Sea, Indonesia Snorkeling Liveaboard Trip Report

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Nov 30, 2016
Thank You!
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Tom & Jan, thank you so much for sharing your experience on one of Wendy's snorkeling trips. We are so glad we can bring these trips to our readers!

Why is the frogfish in your picture in a glass?

Nov 30, 2016
To answer your question...
by: Tom & Jan Turner

Hi Galen & Nicole, I wondered if it would be obvious that the frogfish was in a glass. I guess it is.

The head snorkel guide for our trip, Eric, found the frogfish in some sargassum that was floating by. Knowing that Jan had been on the hunt for a frogfish for years, he called us over to get pictures of it in the sargassum. He then decided that everyone on the trip needed to have a chance to see it, so he put it in a bucket to bring it back to the Pindito.

On the Pindito, they put it in a glass so that everyone who wanted, could get a picture. It turned out, my picture in the glass was the best picture that I had of the fish. That is why I included this picture in my post.

After having our fun, Eric returned the fish to the sargassum that it was accustomed to, and delivered it back to the mild current location where the fish was found.

Nov 30, 2016
So Cool!
by: Mary Lomma

Tom and Jan, so happy for your wonderful trip and I do want to see all of the pictures please!

Dec 01, 2016
Frogfish! Oh My!
by: Debbieo

I envy your trip.

I lust for the discovery of a frogfish on my own life adventures.

Enjoyed reading your trip report.

Wendy's trips are the bomb!!!!

Dec 03, 2016
by: Ruth Bevan

Thanks for the wonderful account, Tom. I do so wish we could have joined you. Since we could not, I wish you would upload your pictures. If I can find an easy platform for sharing / blogging, would you try it? :)

Dec 04, 2016
Wendy's Trips
by: Ellen and Phil (Louisville)

We traveled with Wendy recently to the Maldives, a trip at the top of our bucket list for our lifetime. Not disappointed! Wendy delivers! Cannot wait to do Indonesia with her next time. Thanks for your comments. Guessing you were with Tami and Dave on your trip.

P.S. Nicole and Galen were also on our Maldives trip--excellent trip leaders!

Dec 04, 2016
Thank you for the Raja Ampat story!
by: Alicia

Thank you for your wonderfuly detailed Rajah Ampat trip account! We are going with Wendy in January on the same trip and you have totally inspired me and got me thinking about packing my snorkel stuff!! Can't wait to see all the critters!🐬

Dec 10, 2016
Travel Safety
by: Nancy

My husband and I would like to snorkel in the Coral Triangle area but have been hesitant because we worry about safety. How safe is travel to Raja Ampat and other Indonesian locations?

Dec 11, 2016
No Problems
by: Tom Turner

My wife and I had the same concerns. It is about as far from home as you can get, and it is in a foreign land that is very different than our own. We found it to be very safe and the people were great. There was never a time that we were concerned for our safety.

We did spend a little time in both Jakarta and Sorong, but we never really left the hotel area. The rest of the time we were in the back country where there was an occasional small village. Folks in the villages were very friendly and helpful.

From a safety perspective, get out your fins and snorkels. It's time to see nature at its best.

Feb 03, 2017
How Crowded?
by: Jack H.

How crowded were the dive/snorkeling spots? I have read that sometimes the best spots are crowded with live-aboard boats and day trippers, especially at the manta sites.

Feb 07, 2017
Hi Jack, To answer your question.
by: Tom Turner

I don't know if it was because Wendy planned the trip to keep out of the crowds, or if it just happened to work that way, but there was never a time that I can think of where we had more than just a few other people in the areas where we were.

We spent several hours at a quite busy cleaning station for mantas one day, and I don't remember any one else being there.

The closest we came to a crowd that I can think of was snorkeling off of the dock and beach of a little town called Arborek. They have gigantic clams there that are probably four feet across, and the muscle is quite colorful.

Our experience in Raja Ampat with Wendy was anything but crowded. Have fun.

Jun 28, 2017
About the frogfish
by: Salla

Thank you for your report. I have been planning a snorkeling trip to RA for some time now and all info is very welcome.

I have to comment on the case of the frogfish though. As much as snorkelers are keen to spot rare species, this kind of behavior should never take place and should not to be encouraged. Snorkelers and divers should always stick to a do not touch rule. Always. We are visitors in the habitat of marine life and should respect that. Marine life isn't there just to entertain us.

Here is a similar story that had sad ending.

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