Raja Ampat & Banda Sea, Indonesia Snorkeling Liveaboard Trip Report
by Tom & Jan Turner
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 liveaboard Pindito. This trip was organized and guided by 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 6-8 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 5-6 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), Mandarinfish, frogfish, clownfish, 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 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.