So amazing that we have been blissed out for the past few weeks and haven’t even bothered to tell you about it! (We’ve also been pretty busy back in DC with a new project – more on that soon).
The entire trip was such a wonderful experience for Simon & I. I always wonder as we plan vacations if we’ll be able to match or top the last grand adventure, and somehow it manages to keep getting better. Perhaps as we age we become wiser about enjoying things more? The highlight of this trip was diving in Raja Ampat from Papua Paradise Eco Resort. We were constantly in awe of some of the finest coral reefs we had ever seen. The biodiversity, although we knew it was coming, was unbelievable to behold. Hundreds of species of fish could be found on a single reef in this hotspot, including big predators like giant trevally (ulua in Hawaii). Even more amazing for me were the incredible number of tiny, often cryptic creatures hidden in the corals, sponges, and sea fans. Many species of nudibranchs were spotted on nearly every dive, and throughout our week in paradise we found an assortment of miniature shrimps and pipefish blending in perfectly with their surroundings. My
absolute favorite was the pygmy seahorse. We were lucky enough to spot all four species of pygmy seahorse found in Raja Ampat at one point or another. These tiny animals range in size from 0.25-0.75 inches, and match their surroundings impeccably. In addition to being a fun photographic challenge (buoyancy check, anyone?), we couldn’t help but marvel at this product of evolution. So unlikely, yet so perfect for its environment. I am still completely smitten. As you may have gathered from our previous post, we were here during manta season. We had a lucky private encounter with two oceanic mantas just in front of the resort on our first day, and an enjoyable hour of watching five mantas cycle through a cleaning station at Manta Sandy later on. The best time to see mantas in RA is December-January-February.
We could wax rhetorical about the diving all day, but we’ll leave you with some photos and move on. We would highly recommend this destination to anyone, and we didn’t feel we could have done better than staying at Papua Paradise. We missed only a couple of dive sites that the live-aboards hit, but in exchange we got to experience the local sites, which we found to be equally phenomenal. The luxury of staying on land in a large, well appointed bungalow was evident, and we can’t say enough about the kind and helpful staff and management there. They even made me a yummy chocolate cheesecake for my birthday and had everyone sing to me at dinner – what a special surprise on a remote island, opposite the globe to my home! We decided to share photos via Picasa since there are so many. You can view our album here.