RAJA AMPAT INCLUDING THE 'BLUE WATER MANGROVES'
Extraordinary image making with Shannon Conway and Graham Abbott
Dates: Friday 14th November - Tuesday 25th November 2014 (12 days)
Group Size Limit: 14 plus leaders
Increasingly well-known as the world epicentre of marine biodiversity, the islands of Raja Ampat offer a world of thrilling big animal encounters, the chance to see new species, pristine reefs of hard and soft corals and some of the world’s most intriguing macro creatures. Raja Ampat is now surely ‘The World’s Ultimate Dive Destination’!
The remote Raja Ampat archipelago lies off the northeastern coast of West Papua, Indonesia’s most easterly province (formerly known as Irian Jaya), which occupies the western part of the huge island of New Guinea. Exotic? Mysterious? This fascinating, vast and rugged province is both. Indeed it was perhaps the last of planet Earth’s regions to remain untouched by civilization. In 1770 Captain Cook and his landing party set foot on the western shores of the island and a volley of arrows sent them packing from a territory then inhabited by headhunters. Fortunately, a more welcome reception awaits visitors these days!
All the major islands of the Raja Ampat archipelago, Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo, and also over 1,500 islets and cays, are formed from limestone and those who have travelled to Palau will find these green-capped, limestone outcrops looking very similar to the latter’s Rock Islands. No two islands or islets are alike, and no two dive sites the same. The steep-sided walls of the rocks are shaped by wind and water. Soft, vanilla-coloured, sandy bays are ideal for spending time exploring between dives. But it is under the water where one finds the most amazing creatures in abundance. Raja Ampat is, almost incredibly, home to over 1,000 fish species, 537 coral species and 699 mollusc species! This is very probably the richest, diving area in the world! Above the waves is worth exploring too, as there are some wonderful birds to be seen. The forests of Waigeo and Batanta harbour both the beautiful Wilson’s Bird of Paradise and the gorgeous Red Bird of Paradise, both endemic to the area, as well as spectacularly coloured parrots and lorikeets.
Our focus however, is to show you what happens to be a unique coral reef habitat; The Blue Water Mangroves of Misool! These very special mangroves are unique as they are surrounded by water over 100 metres deep and in certain places between the narrow mangrove channels, depths can reach over 30 metres. The result is an abundance of clear water effectively cleans the roots of the mangroves. Visibility can be up to 20 metres at times. What is more, in some places the mangroves are covered in soft corals and invertebrate life. Add to this swathes of areas with dense hard coral reefs that lead straight into the mangroves and the opportunities for split shots are stupendous! Mangroves the world over have often been recognised for their specific habitats, often used as nurseries for juvenile sharks, fish and invertebrates. Whatever comes to mind when divers think of mangroves, one word always recurs; PHOTOGRAPHY! The trip will yield abundant opportunities to perfect those split shots and reflections, once you have mastered the fine art of strobe positioning not to mention the finer details of composition.
Although we are placing a large emphasis on diving, snorkelling, exploring and photographing the mangroves on this trip, there will of course be opportunities to dive some of Raja Ampat’s best dive sites, specifically those of Misool. The mangrove areas that Graham has selected will also offer excellent topside photographic opportunities. Between dives Graham will escort you to his favourite channels and lagoons.
This will be Graham’s second visit to these specific mangroves, following his first very successful trip with renowned BBC videographer Peter Scoones. This will be Shannon’s fifth trip to Raja Ampat, a region he believes to be unrivalled in its photographic opportunities.
Our first mangrove location in the Gam region has many great areas for split shots and is also home to some of the fishiest reefs in Raja Ampat. Sites such as Blizzard Ridge where silversides hang like magnificent iridescent curtains and Tassled Wobbegong sharks lurk on the coral beds before giving themselves away as you swim up to them is a photographers delight. The site must be dived several times, first with your wide angle lens and then with your macro lens as you explore the bommies and see what the nooks and crannies yield. Keep an eye out for the photogenic Twin-spot Gobies too, as they chug back and forth much like the wheels of an old locomotive train! Here a night dive might allow you the chance to see the beguiling Epaulette, or Walking shark!
In designing this special itinerary, Graham has also included a visit to an area he discovered in Batanta in 2004, now named The Algae Patch. It is now a famous critter spot but what gave this location its name is the brilliant green halimeda and caulpera algae which will give your photographs a very different background texture! Whilst in Batanta we may also get the chance to dive some additional macro sites such as Tear Drop Reef home to Bearded Scorpionfish and Blue Ribbon Eel or Magic Bommies where you only need sit on the sand at 5 metres for an hour and you’ll easily find plenty to shoot!
The halfway point of the trip coincides with the zenith of mangrove diving. Located in Misool is the largest blue water mangrove in the world. This area covers a group of six islands, one of which hides a large, uncharted lagoon. The deep channels enable divers to get right in and under the roots, allowing for some magnificent photographs. As you dive throughout the day you can catch the light in different ways as it falls through the roots and illuminates those gorgeous pink and orange soft corals. The unmistakable Archer fish reside in almost every mangrove area and can be surprisingly cooperative!
Whilst in Misool we hope to be able to be able to visit some of the regions favourite sites. Boo Windows is a photographer’s dream with its attractive and colourful hard and soft corals framing the ‘portholes’ cut into the seamount that you can circumnavigate (when you are not requesting that your model swims through the holes time and time again!). Gorgonian Passage is a large channel of about 20 metres deep, the sides of which are almost completely covered in enormous gorgonian sea fans. With a little current this dive is a delightful drift, or with no current you can take your time inspecting each and every sea fan!
With the help of an experienced and acclaimed photographer at your shoulder, who can teach the secrets of producing stunning images, you will soon find that the ‘Art of Underwater Photography’ suddenly gets much easier. He will help you evaluate the range of underwater photography and computer equipment and programmes available and explain the many techniques, methods and styles of contemporary underwater photography. Shannon will be available to critique your work and suggest ideas for improving your images. He will present optional talks and workshops relating to the Art of Underwater Photography, sharing his approach and experiences with you.
Shannon Conway is a professional underwater photographer creating images for the advertising, editorial and fine art market. He has an energetic passion for his photography and the patience to capture the peak of the action. You’ll quickly understand how Shannon obtains such remarkable images time and again – he puts a great deal of effort, energy and research into every shot and he does not give up! Shannon is a popular leader and his enthusiasm is infectious. He is selfless with his time above and below that water and regularly loans his own equipment to trip participants!
Originating from Poole, on the Dorset coast of England, Shannon has always been fascinated by the ocean, spending most of his childhood summer holidays in Bournemouth with his grandparents, searching rock pools for marine creatures. Shannon and his wife Amanda moved to Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2006 in the search for crystal blue waters and sunny skies. After changing from a previous working life in IT, Shannon now focuses on his new career, sharing his passion by teaching underwater photography.
Shannon is a very successful underwater photographer, and has won a variety of awards from the Western Australian Underwater Photographic Society and the British Society of Underwater Photographers. He has also been awarded the top slot on many Photoquests and was the winner in the underwater category of the prestigious Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Papua New Guinea Nature and Landscape Photographer of the Year award in 2007 and 2008.
An Art of Underwater Photography trip is not about how much you know, how much equipment you use or even how much experience you have. The trip is about making wonderful images, about achieving your potential and, ultimately, having a huge amount of fun. Being amongst a group of like-minded friends who are also keen and eager to improve their photography is a huge advantage over taking a trip with the general diving public.
Why travel with Shannon when you could go it alone? Shannon knows so much about underwater photography, having his know how and ability on hand will be of great value. Shannon will dive and take pictures with you, side by side: dive together, shoot together. Shannon will point out both macro and wide-angle opportunities, but most of all he will teach you to think outside of the box and to open your eyes to envision an image that is a little bit different – one that people will stop to look at. You’ll not only learn how to take the image, but how to find it and how to make it.
Joining Shannon will be Graham Abbott, dive guide extraordinaire. Divequest has worked with Graham on several occasions over the years and we are very pleased to be able to offer our clients his first class services once more. You could not ask for two more passionate leaders! Graham has run many charters for National Geographic, Conservation International and the BBC Natural History Unit in these waters. Graham has guided photographers from National Geographic, including David Doubilet, works with IMAX film crew Howard & Michelle Hall, and takes BBC film maker Peter Scoones on shoots for the BBC. He will be able to ensure that photographers and marine life enthusiasts alike will get the best from the dive sites for marine life photography. Graham has specifically designed this itinerary for Divequest and we are thrilled at the prospect of visiting such a tremendous location with such first rate inside knowledge.
Friday 14th November: Afternoon arrival in Jakarta. Transfer to the Jakarta Airport Hotel for one night.
Saturday 15th November: Early morning flight bound for Sorong via Makassar. Afternoon arrival in Sorong and transfer to Indo Siren for 10 nights.
Sunday 16th November – Monday 17th November: Two days diving the reefs and mangroves of Gam.
Tuesday 18th November – Wednesday 19th November: Two days of diving the black sand, algae and macro sites of Batanta.
Thursday 20th November – Saturday 22nd November: Three days of diving the fabulous deep water blue mangroves of Misool.
Sunday 23rd November – Monday 24th November: Diving the delights of Misool’s best reefs – the very best of the very best!
Monday 25th November: Disembark Indo Siren and transfer to Sorong for an afternoon flight to Jakarta via Makassar.
Kindly note that schedules and itineraries can change due to local conditions. The decisons of the cruise director and leaders may affect the above itinerary.
$4320 Sorong/Sorong (provisional price, to be confirmed)
• Airport transfers in Sorong
• 10 nights cruise with full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) plus coffee, tea, fruit juice, soft drinks, fresh fruit and beer on a twin/share basis on Indo Siren.
• Up to 32 dives (including 6 night dives) on air or Nitrox diving, escorted land tours where appropriate. Should you wish, the cruise cost includes dive gear, including 3 mm shorty wetsuit, regulator, BCD and fins.
• Services of Shannon Conway and Graham Abbott as leaders.
Please note: In addition, there is a Raja Ampat park fee of €90 (subject to change), which is payable on board.
Single Occupancy Supplement: £3920 (provisional price, to be confirmed). Please note that, while we will endeavour to find a room-mate for those on the tour who are single travellers and would prefer to share accommodation, in the event of a room-mate not being available the single occupancy supplement will apply. Room-mates will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
Deposit: Initial deposit of $1000, followed by a further deposit of $1500 at 12 months before departure, for Sorong/Sorong arrangements.
Flights: Please contact us.
HOLIDAY COMBINATIONS, STOP-OVERS AND ADDITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS: Why not combine a visit to Raja Ampat with a side trip to one of Indonesia’s other diving gems? If you are able to take a really long holiday, a visit to Komodo or Wakatobi are possibilities, as well as Bali or Sulawesi.