Indonesia - Raja Ampat on board the MV Seven Seas
The diving was very good with no reef damage from industry, agriculture or fishing at the sites visited. the weather co-operated with sunshine everyday. Visability of 50 to 100 ft, depemding on tide, made wide-angle photography almost manditory. Like who is looking for nudibranches with eight mantas overhead? The amount of current and its direction were checked prior to the dive briefings. The guides avoided swimming into the current unless there was a planned objective. Purple, yellow, orange, pink soft coral was abundent at most sites - it requires some current to be in full bloom. The three dive skiffs - two fiberglass (2x40hp each) and an inflatable (40 hp) were effective. Meals on the Seven Seas - early breakfast, hot breakfast, lunch and dinner were great with no possible chance of loosing weight. The beach barbeque with sunset views and bonfire was a special treat. Fresh water for showers and rinsing dive gear was never limited. Kayaks were available for paddling around when anchored. Local village, Eco Resort and oyster farm visits were conducted.
The Sheraton Bandara Hotel in Jakarta is about 10 minutes from the airport. It has free internet at the business center, an outdoor pool, extensive gardens, an exercise facility and resturants. With no adjacent establishments, the hotel food is pricey when taxes and fixed service fees are included - avoid the smorgasboard unless really hungry (or feeling wealthy). For the price the service on China Air is good. However on the longer, typically full flights between Vancouver, BC and Taipei the economy seat gets uncomfortable - an upgrade to Business Class should be considered. Getting to the Sheraton in Jakarta involves a mob scene upon leaving the airport. Pushing through the crowd of "entrepreneurs" and getting to the street is suggested, the licensed taxis there are much cheaper and preferred by the hotel for security reasons. The Sorong (domestic) flights are booked by Seven Seas with Express Air. Their 737's seemed in good condition, but the seating was not configured for any North American sized body. Express Air charges extra for checked luggage over their 20 kg limit - for dive and DSLR camera gear this amounts to an extra $80USD each way. The stop in Makassar is short, however if the flight does not get a Jetway - stay seated refuse to deplane. The buses are hot, smoky, crowded and the run through the airport, with no time for a pit stop is pointless.
Author: Norris C.