He's having quite a trip round Indonesia. Here is Tim Simond's report from Raja Ampat. He loved it so much we have split this into two blogs!
It's quite a journey to Raja Ampat
Sorong Airport. Shacks line the runway's grassy verge as families run about on the airstrip. The bags arrive and are somewhat charmingly individually introduced by the owner's name. This is remote Raja Ampat, off the western tip of West Papua, the latest area to be opened up for the more adventurous diver.
We are staying at Sorido Bay Resort, the best of the northern resorts, pioneered some 20 years ago by Max Ammer who has dedicated much of his life to protecting these remarkable waters. From the airport, a short taxi ride and a turn down a rutted back alley to what they term a Cigarette, basically a floating fibreglass tube with an entrance either end and up to four outboards of varying ages on the back, and off we go into the night. 90 minutes later all hell break lose as we strike a log at full throttle and we finally limp into Sorido. If you head South to Misool, be prepared for five or six hours of excitement. As I have already said, this is Remote with an upper case R so you need to be in search of adventure!
Sorido Bay Resort
The Sorido Bay Resort is simple but very comfortable. The central hub is the raised sitting and dining areas up at first floor level so as to get the breeze and make the most of the views, simply but comfortably furnished. Off to our air-conditioned room down a raised boardwalk, a spacious beachside structure, feet from the translucent waters. Exotic birds call in the dark but that is all that breaks the silence. It is clear from the outset that this is a hotel primarily for divers, snorkelers and the occasional researcher, most notably Conservation International, headed by Dr Mark Eardman, who has himself discovered no less than 89 marine species, (he found a 90th on this trip whilst we were there) the majority in these waters. Indeed, he unequivocally contends that this is the very epicentre of the world's marine bio diversity and he should know. Simply put you will not find more species of marine life and coral anywhere else on the planet.
Raja Ampat is an unbelievable place to dive
We have been really lucky to dive some amazing places around the world. Some had really extraordinary coral, some wonderful marine life, some incredible macro life, but nowhere really has it all. It looks like this might break the rules if the reality meets the hype. Turns out it does.
You can visit Raja Ampat by liveaboard, stay in the south at Misool Eco Resort or, as we have chosen to, in the north at Sorido, a tiny seven bungalow resort. The marine life is more plentiful in the north whilst the soft corals are the draw in the south. However, either would be wonderful, but if you want to combine the two and have the time available, then a liveaboard is the way to go, but bear in mind they are some 150 miles apart or a full 24 hours steam on a liveaboard.
More about the incredible diving in the next instalment... and get in touch if you want to learn more!