Rolling in the Deep
You’ve seen the land creatures, now it’s time to venture deep into the dark abyss of the seas to discover the bizarre creatures that live in its depths. After all, the world is made up of an average 70 percent water – wouldn’t there be much more to see and discover in the unchartered waters of Earth? We may not be diving experts ourselves, but these places are definitely recommended for a unique underwater experience.
FRONTIER DIVING For breaking World Records
The term “frontier diving” may have just been invented for Raja Ampat Islands diving. These waters definitely feel like the edge of the world as you get to gaze over the crystalline seas from onboard a liveaboard. Peer out into the horizon at night and spot a speck of light or two from the distant fishing boats. The region is home to some of the world’s most bio-diverse marine region with the most recorded fish, coral and mollusc species – all of which are a world record of species found. You want to see it all, then you have to visit the Raja Ampat Islands. Raja Ampat belongs to the province of West Papau, the easternmost province of Indonesia. It translates into “four kings”, which represents the four main island groups – Waigeo in the North, Batanta, Salawati and Misool in the South. These islands are home to spectacular bays, hidden lakes, climbable rocky outcrops, limestone islands with unexplored caves, lagoons and beaches. Although it is mostly dominated by liveaboards (residential yachts, powerboat or sailboats), there are also a handful of dive resorts available for those who might find better comfort in living on land. Two of the resorts available are Sorido Bay and Kri Eco, which offer private yet comfortable stays for divers. There are more than 30 dive sites in close proximity to the resorts and here are some recommendations.
Cape Kri is one of the hottest dive sites and is Sordio Bay’s house reef. The dive site is the exact location where Dr Gerry Allen smashed his record for observing the most number of fish species within a single tank dive: 374 unique species. It is a 1-minute boat ride from the resort’s jetty and is home to huge schools of Big-eye trevallies, Barracudas and Snappers. Whether you are looking for car-sized Queensland groupers or diminutive ever-present pygmy seahorse, this is the place to discover and be inspired.
PAPUA-DIVING // +62 811 483 4614 // Info@papua-diving.com // www.papua-diving.com
MACRO DIVING The smaller the better
People who go macro diving do not tend to get blown away by a manta ray or a huge shark sweeping past – instead, they prefer to get up close to the tiny creatures of the sea. They might be smaller in stature, but definitely no less fascinating as compared to their “bigger peers”. The pygmy seahorses, pipefish and commensal shrimp are some of the few that belong to this macro category.
Most of the top dive sites in the world fall under the Coral Golden Triangle, a geographical term that refers to the tropical marine waters of a couple of countries, including Malaysia. These waters contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals and marine wildlife. Imagine clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and lush green forest in the background – the ideal postcard-worthy shot.
Kapalai is one of the three famous points within the Golden Triangle in Malaysia, the other two being Sipadan and Mabul. It was not originally developed as an island, but as a water resort to give divers get easy access to the world-famous Sipadan. Over time, they discovered that Kapalai Island is home to many macro creatures and is actually a treasured diving spot in itself. Today, it is undoubtedly one of the premiere macro diving sites in the world.
The island consists of a small sloping reef, approximately 15m deep and contains many strange yet beautiful and intriguing critters. Expect to see Blue ring octopus, Mimic octopus, Ghost pipefish, Wasp fish, Stone fish, Mandarin fish, Scorpion fish and Frogfish during your diving discoveries. Below the shallow sloping reef is a sandy plateau, which is home to five small wrecks and a resort chalet that are home to giant stingray, large schools of jack fish and barracuda, as well as some solitary potato groupers.
Though diving is now a highly recommended and sought after activity in Kapalai, the island also features other fun sporting activities such as swimming, snorkelling and ocean kayaking.
SIPADAN-KAPALAI DIVE RESORT // +60 89 954 001 // email@example.com // www.sipadan-resort.com
SHARK DIVING Ask and ye shall receive
The Red Sea has some of the best diving spots in the world, including Elphinstone in Egypt. Elphinstone Reef is one of the world’s most exciting diving destinations as it offers an attracting range of marine wildlife from rich and colourful corals to hungry barracudas and sharks. The two popular shark species here are the Oceanic whitetip and the oddly-shaped Hammerhead – both are categorised as vulnerable to extinction and endangered respectively.
Though the sharks may seem like a danger point to some, it really is the locality of the reef that makes it so infamous. The Elphinstone Reef lies in the open sea around 12km from the coastline at Marsa Abu Dabbab (a popular beach and bay near Marsa Alam’s Hilton). The constantly changing currents make it the perfect destination for professional drift diving, while wall diving enthusiasts are also commonly seen here.
Its reefs are 300m long with walls that drop to spectacular depths of more than 100m.
The only disadvantage of diving at Elphinstone is its popularity and proximity to Marsa Alarm. Being one of the renowned sites in the Red Sea, there are usually several liveaboards or day trip boats moored around all day. Despite this, it remains a challenging site for advanced divers due to its open ocean site and strong currents. If you do happen to make a booking with Emperor Divers, do take note that you have to log at least 30 dives in the Marine Parks and are expected to be able to complete each dive with a buddy or the guide. The guides are not permitted to remain onboard as surface support for the divers, and no night dives are allowed in the Marine Parks as it is too dangerous.
EMPEROR DIVERS // +20 0 122 735 3581 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.emperordivers.com
WRECK DIVING Shipwrecks and more
SS Yongala is a passenger ship that sank off Cape Bowling Green, Queensland, Australia in 1911 and has since become a world-renowned wreck diving spot. More than 10,000 divers visit the wreckage annually and at 110m long, she is one of the largest, most intact historic shipwrecks in the world. The Maritime Museum of Townsville has an extensive display of Yongala memorabilia.
The wreck lies in the middle of a flat, sandy shipping channel about 30m deep, and is the only solid structure to be found within the area. Despite this, the rudder, aft, forward masts, engine and steam rooms, toilets, port-holes and name are still highly visible even after 100 years of being submerged. The historical wreck is a cultural landmark and highly protected. Divers are no longer allowed to head into the wreck so as to prevent corrosion casued by air bubbles being trapped inside.
However, the wreck is brimming with life – brightly colour corals, hydroids and sea fans call this wreck home, and because of its hard and large façade, it attracts large pelagics such as barracuda, sharks and other fishes. This unique diving adventure may vary from 1 – 7 days. Recreational diving depends on a certain level of luck, with a lot of considerations on wind, tides and weather conditions. If the dive may seem too difficult on the planned day due to windy or bumpy sea conditions, then the dive will be shifted to the protected Great Barrier Reef zone.
If you make a booking with divethereef, you can easily access the majestic wrecks from Townsville and its resort islands. Townsville is a short flight away from either Sydney or Cairns, making it highly accessible.
DIVETHEREEF // Australia: 1-800-101-319 // email@example.com // www.divethereef.com
ANCIENT TRADITIONS & RAYS GALORE Yap has it all
Yap is located in the western Pacific Ocean as part of the Federated States of Micronesia. It consists of the Yap Main Islands and the Yap Neighboring Islands, surrounded by common coral reef.
The people of Yap are generally warm, shy and proud of their cultures and ancient traditions. The island is also commonly known as “Land of Stone Money”, as these artefacts can be found around the island. The huge coins can stand up to 3.5m in diameter and are sometimes still used in local customs. Folk dance is one of the traditional forms of art that has been passed down for entertainment purposes.
In the surrounding waters, you can expect to find large populations of residential manta rays all year round. In winter, the mantas congregate in great numbers in Mi’l Channel for the mating season and cruise back and forth the channel in large numbers. It is also the ideal time to observe their courtship behaviour and dances. In summer, they spend their day cruising the Goofnuw channel and into the protected barrier reef zone, slowly circling and passing within inches of divers.
Apart from ray watching, there are lots of gentle slopes and channel drifts to uncover within the waters. Yap offers a wide range of diving experience from colourful marine to coral life. Other popular dive sites include the Yap Caverns (a network of caverns and canyons notched out of the coral wall adorned with rich soft corals), Vertigo (centre section of wall that contains the steepest and deepest drop-off on the west coast of Yap) and Spanish Wall (slow drift dive past steeply descending slopes).
MANTA RAY BAY RESORT // +691 350 2300 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.mantaray.com
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Images: Papua-Diving; Laszlo Ilyes; Luke Atkinson/Emperor Divers; Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort; Dive the Reef