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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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April 2023    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 49, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Damai II, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

from the April, 2023 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Raja Ampat seemed to offer the best diving on the planet, so I've been eager to visit for some time. At last, I selected an itinerary aboard the Damai II, sponsored by Blue Water Dive Travel, which covered a swath from the central islands to the northern ones and then to the southern islands. Along the way, I learned that the best diving on the planet does not mean every coral, fish, and critter rolled into one, day in and day out.

MY Damai IIOn my third day out, I did have that near-perfect diving. After we anchored near Sauwandarek Village jetty in Pulau Mansuar, I descended past several two- to three-foot barracuda, then kicked along a stunning healthy coral garden, meeting up with a large green sea turtle. She didn't mind my intrusion, but an inconsiderate photographer stuck his camera in her face . . . . goodbye turtle. I kicked up to the old pier where hundreds of sergeant majors darted about. In deeper water, a massive school of yellow-tailed fusiliers intermingled with a great school of jacks to become an enormous wall of fish so thick I couldn't tell if a diver was behind them. I hung out for eight minutes watching the show. Would it all be like this?

When I arrived at the hot and humid Sarong airport at 6:30 a.m., I was met by Mika Hollnbuchner, an Austrian, formerly an IT professional and now the cruise director of the Damai II. After a quick drive to the harbor and a short haul on the dive skiff, I climbed aboard the striking, ironwood craft with shiny teak decks. Built in 2011, she's a 40-meter diesel-powered craft, showing just a bit of wear, that accommodates 12 divers in 7 cabins with a crew of 20.

My spacious air-conditioned cabin had a double bed pushed up against the bulkhead, giving me plenty of room. The ceiling had been taped in a few spots to prevent water from dripping on the bed, which it did, but overall the room was comfortable, and the large bathroom shower had plenty of hot water and a bench to sit on....

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