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Fakfak Trip Reports

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#1 Graham Abbott

Graham Abbott

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 10:53 PM

Fakfak trip report from our first two trips with recreational divers in this region!

Let me get straight to the point here -- how has the diving been on Seahorse is what you all really want to know. Well, all has been going very well indeed, every diver has been blown away with the boat, it’s level of comfort, now finally with a good chef, the food is also top notch, a little too much western food for a boat operating in Indonesia, though hey, I am not complaining, this is much better than eating local food all the time. One of the 2 new tender boats has arrived and we now have 3 tender boats, though one is only for a back up, which is a fantastic safety plan. I had plans for training programs with the crew, though they are working so well they have saved me a job, all I have needed to do is advise them from time to time on certain small things.

Cici the Seahorse hostess, is certainly the mostest and a great loveable person to have on the boat. The main man, builder and owner, operator Txus has been taking care of everything else, making sure we have great food, he even gets in the spacious kitchen himself and makes his great Spanish specialty paella and other great meals! He makes sure all the maintenance has been going to plan and repairing and organising everything as it needs to be done!

The diving of course is my thing to worry about, which of course has been just amazing and we have had everyone asking to come back next year already. One group leader is already arranging a full group charter for 2007. The only problem for me, too long in between trips and I am starting to get bored and itching to get back out there, not a lot to do in Fakfak!

Oh yeah, we now have slick, padded camera bags for each and every camera, our own design with our all new Diving 4 Images logo on them. Interesting that even our none photographers have made comments on how good they are. I’ll bet ya any money that all the top boats over here start to use them soon… We have even sold quite a few of them and will be having them replaced very soon, so our future photo groups can rest assure their cameras are safe and sound on, and going to and from the tender boats at all times. If you want to buy one of our bags to take home for yourself, please mail us in advance as we do not hold big stock on the boat!

Back to the diving… Well as usual the diving has been excellent... Well any diver that says it’s not shouldn’t really be diving. As we all know every dive has something interesting and if someone can’t find an interesting feature in this area then they need to rethink for another hobbie! The viz’ in this new area as not been crash hot, at times as low as southern Rinca, though believe it or not, I reckon this is even richer than Rinca and Horseshoe Bay (for those of you who have been there, you'll know what I mean). Two sites especailly -- “Little Komodo” & “7th Heaven” are the dogs bollox, now this is an English term for “wow, excellent”, not the bollocks of the dog which if obviously a very derogetory term. We have seen groupers the size of small cars on a regular basis and now also on another new site. On my first survey trip here I had marked a few spots as potential dive sites, we dived one of them, though on the wrong tide, though Kathy, our fittest, most youthful lady managed to stay down for her whole 80minutes plus, coming up as usual with a huge smile on her face, this time raving that this was her favourite, fishy dive of the trip, another top site to add our list of great sites here. We’ve seen huge schools of fish, tons of Napoleon wrasse, baramundi cods and dense schools of small fish that at times get in your way, so much so that you can’t actually see the reef. The reef… yeah, this is another thing, some of the soft corals on a few of the sites are so rich they are actually out of the water on the low tides here. Now think about that for an over under shot, I tell you what, you’ll be seeing plenty of amazing photo’s from these sites coming very soon, already I’ve seen awesome photo’s from a few top photographers. Sadly none of the photographers yet have been so generous as to leave any of their images with me, I’m sure they will send them over to us I good time. There is one site with giant sea fans, even bigger than those in I’ve seen in the Banda Sea and that is really saying something.

I reckon that Eric Cheng, Norbert Wu, David Doubilet and all other great pro’s joining us in the new year will be going nuts here spending lots of time underwater. Here comes for the other great thing here, there are no sites that have any real need to go deep, even the full range of pigmy sea horses can be seen here in often less than 18m of water, a whole range of colours can sizes. We’ve also been offering a great deal of freedom to our divers, in fact I have been trying to encourage photographers to go and dive again when the timing looks at it’s best, we are not a dive school, giving briefings about how to dive, however we will be very happy to take divers who are not so experienced as long as they bring with them an open mind and their joy for marine life, hey we even take none divers, the scenery here is breathtaking in itself and not many tousists ever see this kind of scenery! Which brings me to yet annother thing I love most here, the smells, ah the freshest of fresh jungle all around, we have often smells of jasmine that seem to waft through the air here! We have a few fantastic tender rides, one round hundreds of tiny high sided jungle topped islands, or are they islets, who knows, who cares, they’re gorgeous… There are hidden lagoons for adventurous divers to slide their way into and short walks to view other larger mangroves fringed lagoons. Look up to the sky and there are hornbills flyign overhead, I love the sound of these great birds, when they flap their huge wings they make a sound like a twin prop helicopter flying overhead!

OK yeah, so what about critters and any new critter dive sites. On my first visit here we never really made any night dives in spots that looked critter rich, me I was too knackered from a full day of surveying and finding fishy sites or coral rich sites for the survey teams I was not really in the mood to night dive and especially with no one to guide, it was not going to be as much fun on my own. I did however however have a few places held up in my grey matter that we have since dived a few times checking out their potential. Yeah… we found quite a few very hot critter rich sites, we saw so many ghost pipefish that one guy asked us not to show him anymore, though when they are in front of colourful soft corals… come on, who can resist that, oh and how about finding 6 of these beauts all together and holding together in the mild breeze, that some may call current. Other critters like frogfish – we had the biggest of giant froggies, one gorgeous big red fella who seems to be a resident on one site, we found a few smaller cute little froggies too, fire urchin critters and take a look into the soft corals on the top night dive sites and you have a whole eco-system of the most colourful photogenic critters a photographer could ever ask for. You wanna see Mandarinfish and twin spot gobies, we found a great little spot for these, though we were all too focused on other things. Then what about the walking shark that has been getting so much hype recently. I had one of the worlds hottest new underwater photo talents onboard, can’t say who just yet, we wants to be kept out of the picture for now. Anyway he wanted to make a feature on the “Walking Shark”, he kept asking for a night dive so he could photograph these recently nicknamed “walking sharks”. He had missed one juvenile in the shallows during one night dive, hey, this is what you get from coming up before the dive guide! I kind of knew we were not quite in the right environment, though I kept saying “yeah, you can try on this dive if you want, though we will dive a site that has them later”, each night dive we found great critters yet no walking shark. So when our final night dive came, he was looking a little tense and actually left his walking shark camera set up on the tender rather than giving this his priority, obviously not all that confident in finding any. With only a couple of minutes into the dive we had an adult 3 foot specimen right in front of us posing out in the open, he started to shoot it with his “not really walking shark camera set up” and by the time he looked round I had been up to the tender, came down and handed him his walking shark camera set up. We ended up finding about 5 or 6 walking sharks along with wobbiegongs, frogfish, a few different squids in formation, these were so cooperative that Scott another great photographer managed to get a real winner of a shot of three of these beauties all lined on top of each other. After the dive whilst dining we discussed a decent name for the dive site. Peter Rowlands of Underwater Photography Magazine helped mostly and we ended up calling this site “Walkers Patch”. Thanks Peter!

I had been really wanting to get on land and into the villages to see if there was anything of major interest for divers. Though as the diving was so hot, it was hard to let a dive slip. At the end of the second trip I met an old guy in his dugout canoe, we chatted for a while and it turned out he was the village leader. One great thing he asked was about what we were doing underwater, his main concern being that were not taking any of the reef, sayign that if we took the coral it would leave them with fewer fish, I just loved hearing this and later had to know more about their attitude towards other fishermen coming into their area. He told me that not so long ago a group of Butonese fisherman had came into the area fishing for the small baitfish. Thes Butonese are well known group of hardcore sailors and fisherman known all round Indonesia and beyond for their ilegal fishign methods including bomb fishing. The village leader told me about them breaking coral and their village got together and basically chased them out, they have not been back. Now how about for protection of your own environment. I asked him about anything of interest in or around his village, if they had birds of paradise, traditional dances, music or anything that would interest to us bizarre westerner divers. Birds of paradise were too far for us, we only had a few hours here and many wanted to pack ready for the next days departure. We ended up organising a trip into his village to see a local dance performance, sadly on arrival one guy came up to me looking a little upset saying that all their drums had wholes in and they said they couldn’t perform properly with poor quality drums. We didn’t mind and a had a great time looking round their small village. As usual over here the locals were all so friendly and welcoming, so much so that for sure I’ll be going back here with those keen to see this for themselves!

I am now here thinking myself lucky to have found the only phone line in town that seems to be able handle internet, albeit a mega slow connection, but hey, I’m in no hurry here and I'm kind of enjoying my time making new playlists and listenign to old music I haven't listened to you for ages... of the for love of my iPod. However I can't think is about getting back out there for more diving adventures, I still have a few more places that I want to check out… and of course I am missing my hunny bunny -- Dwi!

#2 MikeVeitch


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Posted 11 December 2006 - 02:28 AM

great report Graham!

Join us for an Underwater Photography Workshop in the Lembeh Strait at NAD Lembeh with Doug Sloss in 2018
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#3 Scubaskeeter


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Posted 18 December 2006 - 06:56 PM

Great report Graham, I like your narrative, whimsical style. The itinery sounds great and good news about the local involvement. Is there a Marine Protected Area in that village's future? I'll be back to Bali soon, thanks for the memories!

Edited by Scubaskeeter, 19 December 2006 - 05:40 PM.

#4 Graham Abbott

Graham Abbott

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 09:24 AM

There is an MPA in the making; this is one of the main reasons I wanted to get a boat into this region. Lucky me, I found a great one, rather than having to compromise comfort which I'm not too good at these days.

I have a big time conservationist joining a trip very soon, then hopefully another charter with a big conservation donor who could help to protect this area. The first thing would be appointing a local patrol to try and prevent illegal fishing practices. The great thing here is that the locals already know about illegal fishing and know they do not want in their area. I was actually scouting for places for such a base; however after hearing this guy go on about his concern for fishing I feel we should let this village have a fishing patrol boat and allow them to look after it themselves. This way they will look after their own back garden. I will be heading back to this village on my next trip through here; this is actually a big priority on the next trip, apart from diving and photographing new species of course!