Dispatch from Batanta Island
Raja Ampat: a well-known diving mecca. It is diverse and stunning both above and below the water surface. The schools of fish and reefscapes are praised, but it has not been recognized as a macro / muck dive hotspot... until now!
After sailing our yacht through Raja Ampat for over 3 months, we had done more than 100 dives and were a little “wide-angled” out. We had experienced immense colour, soft corals and fish schools for the majority of the dives and we were looking for a change.
We had read about a macro destination at a series of 3 black sand beaches on the SW corner of Batanta Island, about 20nm from Raja’s central town of Sorong. The rest of the island has no recognized dive locations and therefore it is rarely visited by the dive liveaboards. Additionally, the prevailing winds during the dive season make the area exposed with onshore winds. We were in the area and had a 7 day weather window of light winds, so we went and explored. Surprisingly, we found the entire length of coastline to be uninhabited.
We chose some dive locations that looked like they had the right attributes with small fresh water steams, black sloping sand and a small amount of structure. We were rewarded with some incredible diving that in our view was the best macro diving we have ever encountered. When you can see 5 species of octopus (including Mimic, Wonderpus and Blue-Ringed), leaf scorpionfish, frogfish & pipefish, along with dozens of nudibranchs in a single dive, then you know it’s good.
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The 3 long beaches were spread over a 4 nautical mile distance so we used the RIB to explore all 3. The easternmost beach had more structure and soft coral while the western areas were more black sand. At 24m/80ft, the sand floor of the central beaches were full of sea pens that where home to many varieties of small crabs and fish.
On the final day we dived in an isolated corner of the westernmost beach that had very little structure but big vertical washouts in the black sand. The area had the largest amount of nudibranchs and flatworms we had ever seen. We estimated over 350 and around 60-70 different colours/species. We have one photo with 5 different coloured Nudis.
We left after 6 days and 12 dives with a folder packed full quality images. It took us more than double the amount of dives to get a comparable collection of images from locations like Tulamben, Ambon, Lembeh Strait, Alor, Komodo, etc…
Bang for buck per dive, we are confident to call this the best macro location in Indonesia (that we know of). For the macro enthusiasts, try to organize a trip to Batanta Island one day. We recommend a 60mm Macro Lens.
Curious about Paul & Lisa's other photo journies? Read their other travel dispatches linked in the 'Also by' section below:
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