January 19, 2016

As we begin to prepare for our upcoming trip to Indonesia this fall, I reflect on my past experiences with this incredible country. One of my first dive trips and by far the longest distance I had ever traveled, Misool, the eco-resort in Raja Ampat, will always remain very dear to me. With five grueling flights, one night spent in Jakarta, a five-hour boat ride, and a 14-hour time difference, I was rather eager to begin exploring these marine protected waters. An idyllic little community of water cottages located in the heart of the coral triangle, I was about to embark upon world class diving. As the rookie of the group, I had no idea what I was in for. Baby black tip reef sharks would swim up to the white sand beaches while the bigger ones waited until I’d go snorkeling to scare the newbie out of me. I even had my first night dive in these pristine waters and I tried to put on a brave face. With little room for error and lots of creepy red-eyed buggers staring at me, it was hard not to imagine the Loch Ness monster coming after me from the depths. It’s memories like these that are fun to recount, but I’m happy to replace them with more courageous sounding ones.

Diving in Indonesia, Past and Future There was one experience, however, that will gladly stay with me forever–my first encounter with a manta ray. The dive guides warned us that it wasn’t likely we would see one, but I remained optimistic. On one of our last dives, we headed to Grouper, a small underwater plateau surrounded by millions of fish. Sardines traveled in swarms so large that they blocked out the sun, seamlessly swimming around us and the many pelagic fish and rays that hunted them. Spoiled rotten, I even got a glimpse at my first stonefish, octopus, and wobbegong shark. I was enthralled with this coral-covered balmy and even hung upside down with my head in a hole willing a scorpion fish closer to me. That’s when I heard it. Feverous tank banging and the closest you can get to screaming underwater woke me out of my Scorpaenidae trance just in time to see a giant Pacific manta ray, three times wider than I am tall. It was flapping its massive wing span eight feet in front of me, consuming my entire line of vision. My heart stopped. Moments later, I swam so hard to keep up with it that my fins came off and my computer began alerting me that it was time to surface.

Diving in Indonesia, Past and Future Now, two and half years and nearly 200 dives later, it is clear that I have come a long way. With my memories from the past fueling my excitement for trips in the future, I eagerly await being greeted by this unbelievable country yet again. Indonesia, we’re coming for you.

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