Special Liveaboard Charter Trips for Underwater Photography,
Raja Ampat Liveaboard Diving
City Seahorse Specialty Dive Trips
recommended in "Clean Breaks:
500 New Ways to See the World"
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2015 Indonesia Dive Trips Schedule
Underwater Photo Trips - Underwater Video Trips
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|2015 Raja Ampat
|WHAT:||Liveaboard Dive Trips focused on underwater photography, underwater video & maximum diving|
|WHERE:||Raja Ampat Islands, Irian Jaya (West Papua) Indonesia; the far west end of New Guinea Island|
|HOW:||Indonesian liveaboard "SMY Ondina" with extra dives, services, menu, and special itinerary|
|WHY:||Special trips dedicated to producing top quality underwater photos and underwater video, escorted by experienced Raja Ampat guides, limited participation.|
|COST:||As above, boat only. Inquire for guaranteed single cabin, and air flights. more info|
|MORE DETAILS:||see 2015 & 2016 Raja Ampat Dive Trip Information|
|email us about
these Liveaboard trips
Healthy reefs, unusual reef structures and dive sites. Unusual dive sites and the most diverse marine life area ever recorded. Huge schools of fish: barracuda, surgeonfish, fusiliers, batfish, sweetlips... macro creatures: blue-ring octopus, pygmy seahorses, double ended pipefish, shrimp gobies, nudibranchs, and loads of reef fish. Beautiful unspoiled topside scenery.
This is a trip you will never forget.
About US and the TRIP:
We've spent over many months creating images and video on 4+ dives per day in the area over the past 15 years and know the reefs and conditions necessary for optimal image and video making. we've made over 40 trips with a group (we're addicted!) here. Raja Ampat is where we want to go for our diving holiday, so join us and find out why.
Since 1999, Deb has written several dive magazine articles, created several websites for the area (more to come), has contributed photos to dive magazines in Asia, the USA and UK, presented shows at DEMA, Seaspace, UPS & dive club meetings and wrote the Raja Ampat section of the Periplus Guide to Diving in Asia.
Download an article on Raja Ampat's Diving from the Scuba Globe Magazine.
While our guides have been excellent at finding the reefs, they have not been aware of the conditions photographers' need in order to create outstanding images. We've worked it out.. although with much arguing and stamping of feet !
We've dived many of Raja Ampat's best sites dozens of times and we've explored by small boat many areas that our liveaboard trip will visit. In our exploration and time in the area we've also dived sites that were a waste of time ( note.. unfortunately now some of the famous ones!). We'll be giving those a miss on these trips.
This will NOT be an exploration trip. Although we will try a few new sites, we don't believe photographers and videographers should spend this much money and their time searching for places where they might get a decent photo.
Different trips offer different sorts of underwater photography instruction. Some trips include dedicated underwater photo courses that are most suited to beginners and intermediate level photographers. The other trips offer assistance for any level but especailly cater to experienced photographers who only need to be in the right place during best conditions and best subjects to create their extraordinary images.
We always offer a well-organized trip with all the details worked out.
We strive to include only compatible divers & photographers on our trips so that everyone has a great time as well as brings home great photos.
Over the past 20 years of arranging dive trips for groups to Indonesia, the Caribbean and the Philippines, we've learned a great deal about what most photographers want from a dive trip... i.e. great diving, freedom to get that perfect shot, good tasty food, comfortable accommodations, stable electrical supplies ! and a congenial group to share the big finds and photo conversations.
We do screen our guests, and require they behave themselves while on our trip... so if you are grumpy, want to hog photo subjects found by the guides and your desire is to be unhappy and let others know, .. please find another trip.
We receive heaps of praise for our organized trips. References readily available from previous trip members! Some have done this Sorong-Sorong trip up to 9 years in a row!
Don't delay. If you want to see Raja Ampat in all its glory.. get there ASAP.
Water Temp :
The water temperature is 1mm neoprene or polartec diving, usual temperature is 84-86F with an occasional "chilly" 82F spot. We've had no problem with cold when diving 4 -7 long dives per day.
These islands are very close together. We plan not to make long journeys, but to keep the boat in an area for several days and dive the sites surrounding that area as conditions (current, angle of the sun, time of day) provide the best photo ops on a site. We aren't into crossing oceans, we're here to see the marine life and get those images.
We choose the best season for diving the area. In fact, the liveaboard organized the rest of their schedule around our trips. The seas are typically flat.. like glass in some areas. Through the surface, split images and surface reflection shots are often possible.
Wide Angle Photography:
There are VERY unique formations and unusually large schools of fish that make this an excellent area for wide angle photography. Again the trick is getting into the right spot at the right time. Sometimes this means you must be able to descend quickly to get down and out of the current. The same reef can be amazing or boring depending on the current & light. Sometimes the sites are shallow and you need to look near the surface for the best photo ops. We'll tell you what is special about each dive site during the pre-dive briefing.
Can be done on nearly every site.. if you just ignore all the fish... We have several sites that we particularly like for macro. The silty bays, although not "clean" have abundant and unusual macro life. No pollution though.. only clean dirt out here. We always see pygs (pygmy seahorses), nudibranchs.. there are unusual small fish, a newly discovered species of epaulette shark, the "Walking Shark".. the ever present anemone fish, sometimes blue-ring octopus or flamboyant cuttlefish.... we've seen a lot of the allied cowries on the soft corals.. really just too much to name.. please ask about macro.
While there is a lot of current on certain sites, we do NOT want or plan to drift and try to take photos (with one exception). We do NOT want guests to be struggling with camera gear in strong currents. If you don't know how to dive in current, let us teach you.. that is the #1 specialty that doesn't get taught. We've noticed that many divers are afraid of current simply because they do not know how to deal with it. (note.. we can drop divers who don't like the current behind the reefs in protected areas.. they won't see the best diving, but whatever makes them happy.. we'll do it).
Underwater Photography Gallery
About Our Previous Raja Ampat Dive Trips
The best things I can say about our previous trips, is that around 50% of the divers signed up future trips! We have many repeat guests but always welcome new ones too... and hope they are happy enough to join us again too.
Our 2004 -2013 trips were a success. Our method of diving for photos appealed to the participants as did the special menu, extra dives, extra services and the improvements to the ship we requested for our trips.
Each year, underwater photographers on our trips win the top prizes in the photo contest. Not too shabby!
We don't want to give away all our secrets, so after reading our web pages, send us an email or give us a call (817.626.0636) so we can tell you all the details.
In summary, everyone loved the ship. Many said it was the best organized liveaboard for diving they'd seen. Our special menu was a hit.. again, many said it was the best liveaboard food they'd ever had.. even comparing it favorably to luxury land-based resort restaurants.
And the cabins... , all the divers really liked the cabins. They were spacious, clean and comfortable.. coming out on top of other Indonesian liveaboards for the functionality. Kudos to Ricard for his design of the ship's interior (that's everything inside the hull).
Our Previous Trips
We had two excellent trips. Lots of fishy dives. If I had to choose one outstanding thing about this trip for me it would be barracuda! On many of the dives I ended up swimming in the blue with a large school of them. There were mixed schools, segregated schools and individuals getting cleaned. Expect some good barraduda shots in the 2005 gallery.
During the 1st trip, a couple of spots in the Dampier Strait were favorites for fish. Most of the group got to be surrounded by fish several times.
One of the sites in Misool had a beautiful area at 25ft where a dense shoal of silversides were corralled by hunting jacks all morning. Coming up from the first dive I stuck my head into the dining lounge and rounded up another couple of photographers to come right in. By skipping breakfast, I managed 4 dives in the "coral corral" that morning and finally left it only because I was too tired to continue diving.
On another dive, again surrounded by silversides, Ricard and I were buzzed by a school of Mobula Rays that circled past us many times.
We caught the current just right at one of our favorite sites so were treated to schools of hundreds of cooperative sweetlips and at the top, massive schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish.
On the second trip we had some outstanding fishy dives too. We didn't manage to catch the masses of sweetlips and silversides seen on the first trip, but some of the dives were thick with jacks, barracuda, surgeonfish, fusiliers, chubs and snapper schools.
This was the batfish trip. At one site there was a photographer feeding frenzy on a large school of large batfish that were trying to relax in the "sweet spot" at the edge of a small island. I waited for the frenzy to end (maybe they ran out of air?) and bubbles to dissipate, then spent a few minutes alone with the batfish near the end of my dive. At another site the current was too strong so we were swept past our intended dive area and around the backside where a docile school of batfish provided ample (and excellent) photo ops for the entire group.
We were seeing Wobbegongs on many dives but somehow Hal always missed them. On the next to last day there was a Wobbegong at 12 ft in a good location for photos. I refused to leave the water, keeping an eye on it until the dive tender went back to the ship and brought Hal. Well, Hal had photographed one earlier on that same dive. A different one. But he came anyway and got some good shots of this one as well.
The only downside on this trip.. a shortage of critters compared to all the other trips I've done in Raja Ampat. We had some, but poor Paulino never saw his blue-ring octopus (although Bruce spent time with one on the next trip) and we never encountered even one ghost pipefish. However by the end of each trip, all divers were suffering from "pygmy seahorse fatigue". I found one fan of them at 15 ft. and another area at the same site had red, yellow and orange pygs, plus plucked chicken pygs with a 1 min swim.
The land-based trips we'd done previously had us missing some exceptional night dives and limited us to only 3-4 dives per day. We treat the liveaboard as if it was an island.. not needing to move every dive... and with SMY Ondina's help we've worked out a scheme that photographers really like. We're bypassing some of the problems inherent in liveaboard diving and incorporating some of the best parts of land-based into our trips.
|Comments from Dive Trip Guests|
SMY Ondina is an Indonesian traditional Pinisi ship built in 2001 and refurbished every few years. It is specifically designed and outfitted exclusively for diving. Nitrox is available. It has run many trips in Raja Ampat.
(BTW the sail color is traditional.)
We have separate webpages with medium size photos, boat specs and amenities.. be sure to look at the photo gallery and read the captions.
Liveaboard Dive Trip Includes:
Two guaranteed single cabins are available on each cruise at a small extra charge. Please enquire for availability and price.
Please note that due to increasing fuel prices in Indonesia, a fuel surcharge currently applies to most trips. All liveaboards and dive operations in Indonesia have increased trip prices or are adding a surcharge to cover the increase. Read the fine print, conditions and change pages to find these costs which are covered as fuel surcharges, port fees, etc.
TERMS & CONDITIONS FOR THE DIVE TRIPS:
Please read our terms & conditions page prior to sending a deposit.
call us in Texas at 817-626-0636 for information or
If you are interested in this trip we REALLY must speak with you about it There is no way to emphasize how special this area is or whether this trip will be suitable for you without some detailed communication. So, please call or schedule for us to call you.
How to Get to Raja Ampat:
Check our page how-to-get-to-raja-ampat for the most current information on travel to Sorong and Raja Ampat
There are International flights to Jakarta, Bali, Manado and Makassar in Indonesia connecting through Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and other countries.
From the USA you can fly via most major International airport into Asia and connect to either Jakarta or Manado Indonesia.
We recommend flying to Sorong via Jakarta. Some routes use large aircraft and some small aircraft. We can recommend the best, most reliable route for your trip to miminize the risk of cancellations and delayed baggage.
You will be met at the airport in Sorong and escorted directly to your hotel or onto SMY Ondina. In Manado, Bali or Jakarta you will be met at the airport, transferred to your hotel and back. Note hotel and air travel is not included in the trip price.
We are not travel agents but will help you organize your travel which you will purchase directly from an airline wholesaler or through us via an agent in Indonesia. (Note: recently booking online is less expensive and we can help you with that too) We do not charge for this assistance. You can also use frequent flyer miles to Jakarta, Singapore or Bali). We have an arrangement for air tickets with Singpore Airlines from the USA to Indonesia with great prices and terms. Approximate airfare from LAX or JFK to Jakarta is $1300. We keep track of fare sales.
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