Last Saturday, I went diving again! This may seem like no big deal since I work at a dive resort. But it’s actually been almost one year since I last put on my dive gear and rolled over backwards from a boat! Without guests and no income since last April, we didn’t go diving to save fuel and money. I often went snorkelling at our house reef which is lovely, and I still enjoy it very much. But only when I was down there did I realize how much I had missed it! I had almost forgotten how utterly amazing Raja Ampat is under water and felt like the first time I came to this incredible place. If you don’t dive it’s hard to understand what it’s like to dive here. The marine life is just so abundant, you sometimes don’t know where to look for fear of missing something swimming by on the other side.
We actually went for a staff picknick at Yembraimuk island, about 20 minutes by boat from Pulau Pef, and some of us did two dives there. It was also part of the training we started with our dive guides and boat crew to slowly get them back into shape for when we can have guests again. Even though we still don’t know when this will be, it will take them a while to get used to the routine of getting everything ready, give a briefing in English and guide under water again. Since last April, most of them have only put on their dive gear to clean the boats, or on rare occasions such as planting new corals or placing our statues under water. So, it’s win-win – they get to train, and I get to dive!
Before getting in the water I had actually feared I might have forgotten everything about diving after all this time. But as soon as I was in, I felt like a fish in the water again. The visibility was great, and we were immediately greeted by beautiful corals and big schools of fish. From tons of barracudas circling us to at least 5 wobbegong sharks in the sand and under bommies (but also one swimming gracefully in front of our eyes), from flounders in the sand and colourful little nudibranchs on rocks and corals to jacks and mackerels hunting in the blue, from filigree lionfish to fierce-looking scorpionfish, from the shy yellow boxfish, quickly disappearing under a coral, to the mantis shrimp eyeing me suspiciously in front of its hole without moving, from the crocodile fish camouflaged in the sand to big schools of yellowtail fusiliers flashing their colours, from the tiny filefish swimming away as quickly as it could to the big porcupine fish that didn’t seem afraid, from busy clownfish bustling about their anemone to the big bumphead parrotfish, from the giant moray eel showing its teeth to intimidate us to the schools of batfish crowding the blue, from the lobsters waving their antennae hidden in their crevices to garden eels curiously sticking their heads out from the sand - we saw them all and much more. I felt completely flashed and overwhelmed!
Whenever I’m under water, I feel humble and honoured to be able to enter a world that doesn’t belong to humans. I feel like a guest that is invited to look, but not to participate. When I started diving in Australia more than 20 years ago, I was told to «take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles». This is what I still do – look and be amazed! Unless there is a lot of current (Raja Ampat is known for current...), the underwater world feels peaceful, but it is far from quiet. The divers are the loudest with their regulators making a lot of noise and their bubbles stirring up the water. But the fish make their own noise, either by biting off chunks of the reef when feeding or by nibbling on rocks and thereby producing a constant crackling background sound.
It’s a whole new world down there, and I am so happy to be able to experience it while it is still in such good shape here in Raja Ampat. When taking a coffee break between the two dives and also during lunch after the second dive, I constantly reminded myself of the incredible luck I have to be able to experience this beauty, while the rest of humanity is more or less confined to its own four walls and can only dream of coming here some time in the future. My life on the island may not always be easy. But moments like last Saturday make up for everything that I miss here, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest!
I only wish I could share it with you all…
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…