Raja Ampat – West Papua (1) – Visiting on a Budget

Picture perfect fairytale Raja Ampat

Part 1

Visiting Raja Ampat on a mid-range budget

Raja Ampat is arguably one of the finest destinations in the world for underwater exploration with a tank on your back.  Despite the challenges of getting there, paying for the privilege (it’s expensive, but it is a privilege), and the sometimes tricky diving conditions (unpredictable currents and some questionable equipment standards), and even taking into account our overall experience (which was not particularly positive) we cannot deny that it has got to be up there with the world’s best diving experiences.  The diving is amazing (what we saw of it anyway).  But what happens when we visit?  We are both struck down with nasty ear infections wiping out a week of diving for each of us.

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Banda Islands – Maluku – A Potted History (1)

Gunung Api – the volcano that dominates the landscape of the Banda Islands

The Spice Islands (or if you want to be pedantic “The Nutmeg Islands”)

Banda is all about colonial history, nutmeg and mace.  It is also surrounded by azure seas, pristine and is an underwater paradise. These tiny islands are dominated by Gunung Api located in their centre, the active volcano across the bay from Bandaneira, a constant reminder of the precarious position on some fault line along the earth’s crust.

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The Boat Trip Incident

The big boat

There was a little incident on a boat trip while we were in Donggala.  One of the German guides was to accompany us on a day trip to two dive sites across the bay.  Paul was a tad disappointed it wasn’t one of the Indonesian guides because the German tended to get quite cross with him, for example, for failing to provide a running commentary on his air supply.  Her mantra was “The dive is my responsibility, I am the guide” and when it’s said over and over again in a German accent it can get a bit tedious to a fairly experienced diver (particularly as he seemed to be unfairly singled out for this sort of treatment – he is neither reckless nor irresponsible).  And anyone that knows the Wooky will know he doesn’t take too kindly to being told what to do by anyone.  Ever.  Me, I was tolerating a lot of hectoring, given my novice status, happy to accept any advice thrown in my general direction.

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A Lesson in Patience

It is the middle of September 2015 and we are reaching the limits of our patience.

The house was put on the market in May and we are at the mercy of that uncertain process.  We cannot make any firm plans, book flights, enrol on courses never mind hazard a guess at when we might land back in the UK for a whirlwind visit before heading off again.  We remain in suspended animation until we exchange contracts.

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