10 December

Banda Islands is historically known as part of the Spice Islands of the Moluccas. It belongs to  a string of islands south east of Ambon. It has an old Dutch fort and there is a volcano here called Gunung Api (mountain of fire) which erupted in 1988. The lava flow from topside is still all black and it flowed all the way into the sea. Life underwater erupted as well. The corals from the most shallow all the way to the deep was just COVERED by hard branching corals. The coral traffic was intense.

Plate coral continues to grow even after its main plate has fallen sideways from sheer size

Platelets of  coral continues to grow even after its main plate has fallen sideways from sheer size

It was just so busy down there it was coral on top of coral and the plates were enormously gigantic and so heavy, some had already fallen and continued growing after the fall – it made really interesting coral formation. Unfortunately, it was so dark as the sun didn’t want to show itself the whole morning.

Second dive was a mandarin fish dive at 11 am under Hotel Maulana. The mandarin fish were BIG. Still hard to photograph as they were in amongst the diadema sea urchins and never stopped moving. Very easy 3 – 5 meter dive.

Colorful mandarinfish at daytime tucked into stinging diadema sea urchins

Colorful mandarinfish at daytime tucked into stinging diadema sea urchins

Let me kiss you mein liebling says the mandarinfish to the sand. Oh, I meant let me eat you!

Let me kiss you mein liebling says the mandarinfish to the sand. Oh, I meant let me eat you!

Third dive was the same place where the mandarin fish were by the hotel near the anchorage of the small boats by the sea wall. But this time we went further down. There were many many fire urchins but it was hard to find the commensal shrimps and no crabs at all.

Found a really small colmani shrimp in one fire urchin

Found a really small colmani shrimp in one fire urchin

Down at 26 meters, Yogi found a big bright orange warty frogfish.

Warty frogfish stands out nicely against the grey sand. It had what I call small Emmenthal cheese holes all over its body

Warty frogfish stands out nicely against the grey sand. It had what I call small Emmenthal cheese holes all over its body

Then we went to its other side, it had a big bite on its side.

Two deep scars that seem to still be fresh. I hope it doesn’t hurt anymore

Two deep scars that seem to still be fresh. I hope it doesn’t hurt anymore

Then also on this dive we saw a BIG stonefish wedged in a coral. So well camouflaged.

11 December
S3 56.373 E131 12.555 – Pulau Koon

Steamed last night from Banda Neira till 7am this morning to the south eastern tip of Seram to an island called Pulau Koon. Woke up my usual 6am, was given my tea, the way I liked it by the very efficient Pindito steward, and got ready for diving. By 8am, we got ready to get into the water which had a slight current and not so clear visibility. But it was still good.

Hundreds of schooling batfish passed us by at 10 meters

Hundreds of schooling batfish passed us by at 10 meters

The deep wasn’t as interesting as in the white bright sandy shallows. We saw quite some aggregation of different types of fish – black snappers, big-eyed jacks, huge school of batfish, sailfin snappers, longtoms and 2 big monster groupers.

Barrel sponges landscapeed the white sandy bottom of Pulau Koon

Barrel sponges landscapeed the white sandy bottom of Pulau Koon

Did all the three dives in Pulau Koon. There were obviously a big aggregation of groupers here (the ones sold in great quantities to Hong Kong). Edi said there were hundreds more long ago and got quickly fished out for the Chinese market. He observed during this trip that they were coming back. Not in the hundreds, but obviously a little more than before.