Ambon, Bali & The Banda Sea
You don't just wake up one day and hop on a flight to Indonesia for a trip like this. Planning an adventure of this magnitude, to this distant a destination, and chartering a live aboard dive vessel to take a group of friends on a special itinerary takes years of planning and logistics and preparation, not to mention a blizzard of e.mails.
Our trip in Spring of 2008 was no exception — first conceived in mid-2006, under the leadership of Bill Cooper (aka Papa), it morphed signficantly over the next two years as several of the original group dropped out, and others were invited to join in. Eventually Bill himself bowed out of the roster, and the irrepressible Richard Salkin (aka Sapien) stepped up to be our fearless leader — getting us organized, acting as communicator and conveyer of all things salient to the core portion of our trip — a 10 day itinerary on the Archipelago Adventurer II. I believe we would all agree that Richard is one fabulous fellow!
As a group, we had decided up front to go with a lighter load (15) than the advertised capacity for the boat (17 divers), so we would have more room to boom. In the end, we went another passenger light when one of our group unfortunately had to drop out at the last minute due to medical issues. Once we experienced the incredible roominess of the Archipelago Adventurer, with only 14 of us to luxuriate in all that wonderful space, we realized that the next time round (and there will be a next time — already scheduled for 2010), we could include even more of our buddies on another great adventure (and itinerary) and fill the thing up.
Several of our group decided to add on land stays in Indonesia. Cindy (Gunard), Wendy (thefishhead) and Mary (Pismodiver) all braved the advertised less-than-luxurious conditions to stay in Ambon and extend their sampling of the splendid but decidedly grubby muck diving there — Mary and Wendy on the front end, and Cindy after the cruise. Mike (Saudio), Cindy, Mr G and I added on a few days on the front end at Scuba Seraya Dive Resort on Bali. Jamie (Peaches) and Robby added on a week on the back end by diving at Lembeh. Mike (Kiddoc) and Amy enjoyed a few days in the artist town of Ubud on Bali before heading home. I think all of us would recommend adding on extra days in Indonesia if you can afford the time and the finances. I am a particular fan of planning a few days on land before heading out on a live aboard to a remote destination (as we did on this trip) — it is nice to get in the time zone before boarding the boat so as to not be a jet-lagged zombie while doing some possibly challenging dives. In the unfortunate event that either you or your luggage are delayed (been there, done that, on both counts), being on land gives a few days of grace before boat departure for folks or bags to show up.
About half of us met up at the Sofitel Resort in Seminayak (a touristy town near the Denpasar Airport on Bali) the night before flying out to Ambon, where we would meet the boat. Others went to Ambon direct via Jakarta. Inter-Indonesia flights are a puzzlement, and best booked locally by office staff of the live aboard or dive resort. There are a few (hopefully) helpful tips appended to this report, dealing with things like local flights, tourist visas and other hints for making a trip to Indonesia easier.
At the end of our wonderful journey, while we were still on the Archipelago Adventurer, we discussed the possibility of a group effort trip report. We were all so jazzed about the boat and the diving that we thought it would be fun to sing about it in a chorus of voices. Collaborations being what they are, the report has taken ten months or so to materialize :^) I offered to act as straw boss photo and text editor, cobble the report together and host it on Awoosh.com, where I share other travel articles, slideshows, images and information, produced by myself and other guest contributors. Once home, Mike Southard stepped up to do the Archipelago Adventurer write up, I agreed to write a bit about Bali and Scuba Seraya, and I twisted Wendy's arm into writing about her land stay on Ambon. A couple more dive stories were weedled out of some of our group. Several of us turned the screws on very busy Mike (Kiddoc) to get him to pony up some of the extraordinary video he captured on the trip.
Finally, I challenged the many underwater photogs on the trip (all of us are avid, but currently non-professional) to submit their bestest, most favorite shots, and requested that they make some notes about these shots, to share as sidebar stories about our journey. As the report came to life, they were all very generous in allowing me to raid their personal galleries for additional images to try to illustrate the amazing array of life and terrain that we saw. Clicking on any image in the report will take you to a gallery version of that image with captions, and sometimes stories, for each one.
This Report has four parts, in addition to this introduction. We invite you to settle in and immerse yourself vicariously in Indonesia.