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Dive Safari Vessel AMIRA M/S

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The MAGIC MOUNTAIN is an underwater knoll rising from 50m to just 3m, with another such mount nearby, and is a favourite site, but dive-vessels must first obtain permission from the local Misool resort, which runs the Misool Foundation. Its mission is to safeguard these biodiverse reefs through the empowerment of local communities. The resort told us that manta rays were about, boosting excitement levels as we kitted up. Ading, the dive guide led the group down a sloping saddle and across to the other pinnacle at 20m. Almost on cue and from out of nowhere a giant oceanic manta appeared, followed seconds later by two others swooping in over our heads. The divers from the boat hovered in a semi-circle around the reef and together we watched a jaw-dropping performance as the mantas looped around us. We slowly moved back up from the deeper reef to spend the last 20 minutes investigating the shallows, but the manta followed us, performing more gyrations. Divers are not allowed to swim towards mantas, one of the rules strictly enforced by the marine park authorities, so we waited patiently as they came to us. The whole cleaning process is fascinating. The mantas come in like gliders and, at the last second, they stall, hovering just over the reef-top while twisting and turning their cephalic lobes and pectoral fins and becoming almost static for 30 seconds or so. Next, an army of parasitic copepods and a variety of small cleaner wrasse come in and remove any unwanted travellers from the rays' skin. If the first clean is not enough the mantas go off and circle the reef before returning minutes later. If you're really ucky you can watch them lining up to get cleaned, like vehicles at a car wash. Diving doesn't get much better than this, offering spectacular reefs and eye- popping marine life. On this trip, I saw many new species including the elusive walking shark, wobbegongs and a multitude of previously unseen macro critters as well as those mighty hammerheads. I have been fortunate to visit some amazing sites over the past 30 years but this trip topped them all. All the sites were pristine and the marine-life abundant. I look forward to discovering more of this region's hidden secrets. The Ship: Traditional workmanship combined with state-of-the-art technology Amira is a wooden boat built locally by indigenous craftsmen according to ancient Pinisi ship builder's traditions. The boat is equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation and security system and top-notch rescue equipment. Amira is 52 meters long and offers 9 comfortable, single and double cabins, each equipped with a personal shower, toilet and natural lighting. In addition, there is a cozy restaurant, a romantic lounge and a very spacious sun and dive deck.
The diving area: With over 600 coral species, a huge variety of colorful macro creatures and many species of fish in all sizes, Raja Ampat is clearly a hotspot of biodiversity. Respected marine biologists have called this area a 'species factory'. In West Papua the Amira visits the most beautiful dive sites of Raja Ampat. The tour leads first to the North of Raja Ampat, where in addition to the fish-rich dives the spectacular landscape also elicit great enthusiasm. The second part of the tour leads to the coral and macro paradise at the island of Misool. Dive sites like Gorgonian Passage, Fiabacet and many others promise overwhelming colorful and fish-rich dives. The highlight of the tour is at the famous dive sites at Daram or Balbulol.

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