Family Magazine

Nudging North in Raja Ampat

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem
Getting ourselves out of Sorong (finally). We have almost a month to play in Raja Ampat, which sounds like a lot, but we already know it's going to be impossible to see as much as we would like. So every day we don't leave Sorong is a day we don't spend in the beautiful islands. Not to put a negative spin in it, but we're motivated to get ourselves along.
We're in company with Nalukai and Muscat. They're great fun and we decide that rather than make tracks to some of the more distant (but famous) spots in the region, we'll enjoy our time with them. The level of awesomeness here is all in little degrees of difference anyway, and with waning days to spend together (they are planning to head north toward the Philippines and Malaysia, while we'll be going south to continue through Indonesia)- we want to make the most of our time.
Dawn light Glassy anchorage. Bev and I had the most amazing yoga practice in front of this view!
The first spot is ethereal. It appears to be a jungle-clad shoreline, spiked with inlets, but as we get close we realize it's actually a maze of islands. It's hard to tell where the "main" island is and which are just the fringing islets- there are so many! Waking to see our new surroundings in the early morning light, rising mist helps provide definition. 
misty anchorage it's still impossible to discern the extent of the maze of islets 
Later in the morning, I take the kids for a kayak paddle to explore. The water is very clear, and we can see beautiful fish and corals below. It's so exciting to have our first peek at this famous area! We decide to go around the backside of the islands closest to Totem, only to realize that there's not just one row of them. There are islands after islands after islands. You could get lost in there!
In the afternoon, we blaze out with Nalukai to a dive site called "the passage" at the western end of the bay. We're all really excited to get underwater, and it's fun to be pulled through with the current, but a little underwhelming. A few fields of pretty soft coral, streaming in the flow of the water, but not many fish and not a great deal of variety of either. The underwater gardens that Raja Ampat is famous for are still ahead. 
Back at the anchorage, a dugout with a family on board stops by. The Papuans are from a village around the corner of the bay. They'd like some gas. I ask if they'd like to trade- do they have any fish? No, they don't have any fish- can we give them some anyway? We have full jerry cans on deck- I point out that these are diesel, and we don't have a lot of gas. But we give them a bit anyway, it seems like the right thing to do. That, and we'd rather stay on good terms. It also helps open the good opportunity to ask a few questions, through which we learn that there are crocodiles here. He tells us not to worry, that as long as the sun is up overhead, there is no danger. I'm thinking that he and I have different scales for evaluating danger.
Between the crocs and the coral, we'll be moving on in the morning.

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