I was told by many people before joining Wilderness Travel’s Snorkeling Raja Ampat trip that it would “ruin” snorkeling for me because the area is renowned for harboring one of the most pristine reef ecosystems in the world. The adventure definitely set a high bar for future snorkeling excursions, but it was beyond worth it! As someone who studied Marine Biology with a focus on coral, I was in heaven! Here are just a few of my favorite memories from the trip.
The sheer number of coral species and the vast fields of healthy coral colonies was mind blowing. Raja Ampat lies in the direct center of the Coral Triangle, and has the highest diversity of coral species of anywhere else in the world, with over 650 species of hard coral. For reference, the Great Barrier Reef has about 400 and the Caribbean has around 60.
Our group encountered many unique species that I hadn’t seen before, like the extraordinarily colorful nudibranchs (also known as sea slugs or Spanish dancers), archerfish, which live in the mangroves and hunt insects on the leaves by spitting water at them, and tunicates, also called sea squirts, which of all the invertebrates, are actually the organism most closely related to humans.
Being off the grid was also one of the highlights for me. It’s so rare to be away from any kind of internet connection for almost 12 days, and it’s amazing how that can make one more present in their surroundings.
Sailing past stunning limestone islands, kayaking in remote lagoons, and enjoying the sunsets and stars at night was such a mesmerizing and rejuvenating experience.
I also encountered the biggest coral colony I have ever seen! Corals like this one only grow a couple centimeters a year, at most, so this colony is probably over 1,000 years old. Coral colonies of this growth form actually have rings that can be used as indicators of past oceanic conditions, similar to how tree rings are indicators of past climactic conditions.
And finally, just a few more coral and anemone photos since I couldn’t get enough. Enjoy!