I have been very lucky to visit and to dive in Indonesia twice. First, it was a trans-Indonesian crossing with Jonathan Bird on board the MSY Seahorse. The second time – with Andrew Martinez, staying land based at Maluku Divers Resort on Ambon.
Naturally, as an underwater photography hobbyist, I treasure every shot of the marine flora and fauna that until then I did not even dreamed to observe. But, believe it or not, that was not what left indelible impressions upon my soul. Actually it was people that I was very fortunate to meet during my trip.
At Maluku Divers resort
I can’t say that I’ve traveled all over the world; hopefully that one day I will have the privilege to claim that I did. But as of now, no matter where I went, people that I’ve met, had shown me nothing, but warmest welcome, unassuming smiles, sincere care and genuine commitment to making their guest felt at home.
Andy and I may not have picked the shortest route, but it definitely was the least expensive one. We flew:
- Boston > New York
- New York > Frankfurt
- Frankfurt > Singapore
- Singapore > Jakarta
- Jakarta > Ambon
The total airports/flight time was about 46 hours (including spending one the afternoon and staying overnight in Jakarta) and the cost was close to $1400.
Reading it may seem like a long time, but the actual experience was not bad at all, thanks to the awesome organization on the part of Ultimate Dive Travel. Ken Scarbrough (the owner of UDT) suggested that we take a break in our journey and stay overnight in Jakarta. That would give us an opportunity to ease jet lag, get refreshed and, just in case of luggage delay, we’d have time to let our bags catch up with us. We listened, agreed and arrived in Ambon at the same time with all our gear, revived and ready to dive. (You can fly directly from Boston, via JAL, to Japan and then from Tokyo to Jakarta. That would slash travel time in half, but also bump the price of the ticket to $2000).
I’d like to say a few words about Ultimate Dive Travel. It is true – there is no substitute for experience and knowledge. One can say that UDT knows diving related travel very well. They were efficient and paid attention to every minute detail. At all points of our journey, we experienced nothing but the highest level of organization.
Upon landing, we were escorted to the FM7, a clean and very comfortable hotel, located 10-15 minutes from Jakarta International Airport. We spent one night there and the next morning relaxed and refreshed, we were ready to continue to Ambon.
Upon landing at Ambon a young man met us in the airport and 5 minutes later we arrived at Maluku Divers. There, in comforting shadows of tall palm trees, hugging the shoreline, rested 10 individual bungalows.
Maluku Divers resort
Just a few yards from the cottages, closer to the water, stood a large pavilion, and under its roof were an open dining area, camera room, common area, bar and office. At the side of the building, there were a few separate rinse basins for cameras and regulators. Behind it was the showers with ample area to dry suits, fins and BC’s. Each diver got his/her own shelf to keep an extra mask, keys, towels and any other small items.
The air-conditioned camera room provided each photographer with sufficient space to work. There were numerous electrical outlets, air guns, and fresh towels.
Photoroom. Maluku Divers Resort.
The food was delicious, cooked daily by the top-notch chef. The menu consisted of some local and many western dishes. Snacks, tea and coffee were always available. My favorite treats were coconut sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and peanuts, cooked in garlic and oil, that were prepared by Ingrid. They were disappearing very quickly!
At Maluku Divers Resort.
For our first introduction to the dive team, we brought our gear and for the rest of the stay they took complete care of our equipment. After each dive, everything was cleaned, checked and the next morning loaded on the boat. By the way, each diver was provided with a semi-rigid large camera bag. All we had to do was place our cameras into the bags and the boat crew took care of the rest. In other words, everything was expertly planned and ran like a clock. They did everything to make our stay as easy as possible.
Nus Lobbu is the general manager of the resort. I’ve never seen such a calm, warm and personal attitude towards the guests. He was always extremely attentive and willing to help with any issue from taking care of any immediate dive needs to help with flights and hotel booking. He also happened to be a very adept photographer and would gladly share his extensive knowledge with you. Looking at his wide angle shots made me eager to take my 17-40mm lens much more often than I had planned.
At Maluku Divers Resort.
As you may know, in the Indo-Pacific each day at dusk Mandarin Fish display a mating ritual that is brief and impressive. Nus introduced us to something similar but new, the art of “flasher shooting”. In the late afternoon, the Flasher Wrasses begin their courtship behavior. The male’s colors intensify greatly, displaying their prowess, with hopes of mating with females. In the case of the mandarin fish, one must lie still and patiently wait for the brief, pinnacle moment when pair conduct their reproduction ritual before they disappear in a flash. By contrast, to get a decent shot of a Flasher Wrasse, you must be quick and very responsive to its chaotic movements. The very first time I was only able to get 1 fair shot after watching these nimble fish for more than 20 minutes. Nus, somehow, managed to get more than 10 good pictures. Well, I guess practice makes perfect.
At Maluku Divers Resort, muck diving is the main attraction. In general, it means that you have to spend most of your time searching sandy bottoms for small, unique animals. It may sound boring and in some places that it exactly how it works – lots of swimming … little photography.