I was travelling with friends in our Wharram catamaran "Imajica", which sound luxurious but in reality was essentially a plywood boat tied together with Rope. Think of a Polynesian canoe complete with a grass roof, and you'd be closer to the truth than a modern production yacht.
That being said, it was my first boat. She'd already brought us safely, if not slowly, from Papua New Guinea and were now happily anchored in Sorong harbor the gateway to Raja Ampat.
It was here we met Dave and Din, owner and operator of Shakti, a beautiful traditional Indonesian Phinisi. After a couple of drinks onboard, we retired to Imajica for dinner and a well-earned sleep.
Unfortunately when we woke the following day our dinghy with excellent shiny new engine (we had bought it one week earlier) was missing. We were so tired we had broken our own rule of taking the engine off the dinghy each night and now, well, let's say I'm sure some of the locals were happy that evening.
After some help from Dave and his crew, we found the dinghy sans motor! We bought another new engine and headed South overnight to Misool, Raja Ampat.
Now, if I'm honest, the mood on the boat wasn't exactly celebratory, however, dawn arrival in Misool with the sunrise just beginning to light up the Karst towers was an image I will never forget.
We didn't get to spend much time in Raja on that occasion as we were under some time pressure to get the boat across the Banda sea so our mate "Fluff" could fly back to the UK, what I’d seen was amazing though and I vowed to return.
Roll onto 2012 and Din got in contact with me with an idea to run a freediving liveaboard. I of course said yes immediately and we put out the word to our crew of freedivers in Bali. I can honestly say that even after all my travels, I wasn't prepared for just how amazing an experience it was.
It was June, and there were very few boats still operating. I think we possibly only saw one other boat for the whole week we were there, so it was literally like being in this incredible land that time forgot.
The underwater world was enchanting. One of many standout dives was Cape Kri.
We'd done a long leisurely drift over lush corals and had seen everything from turtles, blacktip sharks, Napolean wrasse etc. etc. Coming into The Cape, the action started to pick up, and we were surrounded by fusiliers, barracuda, snapper and a big school of jacks. On one of my drops, three big grey reef sharks came in for a visit, just so much going on wherever you looked!
The top side scenery was just as jaw-droppingly beautiful. I remember sailing out of an anchorage into the sunset, looking back and seeing the full moon rising behind a jungle topped island. Just wow!
As the trip unfolded, people slowly relaxed and tuned into boat life. Yoga, freediving and soaking up the healing energy of the nature around them, the whole trip was one highlight after another. Still, for me, the mental health benefits of just unplugging and reconnecting to nature were immense and a reminder to take this time out for ourselves.
Since then, I've been running freediving trips to Raja regularly, and I'm always stoked to see that same joy and wonder in the guests faces as we come back from an extra memorable dive or summit a new viewpoint, it's like, "yep it is this good!"
If you haven't already been there, you really should make an effort to go. It's genuinely one of the most unique places I've visited, and given that tourism is a fraction of what it usually is I couldn't think of a better time.
Now it just so happens that I recently connected with Dave from Shakti, and I've been given access to this beautiful vessel in Feb/March 2022. I can guarantee this will be the trip of a lifetime for the lucky few that make it, if you feel called, send us an email, and lets make it happen!
I look forward to hearing from you.
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