We found ourselves anchored in the bull’s-eye of the bull’s-eye of the coral triangle- a massive area that extends from Singapore to South Japan to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The islands here might not look any different from others we’ve visited in the last two months, but don’t be fooled. Below the surface exists something truly unique.
Soft corals clinging to the vertical wall.
There was one island in particular that really blew our minds away! – Batu Rufas, which is a cluster of small limestone islets a few miles East of the larger Penemu. We first experienced the underwater world of Batu Rufas a few days earlier diving the ridge on the SE corner with the team from Sea Sanctuaries. According to the Sea Sanctuaries guys this site was classified as having the second highest species count of fish and coral in the world. Pretty intense!
The dive at the ridge was epic! So good in fact that the next day me and Brian decided to do a second dive at this spectacular spot. After the dive we climbed up to the lookout tower that Sea Sanctuaries is building on the top of the island to protect this unique area from illegal fishing.
The view from the lookout tower was outstanding! We spotted a lagoon on the SW side of the island that looked like a sweet spot to dive. As we had some air left in our tanks we decided to check it out. This ended up being a really awesome decision!
The dive started inside the lagoon, a nice protected spot and a great place to safely leave your dinghy. It’s only about four meters deep but we tied our dinghy to a tree on the wall. The bottom is covered in vibrant healthy coral teaming with fish and critters. But this is just the beginning!
View from the lookout tower of our dive at Bull’s-eye Wall.
Exiting the lagoon we were greeted by 2 sharks (a two meter black tip and a smaller white tip) patrolling the area for food. As the small limestone island enters the water it explodes with life! The wall falls vertically from 0-35 meters, with countless species of soft coral and sea fans cascading down the vertical face. We spent most of the dive along this magical wall drifting in the gentle current running south.
Coral covered wall
In this moment I found myself being filled with an overwhelming feeling of wonder and excitement. Looking up seeing the sunlight glimmering at the surface trying to reach down into the deep, to the right the vast dark blue ocean stretches out making me feel a sense of unease, to the left every millimeter of the wall is smothered with life. It’s hard to grasp everything that’s happening in this complex community of different species, but what makes this part of the dive so incredible is the frenzy of weird and wonderful critters and macro subjects that are found literally everywhere you look. Slowly drifting along the wall we spotted 7 different species of nudi-branch (truly a nudi-hunter paradise!), mantis shrimp speeding between the coral, newborn clownfish within the protection of their anemones struggling to swim in the moving currents, lionfish hiding between the coral waiting for the protection of the dark to start their hunt, and colorful starfish slowly making their way across the reef.
Lionfish waiting for the darkness.
Mantis Shrimp just chillin.
The wall ends on the south side of the island where it reaches up to reveal a shallow window in the limestone providing access back into the lagoon at a shallow 4 meters. This place is truly magical! Big schools of bait fish show up as silhouettes against the bright surface, big red sea fans gently sway back and forth in the current.
Amazing soft coral display swimming back into the lagoon.
School of Fusiliers heading back into the window.
Just inside the lagoon a family of batfish circled around us, being as curious of us as we were of them. At the bottom a bommie covered in numerous species of different anemones creates a small village for seven different families of clownfish. As we swam back towards the dingy four massive bump head parrotfish where gracefully munching away on the colorful coral.
This wonderfully mixed dive site was one of our absolute favorite dives in Raja Ampat. We ended up doing it three days in a row! With its outstanding biodiversity, abundant life, gentle currents and the transformation between the different areas it will always live in our memories. This also became our last dive in Raja Ampat, a bitter-sweet but perfect ending to this two month frenzy of incredible diving.
We ended up spending a week at Penemu with Delos anchored just a stones throw away from from this awesome dive There is a mooring here but the Sea Sanctuary boat Hang Tuah was using it so we found a really nice protected anchorage at 00 34.64’ S 130 16.83’ E. We set the bow hook in 45 meters and backed towards a sandy patch in the reef. It took some effort and about 200M of stern line to set our Fortress in a sandy patch on the reef. The location of the lagoon on Batu Rufas is 00 34.042’ S 130 17.101’ E.