The island of Gam – where we are located – is separated from the bigger island of Waigeo by a narrow, winding “river” that is only 20m across in some places. In 1860 the celebrated biologist Sir Alfred Russell Wallace sailed through this channel, noting:
“The entrance to the channel – which resembles a small river – are bordered by precipitous rock, and after winding for about 2km emerges in a gulf studded with numerous rocky islets… forming one of the most picturesque landscapes I have ever seen.”
It still looks very much as he described it, and winding through this channel, surrounded by the hills of the two islands, with cockatoos, parrots and hornbills flying above us, we will forgive you for thinking that you are Indiana Jones traversing a tropical river in search of some lost ancient city!
Leaving at 08:00, our first stop will be The Cathedral, at the entrance to the channel, in the middle of “the gulf” described by Wallace, now called Kabui Bay. Among the most celebrated dives in Raja Ampat, this is our version of muck diving. One can expect to find some peculiarities, such as Stonefish, Dwarf Cuttlefish, and Ghost Pipefish, among a variety of exotic sea slugs, partner gobies and blind shrimp.
With so many exciting options to choose from, most divers end up deciding to return to The Caves for a second dive. The dive begins in one of the numerous protected bays, where we shelter just beyond the swift moving water, as the channel funnels between the islands. We spend some time on the lookout for current lovers like Bumphead Parrot Fish, Turtles, Barracuda, and even some sharks. Moving closer to the island slope will bring us to small caverns with openings at the top, allowing shafts of sunlight to illuminate the enclosure. This is where jungle meets ocean, and you will have a hard time deciding whether to look for Archer and Razor Fish against the background of forest, or for the surreal appearance of hanging Cardinal Fish among encrusting sponges and tunicates on submerged tree roots.