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Journal Entries for 2015-09 Singapore to Raja Ampat Expedition Part II

OVERALL SUMMARY: We flew from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Singapore at the end of our Thailand, Laos & Cambodia Land Tour. This was a transition from the Thailand, Laos & Cambodia Land Tour to the NatGeo Orion Expeditions. All of the pictures in this album were taken with the two red Tough TG-3s or the GoPro.

We had one day of rest in Singapore (Journal #2) before we joined the NatGeo group. We had a short tour of Singapore (Journal #3) with the NatGeo group and then boarded the NG Orion. The Expedition Team was Michelle (Expedition Leader), Taylor (Asst Expedition Leader), Chris (Naturalist/Dive Master), Marieke (Naturalist), Steve (Naturalist), Tom (Naturalist), Adam (Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor), Ian (Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor), Mike (Undersea Specialist, Caitlyn (Divemaster), Eric (Video Chronicler), Dennis (Ship's Physician) and Jeff (National Geographic Photographer). Also onboard we had two Global Perspectives Guest Speakers; Lawrence Blair and Birute Galdikas. Birute Galdikas is a Canadian anthropologist, primatologist, conservationist, ethologist, and author, known as the world's foremost expert on orangutans. She is currently a Professor at Simon Fraser University where she specializes in studies of primate behavior, ecology, and evolution, with a particular focus on orangutans. Well known in the field of modern primatology, Galdikas is recognized as a leading authority on orangutans. Prior to her field study of orangutans, scientists knew little about the species.

We had two Expedition Days of water activities. We went snorkeling twice each at Pulau Lintang (Journal #4) in the Anambas Archipelago and Jankulun Island (Journal #5) in the Badas Islands. The waters were warm and the snorkeling refreshing. We were glad to be back in the water. On very first snorkel I found a blue-spotted stingray hiding under a rock. This was a great start to our expedition to Raja Ampat.

Then we had an At Sea (Journal #6) day with several presentations before we arrived in Borneo to spend two days with the orangutans!! Dr. Birute, the founder of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), was onboard with us, so we learned a lot about the orangutans prior to visiting them. We spent time at Camp Leakey (Journals #7-#10) and the Orangutan Care Center (Journals #11-#12). What a great experience that was. We went to two different feeding stations where we watched them "in the wild" as they came out of the forest to have a snack. All of them, except for a special male, were females with their babies. We went to the Juvenile Exercise Area and the Nursery. We got to hold one of the very young orphans.

We had an At Sea (Journal #13) day on the way to Komodo Island. We went faster than expected, so we had time to snorkel at Satonda Island (Journal #14) in the afternoon. The next day we spent a morning searching out Komodo Dragons at Komodo National Park (Journals #15-#16)! They are ugly beasts and very dangerous. The guides carried forked sticks to fight them off, if necessary. The groups of komodos that we saw were very lethargic, so the sticks were never needed. Later that afternoon we snorkeled some near Komodo Island (Journal #17)

Our next stop was at Watublapi (Journals #18-#20) on Flores Island. This was a small village up in the mountains that still does ikat weaving. All the work is done by hand and the dyes are naturally grown. As part of the cultural experience, we were all given some betel nut. That was a really interesting experience, even if I didn't chew it enough to get the buzz.

We had another At Sea (Journal #21) day before we arrived in the Banda Sea and stopped at Banda Neira (Journal #22) in the Spice Islands. We were greeted with a couple of war canoes. We'd been here before, so we didn't join the city tour. We walked around on our own, went through the market, passed by the church and climbed up to Ft. Belgica for the fantastic 360 deg views. The school children came up to us, usually in pairs, with questions in English written in their books. In the afternoon, we rode in the glass bottom Zodiac and then did some snorkeling at Gunung Api (Journal #23), the active volcano. We were getting near the end of this expedition, so that evening we went to the Crew Show (Journal #24).

Then we finally arrived in Raja Ampat for the last three days of our expedition. We started in Kabui Bay (Journal #25) with a sunrise cruise through "The Passage" between Waigeo and Gam Islands. We snorkeled off Kri Island (Journal #25) in the Dampier Strait. This was not quite what we expected for Raja Ampat snorkeling. The second day in Raja Ampat I joined the group up before sunrise to hike into the Waigeo Island forest for a glimpse of the red bird-of-paradise (Journal #26). Our small group was not successful. In the afternoon, we snorkeled Arborek Island (Journal #27) just off of the beach, with locals wading in the shallows. There were huge clams here, but that was about it! Again, not quite what we expected for Raja Ampat snorkeling.

On our third day in Raja Ampat, we finally went to Alyui Bay (Journals #28-#29) on Waigeo Island. This was the same place we'd snorkeled before in May 2014, finally! This was a fantastic 3-hour snorkel. We spent over an hour snorkeling around and around our favorite rock. We saw a small spider, a manta shrimp, lobster antenna, a lizardfish, our first nudibranch, a scorpion fish and a banded sea krait! Absolutely fantastic!! But, then we had an afternoon Zodiac cruise (Journal #30) deeper into Alyui Bay instead of another snorkel opportunity. We had only 4 At Sea days and snorkeled a total of 10 times during the 16-day expedition.

Then we arrived in Sorong, New Guinea for the change in personnel and guests. We left the Orion (we even had to pack to change cabins) and went on a Sorong city tour (Journal #31). That was the end of our Singapore to Raja Ampat Expedition and the start of our Raja Ampat to Rabaul Expedition on the NG Orion.

0103-Map of Singapore to Raja Ampat.jpg

0122-Orion from Zodiac, Pulau Lintang.JPG

0196-Corals & blue spotted ray, Pulau Lintang.JPG

0705-C&N holding baby orphan at Orangutan Care Center.JPG

1169-Dragons, Komodo NP.JPG

2215-Corals, Alyui Bay, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat.JPG

2217-GBZ at rock, Alyui Bay, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat.JPG

2248-Corals, Alyui Bay, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat.JPG

2272-Corals, Alyui Bay, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat.JPG
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