We arrived at the Yangyakenes homestay in the early afternoon, and Dylan and Stephanie’s friends (Curtis and Lyndsey) were waiting for them. It had been a very difficult process finding each other, so everyone was glad that was over. We were showed our rooms, met some of the family (very little English at this one!) and they served us a nice lunch of rice, fish and veggies, the usual! We were told there was a dive resort nearby and they had beer (!!) so that was our plan for the afternoon. And they had nice lounge chairs and western music! This was about as luxurious as it gets in Raja Empat. After 3 large bintangs each we headed back and enjoyed the sunset from Dillon and Stephanie’s and Curtis and Lindsey’s shared bungalow, which sat over the water. They also had a bottle of vodka conveniently waiting. So it was a pretty rowdy night and everyone was a bit toasted by the time dinner came around. The original plan for the next day was to wake up at 3:30am to hiking in the jungle to look for the Wilson’s bird of paradise, which to my surprise, people still wanted to do. I was having no part of this expedition!
And as you might have guessed it failed pretty miserably. Dylan was still passed out, Lindsey threw up and had to turn back. The two that made it all the way waited around and didn’t see one. I was happily in bed, sleeping in. Later that after we were fully recovered and went to check out a bat cave. It had two bats in it, and they tried to catch one, but were unsuccessful. I also checked out the local village, which is quite nice with all the fishermen coming and going and lots of kids playing about.
At this point I was getting pretty anxious to start doing some diving, so I hopped on the boat with the dive shop next door. It worked out pretty well, as I could enjoy all their amenities while only paying for the diving. They let me eat both breakfast and lunch there, which both had a much better selection than what I was used to at the homestays. Unfortunately for the diving, I had arrived during a time of unusually bad visibility. Of course there are tons of fish everywhere, as Raja Empat is known for having the highest amount of marine biodiversity in the world, but you can’t really see out into the deep and the corals kind of look dull and muted when the water isn’t so clear. But in the first few dives we still saw some wobbegong sharks, moray eels, a giant monster stingray, some mantas off in the distance, along with big schools of barracudas. But conditions were far from being ideal.
I also had my first underwater freakout! Because the current was strong we were doing a negative entry (meaning you don’t stop and group up at the top, you just go straight down), but I still had some air in my BCD so it took me a bit longer to get down. This meant that the current pushed us further from the reef than we wanted, so we had to battle it to get back to the reef. And this current wasstrong! The divemaster was ahead of me and after a few minutes of kicking I felt like I couldn’t outkick the current anymore and I was going to get blown away. Then I felt like I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs and before I knew it I was hyperventilating underwater. It was a really frightening, my heart was beating a million times a minute; it was the first time anything like this had happened to me before. I didn’t know what to do at first, my initial thought was to go up to the real air at the surface, but I knew that wasn’t a good idea. As I was huffing and puffing huge amounts of air the divemaster came over, attached a reef hook, and we stayed in place while I eventually calmed down. I guess in the end it wasn’t that serious, just wasted a lot of air, but it was certainly my scariest diving moment to date. But then the next dive was fine, and it was back to diving as usual. Sorry no underwater photos though :(
The next day I got some sort of stomach bug where I threw up twice and basically slept for like 20 hours, so that day was a wash. But after that I was feeling much better and then I headed off to Kri to catch up with the Canadians while the rest of the group went back to Gam, where they already had reservations booked.