This trip to the Banda Sea was the best liveaboard experience of my young life. The Archipelago Adventurer II is a newly constructed Phinisi, a traditional Indonesian sailboat. She had luxurious, comfortable staterooms, a spacious camera room and an expansive aft deck that allowed the passengers to eat their meals outside. It was truly a remarkable vessel and one that we graciously called home for 10 days.
The diving in Banda is world class. We had the privilege of seeing much of the macro life on my bucket list. The trip started with a few days wall diving off Band Neira, where the hard corals were so bountiful that you often couldn't find one inch in which to place your reef stick. Many of these dives began at 60 feet, but were quickly moved to shallower water as all the divers were anxious to see the colorful coral gardens resting atop the vertical drop-offs.
During the middle of the trip, we spent a few nights off Banda Neira and frequented the Mandarinfish sites where we were able to glimpse them mating at dusk. This was an incredible experience as these fish are often remarked as the most colorful fish in the sea. On our last day in Banda Neira, a motivated group of hikers decided to skip the morning dives and climb two thousand feet to the top of the volcano that dominates the backdrop of this area. Having recently erupted just twenty years ago, the volcano continues to definte the landscape both above and below the waters of Banda Neira. Mysteriously, the hard corals growing at the point where the lava hit the sea are growing at ten times the average rate of normal coral growth- that's ten inches a year! Scientists have yet to determine why this is the case.
We then concluded the trip in Ambon, muck diving along the shore in the harbor. This is where I crossed paths, within a matter of two minutes, with a weedy Rhinopias scorpionfish and psychedelic frogfish incubating his eggs. This was my favorite all-time macro dive and the source of my favorite five macro photographs from Indonesia. On the last day, we took the skiffs into Ambon and played pool for a few hours at a local dive bar, completely immersing ourselves into the Indonesian culture. That night, the crew played live music after dinner and we then moved the party to the upper deck where we danced until the wee hours of the morning. What a way to end the best live aboard trip ever!