Triton Bay remains one of Indonesia’s best – and still largely undiscovered – diving areas. Veteran underwater photojournalist Tim Rock discusses what makes Triton Bay diving so good
Hidy at Little Komodo, Triton Bay © Chris Mitchell
Diving Triton Bay 2020 – Dive Happy Episode 15 Show Notes
- Tim Rock and Simon Pridmore:
Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Raja Ampat and Northern Indonesia
Buy online at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
- Tim’s forthcoming Triton Bay April 2021 liveaboard trip on the Tambora
Tim’s Video from his 2019 Triton Bay Liveaboard Trip
Indonesia’s Main Scuba Diving Areas
Triton Bay Dive Site
Triton Bay Resorts And Liveaboards Mentioned
Dive Happy Triton Bay Trip Reports
- Triton Bay podcast – chatting with the co-owner of Triton Bay Divers, Jimmy Thai
- Diving Triton Bay 2017 trip report
- Triton Bay Whale Sharks
- Raja Ampat to Triton Bay Liveaboard Trip Report March 2017
- Raja Ampat to Triton Bay Liveaboard Trip Report March 2008
- Tambora liveaboard review
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Diving Triton Bay 2020 – Dive Happy Episode 15 Summary
Welcome back to the rebooted Dive Happy Podcast! Today we are once again joined by our friend Tim Rock and this time we are talking about his experiences in Triton, Indonesia. As we find ourselves amid an uncertain and difficult time as travelers, we wanted to share some positive and exciting stories to get divers excited about traveling again as soon as possible, rather than dwelling on the negative news and limitations we are all experiencing. Tim is here to discuss the trip he took during December of 2019, a time when Chris was actually also visiting area, although they were on separate paths. We talk about the untouched beauty of the area, the lush scenery and the contrasting habitats that can be experienced along the way. Tim shares a lot of great details and few anecdotes from his journey, talking about some of the marine life he encountered, the quiet dive-locations he visited and which places he hopes to return to in 2021! Tim has been lucky enough to even have a certain spot named after him, the highest honor for any diver! Join us on the show today as we go deep on the amazing beauty to be found in Triton!
Key Points From This Episode:
Returning to hot-spots, impressive guides, and making the most of what Indonesia has to offer. Tim’s route through Indonesia on the way to and way back from Triton. Feelings about Triton and the types of dives that Tim has been lucky enough to experience. The surprising secrecy of Triton and the pleasure of its quiet nature! The site in Triton that has unofficially been named after Tim! Fish-sightings and the array of marine life in the area. Tim’s surprise with the amount of different fish and sharks that were on display. Chris’ two favorite dives on his trip to Triton! Plans for future trips and how Tim plans to make the most of the time. Encountering busier areas after the quieter ones — a rude awakening! A special sighting for Chris of a dolphin and its baby. Considering the next year or two and the relative quiet that can be expected at diving locations. Beautiful manta-rays and the size and varieties on display in Triton. The trip that Tim is planning for 2021 and the sites he is most excited to hit!
Diving Triton Bay 2020 – Dive Happy Episode 15 Transcript
[00:00:06] CM: Hello and welcome back to the re-launched Dive Happy podcast. We’re recording this at the end of April 2020. We’re not going to mention the sea word, instead we’re going to talk about the great dive destination awaiting for us to return. Divers are amongst the most adventurous travels and they will be the first to travel when they can. So we might as well start thinking about it now. My first guest on the repeated Dive Happy podcast was the first guest on the original podcast, the redoubtable Tim Rock. Tim, welcome back.
[00:00:42] TR: Hello from sunny and rather windy Guam, Chris. Good to hear you again.
[00:00:48] CM: Well, it’s, funny enough, blazing hot in Bangkok as ever. Today we’re going to talk about the trip that both of us did, but we were on separate boats, in Raja Ampa last December, December 2019. Tim, you actually – We’re doing a trip that took in Raja Ampat and Triton Bay and you were remain focused in south of Raja. Is that right?
[00:01:15] TR: Yes. Actually, south Raja is kind of where we ramp the trip up. It was kind of like a little icing on the cake, and most of the time we spent in the Triton Bay area and a couple of secret spots too that we’re on the way.
[00:01:29] CM: Excellent. Oh good! Well, that’s even more what we want to hear about. It’s the secrets. You were on Tambora, right? The liveaboard Tambora.
[00:01:37] TR: Yes. With Guntur’s boat. We’ve used it many times over the last few years and have a wonderful rapport with the captain and the crew and the dive masters and we really enjoyed that ship.
[00:01:50] CM: Yeah. Who prides himself on trying to find these spots that no one else really goes to, because he’s still super enthusiastic about seeking out new place, because obviously that’s both time consuming and expensive for gasoline.
[00:02:03] TR: He is, but he’s pretty clever how he works them in. He might see something that has a little bit of promise in between the normal dive sites of point A and point B and they’ll stop and try to find the place where the current is flowing and the fish might be the most populous. Sometimes it’s a hit and sometimes it’s a miss, but he’ll chart those in on the hits and then we’re the beneficiary or the next time around and then sometimes we’ll do a little exploration ourselves if something looks good.
[00:02:35] CM: Awesome. He’s quite scientific then about his methodology of finding these places.
[00:02:41] TR: Oh yeah! Yeah. No. He marks them out and gives them names and if it’s a really good site, they’ll do a second dive there. So they get a really good lay of the land so the next time they go, they can show people around. I don’t know how Indonesian dive guys in general, and his group remember this. But I mean they may just be going through one area from season to season. So perhaps they’ve just done like a few dives there, but they always seem to remember exactly where to go in and where the hot spot is. Even though maybe the dive guys have only dived once a year or twice a year, somehow they find the good stuff. I just really tip my hat to Indonesian dive guys. They can find the big stuff. They can find the action and they can find the tiny stuff for us and it really makes a photographer’s work a lot easier.
[00:03:33] CM: Yeah, for sure. Did you go in and out of Sorong for the trip, or did you fly straight into Kaimana? Because if you’re spending most of your time in Triton, then that’s a long distance to cover.
[00:03:44] TR: Yes. We flew Sorong and then down to Kaimana, and that’s where we picked up the Tambora.
[00:03:50] CM: Oh right Oh! That’s interesting. I’ve not heard of many people doing that, because obviously normally boats like either arrive Sorong, travel all the way down the coast, dive Raja, dive Triton and then exit from Kaimana. But I’ve not heard of many people doing that internal flight to Kaimana to begin the trip.
[00:04:09] TR: This year, Tambora I believe did four or five different trips around Triton Bay area. He had some coming in and some going and then we were the last ones. We actually went around Triton for about 7 days and then up into Southern Raja and finished up in Sorong.
[00:04:30] CM: How do you feel about Triton? I mean, you’ve been there quite a few times. Haven’t you? Over the years?
[00:04:35] TR: Well, I got really lucky back in the days of Damai doing its exploration, and even before that, the Damai owner, Alberto Reija, he was one of the part owners of the Seahorse liveaboard at one time. It was owned by four Spanish buys, and I’m not sure what the arrangement is now. But back then, they were into finding new places. So I was lucky enough to be on a couple of trips with Alberto, and we went all over and just jumped in the old exploration thing and found dive sites and explored some that were kind of marked with little Xs on the map and it’s very fishy, very colorful, with lots of beautiful corals and lots of black corals and stuff like that, and we really kind of fell in love with the place. The dives really aren’t that deep. So you can spend a nice long bottom time, and usually a lot of them are around areas that are kind of rocky. If it’s a little too [inaudible 00:05:35], you can go hide on the other side of the rock or something and shoot macro. It gives you a really nice variety of places to shoot.
I was looking at my old logs. I think it was back in 2005 or 2007 that we were doing the Triton Bay exploration with Seahorse and then I’ve been lucky enough to go down on a couple Damai trips and I’ve also had a couple Tambora trips. Anytime I get a chance to do Triton, I usually do. Simon Pridmore will be doing another trip in November 2021 too.
[00:06:11] CM: Excellent. Yeah, I mean Triton is really interesting, because I was the beneficiary or your exploratory dives, because the first ever time I dive Raja Triton Bay trip and it was on Seahorse, which is how I met Alberto. That was 2008. [inaudible 00:06:28], the magnificent dive guide, the dive guide [inaudible 00:06:32] dive guides, he was on the boat as well and I remember diving in Triton and it was still very much like, “Whoa! We’re not really sure. We’re just going to jump in sort of thing.” I mean, they had an idea, but not a particularly strong idea.
I remember it being very milky, basically it was low and just absolutely monster soft corals. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. Then when I went back in 2017, it was night and day. Like the [inaudible 00:07:00] was spectacular. Everything you just said about the shallow dives, it was just drenched with sunlight. It was incredible. I was really, really blown away by it, and I’m kind of surprised that Triton – I now see a fair few boats go there, but there’s only one resort. It’s still not really on the map at all in the sense of being – How do you say it? Like a well-traffic dive destination.
[00:07:26] TR: Yeah, that’s actually a little refreshing.
[00:07:29] CM: Yeah.
[00:07:31] TR: You can actually do a trip there and not really see another boat the whole week, and there is a one small dive resort there. Kaimana is not a huge town, so it’s not perfect for re-provisioning like Sorong is. I think a lot of ship don’t want to take the chance of going down there.
[00:07:47] CM: Right. Okay. The logistics is still very challenging.
[00:07:50] TR: Yeah. I mean, it’s still pretty remote. I mean, once you get passed Kaimana, there are not much left.
[00:07:57] CM: That’s very true. Yes. It’s great big stretches of just open shoreline, isn’t it? There’re not actually that many settlements.
[00:08:04] TR: Yeah. I mean, that’s the beauty of the thing. It has those beautiful big rolling hills and a lot of them are all covered in beautiful white clouds and the clouds seem to sometimes descent over the top of the mountains and into the valleys. Coming up after the dive and looking around the bays and all the beautiful hills and jungles is almost as refreshing as the diving itself. It’s pretty special that now in 2020 it’s still as remote as it is and pretty much untouched. I mean, I didn’t see any difference between now and 15 years ago. As a matter of fact, I thought some sites were even more lush.
We had the same luck as you did too. Remember, I don’t know if it’s seasonal or has to do with rains or what it is. But yeah, I do remember some of the sites early on being a little bit murky. But this last trip – Gosh! The water was really nice. We had 60 to 70 feet visibility most the time, which for Triton Bay is very good. Everybody was just happy as clams so to speak doing their dives on the various sites there.
[00:09:12] CM: Yeah! Do you have any – There’s actually a dive site in Triton Bay named after your good self, is there not? Tim Rock, which always cracks me out.
[00:09:23] TR: Yeah, it seems to go by quite a few names, but when Alberto and I were on Seahorse, we were actually just anchored in a bay overnight for protection more than anything and because it had a nice beach and some people wanted to go over to the beach, and we’re looking out at a rock in the bay and a tiger shark came by and swam right by the ship and we saw it heading off from going past that rock. I looked at Alberto and said, “Do you know if anybody has dived that rock? It looks interesting.” He said, “Well, we’ve never done it. So let’s give it a shot.” We went over there and we liked it so much. We did two more dives on it after that. It was really pumping. There were [inaudible 00:10:04] below. We didn’t see the tiger shark, but we saw just tons of stuff and it had the really big, soft corals and lots of sweetlips and big stands of black coral and it was just very colorful [inaudible 00:10:16]. There’s one rock that is absolutely covered and it’s a large high rock in those [inaudible 00:10:23] of corals. So when the current is out, it’s just a brilliant yellow with the salmon color of the [inaudible 00:10:29] phase.
[00:10:30] CM: Yeah.
[00:10:32] TR: It’s just spectacular. When we came back on the ship I said, “Wow! That’s great. If I ever had a dive site named after me, I’d like to be something like that.” Alberto said, “It shall be done,” and he wrote it on the board. It became Tim’s Rock, and I think other people have also “discovered” the same rock and named it other things, but we’re sticking with Tim’s rock on that one spot.
[00:10:58] CM: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s the highest accolade, mate, to have a dive site named after you. It’s pretty great. I hope you dived it in December and went down and gave a round of applause to everybody down there. Well done. Carry on.
[00:11:12] TR: Yeah. It was one of the sites that actually looked better. I didn’t think the soft corals could get any bigger, but they were.
[00:11:18] CM: Yeah. Well, that’s fantastic. Yeah. That’s very interesting, isn’t it? That area is kind of – How do you say that? There’s even more an abundance of corals. Obviously, there’s not really any fishing pressure on it around that I would guess.
[00:11:31] TR: It didn’t seem to be. We saw one or two vessels there doing a little night fishing. I’m guessing they were getting some sardines or something to fish with, but we didn’t really see anything of any major importance and not even many villagers out in canoes fishing. The fish seemed to have found a good spot down there, and it has been declared a national marine park. How much assistance it gets from Indonesian, I’m not sure, but that whole area does have a declaration now.
[00:12:00] CM: Right. Yes. When I was there in 2017 and we went up to go and see the whale sharks of Triton Bay, which we didn’t actually – I was on Damai and Simon Marsh was on the boat at the time as the cruise director, and we had heard about the whale sharks, but we didn’t quite know where to go or most important which local chief to ask permission to go there. Luckily, Jimmy Thai from Triton Bay divers resort, he came on the boat and was very helpful in giving all the correct information. We went and spoke to the chief, and that was all a fairly involved processed, but he eventually gave us permission. I can believe it.
?Again, it was basically like a mini [inaudible 00:12:45] Bay, the same set up with the floating platforms and the whale sharks coming out for a free feed. It was remarkable, because again [inaudible 00:12:56], and back then like there was barely anybody was talking about it. Of course, it’s been there for ages.
[00:13:03] TR: Yeah, it apparently has, and we hadn’t actually on our trip hadn’t heard much about it either. But of course, we’re interested because we’ve done quite a few trips on Tambora and Damai down to [inaudible 00:13:13] Bay and we were told that because of the way or routing schedule was going, it would have to be our check out dive.
[00:13:22] CM: Nice.
[00:13:25] TR: We motored down there from Sorong that night and wake up at 5 in the morning and apparently now you have to catch the fisherman. Don’t they stay there all day. They apparently leave the [inaudible 00:13:35]. You have to catch them at first light while they’re still not wanting breakfast and they will take some of their fish and try to track the whale sharks. We’d also heard rumors that there we like sailfish and dolphins and we’re going, “Yeah, right. Whale sharks is good enough.” The guy is going to say we’re going to see those too. They said, “Well, they’ve been seeing them.” I had just gotten a little thing called DJI Mavic Mini. It’s a little drone.
[00:14:04] CM: Yup nice.
[00:14:06] TR: It’s very, very small and really easy to launch even from your hand off of a boat. We went over to the bagon and the diver’s jumped in and I had the boat take me out a little bit and lunched the little drone and I went up and I looked down and there are whale sharks coming to the bagon and they’re getting fed. All the diver’s bubbles are off pretty far, 40, 50 yards, 20 some meters or so, away from where the whale sharks and I’m going, “What can be so good that none of the divers are looking at the whale sharks?” Of course, I’m looking at this thing from above seeing all the diver’s bubbles and all the birds flying around. I mean, it’s really kind of fun. It’s very active. All the seabirds come out and try to get some of the little fish that get released. I got in the water and the first thing I looked down and see is a sailfish go by and it turned out that we were blessed with sailfish, marlin and also bottlenose dolphins, and that’s what everybody was doing, is they scurried off after where the dolphins and the marlin were feeding in some of the fish that were drifting away.
[00:15:22] CM: Wow! That’s remarkable.
[00:15:25] TR: And just completely forgetting about the whale sharks. Then all of a sudden, about halfway through the dive somebody went, “Oh yeah! Whale sharks.” Then you saw all the group kind of re-gather and start waiting for the whale sharks to pass and watching them feed and everything. But it had to be one of the best checkout dives ever.
[00:15:46] CM: Yeah! What a way to start that trip. I mean, that’s remarkable.
[00:15:50] TR: We’re a little worried that people might be disappointed after that.
[00:15:54] CM: After that [inaudible 00:15:54]. Yeah, I was going to say that, because there’s that great video that you assembled of the trip, which I will embed on the page of about this podcast for the show notes if that’s okay with you. I was going to say to you, the drone footage of the fishing platform with the whale sharks around it is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, it really gives the real perspectives that obviously you can’t really get when you’re in the water with them. With that zoom-out from above, you just see quite how many there are and just how they come in all around the platform. It was really nice seeing it from that angle.
[00:16:31] TR: Yeah. For drone people, the bay and the islands and everything, they’re just Godsend.
[00:16:37] CM: Yes.
[00:16:39] TR: I mean the blues are so rich and get the nice sandy beaches and the green lush jungle and everything. In between dives, instead of sleeping like most people do, the drone people are up flying around trying to get some pictures. It’s a lot of fun and you end the day pretty exhausted, but with a lot of footage. So it’s really nice.
What was your favorite dive there, Chris?
[00:17:01] CM: I was going to say that it was Dramai, the great, bit archway.
[00:17:05] TR: Oh yes! Yes.
[00:17:06] CM: That was, again, just we were lucky. We had spectacular [inaudible 00:17:10]. I think we dived it two or three times, and it was just super fishy. The arch was just that fantastic kind of naturally dramatic visual lock on it, and that and little Komodo, which is super shallow and we were getting all the – It was so flat com. We were getting all the reflections of the coral on the undersurface of the water and you could see all the trees and the clouds through the water. It was just – Yeah, it was magical. Yeah, that’s what I was saying, is like I just could not believe how different it was.
Just like you said, is I cannot wait to get back there, and I really want to spend the majority of a trip there rather than just like the last three or four days, because it just feels it would really repay those extra few days. Sure, you’ll maybe get a few so-so dives as conditions change, but I think it would really repay the extra effort of being there.
[00:18:08] TR: Yeah, that’s really true. Actually, that’s what we decided for our 2021 trip. We’re just going to do Kaimana to Kaimana.
[00:18:15] CM: Wow! Really? That’s interesting.
[00:18:16] TR: We’re just going to spend 10 days in Triton Bay itself. WE decided we had our most fun dives in Triton days so we just decided to keep the trip to there. Through the efforts of the resort there, they’ve discovered some nice new places too. You can really dive north and south and see a lot of different things in the Triton Bay area now.
[00:18:40] CM: Awesome. When you pushed up into South Raja Ampat, did you like have a specific place you were headed for? Like, “Oh yeah, we really want to see that as part of this trip.”
[00:18:50] TR: Well, the Misool area was where we wound up, and unfortunately it was a rather popular time.
[00:18:57] CM: Got you. Right.
[00:18:58] TR: The Misool resort was fully booked. The way it works is whatever liveaboard show up, the Misool resort and rightfully so because it maintains the area and makes sure that all the environmental restrictions and actions are in place and followed. They reserve the sites for their guests first and then the liveaboard is kind of put in their chits about where they want to go next. We’re able to see some places, but not always some of the favorite ones that we wanted to see, like Boo Windows and stuff like that. But not always the best times or tide conditions. After being spoiled in Triton Bay with no other boats to deal with, we’re in a bit of a culture shock by the time we made it up to Raja.
[00:19:46] CM: Yeah. Well, I was on one of the boats. So I was getting in your way, I think. Because on our trip, we baited it Sorong to Sorong. So we did the Raja Ampat greatest hits essentially. Hung around the Dampier Strait for a couple of days and then down to Misool and then back up again. We had a great time.
I was just thinking like this is my fifth time back to Raja in six years. So I’ve been trying and managing to get back every 12 to 18 months. Finally, I’m a very slow learner, but finally I’m actually starting to remember the dive sites that when I jump in I’m kind of, “Oh! Yeah! That Rock, or that thing.” That’s a really nice feeling like when you know that you have that familiarity. I think for dive sites, for me, like familiarity doesn’t bread contempt. It really adds to it, because you kind of know exactly where you are and you know where the good things are. That’s always really nice.
No Magic Mountain, the famous Magic Mountain, I did that remarkable moment, because I had wandered off away from the crowd for a bit and I saw a dolphin with its baby cruising around just on the edge of the drop.
[00:20:58] TR: Oh! How special.
[00:20:58] CM: Yeah. It was incredible. I mean, obviously very sketchy. So as soon as it saw me, it headed back out into the blue. But I hid behind a rock for a few seconds. Yeah, absolutely magical. But I know what you say about getting busy. I mean, obviously in the future that’s probably isn’t going to be the case for a while. I guess as long as everyone’s still able to operate as we go into next year, then it will be a golden time for diving in Raja, because there will be a lot less people around.
[00:21:26] TR: Well, that’s true. I mean, even when the times are a little bit slower there, you can usually go to all the places that you want to see, and there are a lot of them especially up north in the Dampier Straits, or I mean central area, the Dampier Straits. There are so many special seamounts there. I think this trip particularly, we just seemed to be like a bumphead parrotfish magnet. We saw them in Triton and we saw them at some reefs on the way to the Misool area and we had them in Misool. Also, I had some very good manta ray action, which I’m not sure if people really think of Raja Ampat as a real manta hotspot aside from one or two places, but there were four or five spots that we actually saw mantas.
[00:22:11] CM: Where you were spotting them? I mean, obviously manta, sandy is a classic, but that’s a big overrun now, and Magic Mountain gets in occasionally.
[00:22:19] TR: Yeah. We did have some good ones on Magic Mountain and then – Gosh! Just off the top of my head, I can’t remember, but it was kind of one of the bee sites that we were kind of offered, because no one else was going over there and the guy who is the cruise director said, “Well, I’ve had some pretty good dives. Let’s go try it, and it’s not that deep, so you can have some nice long dives.” Sure enough, a huge oceanic manta came in and did its cleaning thing and he was able to get some very nice shots. I’d already gone up to my deco stop. So I was able to kind of snorkel over there and shoot it from above. But you know when you see the size and the girth of these big oceanic mantas, it’s really impressive.
[00:23:05] CM: Yeah. Oceanic mantas really are just really quite jaw-dropping, aren’t they? I mean –
[00:23:11] TR: It never gets old.
[00:23:15] CM: Okay, Tim. I think we will draw this to a conclusion. I am very much renewed in my excitement to go back to Triton Bay, and you said you’re going to be running a trip there. Did you say it’s November 2021?
[00:23:28] TR: Yes. We’ll be using Tambora again and it’s actually a lot of the group that was with us last time decided they wanted to do it again. I think we still got three or four spots left, but this will be solely in Triton Bay and we’ll try to hit all the good spots and maybe a few others that [inaudible 00:23:47] has up his sleeve on his secret Tambora chart too.
[00:23:53] CM: Fantastic. Well, I will be saving my pennies to maybe try and join you.
[00:23:58] TR: Oh! It’d be wonderful to have you. That’d be great.
[00:24:01] CM: Okay, Tim. Thank you very much for joining me to talk about Triton Bay today.
[00:24:04] TR: Sure. Anytime, Chris. Thank you very much.
[00:24:07] CM: Cheers!
[00:24:08] TR: Cheers!
[00:24:11] CM: Thanks very much for listening to the Dive Happy podcast. You can see the show notes for this episode and browse all the other episodes at divehappy.com/podcast. You can also sign up for the Dive Happy newsletter so you get notified when the next episode comes out. Sign up at divehappy.com/podcast. I pinky promise, I won’t spam you. Finally, if you enjoy the podcast, please tell other divers about it. Please rate the podcast on iTunes. It really helps boost the show’s visibility. If you’re not sure how to rate a podcast in iTunes, please go to divehappy.com/podcast for details on how to do that. Thanks for listening. Until next time, dive save and dive happy.
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