Text and photos Markus Roth
When looking for a destination that offers everything, from endless drop offs to a shallow house reef, from the smallest shrimps to a dugong, where the paradise-like landscape above the water is mainly jagged limestone islands, white sandy beaches and a mix of rainforest giants and palm trees that immediately evoke the South Seas, then the place where the Europeans first discovered pepper is the place to be. This is the Indonesian island of Saparua, the Pearl of the Banda Sea.
The way to paradise
The Moluccas island chain is located in the eastern part of Indonesia between Sulawesi and West Papua. Ambon is the largest city and the most important port of this eponymous island. It is also the capital of the Indonesian province of Maluku. East of Ambon are the Lease Islands, with the main island of Saparua.
Kurt Gross and his wife Eliane were the first foreigners who came to Ambon shortly after a stretch of religious unrests ended, which drastically affected the tourism industry. Their aim was to find a piece of land for their resort. The two experienced divers and Indonesia experts finally found what they were looking for on Saparua and started to build their Cape Paperu resort on a small peninsula, a perfect place that made visitors feel like they were in paradise.
It is the combination of emerald-blue water, a beach with its pearl-like sand and tropical vegetation that created this beautiful atmosphere. Only a long jetty interrupts the idyllic scenery, which is needed because the tidal range almost drains the entire lagoon at low tide. It was on this very jetty where my hosts Eliane and Kurt, together with resort dog Cyrah, welcomed me from afar.
When good things are so close
The high temperatures and inviting sparkling water made me think of only one thing: Get into the tide as quickly as possible. The scuba gear and the camera were assembled in record time and off I went into the cool water.
I didn’t have to go far because the extensive, approximately two-kilometre-long house reef stretches right in front of the resort. With a maximum depth of 12 metres, it is inviting for extended dives providing a mixture of sandy bottoms, individual coral blocks and a dense collection of antler coral, a thrilling marine landscape competing for the heart of any diver. Night dives in particular are highly recommended at this diverse dive site.
During my stay, harlequin shrimps were found for the first time. Regular inhabitants include a wide variety of fish, snails and octopuses. Even dugongs were observed grazing on the sea-grass meadow.
The dive sites of Walo 1 and Walo 2 is just a short, five-minute boat ride away. They are characterised by a good number of fish and score particularly high on account of their biodiversity. Hard coral gardens alternate with white sand surfaces, on which great bommies are to be found again and again.
The third dive site in close proximity to the resort, Pombo Bool, is like an enormous aquarium. Even on the surface, this dive site is incredibly beautiful. Surrounded by crystal-clear blue waters, a mushroom-like limestone rock covered with lush greenery rises from the Banda Sea.
Without exaggerating, I can say that I was extremely impressed by the vibrant life in this fairly shallow dive site. If the nearby dive sites were already this exciting, what could I expect from the advertised highlights of this isolated diving area?
Life pulsates off Molana
The actual reason for my trip was the endless dropoffs of the islands of Nusa Laut and Molana.The next morning, Kurt first sent me to Molana. With a broad smile on his face, he simply wanted to raise the excitement. Seeing my slightly flabbergasted expression, he told me not to go crazy. But there was more to come in the following days.
After a 30-minute boat ride, again, a beautiful setting appeared in front of me, an extensive hard coral garden reaching as far as you could see. Here, not only did the water sparkle, I could easily discern the different colours of the coral from the boat. This sight made me smile and I quickly found myself in the tropical warm waters.
Alfi, my truly outstanding guide, signalled me to follow him and we slid through a relatively narrow chimney-like gap in the reef into the depths. With the sun exactly on our backs, the infinite blue appeared to be even more fully illuminated.
The 25th anniversary of the largest and longest running dive show, Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) is set to occur on the 11-14th April 2019. Centred on the theme – Plastic free Future, ADEX is more than just a dive show with its commitment to the environment. Among an exciting lineup of programs, attendees can look forward to a Future Forward Series of Panel Discussion on the Single-Use Plastic Conundrum in Asia, on 13th April.
So join us at the event, get inspired and for all you know, you might just liberate the inner diver in you! More details of the event here.