THE WEEKLY #59: TRIP OF WONDERS – ALOR, INDONESIA
Our plane took off from Bali as I embarked on a personal milestone journey with a group of strangers I’m sure are soon to be friends. One year ago I was invited on my first ever media trip by Indonesia Tourism Board, fast forward to today and I have been invited back for another Indonesia adventure.
I’ve grown so much since my first ever media trip in Indonesia and am feeling incredibly blessed to be back on a scuba focused trip to Alor, Komodo and Raja Ampat.
We landed today in Alor, an island in the Indonesian archipelago. Arriving just before sunset we shot off in a bus up into the mountains to Takpala Village to witness the Abui Tribe performing traditional dances and rituals. We also had the opportunity to observe their dress, village and of course their playfulness, smiles, and character.
I was particularly captivated by one of the male performers, who was armed with a bow and arrow. He welcomed me to shoot his portrait while I worked a number of different angles and techniques in what was perfect lighting. On this 12-day journey, a lot of the photography will be happening underwater, so it was awesome to get the opportunity to shoot on land with some genuinely unique people before we get wet for 18 scuba dives in 10 days.
Day two of the Trip of Wonders starting with an early breakfast at 6:30 am. It was our first day of diving so anticipation was in the air as we enjoyed a continental spread at the hotel. We boarded the bus for a short ride before stepping onto our dive boat.
The boat cruised for just under an hour while we sat and relaxed on the deck in the sun. Our first dive was at a location called Babylon, which has a huge drop. As we plunged into the warm water I couldn’t help but smile about how clear the water was. The clarity was just phenomenal.
Two local fishermen were kind enough to delay their duties so we could be in the water when they checked their traps. They set bamboo fish traps on the sea floor and free dive down to check them. I saw some traps set at 20m deep, which is an incredibly deep dive. However, for these locals of Alor, they dive without fins and use homemade goggles.
We then went on to visit two more dive sites and enjoy the incredible clarity and diverse underwater environment only such an untouched island can offer. I was glad to be back underwater and brushed up on my skills from my scuba course last month.
I shot these photos on a GoPro Hero 5, which was quite challenging due to its low light deficiencies. However, it performed okay in enough instances that make it a decent tool to have in the belt.
A pod of dolphins joined us for just long enough to send up the drone and take a look from the sky. I threw together a few clips to show you just how many dolphins were in this pod!
Our final day in Alor began with a quick breakfast at the hotel after a short five-hour sleep. Daily blogs and editing hit you hard on a media trip like this! Our plan for the day was to make two dives and then head to a local market before dinner. Not a bad way to end our time on Alor.
We cruised out to the first dive spot, tanning a little too much during the one-hour journey. As we arrived at the first spot, the current was crazy. Whirlpools and streams were going in a hundred different directions and it was going to be too difficult to dive. However, the local fisherman had no problem maneuvering their wooden canoes about. Go figure.
We finally made it to a calm dive spot called ‘Clown Valley’, at about midday. We anchored the boat quite close to the shore, where a bunch of local kids were hanging out at the dock waiting for some action, we were it. They swam out to our boat, with eyes full of curiosity and uncertainty.
Before any chill sessions with the locals, we headed down into one of the world’s most densely populated anemone dive sites. This also meant that thousands of fish swarmed the area. It was my favorite dive of my ‘career’ so far. The water clarity was awesome, which is Alor’s trademark.
When we surfaced, shivering from the cold water despite the strong sun, the kids were waiting. Before long we had half the town aboard our boat. I sat on the back of the boat with about ten young lads who quickly memorized the locations around the world in which I got each of my tattoos. We sent a few backflips, and chatted while the boys investigated my hair, beard and just about everything about me!
Sad to have to leave we headed to our second dive site, which had a huge drop-off wall. Some of the other divers in front of me spotted a reef shark but I’m still yet to spot a shark underwater. Pictured below is my dive buddy David, from Malaysia, operating his underwater rig.
We arrived back to the town in time to visit the local market, which was more or less closed except for a few vendors still trading. Many other women sold fruits and vegetables on the side of the road out the front of the market. While most of our group was trying a local chewing gum (betel nut), I wandered the streets meeting the curious and friendly locals. I shot all of these market photos on my Sony A7ii and the 55mm 1.8 Zeiss lens.
Today we fly out of Alor and head to Labuan Bajo. We are going to be staying a live aboard for the next few days in Komodo, one of my favorite places in the world!