As a Mares Ambassador, I had the honour of being a part of an extraordinary expedition, organised by the Ocean Geographic Explorer Foundation. The organiser, Michael Aw, whose actions speak louder than words, invited me to take part in the project as a photographer, as well as a model, having in mind
my work on spreading the importance of the conservation of the reefs in our seas and oceans, through blogs and photographs.
The group consisted of seventeen divers, underwater photographers and videographers who use social networks to state clearly: "Preserve all our waters". I believe that you should only take bubbles from the sea, as well as any garbage (bottles, cans etc.) found during a dive. It’s just a minute’s work that could help save the life of a turtle, dolphin or whale.
The expedition lasted for eleven unforgettable days. The hosting ship was called “Gaia Love“ and it was designed to provide comfort for diving enthusiasts. It is also equipped with separate rooms for photographers, videographers and their equipment. The back of the main deck contains special pools for every participant, and the water in those pools is changed daily. The ship also has luxurious rooms with bathrooms and AC, a huge lobby with a resting area and a dining room where we enjoyed scrumptious food. Two fast boats are used to take divers off to their diving locations. The upper deck with sunbeds is a paradise for those who enjoy watching as the sunrise or sunset.
For years I had heard about how Raja Ampat was one of the best diving locations in the world, but that getting to it was a project of its own, which involved
four aeroplane flights, followed by a cruise. Nevertheless, when I reached this magnificent place, I concluded that all that effort had paid off. The diving route started off on the south coast of Raja Ampat, at Misool and it ended at the Dampier strait in the north. Never had I seen such a rich reef in my entire diving career, which, for the record, isn’t short at all. Manta rays, sea turtles, moray eels, octopuses, schools of barracudas, yellow lips, jackfish etc.
Currents were frequent during our dives, which disturbed me greatly when I was taking photos. Afterwards, I realised that the current was the source of life around here and that I needed to adapt. I just couldn’t get enough – you dive, eat and sleep, and when you sleep, you dream of diving and you can’t wait until the morning to dive into that magical world again.
Every time I travel, I like to learn and explore something new. This time, manta rays were new to me. They meet up in places called cleaning stations. There are
no such words I could use to describe diving with these wonderful beings. We received strict warnings to keep calm and not to chase them so that they
wouldn’t swim off into the depths. That’s how it was. They came back, floating above us, surreally gracious and elegant. I totally fell in love with them. Days went by, and each dive was not a story, but a book of its own. I was shooting a movie and making photos, but at the end of each dive I would put the camera down and absorb the beauty with eyes wide open, wanting to take it all in.
Michael Aw had known for a long time that I had wanted to dive a “black water night dive”, so he prepared a surprise for me. A black water night dive is a
totally different type of night dive – you dive under the boat, tied with a wire rope to the main rope. At the end of the main rope, there are weights and
lamps attached, attracting various sea creatures. Being in the open sea, the depth under you is unknown; the current is dragging you and simultaneously
bringing with it creatures which it is impossible to see at a reef.
Text: Ivana Orlovic Kranjc
Photos: Ivana Orlovic Kranjc, Michael Aw