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145

TritOn Bay

the Sanctuary f Rainbow Reefs

Located four hours by speedboat, east of the remote town of Kaimana, West Papua, a sojourn to Triton Bay is as challenging as getting to Antarctica. For those of us who live elsewhere in the world, getting there means frst fying to Manado or Bali, in Indonesia. A night stop is always necessary, followed by an early morning milk run fight, through two to three stops before landing at Kaimana. Sometimes, the fights may not take off and an additional night stop is mandatory in towns with strange names like Sorong or Ujung Pandang. Just to give you an idea: from Sydney, it may take up to three days and six airport transits to get to Kaimana!

So what in the world would compel someone to embark on this back-wrenching, pocket-breaking sojourn every two years, to this remote outpost in Eastern Indonesia? It is because of its unprecedented abundance, supported by science, that we came: From the data of Conservation International in 2006, there are 959 of the reef fshes (that is more than the Red Sea), and relative to its size, it is much richer than the Great Barrier Reef, or any reef system in the world. This is the bull’s eye of marine diversity, with 471 (16 new) species of corals and 28 species of Mantis shrimp.

Oh, and did I mention, reefs in all the colours of the rainbow, found in exaggerated density, unique only to the Indo-Pacifc. Even the colours of the scrumptious paella made by my good friend, Txus Romero, of MV Seahose, pale in comparison to two of my favourite reefs in Triton Bay.

Pygmy seahorses are dime a dozen, and the colours of Komodo Alley and Triton Rocks are like the world’s biggest jellybean stores on steroids. Several coral outcrops are found along the embankment of Komodo Alley; some sized like small fshing boats, some like large garden pavilions with small and elaborate overhangs. The common denominators here are soft corals with dazzling red, orange and yellow fairy basslets. Each time a grouper sweeps past, the outcrops sparkle with the rise and fall of basslets and damselfshes. Towards the eastern end of the bay, lies a cove with half a dozen submerged pinnacles. I named these outcrops, Triton Rocks, which are scattered at depths ranging from 12 to 30 metres. Sweetlips, angelfsh, groupers, butterfyfshes, snappers are found in respectable numbers between the corridors and caverns of these rocks, which are adorned with layer upon layer of red, orange, purple, blue, yellow soft corals.

Okay, so the reefs form a splendid, colourful kaleidoscope or 7th heaven, as described by some zany writer, but there is a second reason for me to explore Triton Bay - David Doubilet’s Reef, to hunt for David’s SEACAM housing. This reef was named David Doubilet not for the signifcance of his fabulous work, but in memory of his housing lost at this location in 2007. Hence, Triton Bay beckoned, backed by the challenge to fnd Doubilet’s housing, in a reef that has been akin to Pooh Bear’s Hundred Acre Wood, covered with an extensive forest of large white coral trees sporadically decorated with yellow, orange, red and green feather stars. Occasionally, the forest is punctuated by gardens of purple and yellow leafy sponges. These are sanctuaries for sea turtles, octopuses, frogfsh, scorpion fshes, groupers, large groupers the size of mini cars!

L

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