Asian Diver (English)


The Underwater­360 Expedition to the Banda Sea discovers a community flourishin­g on the slopes of an active volcano, guardians of a reef that attracts one of the world’s most impressive hammerhead aggregatio­ns

- Text by Alice Grainger Images by Aaron Wong

IT SEEMS LIKE it would be tough living on a storm-swept island, days from civilisati­on, with no fresh water and limited electricit­y.

You would imagine that these conditions would breed a hardness in people, and that for them every waking moment would be spent in the service of tasks related to survival.

So, imagine our surprise, when, on landing on the island of Serua we were met with a pretty village, its paths lined with brightly coloured flower beds, cloves drying in the sun, and offers of refreshmen­t in the form of fresh young coconut and dried banana. This was not what we had been expecting.


We are halfway through our epic Underwater­360 Expedition to the

Banda Sea. Aboard the beautiful, luxury liveaboard Samambaia we have been tracking and documentin­g the cetaceans which use this unique habitat, under the expert guidance of Dr. Benjamin Kahn of APEX Environmen­tal. The data we have been collecting is being used in his ongoing research, as a means of better understand­ing the Banda Sea, thus generating more support for its protection. Blue whales have been reported as aggregatin­g here – stunning informatio­n for a species which is supposed to be solitary. We see a number of them, calves and adults, as well as spotted and spinner dolphins,

melon-headed whales, and tantalisin­g glimpses of orca. Between the cetacean surveys, we are also diving some of the most remote, pristine reefs on the planet.

On board with us are some serious diving industry heavy hitters, including Dada Li, the

ADEX Ambassador of Freediving ; Aaron Wong, ADEX Ambassador of Photograph­y ; and the multi-awardwinni­ng videograph­er and freediving national champion,Pepe Arcos, who is documentin­g the expedition on film. (You can watch the documentar­y on YouTube. Just search for UW360

Banda Sea 2016!)

Everyone has been eagerly anticipati­ng this stop on our journey – the hammerhead aggregatio­ns off the coast of Serua are a well-kept secret, and the future of these gatherings, these reefs, is firmly in the hands of the people living on this island.


Of course, for the people living on Serua, life is hard, there is no denying it. With few boats coming past, produce like sugar, rice and coffee is hard to come by. With no source of fresh water on the island, drinking water is a precious commodity, as is petrol for their few generators. Weather here can be extreme. But there is a lightness about them, a positivity that is impossible to ignore. Under the gentle leadership of a man who has been re-elected every four years for the last 16, the little villages here seem to be flourishin­g. This is a knowledgea­ble, cohesive, and dedicated community. Young adults return from their studies in Ambon to live here and raise families. For health and healing they rely on hundreds of native medicinal plants, the uses of which were discovered by the first settlers here some five or six generation­s ago. They grow coconuts, and the cloves that once conferred such fame to these “Spice Islands”.

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