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Slender Pinjalo (Pinjalo lewisi) school

Over New Year 2010/2011 I was again aboard the Peter Hughes Paradise Dancer.  The ten day itinerary took us around the four main islands (the four kings from which the name Raja Ampat originates) that comprise this famous and pristine area off western Papua, Indonesia. 

The diving was stunning and I was again impressed by the density and diversity of fish.  Large school of sweetlips, pinjalo and fusileers were common but this year we had the added bonus of mantas at several sites.  I had close encounters with a few of them, which was great.

I was keeping my eyes peeled for new and interesting creatures following my discovery of what appears to be a new velvetfish species (see blog post) last year.  During one dive in Aljui Bay I came accross a Denise's pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise) inhabiting a new and previously unrecorded host, bringing the total number of host gorgonians for this pygmy seahorse to eight.

Raja Ampat has become very popular with divers of the past few years, for good reason.  The number of regional endemics, health of corals and abundance of fishes are unique in the world.  Thankfully, the money brought in through tourism has been used to good effect and helps fund the marine park that protects much of this wilderness.

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