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INDONESIAMelissa’s GardenMelissa’s Garden will often feature as one of the top dive sites on lists and recommendations when diving in Raja Ampat. As you approach the famous Fam Islands in the western part of Raja Ampat, two unremarkable pinnacles extend from the waterline.However, nothing suggests that below the surface lies one of the world’s best and most magical dive sites. The two pinnacles are surrounded by a shallow sloping reef system treating divers to impressive gullies, overhangs, and unbelievable topography as they swim between the towering structures.
While this alone would make the dive incredible, it is not even the most impressive part of the experience. As the name suggests, the entire dive site looks like a magical garden that someone has lovingly tended to.
The sloping reef is covered in colourful hard coral formations as far as the eye can see. Fields of bright red, yellow, and green surround you as you swim over the shallows connecting the two pinnacles, while masses of schooling fish gracefully swim over this immaculate garden.
Divers are often treated to large bumphead parrotfish swimming in groups or even hawksbill turtles looking for a resting place among the coral formations.
As you near the slopes of the dive sites, the topography changes again. Massive rock and coral formations are overgrown, with lush soft coral seen extending to the sea bottom. Sea fans of all shapes and colours gently move with the ocean’s ebb and flow, giving the impression of walking through a field in a gentle breeze on a spring day.
The coral movement makes an eery but immensely satisfying cracking sound as you make your way slowly around the slope, while masses of fish are darting around you on the reef. Melissa’s Garden is home to all, from schools of barracuda swimming in the blue just off the reef to uncountable numbers of red-tooth triggerfish playfully defending their section of the reef. While the masses of fish and incredible coral make the dive site so unique, there is plenty to see for those interested in the smaller critters. The soft coral-covered rock formations on the reef slope are home to nudibranchs, crustaceans, and much other macro life hiding in and between the dense coral.
As you steadily make your way up the slope and over the coral fields to reach the surface between the pinnacles, you are treated to incredible vistas of the Fam Islands and the Dampier Straits all around, all while the pinnacles give no hint of the magical world that lies below.
Did you know?Massive rock and coral formations are overgrown, with lush soft coral seen extending to the sea bottom.Essential informationLocation: Dampier Strait, Raja Ampat Depth: 8m-25m Diver level: Beginner to advanced Who to dive with Meridian Adventure Dive www.raja.meridianadventuredive.com
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USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg
Scuba Diver Magazine
Scuba Diver is an independent publisher of scuba diving magazines in all major English-speaking countries.