Submitted by: Joan Winston

In January 2020, Cliff and I went to Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands. We had many “best days”, but the best day snorkelling was the last day. We snorkeled in the rain off Banda Neira, at the 1981 Gunang Api lava flow. It was astonishingly beautiful; the profusion, density, and variety of corals and fish and the vivid colors were overwhelming. Life force is very strong, even starting with red-hot lava. In Hawaii, it takes well over 100 years to start getting that lava-lined-punchbowl effect. The lush, colourful coral growth on the black lava was incredibly beautiful and the gentle, warm rain made the experience absolutely magical.

The great photos were taken by the Coral Adventurer Expedition Staff. (I bought the same underwater camera they used after we got home, to take on future trips) The painting is “Black Lava Reef” (2020) by Ken Done. Obviously, I don’t know just what the painter had in mind, but it’s what I remember about that morning, feeling the warm water slip over my skin and the rain on my back and seeing the dazzling colors and activity below.

At the time, I had no idea it would be a long while until our next trips. I’m trying to stay positive that we’ll get there before too long. I’m so glad we have this one to remember!