by Hergen Spalink & Kerri Bingham
Sitting at the eastern edge of Raja Ampat’s Misool region, the lonely looking islet of Boo has provided many of the iconic images of Raja Ampat.
The dive site, known as Boo Windows, with its large underwater windows that rest just below the surface, is a wide angle coral photographers paradise. Aside from these stunning apertures, the site is dripping with soft corals and schooling fish.
The islet itself is quite small and with mild current a complete circumnavigation on a single dive is completely doable. The islet follows the standard karst-uplift model of the surrounding area. Just below the surface the rock face slopes inward to create a water carved channel that surrounds the islet before dropping to a gently sloping reef that radiates outward for another 5-10 meters. At the edge of this reef the topography turns to wall that drops off to the sandy bottom at 35-40+ meters.
On the southern side rests a plateau with rock formations resembling a deck of cards being splayed open. The individual rock faces are covered in a variety of soft corals.
A small rock, often called Pygmy Rock due to a lone tree of strikingly similar appearance, juts out from the plateau a short distance from the main islet. Following the slope southward from the rock you reach a fishy pinnacle.
Although there is a fair amount of macro on the site, mostly nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, and mantis shrimp, the real focus of this site is the wide angle. The windows themselves offer endless angles and a wide variety of foreground subjects makes for a great many compositional possibilities.
As the light angle and tide changes, so do the windows appearance. The soft corals that cover the site are thick and plentiful and well placed for photographers. If after shooting those subjects and time remains, the ever present batfish are also a great distraction.
A good fisheye or rectilinear zoom lens will help capture the scale of this popular site. Strobes are not necessarily needed as the windows are shallow and pleasing images can be captures with available light.
Wobegong sharks also frequently rest on the hard corals of the plateau, sometimes being completely exposed. The wobegong is quite docile and patient with strobe flashes but when irritated will start to breathe heavily which is your signal to leave them alone, as they are still sharks and an ambush predator.
Tips and Techniques:
As this site has several distinct attractions it is important to plan your dive based on the conditions. The soft corals on the western side will only be open during a the correct tidal phase. When diving Boo Windows, take advantage of the rising tide to shoot these areas first. The rock that breaks the surface of the water on the plateau can make for a great background subject, breaking up a composition.
The windows themselves are extremely shallow and can be done at the end of a dive, even during the safety stop. Choosing your foreground subject is generally not terribly difficult as great corals exist around the openings. Shooting at different times of the day can yield spectacular results.
Planning a trip to Boo Windows, Raja Ampat
When: Spring and Fall
Subjects: Large underwater windows, schooling batfish, soft corals, wobegong sharks, nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses.
Equipment: Wide angle lens, fisheye or rectilinear zoom. Macro can also be found on the site but is not the primary draw.
Who to go with: The Indo Siren and Arenui liveaboards both offer Raja Ampat irineraries that include Misool.
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