Raja Ampat Aggressor Captains log *24 May 2017
*Air Temp. 28 - 35 C *Water Temp. 28 C - 30 C
Chief Officer: Bahri
Cruise Director: Urik
Assistant CD: Cassio
Chief Engineer: Yuli
2nd Engineer: Ehra
Chef Assistant: Jemly
Dive master: Hery
Dive master: Denny
Dive master: Jemy
Jack hand: Jasman
Tender Driver: Carly
Tender Driver: Ody
Th: Friwinbonda, Sardine Reef, Cape Kri, Yenbubba Jetty
Fr: Melissas Garden, Keruo Channel, Galaxy, Keruo Night
Sa: Mayhem I, Mayhem II, Citrus Ridge, Mangrove Ridge
Su: Manta Sandy, Arborek Jetty, Saundarek Jetty, Saundarek Jetty
Mo: Cape Mansuar, Cape Kri, Chicken Reef, Mioskon
Tu: Blue Magic, Mioskon
GUESTS: Mel, Maria, Annick, Maria Elena, Rob, Elizabeth, Michael, Memo, Verónica, Peter, Karen, Steve, Trecia, Ed, Siwen
Wednesday May 24th
On time the crew was waiting to greet our guests as they arrived onboard. As they were served a welcome beverage, we proceeded presenting their respective staterooms. After getting acquainted with their rooms, we had a buffer lunch together, serving Indonesian food.
After it Urik, our cruise director, gave a briefing with information about the areas of the boat, facilities and services available and safety plan. When it was over Hery, Denny and Jemy, the divemasters, helped our divers with the preparation of their gear. Time to rest followed.
After sunset, a menu served dinner was offered by our chef, Michael, and his assistant, Jemly. Urik then informed the guests on the diving logistics from the vessel and it was also an opportunity for the crew members to present themselves. This was our last activity for the day, in order to respect a longer resting time after a lasting journey. By this time we were on our way to the central part of Raja Ampat, the Dampier Strait.
Thursday May 25th
Along the night we arrived at our first destination of the trip, the Dampier Strait. After our light breakfast, the check dive, an opportunity for the guests to get acquainted with the equipment and our logistics, was done in Friwinbonda. With excellent visibility (20-25 meters/66-82 feet), as it was for the whole day, and a mild current, the divers had a pleasant start. Some of the highlights included schooling Blue-lined Snappers and drummers, an octopus and macro subjects like nudibranchs, the Egg-Shell Shrimp and our first Pygmy Seahorse, from the species Bargibanti.
Back onboard we had a full breakfast that was followed some rest and the second dive. It happened in the seamount named Sardine Reef, a place famous for hosting considerable congregations of fish, specially on a falling tide, like it was the case with us today. The groups had the opportunity to observe some of the pelagic life present on this region, since schooling Pick-handle and Yellowtail Barracudas were seen along Giant and Blue Trevallys, Blacktip Reef Sharks and different species of fusiliers. Along the reef, it was the first opportunity to observe the Wobbegong Shark!
With all the divers back we had lunch and a longer resting period before the afternoon dive. This was done in Cape Kri, a reef that hosts, normally, one of the widest variety of fish species on the whole archipelago. As the divers drifted with the current along a wall, some of the highlights pointed out by our divemasters included: Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Shark, Napoleon Wrasse, Bumphead Parrotfish, schooling Big-Eye Jacks and surgeonfishes, Diagonal-banded and Oriental Sweetlips, Wobbegong Shark and even a Giant Grouper, which was being followed by juvenile Golden Trevallys not bigger than a few inches!
As our guests returned from the dive, our waitress Betty was waiting with a snack and a beverage. After that we had time to rest and enjoy the sunset before the night dive, which happened in the jetty of the Yenbubba village, on Mansuar island. Our divers came quite glad from this dive after having spotted the likes of Whitetip Reef Shark, Pygmy Squid, Donald Duck Shrimp and also our first two endemic Raja Ampat Epaulette Shark, also known as the Walking Shark.
After shower we gathered in the salon to have dinner. As the guests finished dessert Urik shared the diving plan for the following day and gave a presentation on the history, geography and biodiversity of Raja Ampat. This was our last activity of the day and time for rest was given. A few guests immediately retired to their staterooms while others stayed around listening to music and talking. Tomorrow we head to the region of Fam and Peneimu.
Friday May 26th
As the sun rose in the sky among a few clouds, we arrived in the region of Fam and Peneimu. Our first dive site was a reef named Melissas Garden, situated below three small islets. What stands out in this location is the density of the hard coral cover among the bottom, specially in the shallow areas of the reef. Elkhorn, staghorn and other species hosts a wide variety of species of fishes like damsel, butterfly, parrot, angelfishes and wrasses. But these colorful creatures were not all our divers have seen: Wobbegong and Blacktip Reef Shark, Hawksbill Turtle and a few nudibranchs and other macro subject, like the sea spider, were some highlights. A great dive to start the day!
Our following dive was done in the channel around the nearby island of Keruo. Even though the visibility was around 10-15 meters/33-50 feet, our divers had the opportunity to see some congregations of fish like Big-Eye Jacks, snappers, sweetlips and fusiliers. Among them a pregnant Whitetip Reef Shark was also spotted patrolling the reef. As for the macro life, diversity also stood out: Mushroom Coral Pipefish, Denise Pygmy Seahorse, Zanzibar Wire Coral Shrimp and nudibranchs were among some of the findings.
Our third dive of the day was done along a ridge close by Peneimu named Galaxy. As it is usually the case on this site, plenty of macro life and critters were pointed out by our divemasters: nudibranchs, like the Thecacera, Flabellina and Nembrotha, Reef Octopus, Bargibanti and Denise Pygmy Seahorse (including the color variation of the last specie that is found only on this region of the world), in between others, filled this dive with pleasant surprises.
As they came back on board, our guests had the opportunity to go on a supervised trek to a viewpoint in order to observe the beautiful karst formations present in the archipelago. A good opportunity to set feet on land! The vessel then moved back around Keruo for our night dive, where some of the highlights included: Broadclub Cuttlefish (an adult and also a juvenile), Pygmy and Bobtail Squid and a seldom seen specie of Seahorse!
Dinner happened in the salon and afterwards our divemaster Jemy shared a presentation about the Epaulette Shark, of which one species (Hemyscillium freycineti) is endemic from Raja Ampat. Time was then given for our guests to rest and while a few stayed around most preferred to sleep. Tomorrow we head to the region of Yangello.
Saturday May 27th
Before dawn we anchored around the island of Yangello, where we dove today. Our morning dives were done in two neighbors seamounts, named Mayhem I and II, with similar conditions, meaning visibility in between 10-15 meters/33-50 feet and currents gentle enough to allow the divers to swim around the reef and also bring nutrients in the waters, bringing fish action to both dives. There were plenty of highlights seen among the impressive landscape formed by hard coral, rocks covered in soft coral and also a few sandy patches that help reflecting lights.
As for the pelagic life, immense schools of queenfish, fusiliers and Big-Eye Jacks were a target of Dogtooth Tunas, Spanish Mackerel and Giant and Blue Trevally. On top of that, a congregations of batfish, Yellowtail Barracudas and Bumphead Parrotfishes were also seen. Along the reef there were critters and macro subjects to be photographed, including Wobbegong Sharks, Blue-spotted Ribbontail Stingray, Tasseled Scorpionfish, Painted Spiny Lobsters and nudibranchs, like the Tanja and the Notodoris minor (also known as the Banana Nudibranch). Two great dives!
Our afternoon dive was done in one of the most impressive soft coral garden in Central Raja Ampat, Citrus Ridge. The name itself, in fact, comes from the abundance of orange and yellow colored soft coral that display their brightness when opened to feed. The visibility was slightly lower (10 meters/33 feet) and the divers had to maneuver the current, but the amount of fish present made for it: a gigantic school of Long-Jawed Mackerels mixed among different species of fusiliers was seen being actively chased by Giant, Blue-fin, Blue and Golden-spotted Trevallys, Spanish Mackerels and Yellowtail Barracudas. On top of that, Green Turtle, Wobbegong Shark and even a couple of Robust Ghost Pipefish were pointed out by our divemasters.
After a beautiful sunset among the mangroves of this region, some of our divers started gearing up for the night dive, done in the Mangrove Ridge. With calmer conditions, plenty of subjects were spotted: Decorator and Hydroid Crabs, Crocodile Flathead, Reef Octopus, Tasseled Scorpionfish, nudibranchs, like the Thecacera, and even a Whitetip Reef Shark patrolling the reef were some of the examples. With everyone back on board we gathered for dinner which was followed by a presentation about Pygmy Seahorses, done by our divemaster Hery. Afterwards most of our guests retired to their staterooms for rest. By this time we were already on our way to the island of Arborek.
Sunday May 28th
We woke up around Arborek, where we spent the morning diving. Our first site was Manta Sandy, a known Manta Ray cleaning station in the region. Not being the season when the animals are visiting this site often, we didnt see any of them. Nevertheless, it turned into a great opportunity for macro photography, result of the abundance of subjects: Devil Scorpionfish, Snake Eel, nudibranchs, flatworms and also the seldom seen Robust Ghost Pipefish!
Our second dive was a drift with the currents passing by the jetty of Arborek. One of the main highlights of this location is the cluster of giant clams (some of them more than 1,5 meters/5 feet) long that served as a good photography opportunity. For the groups that kept drifting along the reef, some of the highlights were the Wobbegong Shark and also the camouflage master Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse, which was pointed out by our divemasters. As for the ones who stayed around the jetty, a pleasant surprise came in the form of a huge, packed school of scad fishes that is seen in the shallow at times.
After lunch we moved towards the island of Mansuar, where we did both our third and night dive in the jetty of the Saundarek village. The third one was an absolutely beautiful opportunity to drift along the reef and observe the wide variety of animals in visibility of about 30 meters/100 feet! Green and Hawksbill Turtles, Blacktip and Wobbegong Sharks, Giant Sweetlips, schooling Oriental and Diagonal-banded Sweetlips, Blue-lined and Humpback Snappers, Pick-handle Barracudas, batfishes, drummers... That was not all, though: Giant Mantis Shrimp, Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse, nuidbranchs, like the Flabellina, were some of the small stuff found also. A great dive overall!
Sunset came and as the rays fade into the sky our divers entered the water for the night dive. Most of the time was spent around the jetty looking for critters and one of the things that stood out was the relatively high concentration of Painted Spiny Lobsters seen. Besides that, a sleeping Hawksbill Turtle, Sponge Crab and even a Blue-ringed Octopus!
After the dive we had dinner together, which was followed by some music played by our crew. The band leaders were Jasman (deck hand), on the guitar, and Ody (dinghy driver), on the ukulele. Afterwards Urik shared a presentation about sharks, mentioned some of their characteristics, behavior and some of the threats they face nowadays. This was our last activity together and afterwards most of our guests retired to their staterooms for rest. The boat sleeps east of Saundarek, in the village of Yenbubba.
Monday May 29th
Early in the morning our divers started preparing, as usual, for the first dive. It was done in Cape Mansuar, located in the southeast of the island. The currents were very mild and the visibility was around 25-30 meters/82-100 feet, which resulted in a very relaxing dive where the groups observed schooling fusiliers, Yellowtail Barracudas, Humphead Snappers, patrolling Blacktip Reef Sharks and also occasional Giant Sweetlips hovering in shallow waters. As for the macro photography, some of the subjects pointed out by the divemasters were: Orangutan Crab, nudibranchs and a few different anemone shrimps.
Our following dive happened in Cape Kri, a dive site already visited earlier in the week. This time, though, the currents, even though still present, were more gentle, which allowed the divers to gaze at considerable schools of Big-Eye Jacks, Black and Humphead Snappers, Oriental Sweetlips, Yellowtail Barracudas, not to mention a reef teeming with smaller fishes like damselfishes and wrasses. Sleeping Whitetip Reef Sharks, Napoleon Wrasses and Giant Trevallys were some of the pelagic animals seen as well. As for smaller creatures, the main highlight was the Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse.
The third dive of the day, still done around Kri, happened during the slack tide, offering smooth conditions for another relaxing dive today. The dive site was a seamount named Chicken Reef (the name coming from the shape of the mount itself), where schooling Redtooth Triggerfishes greeted the groups as they descend. Along the dive, though, most of the time was spent looking for macro subjects and critters and quite a lot was seen: Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse, Leaf Scorpionfish, nudibranchs, like the Glossodoris and Chromodoris, and even a jawfish with its mouth full of eggs!
Slightly north we stopped by the islet of Mioskon, where along a large plateau our night dive happened. Some of the highlights of our last night dive of the trip included: cephalopods, like squids, crustaceans like Sponge and Hermit Crabs, and another opportunity to see the Epaulette (Walking) Shark! Back on board was time for shower and dinner, which was followed by a presentation that talked about the species, behavior and reproduction of Sea Turtles, as well as some of the threats this animals face. Once it was finished most of our guests decided to rest while others stayed around for a bit working on their photos.
Tuesday May 30th
With the sunrise on the horizon, our guests started preparing for our morning dive, which happened in one of the most known dive sites of the archipelago, a seamount named Blue Magic. The fame of this place comes from the diversity and quantity of fishes that visit the place. During our dive, done with a mild current that allowed the groups to move around, and with visibility of 15-20 meters/50-66 feet, plenty of life was seen. Different species of fusiliers, Yellowtail Barracudas, Big-Eye Jacks, Red and Black Snappers and Oceanic Triggerfishes made up for the schools of fish. Along the reef, Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Sharks were seen patrolling, Wobbegong and Epaulette Shark were hiding among the hard coral and some critters like the Crocodile Flathead and Leaf Scorpionfish were pointed out towards the end by our divemasters. A fantastic, diverse, dive!
The following site, last of this trip, was the reef of Mioskon, where we had our night dive the previous day. As the groups were drifting on a gentle current, a dense congregation of Blue-lined and Spanish Flag offered the opportunity for the divers to swim among the fish bowls. Macro subjects were present as well, like the Orangutan Crab, nudibranchs, like Chromodoris, Bubble Coral Shrimp, other species of cleaner shrimps and more. That was not all, nevertheless, as a couple of Napoleon Wrasses were seen cruising along the sloping reef.
Back from the dive our guests gathered in the salon for lunch while the crew took care of rinsing the dive equipment. After the meal Urik shared the video he did during the last week with some of the underwater marine life seen and also some footage on board. Time then come for some rest before we had our farewell party in the sun deck. This was an opportunity for the crew to thank the guests for the visit, groups pictures to be taken and also for the distribution of awards.
The divers who completed milestones during the trip were Peter & Karen (100 dives) and Steven & Trecia (400 dives). Congratulations!
Our Aggressor Iron Divers, the ones who did all available dives during the cruise were: Rob, Michael, Memo, Steve, Trecia, Ed and Siwen.
Sunset came and afterwards we had our final dinner together, which was followed by a slideshow where the guests had the opportunity to share some of their underwater photos from the week. A great time to already share some of the memories of the time we spent together! This was our last activity for the day and after it some guests started packing, while others stayed around chatting.
Wednesday May 31st
On the scheduled time the crew was waiting for our guests in order to say their farewells. We wish them a safe journey back home and hope to see all on board the Raja Ampat Aggressor again. Thank you!