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Raja Ampat Aggressor Captains log *18 July 2017
*Air Temp. 28 - 35 C *Water Temp. 28 C - 30 C
Chief Officer: Ferdy
Cruise Director: Urik
Assistant CD: Cassio
Chief Engineer: Yuli
2nd Engineer: Daryanto
Chef Assistant: Intan
Dive master: Denny
Dive master: Jemy
Dive master: Hery
Tender Driver: Carly
Tender Driver: Ody
Deck Hand: Jasman
We: Manta Play, Manta Road, Ketuts Rock, Pantai Sangalaki
Th: Barracuda Point, Barracuda Point, Batu Barat
Fr: Bagan, Bagan, Heaven Reef, Pantai Sangalaki
Sa: Fusiliers, Lighthouse, The Channel, Lagoon
Su: Leo Point, Small Fish Country, Big Fish Country/The Channel, Pertamina
Mo: Derawan Jetty, Derawan Jetty
GUESTS: Sergey, Vladimir, Becca, Michel, Ilona, Paloma, Juan, Arnaldo, Anuar, Carrie, Diane, Hilary
Tuesday July 18th
As our guests arrived on board of the vessel, the crew was waiting for them while Chris and Noci, our stewardess, were waiting with a welcome beverage. The first step was introducing all to their respective staterooms. What followed was our first meal together, lunch.
Afterwards, Urik, our cruise director, shared a presentation about the boat, safety procedures and some of the services available during the cruise. The guests then had the afternoon to rest and finish the preparation of dive gear, done with the help of Denny, Jemy and Hery, our divemasters.
After sunset, which was relatively hidden among a cloudy sky, a menu served dinner was served by our chef, Jemly, and his assistant, Intan.. As our guests finish dessert, an introduction of the itinerary and the first dive briefing, explaining the logistic related to diving activities from our vessel was done. This was also an opportunity for the crew to officially present themselves, mentioning names and position on board. This was our last activity for the day, in order to respect the resting time of our guests after long journeys. We are already on our way to Sangalaki, our first stop in the archipelago of Derawan.
Wednesday July 19th
As the first few rays of sun were seen among the clouds on the horizon, we approached the small island of Sangalaki, where we spend our first diving day. One of the main highlights of this location is the regular population of Reef Manta Rays who cruise along its waters feeding on zooplankton, hence the number of animals seen vary with the amount of nutrients in the water. Our first two dives were done in Manta Play and Manta Road, two sites with similar topography: gentle slope hosting a varied (soft and hard) coral garden and a few sandy patches. Conditions were also similar, with very mild currents and visibility in between 10-15 meters/33-50 feet.
Among the highlights of these two dives were animals like Green Turtle (including a massive specimen resting along the bottom), Blue-spotted Ribbontail and Marbled Stingray and schooling scads and fusiliers. As for the macro subjects, a wide variety of blennies and gobies were photographed among the coral heads, coupled with Porcelain Crabs and Mantis Shrimps, in between others. On top of that, as expected, at least five Manta Rays were seen!
Before our third dive, we had the arrival of our last guest, Diane, who came to Sangalaki on a speed boat from the port of Tarakan to finally join us!
The dive happened in the shallow, dense coral garden of Ketuts Rock - name given by our cruise director, Urik, who explored this site for the first time. Abundant acropora species, like the staghorn and tables, mixed with some soft coral along huge, centenary sponges made quite an impression and opportunity for wide angle photography. As for other marine life, smaller reef fishes were seen everywhere populating: anthias, wrasses, parrotfishes and damselfishes from all sorts of colors.
As it was with dawn, the sunset also happened among a cloudy sky and was followed by our night dive, done in Pantai Sangalaki (Sangalaki Beach, in Indonesian). Besides night critters like Sponge, Decorator and Hydroid Crab and Marbled Shrimps, one of the main highlights of this dive was the opportunity that some of our divers had to see a Bamboo Shark!
With everyone back on board, we gathered in the salon for dinner. The meal was followed by a presentation on Manta Rays, mentioning some of their behavior, reproduction and also threats to their existence, mostly due to human activities. This was our last activity for the day and most of our guests retired to their staterooms afterwards. Tonight we sleep in Sangalaki.
Thursday July 20th
Before the sunrise we were already on the bigger, neighbor island of Kakaban, our destination on this second day of diving. After a light breakfast, served every morning, our guests started preparing for the dive that is one of the most well-known of the whole archipelago: Barracuda Point. Drifting along a steep slope that descends into a deep plateau, divers often get to experience and action packed dive with plenty of schooling fish. It was no exception for us: Chevron and Yellowtail Barracuda, Big-Eye Jacks, Dogtooth Tuna, fusiliers, surgeonfish, unicornfish and a few Whitetip and Grey Reef Sharks were seen playing along the current, which was present but not wild. Among outstanding visibility of 25-30 meters/82-100 feet, also seen were Giant Trevallys, Green Turtle and a few Spanish Mackerels. Great dive to start the dive and one we would repeat!
Back on board, our guests had a full breakfast and some time to rest before a supervised visit to the (self-proclaimed) biggest salt water non-stinging jellyfish lake in the world. Properfly briefed regarding to the behavior with on the water with the animals and supervised by Urik and our divemasters Denny, Jemy and Hery, everyone got to swim among the jellies and enjoy the green landscape around the lake!
Once the visit was done, was time for our buffet served lunch and a longer rest before the third dive of the day, a re-do of Barracuda Point. It was another special dive, since a lot of pelagic life was seen among other schooling reef fish like in the previous dive. But a very remarkable highlight was reserved for most of our divers: a group of Scalloped Hammerheads were seen on the edge of the reef. And as if it was not all, three of them curiously approached the divers, what a sight!
After the dive the stewardess, as usual, were waiting our guests with a snack and most afterwards opted to rest and enjoy the sunset on a sunnier day on the upper deck. As the night arrived we started gearing up for the night dive, which happened in Batu Barat. Some of the highlights seen during this dive included: (juvenile) Broadclub Cuttlefish, Tasseled Scorpionfish, Decorator Crab, in between others.
As everyone returned on board and had their warming showers, dinner was served. As our guests finished their desserts, Urik shared a presentation about Whale Sharks, mentioning some of its characteristics and behavior and also informing divers on the conduct that should be adopted when diving with them. This was all for the night and some guests stayed around chatting while other opted to rest. By this time we were already on our way to Talisayan, main land Kalimantan.
Friday July 21st
It was still dark when we arrived in the region of Talisayan, closer to the main land of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), where we did our first two dives of the days around fishing platforms known as bagans. The reason for this visit was trying to dive with Whale Sharks that tend to hover around these platforms regularly. Luckily, in both our dives more than one Whale Sharks were seen swimming below the platform, offering plenty of opportunities for photography and video, not to mention how magical, personal is such an experience with these incredible creatures! Several smiling faces were greeted back on board as our divers returned and we start heading back to the archipelago, towards Sangalaki.
Along the way the vessel stops in Heaven Reef, a finger reef part of a submerged atoll a few miles from the archipelago. This is an opportunity to enjoy a relaxed drift along a dense, colorful coral garden, mixing both species of hard and soft coral and host to some critters that made the joy of our macro photographers. Some of the highlights included two different colors variations of Ornate Ghost Pipefishes and our two first Pygmy Seahorses, from the Bargibanti and Denise species.
As the sunset came we arrived in Sangalaki, where we repeated, a request from our divemasters, the night dive of two days ago, in Pantai Sangalaki. This time, another highlights that could be mentioned included: Decorator and Sponge Crab, Pygmy Squid and Fimbriated Moray Eel.
With everyone back on board, we sat together at the salon and had dinner. As our guests finished their meals, Hery shared a presentation on Pygmy Seahorses, mentioning the species found in the world and detailing the ones seen in Indonesia. Afterwards a few guests stayed around sharing some stories while others retired to their staterooms earlier. Tomorrow we make our first stop in Maratua.
Saturday July 22nd
With the first rays of sun in the sky we arrived around the Maratua atoll, the most well-known diving region of the Derawan Archipelago. These waters are famous for hosting considerable quantity of fish, which put on an action show when currents bring nutrients to the water column. Our first dive of the day happened along the wall and steep slop known as Fusiliers. With a gentle current and visibility around 20-25 meters/66-82 feet, our divers drifted along the reef where hard coral formations grow among some considerable gorgonians. As for other marine life, schooling fusiliers, surgeonfish, unicornfish and butterflyfish were spread along the path, where Marbled Stingray, Eagle Ray, Grey Reef Shark and a few Yellowtail Barracudas were also seen. But that was not all, some of our divers got to see a giant mass of Chevron Barracuda, a great sight to start the day!
A couple of miles north from the first spot we did our second dive, in Lighthouse. With some current entering due to initial part of the flooding tide, the groups drifted along this wall, where a few Hawksbill and Green Turtles, as well as a considerable school of Bumphead Parrotfish stood as the highlight of this dive. Further on the blue, schooling Rainbow Runners and a few Spanish Mackerels were also seen.
Third dive of the day came and it was a special one, in the site named The Channel, a place where the concentration of fish life can be outstanding as incoming currents flood the channel. Luckily for our divers, this was the case today! Schooling Dogtooth Tunas (a few of them measuring no less than 1.2 meters/4 feet), Giant and Blue-fin Trevallys, were seen actively chasing different species of fusiliers, which was already quite an impression. Passing by on the blue, Eagle Ray and Grey Reef Sharks were also seen. On top of that, an even bigger than the first dive ball of Chevron Barracudas were seen in a tornado-shaped school among Big-Eye Jacks, which was a fantastic view. What an amazing dive!
Following sunset which shown the brightness of the blue waters that surround this beautiful atoll, our divers started gearing up for the night dive, in the lagoon formed in between the islets that circle the atoll. As it is the norm, our divemasters were focused on finding macro subjects and critters and some of the findings included: Hermit Crabs, Tasseled Scorpionfish and also a Randall Frogfish, a subject for the macro lovers!
As our night divers returned on board and had showers, we gathered on the salon for another delicious meal. It was followed by a presentation where Urik shared some information about sharks, including reproduction patterns, anatomy, interaction with humans and threats to their existence. This was all for tonight and a few guests stayed around having a drink and chatting afterwards. Tonight we sleep in Maratua.
Sunday July 23rd
With the sun finding its way among a cloudy horizon, we woke up in the calm waters of the lagoon in Maratua and started the second day of our tour around the atoll. The first dive was Leo Point, a shallow plateau with hard coral patches (some of them quite dense and impressive) that descends partly into a wall filled with different species of gorgonians and partly into a coral slope, where acropora species are plentiful. The current coming out of high tide was quite gentle and our divers drifted along the reef where some of the findings our divemasters pointed out included: (juvenile) batfish, (juvenile) Midnight Snapper, Crocodile Flathead and an Ornate Ghost Pipefish! Besides that, a few Green Turtles were seen cruising along the reef (in fact, three were found around the same coral head being cleaned by Moon Wrasses). Visibility for our first dive stood in between 20-25 meters/66-82 feet with a mild current.
Our following dive happened along the portion of a wall named Small Fish Country, due to the increased quantity of smaller reef fishes seen swimming in between hard coral formations. anthias, like the Squarespot, wrasses, like the Yellowtail and Bird, surgeonfish, unicornfish and fusiliers, like the Bluestreak and Yellowtail, were abundant and brought color to the dive. Nevertheless, what stood out during this dive was the quantity of sea turtles spread all over the reef, especially close to acropora hard corals. Plenty of photography opportunities! The visibility was about 20-25 meters/66-82 feet and the current was mild.
For the third dive of the day Urik offered the possibility of choice for each diver to choose in between a dive in another portion of the previous wall named Big Fish Country and a repeat of the advanced site The Channel. For the first group, some of the highlights included schooling Two-Spot Snappers among a beautiful formation of lettuce coral, Broadclub Cuttlefish and a Leaf Scorpionfish, besides, obviously, Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The second group got to enjoy one more time the spectacular school of Chevron Barracudas and Big-Eye Jacks that live on the entrance of the channel. Besides that, on the blue Dogtooth Tunas, Giant Trevallys and Spanish Mackerel were chasing fusiliers at will. A couple of Eagle Rays also were seen on blue!
The end of the day came beautiful with the sun reflecting its light on the surface of a flat sea. Some guests got to enjoy it on the sun deck while others were either reading or working on their photos in the salon. Night dive followed and the dive site chosen was Pertamina jetty. The eagle eyed divemasters spotted, in between others: Boxer and Decorator Crab, (juvenile) stonefish and Crinoid Squat Lobster.
With everyone back on board we gathered in the salon for dinner, which was followed by another presentation. The theme of the night was Sea Turtles, which we wave seen so many today. Existent species, diet, curious facts, reproduction and threats were mentioned. Afterwards most guests of this fun group stayed around having fun while a few retired to sleep. By this time we were on our way to the island of Derawan, our last destination.
Monday July 24th
Our last day of diving started with a bright sunrise around the island of Derawan, the location in the archipelago known for hosting exquisite critters and interesting macro subjects. Considering this and the moon phase being new, we did two dives around the Derawan Jetty, a relatively sheltered area from currents where plenty of critters can be found.
The first dive reserved a few surprised that, due to the eyes of the divemasters, our divers got the opportunity to contemplate and photograph: Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Reef Stonefish, nudibranchs, like the Flabellina and Joruna funnebris, and even the seldom and hardly seen Hairy Octopus! The currents were felt during the dive but a few critters could still be seen. The following dive were done in gentler conditions and the highlight was the amount of Green Turtles (10+) seen in one not so large area, including a few of them reportedly reaching the size of 1.5meters/5 feet. Other critters found included the Twin-spot Lionfish, pipefish and nudibranchs. A lovely, relaxed dive to end this trip!
As our guests had lunch, the crew took care of rinsing and hanging their dive equipment. After the meal Urik shared the video he prepared along the week showing some of the underwater marine life weve seen and capturing moments on board. Finally, Jemy opened the boutique for the ones who wanted to take a souvenir home and the afternoon was given for rest.
Having had some rest during the afternoon, it was time for our farewell party, done in the sun deck. It was an opportunity for the crew to play some music to our guests and also thank everyone for their visit. It was also a chance for group pictures and distribution of our awards.
Carrie, 300, reached a new milestone and was recognized for that. Congratulations!
Besides that, we also distributed the Stan Waterman Award to Diane, a diver that inspire all of us to keep on diving for many years to come. Thank you!
As for the ones who completed all the available dives, the Aggressor Iron Divers were given: Michel and Hilary had their medals. Good job!
Sunset came and we could enjoy it as we approached Tarakan, where we slept tonight. As the night arrived we gathered in the salon for dinner and afterwards Urik shared his own gratitude for the visit before we watched a slideshow with some of the underwater photography done by our guests during time. An opportunity to start sharing some memories. That was all for the night and after most guests stayed around chatting.
Tuesday July 25th
At the scheduled time the crew was waiting for our guests on the sun deck in order to bid their farewells and wish all a safe journey back home. We thank everyone for this fun, positive trip around the archipelago of Derawan and wish the see all back on board some day. Happy Bubbles!!!