Raja Ampat Aggressor Captains log *15 August 2017
*Air Temp. 28 - 35 C *Water Temp. 27 C - 30 C
Chief Officer: Ferdy
Cruise Director: Urik
Assistant CD: Cassio
Chief Engineer: Daryanto
2nd Engineer: Acep
Chef Assistant: Intan
Dive master: Hery
Dive master: Denny
Tender Driver: Carly
Tender Driver: Ody
We: Manta Play, Manta Clean, Ketuts Rock, Jetty Panjang
Th: Barracuda Point, Barracuda Point, Gorgonians Wall
Fr: Bagans, Bagans, Lunas Kapal, Devil Slope
Sa: Fusiliers, Small Fish Country, The Channel, Lagoon
Su: Nanukan Wall, Leo Point, Gorgonzola, Gorgonzola
Mo: Jetty Resort, Jetty Resort
GUESTS: Victoria, Nathan, Alex, Ross, Erica, Marina, Frederic, Annick, Miguel, Cisco
Tuesday August 15th
With our guest on their way to the vessel, the crew was already on the wait to welcome them aboard. A welcome drink was offered by Noci and Angie, the stewardess, and next came the introduction of staterooms. With all comfortably placed we got together in the salon for our first meal, prepared by Jemly, the chef, and Intan, chef assistant.
Once lunch was over Urik, the cruise director, proceeded with an introductory briefing about the boat, presenting its areas, rules and daily routines. The afternoon was then given for rest and preparation of dive equipment, which was done with the help of Denny and Hery, the divemasters.
Even though the skies were cloudy, presenting tones of gray, our guests got time to start getting to know each other as the sun set. Dinner then came and the meal was followed by another briefing, now regarding the diving logistics from our vessel. The crew used the opportunity to formally introduce themselves, mentioning names and position aboard.
As usual, this first night finished earlier due to the fact that most of our guests had a long journey before arrival. Most of them went to their staterooms once the briefing was finished. By this time we were already on the way to Sangalaki, our first stop in Derawan.
Wednesday August 16th
Already around Sangalaki, the first morning of our trip was a cloudy one, with spare moments of sun shine. After having had a light breakfast early in the morning, our divers started gearing up for the first dive of the day, done in Manta Play. Without any currents and visibility in between 15-20 meters/50-66 feet, it was a very convenient opportunity for the guests to check their buoyancy and weights as a preparation for the week. It was also a chance to see the first Reef Manta Rays of the journey, including a completely black specimen, and the seldom seen Cowtail Stingray!
With everyone one back aboard it was time for a full breakfast and some rest. The third dive happened in the neighbor spot named Manta Clean, where the topography, similar to all dives today, consistent on a shallow flat area that descends into a very gentle slope, where a few sandy patches are spread among coral formations of mainly hard species but also a few congregations of soft ones. There was a mild current on this dive and our groups used it as an opportunity to drift along the landscape gazing at the small fish that hovered above the reef. More Manta Rays were also seen and some groups had the luck to see five of them together! That was not all, though, as other highlights included Broadclub Cuttlefish, schooling Midnight Snappers and Bluestreak Fusiliers and also a few Mobula Rays.
As the groups returned from the water, the buffet lunch was served. The meal was followed by a longer resting time to respect digestion before our afternoon dive, done in Ketuts Rock, possibly one of the most dense and diverse coral gardens of Sangalaki, which was a highlight itself, especially because the sun came out as the divers jumped in the water. Cruising along the reef, the groups came upon a juvenile Broadclub Cuttlefish, Hawksbill Turtles, a couple of juvenile Blacktip Reef Sharks and a group of four Mobula Rays that curiously circled one of the groups. What a dive!
The afternoon snack, as usual, was already served on the dive deck when the first group returned. Afterwards everyone had time to rest and enjoy the sunset before preparing for the night dive, done close to Jetty Panjang (Long Jetty, in Indonesian). As it is usually the case on our night dives, the divemasters focused mostly on searching for critters and macro subjects and the highlights tonight were: Giant Mantis Shrimp, Peacock-tail Anemone Shrimp, Pygmy Squid and Decorator Crab. What also stood out was the amount of bioluminescent plankton, enough for our divers to turn their lights off during the safety stop and watch them shine.
When everyone was back aboard and had their showers, the bell rang to call everyone to have the menu served dinner. As our guests finished dessert, a presentation about Manta Rays was given, mentioning the species in the world, some behavioral traits of this animal and threats to their existence. It was our last activity of the night and time then was given to rest, even though a few guests stayed around chatting. Tomorrow we dive in Kakaban.
Thursday August 17th
The day started with a shower and plenty of clouds were spread in the sky as we arrived in Kakaban, our destination for the day. Barracuda Point, one of the most sought-after sites in the Derawan archipelago, was where we did the first dive. With a gentle current and visibility around 30+ meters/100+ feet, our divers drifted along the wall that extends into a deep plateau looking for pelagic life along the blue and some of the sights included Grey Reef Shark and schooling Yellowtail and Chevron Barracudas, not to mention a Big-Eye Jacks seen on the distance. As the plateau finishes into another wall, wrasses, parrotfish, anthias, damselfish, drummers, Midnight Snappers and schooling fusiliers, surgeon and unicornfish offered a colorful, relaxed ending to an already fantastic dive!
At the time we normally have the second morning dive, our guests instead visited the largest jellyfish lake in the world, present in Kakaban. Three species could be seen, being them the Cassiopeia, Moon and the most abundant Golden Jellyfish. Respecting the instructions in order to minimize impact, all could snorkel among the thousands of them that thrive around here.
Having had some rest after lunch, we started gearing up for the afternoon dive, a repeat of Barracuda Point. With similar conditions, all the previous highlights were contemplated once again by our divers. Those were not all, though, as a few more Grey Reef Sharks were joined by schooling Bonitos, three immense Dogtooth Tunas, Whitetip Reef Sharks. Another pleasant surprise was the fact that the huge school of Big-Eye Jacks was this time closer to the plateau, allowing a better sight. An absolutely memorable in our second visit!
Even though the rain, that came and went along the day, stopped, gray was the color in the sky around dusk, when most of our guests were relaxing and reading in the upper deck. As the bell rang, we started gearing up for the night dive, done along Gorgonians Wall. Some of the critters seen among the overhangs covered in sponges and also in the shallow water hard coral garden included: Pygmy Squid, Crocodile Flathead and a few different species of nudibranchs.
With everyone back from the water, we gathered in the salon for dinner. Once the meal was finished, Urik shared a presentation about Whale Sharks, mentioning some of their characteristics as well as recommendations when diving with these wonderful creatures. At the time it was over, we were already on our way towards Talisayan, closer to Borneo mainland. Most guests where already in their staterooms then.
Friday August 18th
Before midnight arrived we were already close to the village of Talisayan, where we did two dives under fishing platforms known as bagans. During the night the fishermen deploy nets and lines aiming to catch small fish called by them puri and that tend to attract the biggest fish in the ocean, Whale Sharks. During one of the dives, with visibility higher than usual for the region (about 20 meters/66 feet), our groups could spend slightly more than an hour with a male measuring up to 3.5 meters/11 ½ feet which some time into the dive became playful with the divers bubbles!
Once the last ones returned from the second dive we already started our way towards the archipelago of Derawan, stopping by the submerged atoll of Malulangan, where we did our third dive, in Lunas Kapal. Along the coral reef, it was an opportunity for the divemaster to look for critters and macro subjects to be photographed and some of the findings included: Bubble, Wire Coral and Mantis Shrimp, nudibranchs and sea slugs, Ornate Ghost Pipefish and our first Pygmy Seahorse, a Bargibanti!
Another cloudy day with sparse rain reached an end as our guests relaxed laying in the upper deck. Preparation for the night dive followed and, still around Malulangan, we visited a site named Devil Slope. Among the hard coral, especially abundant in shallow waters, and sponges, some of the critters spotted included: Skeleton Shrimp, Sponge and Decorator Crab and Pygmy Squid.
After returning from the night dive, it was time for our divers to warm up with a hot shower before gathering in the salon for dinner. When the last guest finished dessert, was time for the divemaster Hery to share a presentation about Pygmy Seahorses, mentioning the species existent in the world and detailing the ones seen in Indonesia. It was our last activity and afterwards most guests retired to their staterooms. The atoll of Maratua is our destination of tomorrow.
Saturday August 19th
Before the day started our vessel reached the western side of Maratua. The difference from the previous days is that, even though a relatively windy morning, it was also a sunny one! The first dive site visited was Fusiliers, wall covered in sea fans and sponges where small fish thrive. With a gentle current, our divers drifted along the landscape watching butterfly, parrot, triggerfish, fusiliers and other reef animals being chased by occasional Blue-fin and Orange-spotted Trevallys and Spanish Mackerels. Even though the visibility was below 10 meters/33 feet for most of the time, it also didnt get the groups from spotting tens of Green Turtles and a few Hawksbill.
After we sailed to the eastern side of the atoll, we did the second dive of the day on Small Fish Country, where the landscape its not only formed by a wall, but also but a few patches where the reef gently slopes. Schooling anthias, wrasses and a considerable concentration of Sargeant Major, besides a group of Yellowtail Barracudas, were some of the action seen among visibility of 25-30 meters/82-100 feet. It was not all, though, as some critters and macro subjects were pointed out too: Crocodile Flathead, Reef Stonefish and our first Denise Pygmy Seahorse among them!
With the wind mostly gone and the sun bright in the sky, we started gearing up for the third dive of the day: Maratuas famous The Channel. With an incoming current bringing clear water from the deep ocean, pelagic life like Dogtooth Tuna, Giant Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Grey Reef Shark coupled with a few Brown-marbled Groupers concentrated at the entrance of the sandy channel looking for a meal. The grand highlight of this dive, though, was saved for the second half, when our divers met the immense school of Chevron (Blackfin) Barracuda on its full display, circling the groups at short distance. Together with them, a few Pick-handle Barracudas and a considerable group of Big-Eye Jacks and Midnight Snappers completed the show that brough plenty of smily faces back aboard!
A breezy late afternoon was closed by an orange and red colored sunset. Preparation for the night dive followed and the site chosen was the lagoon of Maratua, where the boat would be anchored for the night. Some of the critters found by the divemasters included: cuttlefish, squid, nudibranchs, like the Flabellina, Crocodile Flathead and the seldom seen Pygmy Pipehorse!
As the last ones were properly warmed up after shower, dinner was served. After another delicious meal, Urik shared a presentation about characteristics, reproduction and facts about sharks, including threats to their existence as rulers of our oceans. It was the last activity of another beautiful diving day and most guests stayed around chatting for a bit before heading to bed. Tomorrow we have another round of diving in Maratua.
Sunday August 20th
As the first rays of sun rose above the horizon, we moved the vessel out of Maratuas lagoon towards its southern tip, where we dove along the Nanukan Wall, where gorgonians and elephant ear sponges are abundant. With a gentle current and visibility in between 15-25 meters/50-82 feet, our divers drifted along the landscape while searching for critters. Some of the ones spotted included Tasseled Scorpionfish, Crocodile Flathead, nudibranchs from different species. On top of that, a few Green and Hawksbill Turtles, as it is usually the case around the atoll were seen passing by.
Sailing towards the northern tip Maratua, we stopped in Leo Point for the following dive. With the landscape composed mostly by a continuous wall, the exception stands for a deep plateau where hard and soft coral are dense and colorful are visited by fusiliers, surgeon, unicorn, butterfly and parrotfish and the occasional pelagic animals like Dogtooth Tuna and Spanish Mackerel. There one of our groups had the opportunity to see a huge Cowtail Stingray as well! Back along the wall, our divemasters pointed out a few subjects for photography, including Ribbon Eel, Orangutan Crab, (juvenile) Midnight Snapper and Crocodile Flathead.
Once we reached the tip of the atoll, our last stop, we had the third and night dive in Gorgonzola, a colorful, vivid reef, especially along a shallow plateau where for stretches the coral formations stand out before descending into a wall. As for the marine life seen: a few blennies, like the Bluestriped Fang Blenny, crustaceans, like the Porcelain Crab, and critters, like the Giant Moray and Tasseled Scorpionfish, were some of the highlights.
The night dive happened exclusively at the edge of Gorgonzolas plateau, where the eagle-eyed divemasters pointed out, in between others: Crocodile Flathead, Twin-spot Lionfish, nudibranchs, Fimbriated Moray and more. A very pleasant dive overall, according to our divers.
With everyone back aboard and the vessel already on the way towards the island of Derawan, we gathered in the salon for dinner. Once our guests finished dessert, Urik explained the schedule of our last full day together, which includes only two dives, and what followed was a presentation about Sea Turtles. It was the last activity of the evening and most guests went to their staterooms afterwards.
Monday August 21st
During the night the vessel was already anchored around Derawan, our last stop and an opportunity for our guests to do some muck diving, since both dives were done along a sandy slope with patches of hard coral, sponges and rubble that ascends into two wooden jetties. As usual, with the help of the divemasters, some of the many findings included: Broadclub Cuttlefish, Crocodile Flathead, Devil and Tasseled Scorpionfish, Reef Stonefish (including a pregnant female), Reeftop and Ringed Pipefish, nudibranchs, like the Dragon, flatworms, Peacock-tail Anemone Shrimp and also a Painted Frogfish! Besides that, on the second dive a few immense Green Turtles were seen resting in shallow waters.
With everyone back aboard, the crew took care of rinsing and hanging our divers equipment while all had lunch. Once the meal was finished, Urik shared the video he prepared along the week with some of the underwater marine life highlights and also a few moments on the boat. The afternoon was a time for rest before we started the farewell party on the sun deck. It was an opportunity for the crew to thank our guests for the visit and play some music to all.
We also congratulated Cisco, who completed his Enriched Air (Nitrox) course during the charter and Miguel, our Aggressor Iron Diver! Afterwards we took pictures together and had time to enjoy the sunset.
With dusk rang the bell for dinner, a signature dish by the chef. As our guests finished their meals and the vessel approached the port of Tarakan, Urik explained thoroughly the check-out schedule before playing the slide show with the underwater pictures our divers took along the week, which was an opportunity to already share some memories. This was our last activity of the day and afterwards a few guests retired to their staterooms while others worked on their luggage and a few stayed around chatting.
Tuesday August 22nd
On the scheduled time the crew was waiting for our guests to bid their farewells and wish all a safe, pleasant journey back home. It was a pleasure to have them with us and we wish to see them again sometime soon aboard the Raja Ampat Aggressor! See you!!!