Raja Ampat Aggressor Captains log *26 June 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: Herya
Tender Driver: Jasman
Tender Driver: Ody
Tu: Mioskon, Sardine Reef, Blue Magic, Yanbuba Jetty
We: Mayhem I, Mangrove Ridge, Gam Ridge, Yangeffo Beach
Th: Melissas Garden, Keruo Channel, Keruo Wall, Rubble Coral
Fr: Tanjung Wame, Kofiau #1, Kofiau #2, Kofiau #2
Sa: Batuanyer Kecil, Batuanyer Kecil, Batuanyer Besar
Su: Akikos Neverland, Bacan Bay, Tanjung Maregarando
Mo: Bonzai Rock, Tamo Tamo Pinnacle, Pulau Aidu, Rennes Rock
Tu: Pantai Sago, Pantai Sago, Pantai Sago, Jasman Reef
We: Jahir, Pante Parigi
GUESTS: Catherine, Sue, Frank, Charlotte, Stan, Allison, Rich, Zach, James, Laura, Lesley, Niall, Jim, Gabe, Ham, Mike
Monday June 26th
At the scheduled time, our guests arrived aboard the vessel and were greeted by the crew, as Betty and Chris, our stewardesses, offered each one a welcome beverage. Following the arrival the staterooms were shown with a brief explanation of it. After that we gathered in the salon for our first meal together.
As the guests finished lunch, Urik, our cruise director, proceeded with a introductory briefing about the boat and its facilities, some of the rules we have on board and safety protocol. The afternoon was reserved for rest or preparation of dive gear, done with the help of Denny, Jemy and Hery, our divemasters.
A beautiful sunset was seen and photographed while we were still in the port of Sorong and it was followed by an early dinner. Tonight our chef, Jemly, and Intan, chef assistant, prepared a special dessert: a birthday cake to Frank, who completed years aboard the vessel this day. Congratulations! It was an opportunity for crew members to introduce themselves. Afterwards Urik shared a briefing on the dive logistics from our vessel and this was our last activity for the day, as most of the guests retired to their staterooms in order to rest from a long journey. By this time we were on our way to Dampier Strait, Central Raja Ampat, our first destination.
Tuesday June 27th
Early in the morning and already at our first dive spot, our guests woke up and had an early buffet breakfast. It was followed by our check dive, done in Mioskon, a slopping hard coral reef that ends into a sandy bottom. The current was mild and visiblity around 15-20 meters/50-66 feet, offering no challenge for the guests to adjust their weights and trim for their own comfort. Nevertheless, it was also an opportunity to see some interesting marine life already, like our first Wobbegong Shark, schooling Spanish Flag, Blue-lined Snappers and Mimic Goatfish and a few macro subjects, like nudibranchs and Orangutan Crab.
With the divers back on board we had a full breakfast together which was followed by some rest, before the second dive briefing. The dive site was a large seamount named Sardine Reef, famous for hosting big congregations of fish, including pelagics like Giant Trevally, Dogtooth Tuna and Spanish Mackerel chasing schooling fusiliers. With an ebbing tide and the current coming from southeast our divers enjoyed the drift along the slopping sides of the reef. Some other highlights included: Blacktip Reef Shark, Blue-spotted Stingray and our first Pygmy Seahorse, a Bargibanti specimen found by our divemasters.
A buffet lunch was waiting for the guests as they arrived back on board and after a longer resting time was in the schedule. The third dive of the day happened in a neighbor seamount named Blue Magic, one of Dampier Straits most sought after sites. What stood out during this dive, done in a gentle current and with visibility around 15 meters/50 feet, was the amount of schooling fish hovering around the mount: different species of fusiliers, Orange-spotted, Blue-fin and Giant Trevallys, Spanish Mackerels, Yellowtail Barracudas, cardinalfishes and occasional sweetlips. Besides that along the hard coral another Wobbegong Shark was spotted and for the macro photographers a Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse and Leaf Scorpionfish.
As the divers returned from the water a snack was waiting for them. It was followed by some rest and time to enjoy the end of the day, including an impressive red colored sunset, as we sailed southwest, towards the island of Mansuar where we did our night dive around the jetty of the Yanbuba village. As its usually the case, our divemasters were focusing on spotting macro subjects and some of the findings included: (juvenile) Broadclub Cuttlefish, (juvenile) Reef Octopus, Crocodile Flathead and Decorator Crabs.
Next on the schedule was time for shower and a menu-served dinner. As the guests finished dessert, we had the opportunity to congratulate Stan, who on the very first day of the cruise reached his 100th dive! After it Urik shared a presentation about the history, geography, culture and biodiversity of Raja Ampat. This was our last activity for the day and some guests stayed around the salon talking while most headed to their cabins for a night of sleep. Along the night we sail north towards and Yangeffo, our destination for tomorrow.
Wednesday June 28th
As the sun rose in between a few clouds in the sky, our guests started preparing for our first dive in the region of Yangeffo, done on a seamount named Mayhem I. The name comes from the abundance of fish seen more often than not around this reef. This dive was not different, with visibility at around 15 meters/50 feet and a mild current, the divers got to swim around the mount and gaze at schooling Big-Eye Jacks, fusiliers, rabbitfishes and triggerfishes, observing the occasional strikes from Giant Trevallys, Spanish Mackerel and a few Dogtooth Tunas. Along the reef, Wobbegong Sharks, Bumphead Parrotfishes, Blacktip Reef Shark and some macro subjects like Tasseled and Devil Scorpionfish were also seen.
Our following dive was done inside the picturesque, beautiful mangrove area present around this region. And the beauty followed the guests underwater as we dove in Mangrove Ridge, a site famous for hosting a wide variety of critters, macro subjects. Some of the highlights pointed out by the divemasters included: Mushroom Coral and Ringed Pipefish, Mantis Shrimp, in between others. A Hawksbill Turtle and a couple of Banded Sea Snakes also were seen around the hard coral garden present on the top of the ridge.
The afternoon dive was done in another ridge, one extending from Gam island. With visibility around 10-15 meters/33-50 feet and some current present, the soft coral garden on the shallow part of the ridge were fully opened in order to catch the floating nutrients, allowing the guests to contemplate its color while drifting. Some of the other highlights in terms of marine life included: schooling Long-Jawed Mackerels (a huge group that lives in the area), Whitetip, Blacktip and Grey Reef Sharks, and some macro subjects, like the Bubble Coral Shrimp, Signal Goby and a few nudibranchs.
Fresh after a rain shower, we got to enjoy the sun setting on the horizon among the still cloudy sky before starting the preparation for the night dive, done in Yangeffo Beach. Our eagle-eyed divemasters pointed out a few surprises, including: Marbled Shrimp, Blue-spotted Ribbon-tail Stingray, flounders and also a Bobtail Squid.
Back aboard the vessel, it was time to gather in the salon for dinner, which was followed by another presentation, this time done by our divemaster Jemy. The subject of the night was the Epaulette Shark, also known as the Walking Shark, a peculiar genus of fish which has three endemic species present around West Papua and one in the region of Halmahera, where well be diving towards the second half of this trip. Once it was done, most of the guests went to their rooms for rest. During the night we start sailing towards the region of Fam and Penemu.
Thursday June 29th
With a pink sunrise greeting us in the morning, we started our preparation for the first dive of the day in the region of Fam and Penemu: Melissas Garden. Standing as one of the most dense hard coral gardens of Raja Ampat, a lot of smily faces were seen as the divers returned from the dive after drifting along with a gentle coral gazing at the anthias, wrasses, parrtofishes and damselfishes that are actively chased by trevallys and snappers on the top of this beautiful reef. That was not all, though, as Wobbegong Shark, Giant Mantis, Hawksbill Turtle and a Napoleon Wrasse were also seen. A great dive to start the day!
The following dive happened in a channel by the smaller island of Keruo. With the sun bright in the sky, a mild current that allowed the divers to drift along a wall formation and visibility around 15-20 meters/50-66 feet, it was another pleasant dive. Some of the highlights included gorgonian sea fans themselves, beautiful soft coral formations and animals like Whitetip Reef Shark, Oriental and Diagonal-banded Sweetlips, and two variations of the Denise Pygmy Seahorse, one of them known only from the Birds Head Seascape region, which includes Raja Ampat.
Dive number three happened on the other side of Keruo, this side on its wall and splendid soft coral garden present especially in the shallower waters of the reef. Even though the skies were slightly cloudier than on the previous dive, our guests still had the opportunity to enjoy the different colorations present. Some of the highlights in terms of marine life included mostly macro subjects, like the Sarasvati Anemone Shrimp, nudibranchs, flatworms and Popcorn Shrimp.
After the third dive our guests went on a supervised trek to a view point where they could contemplate and photograph the peculiar karst formations famous from this region. It was also a good opportunity to touch land and enjoy the sound of birds and the wind. The trek was followed by a quick boat ride around the islets before we returned to the vessel and started preparing for the night dive, done in Rubble Coral. Our sole objective this night was to find exquisite and rare critters that like to hide among this kind of subtract. Some of the highlights found by the divemasters included: Thawny Seahorse, (juvenile) Devil Scorpionfish, (juvenile) Broadclub Cuttlefish and Ringed Pipefish.
Shower and dinner came next and after dessert our divemaster Hery shared a presentation on Pygmy Seahorses, which himself has been spotting and learning since the start of his diving career, more than 10 years ago! It was our last activity of the day and afterwards most of the guests returned to their staterooms as our vessel started heading southwest, towards Kofiau, our last stop in the archipelago of Raja Ampat.
Friday June 30th
Before dawn we reached the eastern corner of Kofiau, western part of Raja Ampat. There, close to the lighthouse, we did our first dive of the day, in Tanjung Wame. With visibility around 10-15 meters/33-50 feet and some current, our divers enjoyed a drift along the coral slope that ended in a vibrant soft coral garden located in a shallow plateau. Some of the highlights in terms of marine life included Ribbon Eels (both male and female), Blue-spotted Ribbon-tail Stingray and a considerable amount of colorful reef fish, like damsel, anthias, wrasse, parrot, butterfly and angelfish, resulting in an aquarium-like landscape.
Our two following dives happened in between Kofiau and Deer and were critter dives done around two piers, Kofiau #1 and Kofiau #2. Some of the critters seen among the rubble coral, acropora and sand included Leaf Scorpionfish, Mushroom Coral Pipefish, Flying Gurnard, Tasseled and Papuan Scorpionfish, Mantis Shrimp, jawfish, a few different nudibranchs, in between others.
Our last dive happened in a different schedule than usual, being done around the sunset, when our divemasters were trying to spot some of the critters that usually leave their burrows at this time of the day. Some of the findings included: juvenile scorpionfish, pipefish and the celebrated dragonet known as Mandarinfish. A few divers even saw a couple mating!
With everyone back on board and our vessel already on its way towards Pulau Pisang, a pit-stop in between Raja Ampat and Halmahera, we gathered in the salon for an earlier dinner. We had another diver today reaching a milestone: Allison, 100th dives, congratulations! After the meal a presentation on Manta Rays was given, mentioning their characteristics, behavior and some threats to the population world-wide. It was our last activity and afterwards some guests still stayed around talking while most opted to rest.
Saturday July 1st
With the first sun rays of the early morning breaking the horizon, we arrived in Pulau Pisang (Banana Island, in Indonesian), our destination for the day. Our first two dives were done around two rocks situated west of the main island, named Batuanyer Kecil. There were plenty of highlights and impressive sights in both dives, done with some current and visibility between 15-20 meters/50-66 feet, but one of the most astonishing things seen, according to the guests, was the condition of the soft coral garden located in a shallow plateau.
Along the hard coral slope that would end in a sandy bottom some pelagic life was seen, like Blacktip Reef Shark, Dogtooth Tuna, Spanish Mackerel, Rainbown Runners and Giant Trevallys. Most of our divers also got to see a school of Bumphead Parrotfish and occasional Napoleon Wrasses. As for smaller subjects, nudibranchs, gobies, blennies and crustaceans, like the Mantis Shrimp, Porcelain and Orangutan Crabs, were pointed out by our divemasters. Two beautiful dives!
The third dive of the day happened also around Pisang, but in a different site, Batuanyer Besar. With the current running, the groups drifted along a gentle slope that would end in a plateau. Some of the following marine life was seen: schooling fusiliers, Redtooth Triggerfish, rabbitfishes, surgeonfishes and occasional pelagic animals pasing by. The visibility was outstanding, about 30+ meters/100+ feet. On top of that, this was another location where the coral growth was plentiful and in relative pristine conditions.
Due to the distance our vessel has to cover on its way to the southern region of Halmahera, we didnt have night dive this day, saying goodbye to this tiny island and its lush green vegetation. Dinner happened earlier and was followed by a presentation about sharks, mentioning some of its characteristics, anatomy traits, behavior and threats. Afterwards most the guests opted to rest in order to prepare for another full day of diving tomorrow in Bacan, our first stop in Halmahera.
Sunday July 2nd
With the sun barely seen among a misty morning, we arrived at the southern part of Bacan, our first destination in the Halmahera Sea. Our dives were concentrated around a bay where we explored both its corner and the bay itself.
The first dive was in Akikos Neverland, the western corner, and wall that extends into a slope as the corner turns towards the bay. The coral condition on this site seemed to be quite pristine, both soft and hard coral, especially at the shallowest parts of the reef. Along the wall, with some current coming from the northwest, our divers got to see schooling fusiliers, rabbitfish, surgeonfish, Redtooth Triggerfish, Bumphead Parrotfish and pelagic Spanish Mackerels and Giant Trevallys. On top of that, one of the highlights was the sight of a Marbled Ray, an animal that is usually seen in deep waters. Visibility was in between 5-15 meters/16-50 feet depending on the section of the reef.
Our following dive was a muck dive in the black sandy bay of Bacan. Considering some wave action presented today, our visibility was around 5-10 meters/16-33 feet only. Nevertheless, our divemasters pointed out some interesting critters to our divers, like the Devil Scorpionfish, flatworms, headshield slugs and nudibranchs, like two mating Banana Nudibranchs!
Third dive of the day happened at the eastern corner, named Tanjung Maregarando and it was a special one considering the fish action seen among a mild current. Yellowtail Barracudas, Spanish Mackerels, Redtooth Triggerfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish, fusiliers and other smaller reef fish were all involved in a game of chase, which was quite a sight for our divers as they drifted along the southeast current. Visibility improved to 15-20 meters/50-66 feet and we had plenty of happy faces when our divers returned to the vessel!
Due to our crossing towards Goriaci, located far north from south Bacan, we hadnt a night dive this day, instead right after the dive left another beautiful lush green island behind (not without some pictures first). Dinner happened slightly earlier again and afterwards we had the opportunity to congratulate our guest Jim for completing his 500th dive today!
It was not all, though, since we had another birthday cake to Charlotte. Our chef personally gave her the cake and our crew, lead by Jasman, played some music for the guests! Urik followed sharing a presentation of some of his beautiful underwater photography work done aboard the Raja Ampat Aggressor for those who were interested.
Monday July 3rd
The sun was not yet in the sky when we arrived at the group of island named Goriaci, where we spend our diving day. What immediately stood out on this location was how beautiful the landscape was, with small islets surrounded by the ocean and a few other immense volcanic island of Halmahera that stood out on the horizon.
The first dive site was Bonzai Rock and, as it was for the whole day, was quite a fishy dive, where the divers got to experience visibility of around 20-25 meters/66-82 feet. The currents were present, even though manageable, and the divers got to see Blacktip and Grey Reef Sharks, Bumphead Parrotfish, Napoleon Wrasse, Dogtooth Tuna, Rainbow Runner and batfish. That was not all, though, as our divemasters pointed out a Pontohi and a Sevren Pygmy Seahorses, species we havent seen yet during this trip.
The following dive happened in Tamo Tamo Pinnacle, a small rock barely seen out of the water that extends into a relatively vast reef under the surface. What stood out during this dive was the possibility of seeing around 10 Blacktip Reef Sharks patroling the reef. Besides that, a solitary Great Barracuda was also seen hovering among a cleaning station where batfish were getting rid of parasites. As for macro subjects, different species of blennies and gobies and an Orangutan Crab were some of the species to be mentioned.
Third dive of the day happened in the shallow reef of Pulau Aidu, where the coloration and density of soft coral caught the attention of our divers. After swimming around a pinnacle surrounded by Redtooth Triggerfish, surgeonfish and rabbitfish with a few Dogtooth Tuna hovering around, the second half of the dive happened on a plateau gazing at the coral formations and looking for critters, like Tasseled Scorpionfish, Bubble Coral Shrimp and Porcelain Crab, among others.
Our last dive today happened during the day, before sunset, in Rennes Rock and the quantity of fish seen around this pinnacle was astonishing. Curious Rainbow Runners swam around the divers, a group of more than 10 Dogtooth Tunas were chasing fusiliers, surgeonfish, rabbitfish. Black and Midnight Snappers and Napoleon Wrasses also joined the party and Blacktip, White and Grey Reef Sharks were also seen. As if it was not all, the soft coral growth in the deeper part of the reef was impressive, especially because with the currents it had its polyps fully opened. Visibility, again, was around 20-25 meters/66-82 feet.
With everyone back aboard the vessel we had an earlier dinner tonight. After it a presentation about the Derawan Archipelago, Raja Ampat Aggressor new summer destination was shared. This was our last activity of the day and most of the guests opted to retire to their staterooms. By this time we were already on our way to Tifore, already outside of the Halmahera region and on our way to Bitung, North Sulawesi.
Tuesday July 4th
Before sunrise we were already close to the coast of Tifore, where we spend our diving day. In fact, all of our three day dives today were done on a (huge) seamount named Pantai Sago, famous for hosting considerable congregations of fish. All three dives had a wow moment provided by schooling fish being chased or just hovering around the reef.
Mimic Goatfish, Blue-lined Snappers and rabbitfishes hovered on top of the table corals in shallow waters. Zillions of fusiliers were seen on the blue or, due to the approach of predators, close to the reef. Dogtooth Tunas made their mark patrolling the reef, one of them surpassing 1.25 meters/4.1 feet! Trevallys of all kinds were actively chasing prey, Orange-spotted, Giant and Blue-fin. A school of Black Snappers also caused quite an impression among our guests, the same can be said about the three Grey Reef Sharks (one a fully grown adult) seen on the deeper side.
But the great highlight of the day was a immense school of Chevron Barracudas that at some point during the dive all our divers got to see. What stood out from this concentration of fish was the peculiar shape that these specie of barracuda adopt when swimming in large groups: a tornado. Some of our divers could actually get inside it. All this with manageable currents and visibility of around 30 meters/100 feet. Quite a sight!
Our night dive happened on one of the tips of the island, in a reef we named Jasman Reef. Among the hard coral, rubble and some rocks that formed an interesting topography, Reef Octopus, Pygmy Squid, nudibranchs, like the Nembrotha, Fimbriated and Yellowmargin Moray Eels were some of the highlights pointed out by our divemasters.
Back aboard the vessel, our guests prepared for dinner, which was followed by a presentation about sea turtles, shared by our cruise director, Urik. It was our last activity for the day and afterwards all our guests decided to rest. By this time we were already on our way to Bitung, in the famous Lembeh Strait.
Wednesday July 5th
As the sun rose behind the picturesque landscape of the Lembeh Strait we arrived at destination for the day. Both of our dives, in Pajir and in Pente Parigi, were muck dives in a region that is considered to be among the best for this kind of diving in the world. As expected, exquisite creatures were found, among them Warty and Giant Frogfish, Flying Gurnard, Broadclub Cuttlefish, Leafy/Hairy Filefish, Day Octopus and several species of mantis shrimps and nudibranchs, to name a few. Especially from the early morning dive, our divers came back impressed!
As the crew took care of the rinsing of dive equipment, our guests had lunch. Afterwards it was time for rest before our farewell party, done in the sun deck. It was an opportunity for the crew to thank everyone for the visit and play some music. It was also a time for group photos and distribution of awards and milestones.
As for our milestones divers, we had four: Stan (100 dives), Allison (100), Frank (200) and Jim (500). Congratulations!
We also rewarded our guests who completed all the available dives on board, our Raja Ampat Aggressor Iron Divers: Catherine, Stan, Rich, Zach, Niall, Ham and Mike. Good job to all!
Sunset came back and was followed by our last dinner together. After it we watched together a slideshow with some of the photos taken by the guests during the trip. A good time to start sharing some memories! Finally, afterwards most guests retired to their staterooms.
Thursday July 6th
At the scheduled time the crew was waiting for our guests in order to bid their farewells and thank all one more time for spending their holidays with us. We wish them a safe trip back home and hope to see them all back aboard the Raja Ampat Aggressor.