Raja Ampat Aggressor Captains log *01 March 2018
*Air Temp. 28 - 35 C *Water Temp. 27 C - 30 C
Chief Officer: Salgap
Cruise Director: Cassio
Chief Engineer: Daryanto
2nd Engineer: Esra
3rd Engineer: Rahmat
Chef Assistant: Jemly
Dive master: Hery
Dive master: Muji
Dive master: Gracia
Tender Driver: Carly
Tender Driver: Ody
Fr: Friwinbonda, Mioskon, Cape Kri, Yanbuba Jetty
Sa: Keruo Channel, Melissas Garden, Galaxy, Keruo Night
Su: Mayhem I, Citrus Ridge, Gam Ridge, Mangrove Slope
Mo: Manta Sandy, Manta Ridge, Sawandarek Jetty, Sawandarek Jetty
Tu: Cape Mansuar, Sardine Reef, Blue Magic, Mioskon
We: Cape Kri, Blue Magic
GUESTS: Tracy, Nicole, Jo, Charles, Rich, Dale, David, Becky, Johnny, Nancy, Jill, Leann, Bob, Jan, Jeff, Gene
Thursday March 1st
As our guests started arriving on board, the crew, led by captain Ferdi, was waiting to greet them all. With a welcome beverage in hand, they were introduced to their staterooms and after getting acquainted to it, we gathered in the salon for our first meal together, prepared by the chef Komang and his assistant Jemly. After it, a briefing about the boat, mentioning its characteristics, detailing its areas and indicating some rules were given to the newcomers.
During the afternoon, with the help of Hery, Muji and Gracia, the divemasters, our divers set up their equipment and had time to rest, which most did on the upper deck enjoying the rare breezy afternoon of Sorong. Sunset came to close a the day and with the night came time for the general dive briefing, mentioning the logistics related to diving from our vessel.
What followed was an earlier dinner, which, respecting a proper extra time for our guests to rest before a long journey, was also our last activity together for the day and opted to rest straight away. By this time we were already on our way towards the Dampier Strait, our first destination in the archipelago of Raja Ampat.
Friday March 2nd
Before the break of the dawn we were already on the surroundings of Friwinbonda Island, in the Dampier Strait. After having had a light buffet-served breakfast early in the morning, our divers started gearing up for the check dive, on the fringing reef where both soft and hard coral mix well with sandy patches creating. It was an opportunity for everyone to adjust their buoyancy and start getting back into the rhythm of diving. It didnt stop there, since, drifting along with the currents in visibility of about 10-15 meters/33-50 feet, our groups got to see some marine life pointed out by the divemasters. That included Denise Pygmy Seahorse, first one of the trip. Bumphead Parrotfish, schooling Blue-lined and Two-spotted Snappers and nudibranchs, including the genus Notodoris.
As the last group returned on board, brought back by Carly, the dinghy driver, the bell rang for us to gather in the salon and have a full breakfast, ordered earlier. After the meal our guests had time for a short rest before the preparation for the second dive started. The site was the sloping reef surrounding Mioskon island. This time our divers got to see some of the peculiar species of this region, including the first Wobbegong Shark! Whitetip Reef Sharks, Spanish Mackerel and Napoleon Wrasse completed the pelagic list. As for the macro lovers, among rocky formations where corals thrive and Glassy Sweepers dance, Banded Pipefish, Bubble Coral Shrimp and nudibranchs, including the genus Plakobranchus. The currents, as on the previous dive, were present yet manageable and visibility was around 15 meters/50 feet.
When our last guests were greeted by the crew returning from their dive, time came for the buffet-served lunch, one of our Indonesian meals! It was followed by a longer period of rest, that most guests decided to have on the sun deck or in their staterooms. The bell then rang for the third dive, in the previously holder of the world record for species of fish identified in one single dive: Cape Kri. Our divers got to drift along a steep slope where rocks host diverse corals and fish, including Oriental, Giant and Harlequin Sweetlips, schooling surgeon, rabbit and batfish. This was not all for the marine life: a few critters also helped turning this dive into a special one! Nudibranchs, including the genus Chromodoris, Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse and also the nocturnal Raja Ampat Epaulette Shark, also known as the Walking Shark, endemic from the archipelago.
Noci and Maria, our stewardess, were waiting for the groups with a snack as they returned. What followed was some time to relax and enjoy some music in the salon as the sky, as it was for the whole day, was mostly cloudy with a few rain showers coming along the day. The vessel by this time arrived in between the islands of Kri and Mansuar and, for the ones who decided to join it, came the night dive, done in the jetty of the village of Yanbubba. Here, among hard coral and rocky formation, the divemasters dedicated their efforts into looking for critters and macro subjects, finding the likes of juvenile Reef Octopus, Decorator Crab, Broadclub Cuttlefish and even a cruising Blacktip Reef Shark!
As our night divers returned aboard and had shower, dinner was served. Once the dessert was finished, a presentation mentioning some aspects of the history, culture and nature of Raja Ampat was given. What followed was the opportunity for our crew to formally introduce themselves before we called it a night and most guests decided to go to bed. The boat sleeps in the region tonight before we head towards Fam and Pyainemo, our location for tomorrow.
Saturday March 3rd
We woke and the sun was not yet in the sky, being covered by a cloudy morning. The surrounding was picturesque, though, in the region of Fam & Pyainemo. The early morning dive happened along the channel of the Keruo island. Drifting along with a current, our divers could enjoy the schooling fish passing along at distance thanks to a visibility of about 20-25 meters/66-82 feet, like fusiliers, batf, surgeon and unicornfish. A few Blacktip Reef Sharks were also seen patrolling the channel. Macro life was not left out, as both Bargibanti and Denise Pygmy Seahorse were pointed out by the divemasters, as well as Mushroom Coral Pipefish and Zanzibar Wire Coral Shrimp. The finish, though, was nothing short of remarkable, a gentle safety stop among a vibrant coral reef teeming with damselfish, anthias and other families, like parrot and angelfish.
The following dive was done in one of the archipelago most illustrious site: Melissas Gardent. With the currents relatively mild and outstanding visibility, it left our divers in state of awe. Well, that was an amazing dive, wasnt it?, was one of the comments. Our divers got to enjoy the beauty of this extensive, healthy hard coral garden as a whole, including when schooling fusiliers danced on top of the reef together with damsel, butterfly, parrotfish and anthias. On top of that, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Giant Trevallys and Napoleon Wrasses were seen on the hunt and also a friendly school of Big-Eye Barracudas. A fantastic dive to start the day!
Our third dive happened in front of Pyainemu island, along a ridge named Galaxy. This site usually offers plenty of macro phtoography opportunities and this time was not different, with Bargibanti and Denise Pygmy Seahorse being spotted and a few different species of nudibranchs, including the colorful genus Flabellina, and Orangutan Crab. The currents were a factor on this dive, bringing a lot of fish life on top of the reef, which was brightly iluminated by the sun that finally came out of the clouds during the afternoon.
Once the third dive was over, our guests had the opportunity to join a supervised tour to Pyainemus view point, followed by a dinghy tour around the lagoons, which also gave the possibility of a few minutes of complete silence along the green-colored waters. Back on board the vessel started its way back tof Keruo, where the preparations for the night dive began, in Keruo Night. Drifting along the sandy slope, critters were what all were looking after and some of the findings included Pygmy Squid, juvenile cuttlefish, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish and also a Picturesque Dragonet!
When everyone had showered, the bell rang for our Italian dinner and as the dessert was finished, it was time for a presentation about Raja Ampat Aggressors summer destination, the Derawan Islands, to be shared. Most of the guests decided to rest afterwards while a few stayed up working on their cameras. By this time we were already in the region of Yangeffo, our diving location for tomorrow.
Sunday March 4th
Along the night we arrived in the waters around Yangeffo, northeast from our previous spot. Early in the morning, still anchored outside of the mangroves which turn this region one of Central Raja Ampats most picturesque scenes, we started preparing for the first dive, done in Mayhem I, a seamount where huge congregations of fish tend to happen and where the mixture of hard and soft coral along rocky formation and sandy patches cause quite an impression. With a gentle northern current and visibility around 20-25 meters/66-82 feet, our groups had a fantastic dive that started with all witnessing the action unfold on the split point as Giant Trevallys, Spanish Mackerel and Bonito Tunas actively chased fusiliers, surgeon and triggerfish. What stood out, though, was the concentration of Silverside fish, these attracting a horder of Blue-fin, Orange-spotted and Bar Jacks that did nothing less than feast on the smaller specimen. Just on the split point, three Wobbegong Sharks could be seen (including a juvenile) before the drift continued and schooling Big-Eye Jacks, Pick-handle Barracudas and other marine life like Bumphead Parrotfish were also pointed out. Wow, what a dive!
After arriving inside the magrove channels, we started gearing up for the following dive, done in Citrus Ridge, which receives this name due to the abundant, vibrant orange and fluorescent green soft coral it hosts. We did the dive during the slack tide, meaning the currents were to a minimun and, even though the soft coral didnt have its polyps open, our divers could gaze at the school of Yellowtail Fusilier, Chevron Barracuda, Big-Eye Jacks and batfish. Other species of soft coral though, where reflecting its light on this incredibly bright sunny day. Closer to the end of the dive, Hawksbill Turtle, Bumphead Parrotfish and a few camouflage masters like the Tasseled Scorpionfish were also seen by some of our divers.
The third dive happened on the other side of the same channel, in Gam Ridge, another fantastic soft coral reef. Our dive started along a sandy slope where rocky formations serve as home for plenty of Signal Gobys. Towards the second half of the dive, our groups could drift along a steep slope covered in sponges and coral and look for critters hiding among it, including Candy and Porcelain Crab, Mantis Shrimp, Ringed and Brown-banded Pipefish, among others. The end offered the opportunity to swim in super shallow waters and observe the soft coral growth among the mangrove roots, which also contained a fairly active Estuarine Stonefish.
Today our last dive happened earlier, during the sunset, as we tried our luck in order to see the animals who are active during this time of the day. The try paid off, as all groups got to see a few of the wonderful Mandarinfish, a dragonet with vibrant, bright colors, considered by some the most beautiful fish in the world. Those picturesque animals come out of their retreats during this time of the day to mate, which our divers got to witness as well! On top of that, the seldom seen Flasherwrasse was spotted. Great dive to end the day in the Magrove Slope.
With everyone back on board, we had dinner slightly earlier and it was followed by a presentation about sharks, mentioning general characteristics, some curious facts and also threats resulting of overfishing practices. Most guests opted to rest afterwards as the boat sleeps in Yangeffo tonight.
Monday March 5th
We woke up already out of Yangeffos mangroves, in the surroundings of Arborek island, in what turned out to be a memorable day of diving. Here, we visited one of Raja Ampats most celebrated Manta Ray cleaning stations: Manta Sandy and Manta Ridge.
The first, a sandy channel where a few rocky formations host sparse hard coral, our divers got to witness a black female Reef Manta Ray specimen for more than twenty minutes being cleaned and doing barrel rolls, offering a show to our guests. A great dive, said one, as the groups returned from the water.
The following dive, along the hard coral covered ridge, was not only a dive, but an experience. With the help of the divemasters Muji and Hery, our divers got to position themselves despite the considerable currents that wash this reef and enjoy about one hour of six Reef Manta Rays, two females and four males, getting cleaned by Cleaner and Moon Wrasser and Klein Butterflyfish and also feeding, all this approaching the visitors to less than an arms reach. Amazing or wonderful doesnt describe it, another guest said.
Further south we anchored the boat in front of the village of Sawandarek, in the island of Mansuar. The third dive happened in the surroundings of its jetty and, with the currents being a non-factor and visibility around 20 meters/66 feet, it was another fantastic, diverse dive. Green and Hawksbill Turtle, Wobbegong Shark, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse, Blacktip Reef Shark, schooling Big-Eye Jacks, Oriental, Harlequin and Diagonal-banded Sweetlips, you name it, were seen. On top of that, with the bright lights of the sun illuminating the reef around the jetty, it was an outstanding finish to our guests, who could swim among drummers, batfish, sweetlips, snappers, fusiliers and also a Napoleon Wrasse in shallow waters. What else could we ask from such a day?
Following the third dive, we had the opportunity to go on a small walk around the village. A chance for our guests to photograph the beautiful landscape and interact briefly with the locals together with the crew, who accompanied them. Back on board, the bell rang for the night dive as the sky turned from blue into a light red, and it was a repeat of Sawandarek Jetty. This time, the divemasters were focused on the macro life available and Decorator Crabs, Marbled Shrimp, nudibranchs and also a Pygmy Squid were some of the highlights.
When all our divers were on board, the dinner was served. After dessert we had a musical moment, since the crew played a few Indonesian songs to our guests, who appreciated it. This was our last activity together and afterwards most opted to rest, besides a few who stayed around watching videos about coral reefs. By this time the vessel was already in the surroundings of Yanbuba village.
Tuesday March 6th
We woke up with the first rays of sun on the horizon and started gearing up for the dive in Cape Mansuar, close by the village of Yanbuba, where we had a night dives a few days back. With a gentle current and visibility around 20 meters/66 feet, our divers had the possibility to move around this slopping reef while gazing at plenty of fish swimming around. The likes of drummers, batfish, Pick-handle Barracudas, Red and Blubberlip Snappers, Blacktip Reef Shark were seen congregating or moving around. Towards the end of the dive, the divemasters spotted a few critters, including nudibranchs, flatworms and also a Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse.
Once the dive was over, we moved east towards the eastern entrance of the Dampier Strait, where we visited the large seamount named Sardine Reef. The currents this time were more of a factor and our groups spent most of the dive on the split point gazing at schooling fusiliers, surgeon, unicorn, bat and rabbitfish being chased by Red Snappers, Spanish Mackerel, Giant Trevally. A couple of Grey Reef Shark and also a Whitetip were pointed out, as well as the always present Wobbegong Shark. A few Bumphead Parrotfish, Big-Eye Jacks, and schooling Pick-handle Barracudas were also seen. On top of that, two of our divers had the opportunity to see a Manta Rays cruising the reef on their safety stop! Visibility was around 10-15 meters/33-50 feet.
During the afternoon, the vessel made its way slightly north, where we anchored close to Blue Magic, one of the most notorious site of Central Raja Ampat. The currents on this dive were a non-factor and this gave the opportunity for our groups to swim around the seamount and observe the considerable amount of fish in the likes of fusiliers, rabbit, unicorn and surgeonfish, all of them represented by at least two different species. Oceanic Triggerfish, Spanish Mackerels, Giant and Blue-fin Trevally, Blacktip Reef Shark, Wobbegong Shark, Dogtooth Tuna and two massive schools, one of Big-Eye Jacks and other of Bonito Tuna (rarely seen so close to the reef) were also in play. On top of that, Leaf Scorpionfish, Crocodile Flathead and Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse were also seen. What else could we say about Raja Ampats biodiverse when you consider the diminute size of this seamount? Amazing!
With all our divers returned on board, it was time for a snack as we moved to our next dive site, the reef around islet of Mioskon. Weve been mostly indoors today due to the persisted rain that arrive after being absent since the trips beginning, but most of our divers joined the last night dive. It was the lone opportunity for our divers to see the endemic Raja Ampat Epaulette Shark, also known as the walking shark!
After the last divers came back and had their showers, it was time for dinner. What followed the dessert was an explanation about the logistics of our last full day together happening tomorrow and a presentation about Pygmy Seahorses, given by the divemaster Hery. After that most guests retired to their rooms. The boat sleps around Mioskon tonight.
Wednesday March 7th
Both our last dives were done in two of Dampiers possibly most famous sites: Cape Kri and Blue Magic, places weve visited during the trip. It was a fantastic morning to end the trip, being two dives, done in gentle currents and with visibility in between 15-25 meters/50-82 feet, a great opportunity to swim among schooling fish of all species and a beautiful coral garden. A great final reminder of what makes Raja Ampat such an especial location, its diversity of marine life and health of its coral. Absolutely awesome!
As the last group returned from the second dive, the crew started taking care of rinsing their equipment and hanging it. During this we had lunch and afterwards a video with footage of the week, including marine life and moments on the boat, was shown.
During the afternoon we had our farewell party, a moment for the crew to play some music to the guests and thank all for their visit. It was also an opportunity to distribution of awards and recognition of milestones.
Jo, Charlie, Leann, Bob and Jan reached their 100th dive during this cruise. Quite a number, cheers to all!
Jo and Jeff were our Aggressor Iron Divers, completing all dives available! All our guests, though, deserved an applause for their behavior underwater!
Sunset came as we sailed towards Sorong and after it we had dinner. The meal was followed by an explanation on check-out procedures and for last we watched a slideshow with some of the pictures taken by our divers during the week. It was the last activity and a few stayed around chatting afterwards.
Thursday March 8th
At the scheduled time the crew was waiting for our guests to help them with luggage and bid farewells. It was a pleasure to have you all on board and we hope to see you again on the Raja Ampat Aggressor. Have a safe journey back home!