We arrived home a few weeks ago from our Raja Ampat 2017 trip on the Mermaid 2 liveaboard. Once again, we planned this trip around the half moon in March in order to avoid strong currents and to take advantage of the great weather that March usually offers. This time around we were joined by a great group of people from Canada, Australia, England, Thailand, and the United States. We all arrived a day early in order to avoid any luggage mishaps and happily enough no one had any issues with luggage at all! We were picked up by the Mermaid crew on departure day and made our way to the boat around 12 noon. After harbour clearance, we enjoyed a gentle cruise to the Misool region overnight with a smooth crossing so we all caught a great night sleep.
Diving Day #1 – The first day of our Raja Ampat 2017 trip, we concentrated on the Fiabacet area with dives on the famous sites of Whale Rock and Nudi Rock before heading over to Yellit Kecil for the afternoon dive. Highlights included many big schools of fusiliers, barracuda, jacks, and snappers. We had encounters with white tip, black tip, and grey reef sharks as well as several large groupers. For those looking for the smaller denizens of the reef, the great Mermaid guides were able to spot several tiny pygmy seahorses as well. Those were interested in the night dive headed out to Yellit and enjoyed an interesting night dive, while those who weren’t night diving instead went to the beach for sunset to see a group of baby black tip sharks.
Diving Day #2 – Day two saw us visit one of the more iconic sites in Raja Ampat, Boo Windows. The early morning light and calm seas were perfect for capturing the light filtering through these famous swim-throughs. On dive 2 and 3 we headed over to the sea mount called Magic Mountain, home to two cleaning stations where mantas often come to be cleaned. We were lucky enough to get a few passes by the mantas but we did not enjoy an extended cleaning sequence unfortunately. However, what we did enjoy was two outstanding dives with turtles, napolean wrasse, schooling snappers and batfish, giant trevally predation, schooling jacks and so much more! After two dives here we headed back to the Fiabacet area for a beautiful sunset and a night dive for those brave souls who ventured out.
Diving Day #3 – We embarked on a short morning cruise to the Daram Island group and headed out to dive Warna Berwarna 1 and 2. The second dive of the day was at the beautiful site Andiamo which never fails to deliver incredible marine life encounters. The big schools of snappers and fusiliers covered the reefs in the deep while there were plenty of batfish up in the shallows. Over lunch we cruised back to the west to dive at Two Tree Island before embarking on a short island “beer cruise” through the beautiful Balbulol Lagoon. There was no night dive on this night as we decided to head back to the north. Although the visibility was not “bad” in the Misool area, we heard that it was better in northern Raja so we decided to take advantage of the speed that the Mermaid offers and head to the Penemu Island group.
Diving Day #4 – The cruise to the north was smooth and uneventful and saw us awake in the beautiful Penemu islands with a calm and inviting sea. The first dive of the day was at My Reef and upon entering the water we knew we made a good decision the night before. The water quality was crystal clear and the current was just the perfect amount. We were greeted by a large school of barracuda as well as a healthy population of soft coral that was in all it’s vibrancy with the running current. Dive two consisted of a mellow dive through the Penemu Channel with beautiful hard corals in the shallows. Dive 3 was at Batu Rufus which consists of a shallow swim through and fields upon fields of the healthiest hard coral gardens in Raja Ampat. After the dive we headed up the lookout steps to snap photos of the brilliant view of the rock islands of the lagoon. We had another great night dive here and then an overnight crossing further north.
Diving Day #5 – We arrived at Eagle Rock at the southern end of Kawe Island and once again the conditions were pristine. We jumped in on a mild current and explored the large bommies of this site that were covered by numerous colourful soft corals. Wobbegongs aplenty were found during the dive and a few people were lucky enough to spot a few mantas in the distance. Dive 2 was spent at Black Rocks which featured beautiful clear water and plenty of fish action. During lunch we cruised a short distance away to swim with a group of mantas that we discovered from the drone that were feeding at the surface. After swimming with the mantas for an hour we headed back to Black Rocks and jumped in on almost a completely different dive. We started this second dive from the southern end of the reef and encountered massive schools of fusiliers that bombarded us throughout the dive. Once we finished this dive we cruised back south to the Wofoh area for the night dive before heading off to the Yangeffo region for the night.
Diving Day #6 – The Yangeffo area, at the western edge of Gam Island, is one of the more unique areas in Raja Ampat as it’s home to clear water mangroves. We started the day on the offshore pinnacle known as Mayhem where we encountered schooling bumphead parrotfish which featured several males jousting for female attention. The second dive was at Citrus Ridge which is a long ridge at the mouth of the channel between Gam and Yangeffo Islands. We found a school of barracuda, wobbegongs, pygmy seahorses, turtles, and incredible orange soft coral life all along the ridge. The third dive was the most unique of the trip as we spent time in the shallow mangrove area with the sunlight streaming down through the trees. As most of our group were photographers, these were some of the most unique photos of the trip. After this dive we cruised the short distance to Arborek Island where we were able to stretch our legs with a tour of the village. The kids from the village also put on a very cool dance for us complete with accompanying guitar and drums. This was also one of the more interesting night dives of the trip as the divers were serenaded by the vocalizations of the local Toad Fish.
Last day of diving, Diving Day #7 – For the last two dives of the trip we decided to finish off with two of the signature dives of the Dampier Strait region, Cape Kri and Blue Magic. Cape Kri was a fun dive with the strongest current of the trip which allowed the gang to hang in the current to watch the schools of jacks and snappers swirling off the reef. As we anchored the boat off of Blue Magic for dive number two, our trusty boat crew spotted something weird at the surface that turned out to be a giant sunfish! Wasting no time whatsoever, the vast majority of the group jumped in to swim with the Mola and everyone spent around an hour snorkeling with it. After this incredible encounter, it was time to head out to the last dive on the pinnacle Blue Magic. Barracuda and jacks greeted us underwater as well as a few grey reef sharks and spanish mackerel. We also discovered a few wobbegongs under the coral while on the last safety stop of our trip before heading back to Sorong for our flight home the following day.
All in all we had a fantastic Raja Ampat 2017 trip! The crew of the Mermaid were friendly and professional as always with everything working perfectly throughout the week. The food was tasty and plentiful, in fact too plentiful as everyone complained of gaining weight during the trip. We loved the fact that the Mermaid crew works WITH us instead of dictating to us a schedule that they want us to follow. The flexibility and professionalism of the dive team is refreshing and allowed all of our guests to enjoy the wonderful diving that Raja Ampat 2017 has to offer. We would like to thank all of our friends who traveled with us this year and we look forward to seeing you again soon! We have already booked our next trip to Komodo on the Mermaid in September and stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about our 2018 liveaboard schedule.