Diving in Raja Ampat, April 2023

Four members of Coventry Sub Aqua Club recently holidayed in Indonesia. The words below are an abridged version of a trip report authored by our Treasurer, Jeff. A full version is available to club members.

Planning the trip

This “bucket list” dive trip was a long time in the planning stage. It had been on my radar for some time to visit this marvellous part of the world since first discovering it in magazines, dive shows and club members.

I sought assistance from Helena at Diverse Travel. I first met Helena at a dive show in Birmingham in 2019 and we began discussing a trip to Raja Ampat. Initially, I thought I’d be going alone as the cost to this area of the world is very high, probably too high to be a club trip. After speaking about the diving with a friend, he said he would be interested and so we decided to go ahead with the two of us. Then COVID-19 hit the world in Feb/March 2020… Luckily, at this point we had not financially committed ourselves and the trip was put on the back burner until relative normality had returned.

We knew a few other club members had visited this region of the world for diving so we asked advice and sought general info that may make the trip easier. Whilst gathering this information, it generated interest to add another club member to the trip list. He had been to Raja Ampat several times previously. Then a fourth member also showed an interest, so now there were four of us and the trip was on for February 2023.

Flying to Indonesia

The trip included all flights, transfers, eight days’ liveaboard accommodation, three days’ stay in Singapore sightseeing and then return flights home. Luckily, all flights and transfers were relatively painless with only minor delays or changes which had little effect on the overall travelling ordeal.

Arriving in Singapore to torrential rain, we sought out the connection Terminal to Jakarta knowing after this second flight there would be a lengthy connection delay between the connection from Jakarta to Sorong. Arriving early in Sorong, we were met by our dive team and driven from the airport to the local marina. The roads were crowded with locals on their way to work and school, and a myriad of mopeds darted between the rush-hour traffic. Arriving at the small port we were greeted by some of the boat staff and boarded our RIBs to the short journey to the dive boat – Mermaid 2.

Diving from the Mermaid 2

On board the Mermaid 2, we were directed to the top deck, where we were given our cabin numbers and briefed about the boat and staff and then shown to our designated cabins. The cabins were small but functional and all en-suite. There were no wash and WC facilities other than our own rooms. There were warm showers on the dive deck for rinsing gear after the dives.

The boat consisted of the dive deck (where the RIBs were stowed when not in use), kitting up area and camera stowage, corridor to bedrooms and beyond the bedrooms was the dining area for meals. Stairs from this area, leading below deck, led to more passenger cabins and crew quarters and the galley. Stairs leading from the kitting up area led to the upper deck where the outside, covered seating area (party deck) and saloon were located.

The saloon was used every day for dive briefings before every dive and afternoon snacks. Fresh fruit and biscuits were always available here together with hot drinks and fridge for cold drinks. The boat’s shop and gear storage were also in this saloon area. The bedrooms and saloon were air conditioned, which was welcome in 30 degree heat in Indonesia. As you would expect on a liveaboard, the food was fabulous.

Weather throughout the week in Raja Ampat was changeable but always warm. Most days it was cloudy, which was beneficial on the RIBs before and after dives. Quite often it was sunny, sometimes overcast and rain on a couple of occasions. With full sunshine it was easy to get burnt on the RIB journeys and bobbing around in the water awaiting pick-up. A hat or head covering would be advised for these periods.

The water was always warm (28 – 30 degrees) visibility was on occasion 10 – 15m and most dives the vis was 15m or more. All diving was reef dives, walls, drop offs etc. and all very scenic. There was an abundance of colour and variety in both fauna and flora. Depth ranged from 10m – 30m with most dives around the 20m mark.

Reflections on the trip

The diving overall was absolutely amazing, some dives were slightly marred by poor visibility and strong currents and Mantas didn’t always show as expected. We did however see a myriad of wonderful creatures, plants and corals. The colours were abundant and truly amazing.

We were fortunate to have a really great crowd aboard from all over the world. A couple from India, five Germans, five from Singapore and a couple from Darwin, Australia. Everyone gelled very well. Most of the week we rarely saw other dive boats so it was just our divers on the dive sites. The dive groups were small with no more than six divers to one guide. On day three, we did have to share the Manta site with another dive boat and other divers but it wasn’t a problem.

If I had to liken the dive sites to another, it would be Sharm el Sheikh on steroids!