Our boat, The Raja Ampat Explorer was truly in the Indonesian style. I admit, it was not as nice as the Archipelago Adventurer II where we had originally been booked. We entered on the dive deck and then headed to the salon area where we sat and had a coconut smoothie. We were introduced to the crew - a total of 11 people, all from Indonesia. A lot of the crew did not speak a whole lot of English, but we did have a cruise director/divemaster named Weka who spoke a lot of English. While Weka was introducing us to the rules of the boat, a roach crawled down the wall behind him.
Ok, so we knew that there would be roaches before we got there. I had read a ton of reviews of the boat, and many of them mentioned that there were critters on board. This really isn't all that unusual for a dive liveaboard. These boats dock in third world countries and get supplies from places where there are bugs. It's almost unavoidable that they will show up on board, and it's incredibly difficult to get rid of them. We had fought roaches before in Bonaire (those were huge ones, 3-4 inches long), and on the Turks & Caicos Aggressor (those were more normal sized, and were frequently seen on the sun deck and kitchen/salon, but never in our rooms). So, I was prepared for the roaches and hoped we could make it work.
Once the crew had been introduced, they pulled up the anchor and we headed out into Raja Ampat. The boat sailed until late at night. In the meantime, we set up our equipment on the dive deck and then I headed down to our room. The ship had two rooms on the top floor, and Matt and Ellen and the other couple, Daniel and Nicole were in those two rooms. Todd and I were on the bottom floor, below deck.
|Manusar, Raja Ampat, Indonesia|
So, I asked our cabin steward, Madi, what room we were in. All of them. We had the entire bottom deck, a total of FIVE ROOMS. Ohh kay. So, I moved my stuff into the room that was in the bow of the ship, which was the only one with a double bed (the rest were two twins). I like to unpack, but Todd does not, so we put our luggage into another room on the beds and I put my clothes into the cubbies in the room. Then, I took a two hour nap. Todd had disappeared to assemble his camera, and it was AWESOME to finally lie down and take a long, long nap.
Todd finally woke me up, and I have little recollection of making it through the fog of the rest of the night. I know we ate dinner, and I know that I went to bed at about 8:30.
Oh, the roaches. They had started showing up in our room after dark. We went to bed and turned the lights out, and we couldn't stop thinking about them. More than anything, Todd couldn't stop thinking about them. He woke up several times in the night, turned on all of the lights, located a few roaches (3 or 4) that had crawled out, killed them, and then went back to bed. Then, at 5:15am, I felt a tickle on my chin and across my face... And I was up. Lights on, bug killed, and I decided to go ahead and just get up. We went to brush our teeth and a tiny roach had gotten into the ziploc bag where we kept our tooth brushes. I honestly did not know how we were going to make it through ten more nights of this, but I knew we were going to have to.
|Our boat docked at the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge|
|Sunrise our first morning in Raja Ampat|
|The pier at the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge|
|A local fisherman|
Each day followed the same schedule. We would wake up between 5:30 and 6:00am, I'd go up and watch the sunrise with a cup of tea, then we'd have some toast and jam and get ready for the dive. The first dive was at 7:30am. After the dive was breakfast, then relaxing and reading on the sun deck. The second dive was at 10:00am, and then we would have lunch. After lunch, I'd usually take a short nap in the room before the third dive, which was at 2:00pm. Next came snack time, followed by a dusk dive at 6:00pm, or a night dive around 7:00pm. After the last dive was dinner, then bed between 9:30 and 10:00pm.
The food was good on the boat. It was not gourmet, but I had been worried. It was all Indonesian food, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was Nasi Goreng (fried rice), eggs (more like a frittata most of the time), and vegetables. Occasionally, the cook would make french toast or Indonesian style pancakes, which were more like crepes. No syrup, sweet breakfast treats were served with honey. We had fruit at every meal, usually pineapple, papaya, melon or mango. At breakfast each day, we'd have a fruit smoothie, which was always delicious.
|The captain and his catch|
Dinners were similar to lunch, except that we also had soup. The soup was like an egg drop, with vegetables and meat sometimes thrown in, depending on what was around. We did have pretty much the same soup for dinner each night for eleven nights. It was delicious, though.
Our second day of diving brought us to Manta Sandy. This is a famous site near Mansuar where Manta Rays come out to play. The first dive went rather slow. We hooked into the sand and some mantas swam past, but they did not get close. We tried again on the second dive, and WOW! The mantas swooped in, getting cleaned and eating right over our heads. They were amazing. Todd was getting great photos, and the mantas were sometimes so close to him that he couldn't focus on them. It was crazy. I love getting close to Manta Rays and these were HUGE - some as much as 12 feet across.
|Matt (front) and me (behind) watching the mantas at Manta Sandy|
|Nicole watches a Manta|
The diving was going wonderfully, and it was making up for whatever sacrifices we were making in luxury on the boat.
Coming up in my next installment, we visit the Wayag region, which I have proclaimed as the most beautiful place on Earth. We do some hiking, get caught in a storm, visit the Equator, and more... Stay tuned.
|Sunset on our way to Wayag|