Its 5.30 am and the alarm chirps to herald our 8th day aboard the Damai I dive liveaboard in Raja Ampat. Ketut, the ships’ steward, already has the coffee on, whilst Chief Officer Wawan and Deckhand Paul are busy preparing the comfortable deck cushions for the day. We take a seat on the sundeck to enjoy our coffee and as the sun comes up a dolphin’s fin gently breaks the surface of the glassy water. Now the guests are stirring and settling down to croissants, fresh fruit and strong coffee to kick start themselves for the diving delights that await them, as we prepare their suits, check tanks and load the spacious dive tenders with equipment.
Our excellent divemasters, Adri and Indra, race out in the dive tender to check the current at “Mayhem” before Thomas makes his familiar greeting “Good Morning Divers, welcome to Yangeffo”. A brief on the dive site follows with lots of singing –Jimmy Buffet and his “Margaritaville”- before we speed away to our dive marker and make our descent through the 29C water. Great visibility and plenty of action welcome us in the depths. Bumphead parrotfish, hawksbill turtle, jawfish, mushroom coral pipefish, an overly “friendly” triggerfish, spadefish, sweetlips and a soft coral crab are amongst the highlights, capped by a passing manta ray just before surfacing.
A hearty breakfast has been prepared to order by chefs Wayan and Kadek and quickly wolfed down by Richard who is keen to get out for a snorkel in the mangroves before the next dive. Archer fish and needlenose garfish are two critters now checked off his videographer’s list.
“Citrus Ridge” is chosen as our second dive. One of my all time favourite dive sites in Indonesia, it truly hit the spot for coral and fish life today. Several wobbegong sharks, black tip reef shark, schooling jacks, barracuda and spadefish, inquisitive cuttlefish, blue spotted sting rays, turtles, pipefish, xeno crabs, signal gobies, nudibranchs…. The list is endless but unfortunately our breathing gas isn’t so after 82 minutes it was time to reach for the surface and see Yussup and Kacong’s smiling faces as they assist us back into the tenders and back to the Damai I.
Lunch is a delicious but brief affair with chicken wraps, lemon chicken, grilled fish, noodle soup and salads, meanwhile Captain Deddy cruises the ship to Arborek in readiness of our afternoon dive at the famous wooden Jetty. Our first sightings as we head down the slope to 10m are the huge giant clams, quickly followed by playful peacock mantis shrimp and a nembrotha chamberlani. Dive guide Gusti gesticulates wildly at the enormous giant moray wedged under a coral bommie and Gari is banging away in the excitement of finding her first ever crocodile fish. More nudis, schools of jacks and rabbitfish, a peacock tailed coral shrimp on steroids, juvenile spadefish and a delightful juvenile lionfish follow in our longest dive yet this trip – 87 minutes!
Back on board the cheesy snacks are served as we leaf through the creature books in an attempt to identify all the critters seen today. For some this is swiftly followed by “Bintang Time” on the sundeck, but for Brian a massage from housekeeper Komang is the best way to relax.
As the sun sets over the Dampier Straits our engineers, Zul and Arnold, fill our tanks; ready to do it all again tomorrow….because someone has to! 😉
Many thanks to Cruise Director Susie Erbe and the amazing crew on Damai I who work above and beyond!