In collaboration with Scuba Republic
The beginning of March was a real highlight of our two and half months journey in Asia. We departed for a six night liveaboard around central Raja Ampat and it was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience! The liveaboard trip included a total of 19 enjoyable dives in one of the best diving destinations in the world. A week full of reef sharks, manta rays, colourful schooling reef fish and strange critters.
All liveaboards I have been dreaming of so far have been way out of my budget: usually costs exceed 2000 euros per trip. In the beginning of this year I found Scuba Republic’s Epica Liveaboard, which was much more affordable (around 1330 euros) and it had some good reviews. It’s still not really budget travelling we usually do, but anyone who knows how much it costs to dive three to four dives a day or how much everything costs in remote Raja Ampat, can say that this liveaboard really is affordable.
During this six night liveaboard trip we visited central Raja Ampat’s best dive sites, which were located around Kri and Mansuar islands, near Arborek, Fam Islands and around western Gam.
Epica Liveaboard – The boat
Epica liveaboard is a comfortable 6-cabin wooden boat. It’s not very big but very cozy and comfortable. We appreciated that cabins were on both sides of the boat so that you can see the sea and enjoy the sea breeze from your door. We also had fans in cabins, but no aircon. I didn’t really miss an aircon, because it may affect to the ability to equalize underwater. As a light sleeper I was happy because the boat didn’t move to the next place while we were sleeping.
The food onboard was delicious. In early morning we had a small breakfast before first dive, toast and bananas. A delicious big breakfast was offered between the first and second dive. Lunch break was after the second dive and we even enjoyed some snacks after third dive. The biggest problem was usually eating too much! Dinner was served around 19 or later, if we had a nightdive on that day.
In addition to diving, we also did land trips which I liked a lot. Cute small paradise island Arborek and gorgeous Piaynemo viewpoint were places I wouldn’t like to miss. We also had a plan to make a beach barbeque in the last night, but the weather was rainy and we ended up staying in boat.
Diving with Epica Liveaboard
Diving with Scuba Republic was fun and they organized the diving very professionally. Profound briefings and current checks were done before every dive and groups were small (maximum four persons). We went to the dive sites in two groups with a small boat and our liveaboard was always a bit further from the dive site. I was very happy to dive full one hour and staff asked our preferences, what we would like to see underwater.
Raja Ampat’s amazing dive sites
Diving in Raja Ampat is extraordinary. The underwater scenery is full of very bright coloured, healthy soft and hard corals and the abundance of marine life was something I haven’t seen before. A dive site called Cape Kri even holds a world record of most species (374 in total!) spotted during a single dive. That’s quite amazing! Schooling fusiliers, different kinds of jackfish, striped and oriental sweetlips, black tip reef sharks and green and hawksbill turles were present in almost every dive site we visited. There were lots of big fish species: tunas, macrels, giant sweetlips, napoleon wrasses and bumphead parrotfishes. We also saw some rare creatures: huge black reef manta, wobbegong sharks, blue ringed octopus and three (!) white spotted wedgefishes. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo those wedgefishes, but seeing this kind of ”shark ray”, which looked like a living fossile was truly memoriable experience.
The dive sites I liked most were around Fam Islands. Fam Islands dive sites were very colourful and with excellent visibility, usually more than 20 meters and reaching 30 meters. Reefs were best in 5 to 10 meters, so that’s the reason to go diving instead of snorkeling. It’s very difficult to try to decide which sites are my favourites, but the top 6 could be: My reef, Anitas reef, Mayhem, Melissa’s garden, Cape Kri and Blue Magic. Well, Chicken reef was amazing too!
Diving conditions in Raja Ampat
We enjoyed quite good diving conditions during our journey in the beginning of March. The sea was calm and some days were quite cloudy. Most of the dive sites had over 15 meters visibility and in some sites, it even reached to 30 meters. At some dive sites the visibility was not great, but the reason is plankton season which also attracts manta rays. Quite a good compromise!
Raja Ampat area is known for strong currents. We bought reef hooks for first time ever and even we used them only couple of times, I was happy that I had a hook with me. Currents here are stronger during full moon and lighter during half moon, and because our trip departed during half moon, we experienced a bit milder currents. Only Manta Ridge had that kind of current, that it was difficult to swim against it. Amazing and famous diving spot Blue Magic had current during the dive, but we went with the current.
During our trip Raja Ampat was more peaceful because rising coronavirus epidemy already had its impact on travel and cancellations. We hadn’t any rush on divesites. In case there was an another liveaboard on the dive site, thay usually changed the order of the dive sites.
All in all, I already started to dream about a new liveaboard trip in Raja Ampat. Maybe my next adventure will be around the northern or southern Raja Ampat?