Calico Jack Luxury Dive Liveaboard
Cast away in the North Western corner of West Papua lie some of the most remote, majestic and intriguing islets on the planet, Raja Ampat. Boasting a unique labyrinth of over 12,000 densely forested mushroom islands, sparkling cobalt blue lagoons, cryptic caves and cones that span sensationally over an area of more than 50,000sq km, Raja Ampat casts a spell on photographers, scientists and diving fanatics from every corner of the World.
Located deep in the heart of the coral triangle, the area nestles over 1400 species of fish and over 600 coral kinds giving it the impressive title as the most marine bio-diverse place on earth. Indeed 75% of all known coral species inhabit these waters! The only question on everyone’s lips is how to cover the majesty of Raja Ampat in all its beauty.
As an avid diving couple, we are no strangers to those ten second moments of pure wonder and excitement that are experienced before you sink beneath the surface and are met with an escape, a sense of freedom and adventure. These are exactly the foundations that Calico Jack Charters was born from on the shores of southern Sulawesi.
Calico Jack is a mighty and proud vessel that offers an unrivaled luxury liveaboard diving experience that more than compliments the epic voyage through the lands of “The Four Kings”.
Boarding the ship after a swift and attentive transfer from mainland Sorong, we were welcomed by the smell of tropical forest hardwoods and beaming smiles. There is something about Indonesian hospitality that is unmatched and the crew had it in bundles throughout the duration of our expedition, from the boat boys, to the knowledgeable dive guides. After settling in with a fresh coconut in hand we were lead to our cosy boutique cabin (one of five on board), which was to be our home for the next 11 nights. Snuggled in the belly of the boat, our romantic cabin housed all the modern amenities you would expect of a first class liveaboard inclusive of plush wooden furnishings, en-suite bathroom, hot showers and air conditioning. We particularly enjoyed the light that was allowed to protrude through the portholes, though these could also be shut in order to allow for a nap or a well-deserved rest before the next days activities.
The schedule for the day is one to savor the night before over dinner and drinks. The boats part owner Jamie, a cauldron of passion as he bubbles over the dive sites we would encounter and the adventures we would be having both above and below the water. His genuine interest in the conservation and information about the area as well as his hospitality and desire for diving was something that we had the pleasure of conversing over on numerous occasions. Indeed so with the entire crew in fact. It was a pleasure to engage with such genuine, hardworking and hospitable souls who were a credit to the Calico Jack philosophy and Raja Ampat experience. It was particularly inspirational to learn from Maya who was present as a divemaster on board our passage and one of Indonesia’s very own about the conservation and protection efforts of the landscape. Such a crucial and forward thinking attitude toward the importance and education of protecting such waters was so refreshing and an encouraging indication of future marine conservation both in Raja Ampat and beyond.
And what a spectacular dining delight dinner was too. ‘Chef’ as he likes to be known, was in his element as he worked tirelessly throughout the day to create culinary dishes that fused together the best of Indonesian meets Western cuisine. Pre-dive breakfast, breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner, each dish was a spread to behold and crafted with care; much-needed fuel for the diving wonders that lay ahead.
Oh my the diving! Where to even begin to attempt to describe the true beauty of the underwater utopia that communes beneath the deep blues of the Indian meets Pacific oceans?
“A species factory”, “reefs on steroids” and “the epicenter of marine bio diversity” are just a few rhetoric’s made in previous expeditions of the national park and until our dying days we will not be able to truly do the diving experience in Raja Ampat justice. Calico Jack aspire to offer three dives a day with alternate night dives each day and in total we racked up over 34 dives over 11 days. From our first check dive where we were kitted out with top class equipment recognised throughout the industry, the Calico Jack crew worked like clockwork to ensure the efficient turnaround between dives with safety and attentiveness at the core.
Buddies and groups were determined in the initial diving stages and from the off we were to set eyes on a kaleidoscope of colors, embedded in hard and soft corals and marine life that would bedazzle even the most experienced diver. Large fish species including bumpheads, giant sweetlips and napoleon wrasse circled the reefs. Swirling barracuda, surgeonfish and batfish collect around jetty’s and not a single dive passed without spotting and gawking the many reef sharks that inhabit the walls, slopes and abundant marine rich reefs. Schooling tuna, mackerel and trevally dance on reef points and layer upon layer of swarming smaller fish including fusiliers and damsels assemble on the reef flats. It is not uncommon to spot magnificent manta glide graciously on any dive site. Reef mantas congregate at cleaning stations and oceanic manta ceremoniously pierce the open blues. Macro life is also plentiful from pygmy seahorses, shrimp and soft sponge crab. Raja Ampat offers divers with all interests something to marvel at, where adrenaline fuelled drift dives, wrecks and glassy calm waters are the order of the day.
If that is not enough to get your reef hooks stuck into, then Calico Jack Charters also cater for land outings too which are particularly notable for those looking to embrace a remote archipelago whose inhabitants have been living worlds apart for an eternity. A mooring at Arborek Village (post jetty dive of course) is particularly noteworthy where one can appreciate a rare glimpse into the authentic world of West Papua. A pretty village with tremendously charming natives, it is extraordinary to be welcomed by the locals who will look longingly into foreign eyes, play football, blow bubbles and embrace their visitors the only way they know how, with kindness and care.
The rawness and the people of Arborek Village stuck with us throughout the remainder of our trip, so much so that we cancelled our flight back to Bali and instead hopped on the local boat back across to the village where we could stay longer and really get a feel for everyday life in West Papua.
For a wilder way to see this unprecedented National Park, checking into a homestay on a local island is the only way to do.
Stay Raja Ampat hosts a list of all homestays in the area, each priced at 200,000IDR inclusive of three meals a day.
Journey the azures of the lagoons by speedboat, eye birds of paradise or paddle board, kayak and lose track of time on white slices of sand in between dives, there is something that will mesmerise you for years to come.
Raja Ampat is truly spectacular, breathtaking and unforgettable. Calico Jack Charters was the perfect compliment to such a unique diving experience with a level of service that thrives on the very best hospitality to ensure that your voyage through the dragon-esque landscape is truly treasured.
Dive with the best for your ultimate Raja Ampat experience!
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