Raja Ampat LoB + Bali itinerary advice

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RookieNZ

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Hi all,

I am going to be on the Raja Ampat Aggressor II for 10 nights from 13 Nov - 23 Nov later this year (originally booked for 2020) and I am heading there from New Zealand. At this stage, only the RA Aggressor is booked, flights, accommodation etc have yet to be decided on.

I figured with such a long trip, I'd like to get in some extra dives before the LoB and figured I could get some dives in Bali (never been before) as international flights can arrive at either Bali or Jakarta. Are there any dive centers/accommodation that you'd highly recommended in Bali and would 2/3 nights be enough? I have been to Indonesia once before - dive trip to Lembeh but other than that, I haven't been again, so any insights would be greatly appreciated.

As the LoB departs from Sorong, and from what I have read, I am planning to arrive in Sorong on the 12th. I remember reading on here some have recommended arriving 2 nights prior to the departure date due to flights being canceled. At this stage (with most places coming out of lockdowns), would you recommend arriving on the 11th? or would arriving on the 12th suffice?

For my trip home, I'm thinking I could catch a flight from Sorong to Jakarta on 23rd (day that the LoB docks) and probably best to have another night (or two) as a buffer in Jakarta then fly back to NZ from Jakarta on the 24th or 25th in case of flight delays/cancelations from Sorong to Jakarta. Any advice?

As background info, I have over 200 dives as a vacation diver (I go on annual trips but obviously haven't been lately due to Covid and this will be my first since 2019) and am PADI certified (Advanced, Nitrox and Deep diver). I mainly dive around SE Asia and have done one other LoB before in Maldives. I'm comfortable with current and I'm interested in both the smaller critters and the larger pelagics :)

Thanks for reading this far! Looking forward to your insights/advice.
 

Darnold9999

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Arriving in Sorong the day before your liveaboard leaves should be lots of extra time, no need for two nights. The same returning, one day should provide lots of buffer. You never know with worldwide flights in a complete mess right now, but normally that is what I allow and have never had an issue, and was very glad of the buffer once. Bali has some interesting dives, but you will want to choose your guides carefully. Lots of "tourist" type dive centers. Probably my best macro dive ever was out of Tulamben diving with Underwater Tribe. Just a bunch of creatures I had never seen found all on a single dive.
 

Alaskan Scuba Dude

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I figured with such a long trip, I'd like to get in some extra dives before the LoB and figured I could get some dives in Bali (never been before) as international flights can arrive at either Bali or Jakarta. Are there any dive centers/accommodation that you'd highly recommended in Bali and would 2/3 nights be enough?
Padang Bai in Bali would be your first choice for a shakedown dive. Wouldn't it be advisable to do those dives for whatever reason after the live-aboard? Since the cost of the live-aboard would outweigh any benefit you would receive if you were to have a malfunction.
 
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RookieNZ

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Padang Bai in Bali would be your first choice for a shakedown dive. Wouldn't it be advisable to do those dives for whatever reason after the live-aboard? Since the cost of the live-aboard would outweigh any benefit you would receive if you were to have a malfunction.
Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look into them. I figured I get some dives in before hand to get back into the groove of things before the LoB, plus if any of my gear malfunctions, I can ring ahead and just rent for the rest of the trip :)
 

Luko

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I figured with such a long trip, I'd like to get in some extra dives before the LoB and figured I could get some dives in Bali (never been before) as international flights can arrive at either Bali or Jakarta. Are there any dive centers/accommodation that you'd highly recommended in Bali and would 2/3 nights be enough?
Bali could be a whole divetrip destination in itself. I'd recommend you first head to Tulamben for a first time in Bali, that is if you liked Lembeh and especially for a change to Raja Ampat.
There are numerous dive centers there, I would say Liberty Dive Resort is a safe bet for accoms and dive center. You'll be very happy with them : private guiding and free nitrox included. Add on top that Tulamben area is very easy to dive although shore diving while some of Padang Bai dive sites are more demanding in terms of depth and current.
Padang Bai would be my second choice, as it adds on top of Tulamben macro some boattrips to manta ray or Mola mola sites in season.

Is 2/3 days diving enough? Well I spent for the past 12 years at least 15 days/year diving Bali, except for the 2 last years for obvious reason.
 

Adamfool

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@RookieNZ How was your LoB Trip on the Aggressor? and your trip to Indo in general? I am considering the same LoB you are doing and going for the month of April. I am having a hard time deciding on an itinerary. Any recommendations based on your experiences would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
 
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RookieNZ

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@RookieNZ How was your LoB Trip on the Aggressor? and your trip to Indo in general? I am considering the same LoB you are doing and going for the month of April. I am having a hard time deciding on an itinerary. Any recommendations based on your experiences would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
Hi @Adamfool, it was great! Though I may have accidentally left my strobe behind...

Indonesia was good, people were very friendly and the staff at both the Aggressor and Liberty Dive resort were fantastic and very helpful. No one asked to see the app at all (incl Customs and Immigration), but I did have it on me, and it only took a few weeks (maybe 3?) for my vaccination records to be accepted. I would recommend getting local currency out before getting to Sorong if you are running low. The ATM nearby the Swiss-Belhotel (which I was directed to), didn't accept my credit or debit cards. Ask for a room not facing the main road if possible as mine was noisy at night (I am a light sleeper, you may not have any issues with this). Credit card usage incurred a 3.5% surcharge.
I recommend getting the local cuisine where possible, they're definitely better at cooking it and most of the other guests made comments about how they were jealous of what came out for me (VS western fare).

Definitely arrive in Sorong a day before, my flights to Sorong all went to plan, but the return trip was another story, so it pays to be cautious. Also, if you are planning your flights back, most guests were on the 10.30am flight and there was plenty of time as you leave the ship at 8/8.30am (though they also did a special trip at 6.30am for guests who had earlier flights). I had flights at 2.40pm and it was pretty boring waiting in the hotel lobby.

For the LoB, I did the 10-night itinerary and I really enjoyed it. I would pack a reef hook if you have one as there were a couple of dives where some of the guests were hooked in (I didn't have one but got away with staying close to the bottom and finning). The staff are really accommodating, and the food was good, esp given the head chef was on holiday and it was the sous chef making out meals. Pep, the cruise director was very friendly and helpful, plus he has some really good card tricks :D The crew went out of their way to help some guests out with equipment failures (incl loaning replacement equipment for free) which was great to see.
If you sleep with more than 1 pillow, I would ask for a spare ASAP. My roommate was a bit late in asking and there were none left as it seemed most (if not all) of the other guests asked for a spare as well.
Water temps at most dives were 30C (a couple of them at 29C and the coldest, single dive was 28C). There was also a jellyfish 'invasion' at the time and a few people got stung (and we had to avoid one site due to how many there were), so I'd bring some protection (rash guards, wetsuit, etc) if they're still around by then (doubt it though).

Let me know if you have more specific questions :)
 
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