Trip Report: Raja Ampat on Calico Jack - Highly recommended!

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Bearkeley

Contributor
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96
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Location
Virginia
# of dives
200 - 499
Finally have internet so thought we'd share some info on our February 26th 11 Nite Liveaboard on Calico Jack, Sorong Itinerary. We were supposed to visit the southern part of Raja, but due to bad weather, we spent our time enjoying the beautiful and untouched islands of the North, including the islands of Batanta and Wayag.

The diving: Warm waters with visibility ranging from at least 10 meters, average of about 20-25. Small groups of 4 divers with 1-2 guides. All dives (3-4 a day) were from tenders. All gear set up, and transport to/from tenders were handled by the very helpful crew. The current varied from none to strong, but dive plans were catered to the group's preferences, making each dive a positive experience for all. Nitrox was not available, but wasn't a big deal given the relaxed pace of the dive schedules and depths.

Life under water: Wow! Definitely a lot of variety in marine life as we expected, from hard and soft corals, unique nudibranches and other macros to large oceanic mantas and sharks. What was surprising was the variety of large schools of fish, from jacks to barracudas to tunas, often all seen at the same sites. Topography also varied from underwater mounts, reef, walls and even a couple of piers, perfect for nite dives!

Life on board: Amazing. Given the price range, we were expecting a budget to mid range experience. Calico is a traditional wooden sailboat, so it does not necessarily have all the conveniences you might find aboard other boats (such as a masseuse, biologists giving lectures, or an unlimited supply of towels). It does, however, offer a lot more than other similarly priced operators. First, max capacity is 10 guests (they can squeeze 2 more if you plan to charter the whole boat). It's a perfect size for a trip this long and for a boat that offers an open air dining room, a sun deck and bow loungers. They have very clean rooms with private marine toilet and showers (with hot water!), very nice double or twin cabins with ac (usually turned off from midnight to 5am), toiletries and nice towels that are changed every 2 or 3 days. Meals are offered all the time.....you won't be hungry. They do their best to also offer healthy meals as well as delicious desserts. They also catered to dietary restrictions. Alcohol is limited to beer, but totally ok to bring your own.

Some surprises: This was a very relaxing trip. Dives were scheduled, but you never feel rushed. Ample time between dives to socialize, read a book, nap, look at pictures, snorkel, kayak or take a paddle board around the beautiful lagoons. They also include visits to a couple of tiny towns to meet locals and say hello to friendly kids, a couple of hikes up to a viewing platforms as well as a beach barbecue creatively decorated by the crew. Very friendly and helpful crew. A videographer who creates a memorable movie of your trip. The owner of the boat also joins you on your trip as the cruise director, making sure your trip is going as expected, and if you ask, will also tell you great stories about how they built the boat and a lot about the Indonesian culture and history.

Getting there: Calico Jack will pick you up from the airport or hotel in Sorong. We flew direct from Jakarta via Nam Air. They didn't charge extra for our dive equipment. Others flew in via a layover / stop in another city from Jakarta. Price is about the same, but if you are flying internationally, it might be better to opt for a larger airline so you don't have to worry about your bags. Calico can refer you to a very helpful travel agent (highly recommended due to frustrating airline websites if you try to book on your own).

About Sorong: Don't waste time or money staying overnight. The two best hotels are extremely overpriced. We stayed at Swiss bel hotel and although TripAdvisor rated them highly, I do not recommend it. Stay there if you absolutely need to, but suggest you flying the day of your cruise if you can. Rooms are fine, but very noisy with the Saturday nite Kareoke that goes on until 1 am. The restaurant is awful and is priced the same or even more than what you would pay at a Marriott in Jakarta or the US! They have a pool, but it's also the hotels only designated smoking area.
 
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Location
Indonesia
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I just don't log dives
Thanks guys was a real pleasure welcoming you into our Calico Aquatic world and spending time together, safe travels (finally) home and we all hope to see you onboard again one day soon :) Perfect guests make perfect cruises ..
 
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Location
Coquitlam, Bc
# of dives
200 - 499
Hi, I'm also thinking of doing an 11 day Raja Ampat in Nov. 2018. Does anyone else have an experience to share?
 

amw5g

Contributor
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149
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Location
Central FL
# of dives
100 - 199
Hi, I'm also thinking of doing an 11 day Raja Ampat in Nov. 2018. Does anyone else have an experience to share?
I'm not feeling as eloquent as Bearkeley, but I recently did the same Sorong/Sorong itinerary with Calico Jack. We started north and ended south. Highlights for me include the friendliness of the crew, comfortable accommodations, dive and eco staff's knowledge, and the ample and delicious food. Our guest list was a good bunch, but neither Calico Jack nor you can control that. Dive experience ranged from 1K+ divers, to people who were newly minted but well in the diving groove. We did 34 dives, or so, adjusting to the conditions and whims of the guests.

I would recommend them to someone like me- that is, someone with an interest in leisurely diving who's never been on a liveaboard before, and needs just a touch of reassurance that we're not going to sail off the edge of a flat earth. Oh, and who doesn't like to go hungry. If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to give my best answers.
Amw 5G
 

Ankush Mittal

Addicted to Diving!
Messages
147
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31
Location
New Delhi, India
# of dives
100 - 199
I have heard really really good things about Mermaid 1 and 2 and also a new boat called Gaia, but they are not budget liveaboards.

I am torn between luxurious convenience and saving money, lol, I will be doing a liveaboard in June in Komodo and saving up for that now.

Hi, I'm also thinking of doing an 11 day Raja Ampat in Nov. 2018. Does anyone else have an experience to share?
 
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