Face it. Some trips, you just luck into! That was the case with my liveaboard on the Raja Ampat Aggressor. For many, Raja Ampat is the Holy Grail of dive destinations. And when you’re the Holy Grail, that also means mucho dinero – or as they say in Indonesia – terlalu mahal! So, imagine my absolute glee when I get an email from my new friends at Bluewater Dive Travel advertising a sale! Normally, a good liveaboard in Raja is going to set you back about $4-$5,000. I thought Raja Ampat would remain a dream for some time to come. And then I saw the price for the 10-day trip: $2,700. Almost half off! I could squeeze that out of American Express.

The Raja Ampat Aggressor
Enjoying morning coffee on the deck of the Raja Ampat Aggressor

That’s still a lot of money, but I could not pass it up and I snatched a spot immediately (and asked Halef’s forgiveness a little later)! Next up would be the cost of getting to Indonesia. I knew the ticket was going to be well over $1,000. Fortunately, I subscribe to just about every travel deal mailing list on the Internets. I hoped to find a deal. A few weeks went by. Nothing. Then a couple of months. Still nothing. I decided to cash in some of my Delta SkyMiles and go for free. Normally, that runs about 120,000 SkyMiles, but getting lucky again, I scored the trip for just 80,000. Not only that, but the flight was handled by my favorite airline, Delta’s partner, Korean Air!

But then you have to get from Jakarta to Sorong. I’ve written a separate post about that here.

 

Arriving at the Raja Ampat Aggressor

The Raja Ampat Yacht can accommodate about 16 passengers. It is one of the newest in the Aggressor fleet, and I think this might have been its second or third trip. When you first arrive at the boat, you are greeted by super friendly, professionally-outfitted staff and are offered a tropical fruit drink as a welcome. When everyone was settled, Michal, the trip leader, gave us an overview of the boat and explained what we could expect for the next ten days together. By the way, Michal is from Poland. He spoke Indonesian fluently. I was impressed.

Our rooms

My bed on the Raja Ampat Aggressor
My bed. Very comfortable

And another stroke of luck, since there were only 8 of us going on this trip, we all got our own cabins! Not that we would spend much time in them, but they were very well-appointed – everything from the sheets to the towels was monogrammed with the Aggressor logo. The beds were very comfortable and there was plenty of room in each cabin for two people to sleep and live comfortably. Each room had its own television. If you wanted to, you could plug in a thumb drive and watch your favorite movies. They even had movies on board if you wanted to borrow them. To my knowledge, not one person turned on a television the entire trip. I certainly did not. I couldn’t imagine why I would want to.

Like the room itself, the restroom areas were kept immaculately clean and functional. Everything was cleaned daily and everything you needed was there.

Common areas on the Raja Ampat Aggressor

The common areas were where I thought the Raja Ampat Aggressor really shined. From the living room/dining room to the upper deck. Everything was comfortable and very up to date. Most of us thought the common areas were great places to relax after a day of diving or even in between.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - upper deck
The top deck of the Raja Ampat Aggressor – Patrick thought it was great for relaxing

I should pause to note that it was easy to love these areas even more, because there was a cooler full of beer and soft drinks that were all complimentary for the entire trip. There was only one rule:

Your first drink = your last dive. 

Obviously, a smart rule. No one broke it. Ever.

It was also where, on the first day, we all got to know each other pretty well. In fact, I’m still friends and in touch with a few of the people I met on the Aggressor. Even though I might not see many of them ever again, I do consider them friends. And that includes the boat staff. The diving was amazing, but the social aspect of the trip was equally important to me.

There was food available all the time

The Aggressor has one of the most important items that I need on a trip like this – an excellent coffee machine. From espresso to cappuccino, to just plain old regular coffee, they bought an expensive machine and it got a lot of use! Snacks were available 24/7. When you expected meals to be ready, they were ready. When you returned from your afternoon dive, specially prepared snacks – usually something typically Indonesian – were waiting for you on the dive deck. There was always something to eat! In the morning, bagels, bread, and pastries seemed to be set out for you even if you thought it wasn’t possible anyone was up before you!

What about Vegetarian Food?

I felt like I had a bit of a tough time communicating exactly what a vegetarian eats to the kitchen staff. While the other guests ate dishes that could have been served in 5-Star restaurants, I was served what amounted to Indonesian street food. It’s not that the meals weren’t good, mind you. They were. It’s just that they were basically the same for me, always. After much pressing by Michal, towards the end of the trip, the chef started to prepare amazing vegetarian meals for me. And they were fantastic. I knew he could do it!

For what it’s worth, the CEO of the Aggressor Fleet wrote me and assured me that this was a glitch on the radar and nothing like this will ever happen again. They’ll get a chance to prove it. I booked an Aggressor trip in the Turks and Caicos for August, 2017.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Dining room
The dining room on the Raja Ampat Aggressor. Photo by Rafael Novielli – used with permission

The Diving

Here is the part you’ve been waiting for – the diving. Let me just tell you this: Everything everyone has ever told you about diving in Raja Ampat is true. It’s incredible. So much so that I am almost disappointed when I go diving anywhere else now. I’ve become a dive snob because of Raja Ampat. But it’s not just because it’s Raja Ampat. I have to say with 100% honesty that the dive guides on the Raja Ampat Aggressor were some of the best, most informed dive masters I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving with. They knew where everything was. Everything. If there was a pygmy seahorse down there, they seemed to know exactly where it was going to be. Want to find a walking shark late at night? Have no fear. They knew exactly where they were.

I honestly believe we saw twice as much as anyone else because these guys knew exactly where to go. In other words, you rarely had to spend all your time searching.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - divers on a zodiac
Heading out to a dive on the Zodiac

The Raja Ampat Aggressor has two zodiacs that can accommodate 8 divers each in full gear. That means you can get to any dive site with ease. Because you’re in Indonesia where the heat is constantly beating down on you, the staff works hard to make sure you get to the dive site as quickly as possible. No waiting around – you have to be ready. No one wants sunstroke in the middle of nowhere, right?

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - divers and crew
The cast and crew of the Raja Ampat Aggressor

Life. Everywhere.

Nudibranchs: I’m a nudibranch fan, and if you are, too, then Raja Ampat is an absolute must. It’s the most biodiverse marine area on the planet and nudis are everywhere. Of the 34 dives I did, I don’t think there was a single dive where we didn’t see several. If you love nudis, you’ll love it here!

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - nudibranch
Nudibranch

Walking Sharks (Epaulette sharks): These sharks aren’t found anywhere else in the world – only here and in a few aquariums. They are insanely cute because they walk on their fins. But they only come out at night, so you have to do the night dives, which are offered every night! And the Raja Ampat Aggressor crew knows where to find them!

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Walking shark
Walking Shark (Epaulette Shark) – Only in Raja Ampat and only when its pitch black!

Mantas: There’s no question, mantas are on every diver’s list, and Raja Ampat has more than its share. They seemed to be more plentiful in the northern part of Raja Ampat, where the krill was most abundant.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Manta Ray
An oceanic Manta Ray

Bait fish: This is where I was most blown away. I have seen bait balls before, but I have never in my life seen anything like this. I’m serious. Even thinking about the experience of literally being surrounded by millions and millions of fish is giving me goosebumps while I write. Just look at this. Wouldn’t seeing this make the trip worth it?

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - me surround by millions of fish
My friend, Rafael, surrounded by millions of bait fish.

So, would I do Raja Ampat again?

In.
A.
Heartbeat.

If I could afford it, I would do the Raja Ampat Aggressor every week. It’s just that good – even despite my issues with the food. From Michal, the trip leader, to our guides, the housekeeping staff, and the crew, the level of service was outstanding. The care that was taken with everything was obvious.

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - me on a zodiac
On a tour of some small islands between dives. Photo by Rafael Novielli – used with permission

Bottom line: If you can afford it, go. If you cannot, then do like I did, sign up for every travel deal web site you can. Hopefully something will come along. And yeah, if you get the chance, check out the Raja Ampat Aggressor. They’ve been in Raja Ampat for over a year now, so I am sure they’ve got all the minor kinks worked out and the trip will be even better than the fantastic trip we had!

Your daily routine on the Raja Ampat Aggressor

The Aggressor offers 4 dives per day, so the itinerary is absolutely packed!

  1. Eat a light breakfast
  2. Dive
  3. Eat a full breakfast (made to order)
  4. Dive
  5. Lunch (buffet style)
  6. Dive
  7. Nap
  8. Dinner (a few courses)
  9. Dive (there is always a night dive)
  10. Sleep
  11. Repeat

A few more pictures before you go!

I can’t end this post without noting how much this trip changed my underwater photography. I would like to personally thank Michal Wronski for patiently teaching me several things I didn’t know. It was a photography course that brought my underwater pics to the next level and made me passionate about it. He taught me so much that, as soon as I got home, I bought the exact same setup that he had. I’m impulsive like that, but it was totally worth it. I think I got some great photos on this trip! As far as diving certifications go, with the exception of my Rescue Diver course, my Underwater Photography course was the one that was the most worth taking!

The Raja Ampat Aggressor is completely set up for you if you’re a photographer. There is plenty of room on the camera table, they have a nice Mac with a very large screen where you can edit your photos, and there are charging stations everywhere. You won’t have any issues with your setup. They’re ready for you!

Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Sea Turtle
We saw plenty of sea turtles. But you never really see enough!
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Octopus
Octopuses (octopi?) were plentiful. This one was sleeping.
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - White nudiobranch
I love this pic. The nudibranch looks badass.
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Nudibranch
A beautiful green nudibranch
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Napoleon wrasse
Napoleon wrasse
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Diving selfie
Diving selfie with Rafael and Keji
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Marbel ray
A Marble Ray – sometimes called a Black Blotched Fantail Ray
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Eel
An eel that looks camera shy
Raja Ampat Liveaboard - Hermit crab
Hermit Crab. Amazingly beautiful
Bubble Coral
Bubble Coral

Thanks to the Raja Ampat Aggressor for a trip I will always remember, to Michal Wronski for being a great boat leader, Bluewater Travel for getting it all set up for me, and to the divemasters and boat crew for making everything work!

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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert and has traveled to over 40 countries to date. Currently saving all his money for a Round the World adventure.


13 thoughts on “Raja Ampat Aggressor – Liveaboard Review

    1. It sure can be! I did 33 out of the 36 dives. A couple people did them all. I hated myself for not doing them all too, but I was exhausted a couple of those days! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  1. Oh wow, that is so cool. The underwater pictures are amazing. It must be an incredible feeling to see the fish in real for the first time.

    And I know the feeling of being a vegetarian in Indonesia. I lived there and it can be a struggle.

    1. It was pretty incredible! And yes, the first time I went to Indonesia, being a vegetarian was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I am married to an Indonesian, so I’ve learned about of the language to explain to them that fish is not a vegetable! 🙂

    1. Hi Kate:

      Actually, Indonesia is a VERY veggie-friendly country. It just happened to be that I had an issue on this particular boat (that was resolved). I’ve been to Indonesia several times and I never have issue finding vegetarian food. It does help to learn a few words of Bahasa Indonesia though, just to be safe. A lot of times, people think fish is a vegetable for some reason. So knowing a phrase like:

      Mau (want) makanan (food) tanpa (without) ikan (fish), ayam (chicken), dan daginig (and meat”

      …is helpful. Or, you know, “Saya (I am) vegetarian” 🙂

  2. Your first drink = your last dive. Hahaha, perfect rule to stop people from abusing drinks. Your underwater pictures are awesome. Raja Ampat is truly a great diving destination.

    1. Thank you, Nisha. Yes, I agree about the diving/drinking rule. Maybe you could have one and be ok, but why take that chance? Also, you have others to consider, and they all paid a lot for this trip – no need for one drinker to ruin everything! 🙂

  3. What amazing 10 days you’ve had! There is so much to see underwater. It’s like a whole different world in itself. In fact, I can’t wait to go on my first diving trip later this year!

  4. Hey thanks for this. We are on this boat September 9 in the Derawan islands. We too booked it because we came across a good deal on liveaboards.com and Derawan and Sangalaki, in particular, have been on our radar for many years. Search as I might I hadn’t found any reviews of the boat until yours so thank you for this, it is really helpful. Hopefully we also have great guides in Derawan. One question. I know it will depend on the area but did they have wifi on the boat. Sadly I will need to check in with some work and hope to have some internet access.

    1. There is no wifi. But get a SIM card before you board. You can usually pick up a signal, although there will be a couple of days where you will get nothing. Get your SIM card from Telkomsel – the provider with the most range. You can buy them either at an Indomaret store or from vendors on the street. You should be able to get 3 GB for about $20.

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