Calico JackBitung, Sorong

Joanne Pannell, Australia - Undercurrent January 2015
Wallacea is a French owned company, and have supplied a lovely, very knowledgeable French cruise director (also speaks fluent English) and crucially, an excellent French-trained chef, who cooks a mix of Indonesian and European cuisine. Calico Jack is under charter to Wallacea, and the Australian boat owner is on board and involved in the day to day operations of the boat. Despite the free laundry, he won't change his shorts for the entire trip. He also personally reviews all the deck space for sleeping comfort.

Calico Jack is a new wooden boat, built in March 2014 in Sulawesi. This is a budget boat, cold showers (though in raja ampat this really isn't a problem) but surprisingly spacious cabins and en suite bathrooms. There is one hot shower on deck. There is no dryer, so during rainy weather dry towels can be an issue. Bring a travel towel/chamois. There is a maximum of 10 guests on this boat, and 5 divers per group. The dive deck is well laid out and functional. There is one full sized G of O2 on board, plus a smaller bottle. No O2 on tenders but they are rarely more than 3 minutes away from the boat.

The diving schedule is usually 4 dives a day, with good surface intervals, of at least 2 and a half hours, but usually closer to 3 hours. This boat is air only, with a dive schedule that runs, roll out of bed, coffee and snack, dive, full breakfast, snooze, dive, lunch, snooze, afternoon dive, snack, snooze, night dive which is actually conducted at night when it is dark, dinner, sleep, repeat. Occasionally night dives are scratched in favour of a night navigation. The itinerary covers all the way from Misool in the south to right up to Waigeo in the north.

As this is a new boat all the dive related gear is new and in very good condition. Tanks are 12L and 15L ali with din value, and yoke inserts are in good condition. 200 bar air-only fills, compressors appeared to be in good nick and smoking was kept well away from the air intake. I was not aware of anyone having problems with tank o-rings on this boat. I did not use the rental gear but my room mate is a mask and computer diver and was very happy with the gear, all new and in good condition, Mares 5mm wetsuits and Mares open heel fins, apex regs, sunnuto gekkco computers, and I think it was an aqualung basic jacket style bcd, no weight integration. Simple webbing weight belts, reef hooks and smb were also supplied, as well as small torches for night diving.

Diving conditions, don't come expecting crystal clear calm water. The strong currents and plankton and the like in the water is what makes the diversity of life in raja ampat the worlds greatest. Papua is covered in rainforest. Therefore, it rains fairly regulary. this does not affect the diving though may slightly reduce the vis. Vis was also reduced by schools of fish.

Shark protections must be working because I saw sharks on at least two thirds of all my dives, mostly wobbegones and black-tip reef sharks. Mantas were in abundance, about every 3rd day we saw a few, also devil rays. Larger fish, both pelagic and benthic were about, but it was mostly smaller fish. Loads of critters including shrimp, pygmy seahorses, nudis and more.

Non-diving activities include kayaking, birdwactching (weather permitting) trekking, and village visits. Overall this was a great trip and I would highly recommend this boat to advanced and intermediate divers. I would not recommend this to Open Water divers, as dives were frequently conducted on walls and in current.

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