Location: Raja Ampat

Okay, okay, I KNOW we technically arrived here yesterday, BUT today was our first full day in Raja Ampat, and I’m so excited that I get to be skipper for it!!! I’m in a super good mood and super energetic, so buckle up because today was great <3

Woke up naturally at 6:45 AM (proof for my parents that I can actually get up before noon, lol) and got to wake everyone up with Waking Up Easy by Lime Cordiale, one of my favorite morning songs. An incredibly balanced breakfast of egg frittata, rosemary potatoes, and fresh fruit (!!!) was prepared by our saintly chefs Nora, Babs, and Drew. With full stomachs, we headed into a packed day of diving, snorkeling, classes, and exams that would leave us feeling happily tired at the end of the day.

The first dive group (Kirstyn, Jack, Larkin, Syd, Lilli, Romeo, and Marg) headed out right after breakfast to do a fish ID dive. They were greeted with a current that took them swiftly along the reef as they observed all the different kinds of marine life it had to offer. A wobbegong – otherwise known as a carpet shark – was the highlight of their trip…they all came back raving about it. Syd’s depiction is “as if a shark was a fluffy kitten,” and quite honestly, that’s right on the nose. Other honorable mentions include black tip reef sharks, a lot of angelfish, a bunch of EXCESSIVELY LARGE starfish, and more. While that group was out doing their dive, the rest of us were taking our first VHF course, which was led by Smash in a birthday hat. We finished that up relatively quickly, and when the first dive group returned, we sat down to eat lunch. The chefs prepared another fantastic meal of Caesar salad wraps and falafel.

The two groups then flip-flopped – the people who hadn’t dove yet went out to the dive site, and the people who already dove stayed behind to take the VHF course. Me, Babs, Lexi, Justin, Perry, Ethan, Sierra, and Dray went to the same dive site the others went to. My research group and I got a ton of our data collected for the research project we’re doing, which felt good. We spent the first half of the dive collecting data and then got to enjoy the second half freely! There was a TON of really cool coral (including some that looked LSU-colored…?) and marine life at this location. There was even a small cave at the very end that we got to peer into, which was neat. One of the pictures below is Sierra taking a look inside this cave.

Back on the boat, everyone broke into a bit of study time before our oceanography quiz with Heather. This was definitely one of the harder units, but we all got through it! Afterward, a handful of people decided to go snorkeling at the beach that we are anchored by. Since it’s super close, most of us swam there, with Kee riding beside us in the dinghy to protect us from currents and other boats passing through. This itty bitty beach was just beautiful – the edge was laced with coral, the water was super clear, and the soon-to-be-setting sun was dousing everything in just the right amount of golden light. A lush green forest absorbed the entirety of the area except for the tiny patch of sand that we were on. People took pictures, found stray coconuts, explored, and played mermaids. The small things we do like this are some of my favorites about the trip.

Dinner was not long after – the chefs whipped up a phenomenal chicken parm, pasta with vodka sauce, and broccoli. My squeeze question of the night was if you could guest star in any TV show or movie, what would it be and why? I implore those reading at home to ponder this question yourselves – it is quite telling of personality…even more so than your horoscope, some might say.

After dinner, Dray and I had our presentation for our leadership class. Ours was on Chapter 5 of the reading – Understanding Others. We made it into a very discussion-based thing, with some charade-like games at the end that rewarded its volunteers with cookies if they chose to partake. Three of the pictures below are of the brave individuals who chose to do a little performance, and they had everyone cracking up the whole time.

As was said in the beginning, this long and super eventful day left everyone quite tired, but in the best way possible. I, for one, am a little too sunburned, but I think that comes with the territory 🙂 I hope you enjoy the many pictures. Since we are no longer restricted to the passage limit of 3 photos per blog (WOOOOOOOOOOOOO), you best believe I am taking FULL advantage and giving you everything we got. We are re-anchoring to a better dive location bright and early tomorrow morning, and we’re all quite excited.

I should get going to bed…I may have accidentally stayed up too late. This whole thing is shockingly almost over, and I cannot seem to wrap my head around that. We are about five days away from starting our last rotation on the big job wheel, which feels so weird to say. I’ll save all my sappy, sentimental stuff for the last blog I write, but for now, goodnight to all my crewmates, and good morning to all my people back home. I miss you all so so so much.

Much love – Kara.

EDIT: I had Kee re-open the blog this morning to add something because the coolest thing happened last night after I finished the blog, and everyone went to bed!! The two people on anchor watch – Sierra and Kirstyn – alerted everyone to some DOLPHINS that were swimming around our boat!!!! They first started off twenty-ish feet away, and in the dark, you could only hear the sound of their blowholes and see a vague silhouette of their dorsal fins breaching the water. But once we realized they weren’t going anywhere, Sierra and I sprinted downstairs to grab our headlamps, and we were able to see just how close they were!! They were swimming RIGHT under our boat and surfacing super close to us. It was truly a beautiful thing to see – I’ve never witnessed anything like that in the wild so far. There were about six or seven of them that were chasing flying fish under and around Vela, and I felt so lucky to be able to see it so close. Okay, that’s it. I just really wanted to add this!! Bye!!