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The Diving Expedition of a Lifetime – A Review of Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana, Indonesia

Ilike liveaboard boat view from the outside

Ilike Liveaboard trips are created by divers for divers. These expeditions are one-of-a-kind trips to fantastic dive sites all around Indonesia, all on a beautiful boat.

I experienced their 14-day diving expedition liveaboard from Rajat Ampat to Kaimana, Indonesia, and it's a trip I'll never forget. From amazingly beautiful dive sites to five-star service, it was the diving trip of a lifetime.

Read on for my review of the Ilike Liveaboard cruise to Kaimana.

 

First Things First: Getting to Sorong and Raja Ampat

Most liveaboard trips to Raja Ampat and West Papua depart from Sorong, a small town on the west side of Papua.

You can fly into Sorong with a direct flight from Jakarta, Manado, Makassar or Ambon.

Most people who are flying internationally connect via Jakarta.

Garuda is the most reliable airline with flights to Sorong.

TIP: At the time of this writing, Garuda allows 15 kg of extra luggage free of charge specifically for diving equipment. You'll need to inform them ahead of time that you will be bringing diving equipment.

As flights in Indonesia are frequently cancelled or delayed, spend a night in Sorong.

Read my review of Sorong, including where to stay and what to do, so that you can make the most of your time before the boat departs.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - bat cave lagoon misool

Checking in with Ilike liveaboard

From the moment that I was picked up at my hotel by one of the Ilike divemasters, I was treated to amazing service.

After a 10 minute drive, we arrived at the port.

My bags had been taken care of, and the next time I saw them was in my cabin.

Upon arriving onboard, the whole crew was there to greet me with a juice and a cold towel.

The cruise director gave me a tour of the Ilike, explaining all the key features before showing me to my cabin.

I also met the other passengers that would be my travel companions for the next two weeks. Everyone was from Europe and very eager to make this fantastic trip.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - Piyenemo Lagoon

Ilike Liveaboard

About the Boat: Cabins on the Ilike liveaboard

The cabins that would become home for the next two weeks on the Ilike are not the biggest or most luxurious ones at sea, but they are perfectly comfortable.

One of the unique features of the boat is that there is only one deck for cabins. This means that the cabins are small, but it also means that there's plenty of communal space on the two decks above. This seemed like a good tradeoff to me.

I stayed in a suite, which was a bit bigger than the other rooms and well worth the small extra cost. The suites are located as far away from the engines as possible, so my cabin was quiet and I generally slept very well.

 

The standard and budget rooms both have bunk beds. The main difference between the two is that the budget cabins are located closer to the engines, so they are a bit noisier during navigation nights. On the plus side, they are also located towards the centre of the boat, so they're the most stable in case of bad weather.

Each cabin is air-conditioned, with individual thermostats, and they each have an attached marble bathroom with hot and cold water.

TIP: Liquid soap is provided, but make sure you bring your shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, as well as any other toiletries you may need.

The one thing that the cabins lacked was storage space. There is nowhere to place suitcases, and little space to store clothes, so you'll want to bring a foldable bag that you can put under the bed.

They do offer laundry service onboard, so don't bring too many clothes and you won't have too many issues.

Though there's not much storage, there are plenty of hooks, so it is convenient to hang bags to contain all your small items when the sea is rough to make sure they don't fly around your cabin.

 

About the Boat: Service and Style on the Ilike Liveaboard

The thing that makes this boat and trip stand out is the level of service.

Ilike has been operating for over six years, and it's clearly a well-oiled machine.

There are 15 members of the staff and only a maximum of 14 guests.

The staff always knows just what to do, no matter the situation. They're pleasant and professional, and the trip was great, in large part because of them.

Having an experienced cruise staff is even more critical when navigating remote areas. I heard a story of a new boat operating in Rajat Ampat that crashed into the reef twice in two months. Not my idea of an ideal vacation!

The primary material used throughout the boat and the cabins are wood. This, along with the pretty wood carvings, makes the ship feel cosy and elegant.

Ilike is dedicated to conservation, and all the wood used is reclaimed wood that didn't contribute to deforestation.

The Ilike is 30 meters long, and it only has seven cabins, which means it never feels cramped. Unlike some other boats, they didn't place any cabins on the top 2 floors, dedicating them exclusively to common space: a large indoor lounge and an outdoor dining area.

The Ilike liveaboard is equipped with sails, but those are more for decoration than for actual sailing. Like most liveaboard in Indonesia, they need sails to fit into the KLM administrative category. So expect to navigate mostly using the engines.

 

Given the size of the boat, the engines were pretty quiet and could barely be heard from the cabin or dining area. Vibrations weren't too bad, much less than other boats I have been on.

So overall, Ilike is a great boat.

The Ilike liveaboard seems to cater mostly to a European crowd. All the guests during my cruise were from Europe, and the food is cooked to please Europeans.

The Food

The food on Ilike was excellent and varied. Even after a 14-day cruise, it didn't feel repetitive.

There are two chefs onboard who worked tirelessly to prepare both Indonesian and western meals.

While you shouldn't board the boat expecting Michelin star cuisine, the food on Ilike liveaboard was tasty and diverse, and you'll find yourself looking forward to meal times.

We'd start the day with a light breakfast before our morning dive. We'd also place a full breakfast order. The chefs prepared eggs, pancakes, toasts, noodles or rice dishes during our dive, and as soon as we got back aboard it would all be served.

Lunch was buffet-style, with 4 or 5 dishes to choose from every day.

Between the third and fourth dive, we'd have a snack, around 4:00 in the afternoon, to energise us for our night dive. These snacks were things like fried bananas, fruits, fried tofu, cakes, and more.

Dinner was a 3-course meal served at the table in the dining room. The meal often started with a soup to help us warm up after the night dive. Main courses included a variety of dishes like tuna curry, tacos, tenderloin steak with eggplants, pasta and prawns… all very tasty. I especially loved the lasagna!

Tea, coffee and orange juice were available throughout the day. There were also beers, soft drinks and wine available for purchase (3 eur, two eur and 20 eur respectively).

TIP: If you drink alcohol, bring a bottle of wine or spirits with you on board. Alcohol is very expensive in Indonesia as the import tax is over 200%.

Ilike Liveaboard to Kaimana: Our Cruise Itinerary

Our 14-day cruise from Sorong to Kaimana had a unique itinerary that took us to places seldom visited.

We had the rare opportunity to dive two of the most well-regarded dive areas in the world: Raja Ampat and the mostly-unexplored waters of Triton Bay.

West Papua is one of the last remaining hotspots of marine biodiversity on earth. In this region alone, scientists have counted more than 1800 different marine species. Many of them can be seen on dives, so it's an opportunity not to be missed.

Not only is the underwater world exceptional, but the land also has a lot to offer. We had the chance to explore the wilderness at several stops along our journey.

Each cruise to Kaimana is unique. The cruise director creates the best possible itinerary based on weather conditions, tides, currents, and the presence of other boats.

 

Northern Raja Ampat

We spent the first four days of our trip in the north of Raja Ampat.

There were some fantastic dive sites around Waigeo, Mansuar and Arborek.

Raja Ampat is quickly becoming a popular diving destination, and we would often come across two or three boats at some sites.

Given the quality of diving in Raja Ampat, it's only going to become more popular and more crowded, so if you want to experience these fantastic waters at their best, get out there soon.

You can see my review of Nothern Raja Ampat's dive sites here.

A trip to West Papua is more than just diving. On our Ilike Liveaboard, we also got to explore astonishing places on land.

We visited the village of Yenbesar, with its pretty beach and smiling kids.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - Yenbeser village

We also discovered the beauty of the Piaynemo lagoon. The climb to the viewpoint was challenging after three dives, but ever so rewarding as the sun was setting. I'll never forget those views.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - Ilike boat in Pyenemo lagoon

When we returned to the boat, we were greeted with a fresh cocktail and cold towel by the great Ilike staff. How refreshing!

TIP: Don't forget to put on mosquito repellent when you get out of the boat. There are no mosquitos on the boat but it is a different story on land.

Southern Raja Ampat and Misool

After four days in Northern Raja Ampat, we headed south to explore the Misool area.

Misool is an exceptional region that may well have the fishiest dive sites in the world.

We were lucky to spend four days diving there, experiencing that amazing biodiversity.

The reefs are in pristine condition, and there are schools of fish everywhere, all different species with all their colours and patterns.

As we were exploring Misool, we were always the only boat whenever we dove.

Misool is a long way from Sorong, so most of the cheaper diving boats don't go out to this area of Rajat Ampat to save on fuel costs.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - misool protected area

Misool is a conservation success story. It is a sizeable no-take zone that was created by the Misol dive resort in collaboration with the local communities. In keeping with the mission of conservation, the Misool dive resort was built on an old shark finning factory. All construction was done with reclaimed wood.

Ilike Liveaboard is a proud sponsor of the Misool no-take zone.

The Misool Foundation employs 81 people including 15 permanent rangers patrolling the area and 22 staff employed by their Community Recycling Project. They run patrol boats to enforce the no-take zone and take great care of their waters.

The success of the Misool no-take zone has been incredible. The biomass of key indicator species has increased on average by 250% over six years, and some sites have seen an increase of up to 600%. It is one of the few reefs in the world that is improving.

For my review of Raja Ampat Misool dives sites, read here.

The Misool area also provided the opportunity for some more above-water activities.

We went on a boat ride through a fantastic "hidden lagoon". We got to swim in the lagoon's pristine waters, and we also visited a bat cave near the end of the lagoon.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - Pyenemo Lagoon

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - Bat cave in Misool

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - bat cave lagoon in misool

Another of our after diving activities included a visit to the Misool ranger patrol station, and we snorkelled with hundreds of baby sharks!

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - baby shark snorkeling in Misool

After a nice walk, the crew brought some drinks out to the beach, and we enjoyed a sundowner drink on this secluded beach: priceless memories.

 

On the way to Kaimana and Triton Bay

At this point in the trip, we headed out toward the end of the civilised world. We felt like true adventurers travelling a road that is seldom voyaged.

We made a stop at Pisang Island. Pisang is the Indonesian word for banana, and the island got its name due to its banana-like shape.

The diving here was not particularly spectacular, especially coming from the great dives in Raja Ampat. But the area itself was beautiful.

We visited a deserted beach and admired the stunning landscape. We found some huge shells on the beach—over 80 centimetres!

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - Huge shell on the beach in pisang island

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - pisang island

After Pisang Island, we continued to Momon Bay.

It was a rough overnight crossing, so that was one of the few nights that I didn't get a great night of sleep.

In the morning we arrived in Momon Bay, a massive bay with beautiful green water surrounded by forest and mountains.

Unlike Kalimantan, which is being heavily deforested, this area of Papua around Momon Bay remains pristine. Not a single human activity was in sight as we pulled in to the bay.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - momon bay

The major attraction in Momon is a huge waterfall that falls directly into the sea: very scenic and a fantastic display of nature's power!

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - Momon watera - Momon waterfall

TIP: be prepared to get wet if you get close to the waterfall. The water pressure is tremendous. If you go swimming, beware of the strong currents created by the waterfall.

 

Triton Bay

The crossing to Triton Bay was the longest journey of the trip. It took almost 12 hours of navigating through secluded areas.

It was also the bumpiest part of the journey as it was windy and we were crossing in unprotected areas.

The rough trip was worth it when we woke up in beautiful Triton Bay.

Above water, this area is even better looking than Raja Ampat, with limestone pinnacles and pretty beaches.

Ilike liveaboard cruise from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay - ranger station in misool

The Triton Bay area was only surveyed in 2006 (5 years after Raja Ampat), so it's still relatively unexplored and pristine.

This region of Indonesia is challenging to access, so a liveaboard like Ilike is the best way to see the area.

The Triton Bay area offers magnificent diving with so much to see, including beautiful soft coral, giant sea fans, black coral forests, large schools of fish and much more.

We encountered a few Wobbegong sharks, but what makes Triton Bay special are the colourful corals and soft corals. While most of the sites we dove at were stunning, there were a few that were underwhelming.

On our last diving day, we also got the chance to dive with five whale sharks and a few dolphins. The whale sharks are over 5 meters long. They are not afraid of humans and came right up to us.

Liveaboard Kaimana - whale shark

I'll admit I was a bit anxious, being so close to such large animals, but I quickly realised that they were more agile than they look. We all came out of this dive with a huge smile.

What a fantastic final dive! For more information about diving in Triton Bay, read my article here.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - Triton Bay - triton bay beach

Diving Organisation on Ilike Liveaboard

The Ilike Liveaboard trip is a diving trip through and through. It is the ultimate cruise for advanced divers.

Liveaboard Raja Ampat - Manta Ray

Their itineraries reflect that: they offer a lot of long journeys going to many unexplored destinations. While we spent the first week in the Raja Ampat area, where many other boats go, we quickly headed south, following the coast all the way down to Kaimana. It felt like an expedition to uncharted territories.

Ilike is a boat that was made by divers for divers. Everything about diving from this boat is seamless.

The diving deck is one of the biggest and most comfortable of all the boats cruising Raja Ampat.

The small size of the boat, with a maximum of 14 guests, also means that dives never seem cramped or crowded underwater.

We were ten divers during our trip, and it was perfect.

Unlike many other boats cruising in Indonesia, Ilike requires that divers have a minimum experience of 70 dives. This ensures that all divers onboard are experienced.

It allows them to visit dive sites that are more advanced as they know everyone will have the capacity to handle them. That also means that we can stay longer underwater. Most dives were around 70 minutes, which was a nice change from some liveaboards I had done in the past, where dives would average 45 minutes.

Even though they require plenty of experience, the dives on this trip were very relaxed. We did only two sites that required negative entry, and during most of our trip the current was very mild and the dives super easy.

For the diving photographers onboard, there is a large camera table and a charging station.

There were many underwater photographers on our trip, and each person had a storage box and dedicated space for their cameras.

The diving service is truly five-star. The staff takes care of everything and could not be more helpful.

Diving is done from their two comfortable tenders.

From loading all the equipment on the tender to assisting with putting on wetsuits, carrying and drying cameras, rinsing off wetsuits, putting on fins… the staff was always on the lookout for ways to help us.

We felt very pampered and were able to focus on the dives themselves.

Dive briefings were very professional.

Eduard Espinel ( who is Ilike operation manager but was acting as our cruise director and dive master) had electronic maps of every dive site and used them for the briefings. He gave us a lot of information about fishes, nudibranchs, and all their behaviours so that we'd know what to look out for.

Even in our group, where most people had done over 1000 dives, Edu found ways to make the briefings informative and fun.

Beyond being an excellent dive guide, Edu also became our "mister fix it." Someone's camera took on water, and he was able to fix it. Someone crashed their drone on a 20-meter cliff; Edu helped to get it back. My dive computer battery ran out: Edu had spare batteries and fixed it. Is there anything this guy cannot do?

 

What About Non-Diving Passengers?

I would not recommend this cruise to people who don't dive, as the focus is mainly on diving. However, if you are part of a mixed group of divers and non-divers, the non-divers can also have a good time on the Ilike Liveaboard, enjoying snorkelling and the other activities offered.

One of the passengers on our cruise was not diving. He snorkelled at most of the dive sites and had a fantastic time.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - Whale Shark

Internet in Raja Ampat and Kaimana

There is no internet on Ilike. If being connected is essential for you, you'll need to buy a Telkomsel card with a data plan.

You can get them for about 10 Eur with a large data plan. You will need a copy of your passport to register and activate the card.

The Internet is available sporadically in the northern part of Raja Ampat. We would get coverage almost every day for 1 or 2 hours.

The staff on the boat usually know the best locations to get a signal and can let you know when the internet is available.

TIP: If other people have signal and you don't, try switching your settings to 2G only or 3G only.

We had no internet at all in the area around Misool. There is also no connection around Triton Bay. We did get 30 minutes of connection while passing by Fak Fak on the way to Kaimana.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - triton bay

When's the best time to go to Raja Ampat?

The diving season in Rajat Ampat is from September/October until April/May.

The best time of the year. If you want to see lots of fishes is November and December. The sea at this time usually is tranquil. Unfortunately, those months tend to suffer from poor visibility.

January and February are when visibility is the best. It can be windy, and the sea can be choppy. I did this trip end of January, and while it was sometimes a bit windy and choppy, the boat was stable enough so that it never became uncomfortable.

We had good visibility on most dives and saw many many fishes. I can't imagine what it must be like in December and probably need to go back on another trip to check it out.😊

Liveaboard Raja Ampat - batfishes

Conclusion

Ilike is simply a superb boat. It is made for advanced divers, and the service is truly world-class.

Dive and boat operations are seamless, and the ship itself has a ton of character, making it a comfortable and cosy place to live for two weeks while experiencing some of the most beautiful places on earth.

It is perfect for those looking for exceptional diving in remote destinations in Indonesia without trading away their comfort on board.

Both Rajat Ampat and Kaimana are beautiful diving destinations that every avid diver should do at least once in their lifetime. I can't wait to go back!

The trip to Kaimana is made only 4 or 5 times a year, so you need to book it well in advance. Check out the Ilike website for the schedule of upcoming trips and reservations.

Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana - Ilike boat

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5 thoughts on “The Diving Expedition of a Lifetime – A Review of Ilike liveaboard to Kaimana, Indonesia”

  1. Great article! Ilike is indeed one of the best Liveaboards in Indonesia for Divers!
    The Route between Raja Ampat and Triton Bay via Misool is one of the most action-packed and remote itineraries Indonesia has to offer. The Whalesharks of Kaimana are great extra, too.

    Local fishermen use self-made floating platforms called ‘bagans’ to both live and work on. Bagans look like a massive wooden float-boat with vast nets stretched along its perimeter. At night the nets are unrolled and lowered deep in the water whilst large projectors scattered along the edges of the platform are lit up to attract big schools of baitfish. The Whale sharks usually come in the morning, along with the bigger pelagic fish, for leftovers from the nights catch for an easy meal.
    The best time to visit the ‘bangans’ for Whalesharks is New-Moon, as the lights of the fishermen are most effective and generate the best catch – and the best chance for Whaleshark aggregations.

    Some might argue that feeding Whalesharks impacts their natural behaviour – however, I personally think the contribution to the protection of these gentle giants as well as the creation of alternative employment for local fishermen community due to tourism are big positive factors of this practice.

    For more infos about Diving & Cruising Indonesia, visit:
    https://www.barefoot-cruising-indonesia.com/

  2. Marc Van den Broeck

    Julie fantastic that you have created this story about the divetrip we made in februari 2019. It gives the story about one off the most beautiful dive journeys I have ever made. This story in combination with my photos gives me the perfect memory.
    Divegreatings Marc

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I’m Julie and Icurrently spent about half of my time in Bali and the other half traveling to fantastic destinations around the world. I LOVE traveling, Yoga, and Scuba diving. I am sharing extraordinary places and adventures with you. This is not a backpacker type site. If you are a busy business executive who want to maximize your holidays and have amazing experiences, this site if for you! I want to give you practical tips on how to enjoy amazing vacations in the most comfortable way possible. From long luxury week-ends to diving trips or 2 weeks adventures to very remote places.

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