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Dive Review of Grand Komodo -- Putri Papua in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

October, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Rick Sterne/Chrisanda Button, AR, US
Sr. Contributor   (24 reports, with 7 Helpful votes)
Report Number 5742
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Bahamas,Bay Islands,Belize,Bonaire,Cozumel,Caymans,Turks&Caicos,Sea of
Cortez,Australia,Fiji,Truk,Yap,Palau,other areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, cloudy  
surge, currents  
Water Temp
81   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
45   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
We dove with the dive guides because they could spot H. ponthoi we would
never have found.  The group was not a tightly bound one, and the DM's were
not at all controlling.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
5 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
 Crew members handled cameras very carefully and quickly learned which
camera belonged to each diver.  There were plenty of power strips and a
voltage converter on the dry table in the salon.  Compressed air was
available on the camera table on the dive deck.  With four cameras on
board, none large, space was ample. Macro photography was a challenge, not
due to a dearth of subjects, but due to strong currents. 
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
2 stars   
5 stars    
     We spent ten days diving in the northern Rama Ampat Islands from Grand
Komodo's Putri Papua.  Having read a great deal of "hype" about
diving in the R4, we wondered whether the area could possibly live up to
its reputation.  I was also concerned that dive sites might be crowded with
twenty-odd liveaboards operating in the islands.  Both concerns were
unfounded.  We never encountered another dive boat, and our expectations
for the diving were exceeded by our actual experience.
     The hard corals were dense and very healthy.  There were several areas
where the soft corals were as colorful as any we've seen (and, yes, we have
dove in Fiji -twice).  Most diving occurs on walls or seamounts.  All were
thronged with fish.  Large schools of jacks, trevally, fusliers,
unicornfish,snappers, and barracuda blocked our view into the blue on a
number of sites.  We also saw some half dozen white tip and black tip
sharks  and a number of tuna swimming past. One dive featured three very
large nurse sharks sleeping in a cavern, and we encountered woebegong
sharks on most of our dives. Clouds of anthias and damsels hovered over
large plates of acropora coral.  We saw at least eight species of
anemonefish and numerous representatives of the angel and butterfly clans. 
Turning to the walls, we also saw a good variety of nudibranchs, porcelain
crabs, shrimps, and various worms. Several octopus and cuttlefish put in
daytime appearances. How good were the best sites?  Let me quote from my
logbook, written in the heat of the moment after a dive at Sardine Reef:
     We were warned that schooling fish would be absent because we 
     were diving in the slack tide.  So we descended to the sand slope
     with coral heads and started looking about.  We quickly spotted 
     a juvenile rock mover wrasse, a pair of fire dartfish, a pair of
     flame dartfish, a pair of arrow gobies, a leaf scorpionfish, a
     Chromodoris koi, a nice flatworm, and a very shy black-masked 
     jawfish. Rickie and I watched a free-swimming feather star being
     nipped at by a wrasse.  Then we swam farther, and THE FISH CAME!
     Huge streaming schools of fusiliers, jacks, snappers, unicorn-
     fish, surgeons, and giant trevally.  We hovered amid the swirl 
     for fully ten minutes.  On our safety stop we watched a pair of
     huge Pomocanthus xanthometropon, angelfish, being cleaned.  We 
     saw a small Napoleon wrasse and three large bumphead parrotfish.     
     The piece de resistance: as we swam off the reef, a squadron of
     eight eagle rays sailed past.  A dive to remember!
And that was just one of thirty-four dives. Strong current was present on
most of our dives, but the Putri Papua's crew knew when to take us to each
site for the best conditions, balancing currents and presence of marine
life.  We did have two rather rough dives.  At Batu Barung, strong
upwellings and downwellings plagued us.  We had just cleared a five-minute
safety stop over the blue when one last upwelling grabbed us.  All of us
using Suunto computers, including one of the dive guides, were sent down
for an additional three minutes' hang time.  At Equator Rock II, we
actually ended a dive early because the very strong surge was banging us
all around - not good for us or the coral. The superb diving in Raja Ampat
certainly justifies the effort of swimming in currents.  We cannot actually
identify 265 species of fish, but I think we saw most of the species we can
identify and learned a number of new ones.  We know we saw several
new-to-us species of nudis. We frequently consulted the Putri Papua's
excellent ID library.  The boat carries Kuiter and Tonozuka's wonderful
three-volume Indonesian Reef Fish, as well as Debellius's Nudibranchs of
the World and Crustacea of the World.
     The Putri Papua is one of Grand Komodo's second generation boats,
larger than the Nusa Tara but smaller than the Temu Kira.  The boat can
carry eight divers, but there were only six on board for our trip.  As has
always been our experience when diving with Grand Komodo, the other guests
were congenial and skilled divers.  We were three Americans, two Dutch, and
one German. The boat has a schedule of four dives per day, well spaced to
allow rest time between dives.  All dives were at least one hour in length,
a number well over seventy minutes.  We dove from the dinghy, going out in
groups of three. The two dive guides moved back and forth between the two
groups.  Head dive guide Joni spoke very good English and gave all the dive
briefings.  Papuan Tadeus spoke virtually no English, but led dives
skillfully and was very sharp-eyed.How do they spot tiny Hippocampus
ponthoi clinging to crinoids in a ripping current?  Or H. bargibanti on a
seafan at 92 feet when we're hooked in against an upwelling?  The guides
were safety conscious and watched closely to be sure that all divers were
more or less comfortable in the currents.  Just as important to diver
safety is the dinghy driver.  Ghandi was typical of Grand Komodo's
attentive dinghy drivers.  I never doubted that if a strong current did get
the better of me, Ghandi would pick me up quickly. At dive's end, we handed
up our gear and climbed a ladder back into the dinghy. All tank fills were
2900+, and tanks were refilled promptly in our dive stations.  Each station
had two baskets underneath for storing gear. Crew members carried our gear
from the dinghy back to our dive stations.  A nice touch was having a
bottle of water labelled for each diver on the dive deck.
     Food is second in importance only to the actual diving.  Food on the
Putri Papua was plentiful and delicious.  Our Balinese cook Kameng served
three tasty Indonesian meals as well as substantial and more western
afternoon snacks.  We always enjoy Grand Komodo's signature fruit
smoothies.  Meals are served buffet style.  Breakfast offered toast as well
as nasi goreng or banana pancakes or various egg dishes.  The bacon in
Indonesia is much better than that in the US.  Lunches and dinners
consisted of fresh fish or seafood (catch of the day has a different
meaning here) as well as a chicken or beef dish, fresh veggies, and a
salad.  At dinner we enjoyed delicious fresh soups as well.  Desserts were
tropical fruit.
     Our cabin in the bow was comfortable and had adequate storage space. 
The slightly elevated beds allow large bags to be stored underneath.  We
slept on the double bed and used the single for storage.  There was a small
desk with a mirror and two storage drawers.  The reading lamp over the bed
provided good light for the three pages I could read before falling asleep.
 The en suite bathroom had a hand-held shower as well as a sink and toilet
with bidet.  Cabin showers are tepid, but deck showers are hot.  Our cabin
was cleaned daily, and linens were changed regularly.  Other divers
reported roaches in their cabins, but there was not an insect problem in
ours.  We liked the fact that the salon, where we ate and hung out, was
cooled by fans and sea breezes rather than air conditioning.  The covered
sun deck was a comfortable spot for reading or napping during surface
intervals and a great vantage point for watching the sunsets.
     Not enough can be said about the gracious crews on Grand Komodo's
boats. Their standard of service sets the bar for liveaboards, regardless
of their price. Reading the recent Undercurrent article on
"trip-ruining dive guides" made us very glad we dove with Grand
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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