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Dive Review of Grand Komodo -- Raja Ampat Explorer in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

May, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Mel Cundiff, CO, US (1 report)
Report Number 5660
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Most of the best coral reefs in the world.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
85   to 89    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
3 stars   
5 stars    
     MV Raja Ampat Explorer, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
				         May - June, 2010

On May 24, 2010, nine of us who have shared multiple diving trips to the
western Pacific embarked on a twelve-day trip to Raja Ampat aboard the
flagship of the Grand Komodo Fleet, the MV Raja Ampat Explorer,
(  Almost all of us have been diving in
Raja Ampat previously and have been on three other Komodo boats.  This was
the most comfortable of the lot, having a length of 109 feet, a beam of
24.4 feet and a crew of 11.

If there has been one stand out from our Komodo trips, it has been the
boat crew, consisting 
of only Indonesian natives with an infectious desire to make our trip as
successful and comfortable 
as possible.  For instance, as we came back to our cabins after our night
dives, there were glasses and ice awaiting us for a celebratory toast of
Scotch before going to the mess for dinner.  While only a few of the crew
could speak English, we never had a communication problem!  All aspects of
our boat accommodations including food, diving and diversions were totally
professional and attended to.  
Reno Kirtya, the fleet owner, had graciously arranged to have Weka, our
dive master, and Agi, our cook, on board for us.  This was our fourth trip
with these two, and four of the other crew members had been with us on at
least one previous trip.  I have bragged about the food on these boats for
years and Agi is the best!  Breakfasts were mostly American style, with
lunches and dinners mostly Asian style with lots of fish, shrimp and
chicken.  There were always ample seconds, and there were creative
between-dive snacks.  

There were four standard dives a day, always including a night dive, and
several of us got in 
38 dives on the trip.  We had three dive masters and all dives were done
from two hard-bodied zodiacs.  With only nine divers on a boat equipped for
14, we had a lot of room.  The dives were only minutes from the mother
ship, so the two zodiacs with three dive masters could easily handle a full
boat of 14 divers.  After a dive the crew stowed our gear, and with two
dive deck showers we were clean and dry and seated in the mess hall
quickly.  Our rooms had en suite showers, but they were seldom used.

The camera table and rinse tanks were adequate, and forward on the main
deck was ample room for battery charging with numerous 110 and 220 outlets.
 The monitor in the mess was used to view our video and still images, and
there were DVD movies available.  There was a good selection of ID books to
identify the critters we were seeing.

Trying to describe the diversity of organisms in an eastern Indonesian
marine environment to 
a naïve diver is ludicrous at best.  Even veteran divers to this area
are constantly seeing new species 
of fish they havent previously identified.  The diversity of organisms is
just plain overwhelming, thus providing reasons for divers to return.  For
instance, in some of the worst dive sites in Raja Ampat the species
diversity can be 5-10 times greater than in the best of the dive sites in
the Caribbean.  I have outlined some of the prominent species of the area
on previous write-ups and will refrain from repeating myself here.  As I
log my dives I highlight any species that I havent recognized seeing on
previous trips, and there were 25 new species I saw on this trip, about
half of which were nudibranchs.  I saw many more than this  these are just
the ones I recognized as new at the time.  

Among these there were two stand-outs.  One was a 22-inch long, very
dark-red hexabranch I saw on a night dive. There were a number of smaller
ones of toned-down reds-to-earthen colors, but this was full bodied and
robust.  One guide book indicates that they have been seen to 20 inches
long in the Red Sea, so this was obviously a world-class sized nudibranch. 
Secondly, I had heard about a walking octopus prior to this trip but had
never seen one; but on a night dive, as if performing on a stage, with a
red-to-brown, peanut-shaped body about 2 inches long, one came bipedaling
towards me on two of its tentacles projecting downward a couple of inches
toward the substrate with an upright stance like a person walking.  The
other tentacles were not visible.  Before I could get anyones attention,
it found a hole and quickly disappeared.

On what I thought was good authority, I had heard that the most diverse
reefs were in the southern part, so we spent the first six days diving
around Misool before heading where we had dived before in northern Raja
Ampat.  We all agreed that the northern islands had the greater diversity
of organisms.  However, one dive near Misool had about 8-10 different hues
of some of the most beautiful broccoli corals I have seen anywhere  Fiji
included.  Pygmy sea horses (multiple species), walking (Epaulette) and
carpet (Wobbegong) sharks were seen on many of our dives, and the
world-class giant clams were common in these northern islands.  The very
largest of these clams reached a length of 68 inches, and their robust
central girth was almost circular in cross section.  There were a half
dozen others we saw that were 60 inches in length.  These dimensions exceed
those found in any guidebooks and using a few estimates (e.g., such as a
68-inch clam approximates a sphere of about 40 inches in diameter; CaCO3
having a density of 2.7; and the shell constituting about 1/4 of the total
body weight of the clam) would bring the weight of these largest of clams
to about 1730 lbs., significantly above that of the largest Colossal squid
which weighed in at 1091 lbs. and is considered to be the largest
invertebrate on record.  I think there is a good chance that this record
can be challenged.

While in the south, the toadstool-shaped islands like those of Palau were
common  there were 
a couple that stood on a narrow, slender stalk of rock that supported the
above-water islet from 40-50 feet down.  One could swim around the narrow
base and look upward at the umbrella-shaped island above with a diameter
3-4 times greater than its supporting rocky stalk.

Surely the most memorable dive to most of the members of our group was the
second manta dive near Kree.  We spent 60 minutes at 60 feet watching four
mantas continuously circling two raised outcrops with lots of cleaners
providing services for them.  The wing spans ranged from 13-17 feet, and by
the end of our session their passes were within touching distance of us. 
They were still there when we left.  Instead of the typical angelfish
cleaners, these cleaners were butterflyfish and wrasses.

Our bookings for these trips have been arranged by Nancy Gimblin of Great
Destinations out of Sacramento (  She has traveled and
dived extensively in Indonesia since 1967, long before it became a popular
dive destination.

							Mel Cundiff  Broomfield, CO  8/04/2010
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