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Dive Review of Grand Komodo Tours/Palm Paradise Tulamben in
Indonesia/Bali

Grand Komodo Tours/Palm Paradise Tulamben, Sep, 2008,

by Lee Thé, CA, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports). Report 4424.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving California (Monterey Bay, Catalina), Hawaii (Maui, Hawaii), Florida (West Palm Beach), Canada (Campbell River), Mexico (Cozumel, Cabo, Sea of Cortez), Caymans, BVI, Philippines (Puerto Galera), Indonesia (Bali, Komodo, Wakatobi, Raja Ampat)
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 74 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Generally you get get dive guides, not divemasters. So it's up to you. Some operators in Permuteran forbid gloves. We generally got to dive our own plans & not come up until we were ready to.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Since this was a dive safari using several hotels, it varied from place to place, but was generally OK for photographers. Palm Paradise in Tulamben has full facilities--camera rinse tanks etc.

I do recommend getting a power strip rated for up to 240V, since our room had only one outlet (plus one in the bathroom). And all our stuff worked for 110v-240v power sources. Try to avoid 110v-only products.
We got a German strip off Amazon.com with a Euro plug (works in Indonesia) and universal receptacles that work with all types of American plugs & many others too. This strip proved invaluable.

We dove Menjangen off open boats & the only rinse facilities were showers onshore. Same was true for Padang Bai. But in general it was possible to use full pro-grade digital camera rigs successfully and pretty easily. Everywhere we went the local boatmen and other assistants knew how to help us with camera gear & how to handle the camera gear. At Tulamben, a Palm Paradise employee named Made helped us across the rocks into the water, then brought us our cameras, doing the same in reverse as we emerged later. Invaluable!

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments The richest, most diverse ecosystems on Earth are the reefs of Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. The difference between diving here and anywhere in the Caribbean or Hawaii is dramatic—almost overwhelming. OTOH rampant overfishing (including bomb fishing) and aquarium collecting using cyanide (mainly for Japanese collectors) has caused widspread devastation throughout Asian waters, along with events like the Balinese town of Candidasa destroying its coral reefs to produce limestone to make cement to build hotels to bring visitors to enjoy the sandy beaches…which all vanished after the barrier reefs were destroyed.

Dive operators have done a lot to counteract reef-icide in areas where they've showed locals how they can make a lot of money from dive tourism. For that reason we try to use local operators wherever possible, such as Grand Komodo Tours, who we've used for liveaboard trips to Komodo, Wakatobi, and Raja Ampat. This year we asked them to help us organize a Bali-based dive safari for nine members of our dive club. It takes 24 hours of travel to get to Bali from the US west coast, and a lot more for farther points, along with hassles about dive gear surcharges by local airlines. So we thought we'd see what sort of diving Bali itself had to offer.

The main dive locations on Bali are Tulamben on the northeast coast, Menjangen at the northwest corner of the island, and Padang Bai on the southeast coast. We stayed at Tulamben for 10 days, diving there along with making day trips to Seraya, Amed, and Padang Bai. Then we moved to Permuteran as a base for several days of diving at Menjangan Island nearby. Then we outgassed in Ubud for several days of sophisticated Balinese culture before returning to the US.

Most of our group are serious underwater photographers, and we generally concurred that this was a productive trip, with the enormous diversity and numbers of sea life we've come to expect from diving in Asian waters. True, there were fewer critters—especially nudibranchs—at Tulamben than we'd seen in previous visits (this was our fourth trip to Tulamben). Apparently a recent storm had sort of cleaned house. There were a few but not the quantities I'd seen before. This is the sort of fluctuation you have to accept I suppose.

All in all I'd say a Bali dive safari is a great introduction to the region. You can fly to Bali straight from Asian hubs like Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, or Taipei (the best from America), on a variety of international airlines. The cheapest is generally China Airlines out of Taipei; the best are generally thought to be Singapore Air or Cathay Pacific (out of Hong Kong). EVA out of Taipei is also good. Love its Evergreen (super economy) class.

Indonesia's exchange rate is over 9,000 rupiah to the dollar, with the cheapest round trip flights from SFO generally running a bit over $1,000. All our costs in Bali—diving, hotels, transport, meals, trinkets—came to less that $1,000 for this 15-day trip. Three-star resorts cost $45 a night; Palm Paradise in Tulamben was only $35 a night for comfortable rooms with good AC and western toilets. Nice meals were $3-6. Bali is generally safe from crime and food hygiene issues, with few mosquitoes in the dry season.

Diving specifics:
1. Tulamben: nice bay with a great 300 ft.-long wreck easily reached from the shore. Rocky beach, however, making entry/exit difficult. Palm Paradise has a helper, Made (pronounced Mah-day) who earned big tips by helping us & our gear in & out on every dive. Gentle currents, much to see, a nice small wall on one side. Short day trips to nearby bays (Seraya, Amed) were good, either by bus or by boat. You can always rent a local fisherman's boat for any sites in the area. Getting back in these boats is easy if they have a ladder. Palm Paradise' dive operation is run by a Japanese ex-pat, Eimiko, who's great. They can repair gear, too—they fixed my free-flowing Scubapro Air II right there on the beach before a dive (it had beach grit in it). Once you're in the water, diving's easy, with warm water and about 50 ft. viz.

2. Padang Bai: we went here as a day trip, but you could stay here for a week of diving easily. It's all boat diving from here. Currents can be strong outside the bay, and there's a wicked thermocline due to Indian Ocean upwellings of water in the low 70s. You can to to Nusa Penida across the channel from here; some e-ticket rides in the current out there. Padang Bai is a lot closer to the island's only big city, Denpasar, for better and for worse.

3. Permuteran: the most remote dive area on Bali, about 3-5 hours from the airport. Some nice resorts here for as little as $35 a night. We used this for our Menjangan diving, which was spectacular, with better viz (100 feet maybe) and beautiful walls, albeit with fewer critters than Tulamben—but great from just crusing the walls and drinking it all in. Reef Seen Aquatics in Permuteran has the only boat I know of that goes to Menjangan and has a bathroom onboard—something two of our group who got some digestive upsets could have really, really used. Also the beaches in Permuteran are sandy, affording easy entry/exit. I'd send newbies here of any place in Bali, but as a vetern diver I'd appreciate it too.

4. Ubud: the place to stay while you outgas. Visit the nearby Bali Bird Park and make friends think you're a geat bird photographer. I spent 5 hours here last time we visited. The Bali Butterfly Park is also worth a day trip. Ubud has the best dining of anyplace we went—same prices but better food. Try Wayan's Café for a buffet that lets you sample a big variety of local fare to see what you like best.
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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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