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Dive Review of Grand Komodo Tours/Palm Paradise Tulamben in

September, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Lee Thé, CA, USA
Reviewer   (6 reports)
Report Number 4424
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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

sunny, dry  
Water Temp
74   to 82    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
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.   
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
4 stars  
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 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):
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
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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