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

July, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Fred Turoff, PA, USA
Sr. Contributor   (22 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 4415
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
USVI, BVI, Saba, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Sea of Cortez, Costa Rica, Coco
Island, Revillagigedos, Red Sea, Micronesia, Sipadan, PNG, Galapagos,
Komodo, Lembeh Strait
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

calm, surge, currents  
Water Temp
83   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
20   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
40m depth limit  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Battery-charging facilities were adequate. If all divers had big photo
rigs, more table space would be needed. Photo table in dive-prep area
served as tool bench also, but space occupied wasn't needed as we had
indoor dry areas (tables and storage) for cameras. Dedicated rinse tanks
for cameras were provided. Dive guides found plenty of subjects for us.
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    
4 stars   
5 stars    
The Raja Ampat area has so much to see. This was my second trip there, this
time on a liveaboard, the Raja Ampat Explorer, run by Grand Komodo Tours.
GKT runs excellent trips at a lower cost than other liveaboards Ive
investigated, and even goes out if the passenger number is low. We had 10
in our group, with 12 crew. This trip was led by Larry McKenna, the founder
of Save Our Leatherbacks Organization. Since it was a research trip, it
is tax-deductible, according to Larry. As the boat wasnt full, several of
us had single accommodations, which was an unexpected treat. Meals were
varied and plentiful, with several entrees offered along with nicely done
vegetable dishes. Snacks were available at any time. Our day went: light
food, dive, breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, rest, night dive, dinner.
Whenever a meal had a spicy dish, which I avoid, there was a non-spicy dish
as well. Soups were especially good and offered daily. Freshly made
tropical juices pleased my palate.

Flight schedules that were changed altered our planned early departure from
Sorong, so we missed some planned dives at the beginning of the trip. The
next morning, our first two dives, near Mois Su to see some WW2 wreckage,
had the poorest visibility of the trip, so wide-angle photography was
severely limited. Warm water all week helped me enjoy the dives, as I get
cold easily, being thin. However, I prefer seeing reefs to wrecks, so these
two dives were not as interesting, although we had a schools of both
bumphead parrotfish and barracuda swim by. That evening we went to observe
a female leatherback digging a nest and laying eggs at night on the largest
(18km) nesting beach known. Thanks to villagers Larry has hired to care for
turtles rather than hunt them, nests are marked and watched over while
turtles are observed and defended. After waiting a good while on the beach
(covered with clothing and insect repellent to ward off voracious
no-see-ums) we were alerted to a turtle that had come ashore over a km
away, so we walked to find it digging its nest. It was wearing a tracking
device that had worn grooves and abrasions in its soft shell. The villagers
cut it off to provide relief for the turtle and said theyd return it to
its owner. Watching this huge turtle (maybe 1000 pounds) dig and lay was
fascinating and lasted well over an hour. Once finished, she headed for the
water again and nearly stepped on a hatchling heading to the sea also  my
dive buddy picked it up, saving it from being squashed. We saw other
hatchlings and made sure they made it to the water. The next morning we
returned to the beach where villagers were excavating a nest that was
hatching to help the babies get to the water. All of us got to help
hatchlings, and we learned that many eggs dont hatch and some babies dont
make it to the surface. Then we headed west for more diving, but current
slowed our transit so we missed more planned dives that day.

The next morning we were by Kri Island, where Sorido Bay and Kri resorts
are (I had stayed at Sorido two years prior). The diving here was superb,
with excellent visibility and numerous fish and critters. We found three
species of pygmy seahorse and numerous other critters. Although later dives
had variety, I feel this area had the most. One dive at Chicken Reef had
such abundant fish life, my buddy and I just stopped in the water,
grinning, to watch the parade. Our travels also took us to Gam, Kawe,
Wayad, Urani, Waigeo and Fam Islands, and we did night dives at both reefs
and under village jetties. A visit to a pearl farm gave us insight into
that industry. Diving eight days, I did six days of four dives per day,
including a night dive, sandwiched between a first and last day of only two
dives per day.

So much underwater life in warm, generally clear water! We saw: many pygmy
seahorses; octopi, squid and cuttlefish (bodies from 1cm to 30cm);
countless nudibranchs, flatworms, shrimp and crabs; wobbegon, epaulette and
other sharks (I found a cooperative juvenile epaulette on a night dive and
photographed another which, unknown to me at the time, had a shrimp perched
on its head); schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda, sweetlips and
striped grunts; tridachna clams 2-130cm; healthy coral everywhere. I
observed and photographed a close encounter between a xeno crab and a
shrimp on a rope coral, where the crab climbed slowly toward the shrimp,
which began backing up when the crab was maybe 2cm away.

In between dives, we enjoyed the island scenery, sunrises and sunsets, plus
visited some islands to meet the people. A trip around the rock islands in
the Wayad Island area made me think about geologic times past when that
area must have been underwater and the islands were coral mounds. It was
reminiscent of a trip around Belau.

The entire crew, captain and cook included, helped us divers in and out of
the dive boats and kept all aspects of the boat running smoothly. Passenger
dive gear problems were carefully fixed when possible. My criticisms are
few  more camera space would be needed if everyone had a large rig  I
reserved a space early for mine, and two leaky bathroom sinks needed shore
items for repair.

I stayed in Bali two full days after the trip, which I would recommend to
anyone making this journey. My buddy and I visited a wood-carving business,
an elephant park, the Nangnang waterfall and toured the countryside to see
how the people lived outside of Denpasar. On a previous visit I saw other
things to make me appreciate Bali and the US. Indonesia, and Raja Ampat in
particular, are destinations all serious divers should visit. Im ready to
go back.

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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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