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Dive Review of Grand Komodo Tours and Dives Ltd./NA in
Indonesia/Komodo, Rinca, Sangeang

October, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Lee Thé, C, USA
Reviewer   (6 reports)
Report Number 2174
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Land-based: Bali (Tulamben, Padang Bai), Philippines (Puerto Galera twice),
Hawaii (Maui, Big Island), Canada (Campbell River B.C.), California
(Monterey Bay, Catalina), Florida (West Palm Beach), Mexico (Cozumel, Cabo
San Lucas), Cayman Islands (C. Brac, Little C.);
Liveaboards: Bahamas (Exumas, Providence), Mexico (Sea of Cortez), British
Virgin Islands.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
74   to 81    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
130 ft. max; you could dive your own profile except on big current drift
dives--then you were expected to follow the DM, and for good reason! My
wife & I often stayed fifty feet above the DM but in sight of him,
which worked for everyone.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
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
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Two freshwater tanks used for cameras, masks, lights. Convenient, dry
platform for cameras.
No development facilities onboard, but you should be shooting digital by
now anyway. Good handling for cameras. Plus I lost my UW camera getting
into the dinghy, didn’t realize it until we’d returned to the boat—and yet
one of the divemasters was able to retrace our steps, take the current into
account, drop down and find it! Plus the captain & divemasters were
locals who excelled at finding the special stuff to shoot, and the crew
were good at handling camera gear carefully. Plus the dual divemasters and
dive your own profile situation gave photographers the freedom they need to
get the good shots.
Overall, as long as you can deal with the frequent current conditions and
plankton-rich water, this is one of the best UW photo trips you can make
for both macro and normal lens shooting. I should add that I found it
excellent for available light digital photography, which I prefer when
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
5 stars    
This region (the Philippines/Indonesia/New Guinea triangle) provides the
greatest species diversity in the world--at least 3X that of the
Caribbrean. Nowadays we come back from Caribbean dives saying “Nice dive.
Saw the usual.” We came back from Komodo dives going “Holy cow—did you see
THAT???” On the other hand, bomb fishing, cyanide fishing and just plain
overfishing limit just where you can go and still enjoy this diversity.
Komodo is one of them. Indonesia established a national park there and
actually enforces the fishing ban in its waters. So Komodo joins legendary
locales like Papua New Guinea and the Coral Sea, with one big difference:
it costs about half as much--under $3K/person for us including airfares to
Bali and then to Sumbawa, transfers, hotels, all meals, the liveaboard,
stopovers in Bali and Hong Kong—everything. And this wasn’t roughing it—we
had good AC and western-style toilets everywhere we stayed, and four-star
hotels in Bali.

However, this isn’t for newbie divers. You only get those amazing soft
corals and hugely abundant/diverse life in general at the price of
sometimes fierce, sometimes unpredictable currents and cold water
upwellings, and you’re a long, long ways from the nearest compression
chamber. You don’t have to be a jock (several of our group had physical
limitations, in fact), but you do have to be experienced and know what to
do in sometimes powerful multidirectional currents, and be prepared for
waters sometimes as cold as 71°F below the thermocline. And you should
go with locals, as we did. Our boat, crew, dive operator, and divemasters
were all locals who know the area intimately. Only the divemasters spoke
English, most of the meals were Indonesian, and the boat certainly wasn’t
luxurious. But neither was it Spartan. We had ensuite bathrooms and tepid
water showers (though you must brush your teeth with bottled water), room
for luggage, 220V outlet. Amenities included a saltwater bidet, and
non-fussy toilets, unlike some we’ve encountered elsewhere. And the bed was
comfortable and queen-sized. Best of all, the boat was purpose-built for
scuba diving, with the best water entry from a mother ship that I’ve
encountered, clean fills, and a big oxygen tank no one had to use, thank
heavens. We did some dives from the boat’s dinghy, which was fiberglass and
had a decent ladder and a great dinghyman. The AC went out in one cabin
during the trip, but the owners ferried out a replacement unit a day or two
later. We brought a group of eight, with two more joining us on the boat,
which has a capacity of 12 divers. Note that several in our group had been
to PNG recently and said this was just as good, and in some areas quite
different as well. Another nice touch: the boat has a three-volume set of
books on Indonesian fish that we found very useful, supplementing the
invertebrate book we brought ourselves. There’s also a smallish color TV
set into the wall of the lounge/dining room, useful for viewing photos,
using the input jacks.

The crew were attentive during dive operations but not fanatical. Usually
we’d go sit on one of the two giant stride entry areas near the bow;
crewmen would put our rigs on our back, and off we’d go. We had two
divemasters with us on most dives, which added to the comfort factor.

On a 10-day trip 28 dives were possible (one night dive was canceled due to
excessive current—that would have made 29), and I did all of them. The
schedule was four dives a day: dive first thing in the morning, eat
breakfast, dive midmorning, eat lunch, dive midafternoon, have a snack, do
a night dive as soon as it’s dark, eat dinner. This is a schedule for
serious divers but not fanatics, with considerable surface intervals—a good
idea in remote areas like this.

The itinerary included a morning visit to Komodo Island to see the Komodo
dragons, which we did see, up close and personal. A mandatory park ranger
comes along to help find the dragons. He’s armed with a forked stick, which
ours said usually works. We also saw the deer and peccaries the dragons
feed on, as well as various birds and orchids. This is dry country and we
were there at the end of the dry season, and my wife & I encountered no
mosquitoes—none—anywhere on the trip. Another of our group encountered a
couple in Bali on the way back, but not in an area with malaria danger. So
we didn’t take any antimalarial drugs, nor did we need to.

We did the 10 day trip (a 7 day is also possible), which adds a jaunt to
Sangeang, a mile-high volcanic cone northwest of the park waters. Well
worth it! Dove on bubbling sands, and the volcanic ash-colored substrate
made a great backdrop for photography. Moroever, it takes so long to get
here from the States the longer trip really helps amortize all that travel
time. Most dive operators run their boats out of Bali, which necessitates a
looong diveless run to Komodo. Komodo Grand Tours has you fly from Denpasar
to Bima, using domestic carrier Merpati Air, flying a modern Fokker
jetliner reminiscent of a McDonnell-Douglas MD80.

Komodo Grand Tours sets a high standard for dive operators. Agents picked
us up at the airport in Bali and skillfully shepherded us every step of the
way to/from our destination. Most importantly, they were able to bring
remote, challenging dive adventuring within the grasp of intermediate
divers like my wife and me. We picked KGT originally thanks to
Undercurrents’ Divers Chapbook, BTW. Thanks, Undercurrents!
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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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