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Dive Review of Grand Komodo Tours and Dives Ltd./NA in
Indonesia/Wakatobi, Flores Sea

October, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Lee Thé, C, USA
Reviewer   (6 reports)
Report Number 2173
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
California (Monterey Bay, Catalina Island), Hawaii (Maui, Big Island),
Florida (West Palm Beach), Canada (Vancouver Island), Mexico (Cozumel, Cabo
San Lucas, Sea of Cortez), Indonesia (Bali, Nusa Penida, Komodo, Rinca,
Sangeang, Flores Sea, Wakatobi Marine Park), Philippines (Puerto Galera),
BVI, Caymans (C. Brac, Little Cayman), Bahamas (Exumas, New Providence)
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
Water Temp
80   to 86    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Depended on the dive site and current conditions; in strong current drift
dives it was follow the leader; otherwise we could dive our own profile.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Ample for digital photographers, with a large carpeted dry table for
cameras in the middle of the dive prep area & a camera rinse tank, plus
240V electrical outlets in every cabin (standard two-round-prong Euro-style
plugs) as well as a power strip in the lounge area plus two 110V outlets
from a large inverter. Also, the dingyman and the rest of the crew were
very good about handing cameras down to divers in the water & taking
them back from them into the dinghy & the main boat. Dives were not
expressly photography-oriented, so I had to "shoot & scoot"
to catch up with the group; however, Grand Komodo would be happy to
accommodate photography-centric groups (ours was not), and one of the two
divemasters was particularly good at finding hard-to-find camera subjects
for me, such as pygmy seahorses and miniscule nudibranchs and crustaceans,
while the other divemaster kept watch over the group in general. The TV in
the lounge area has front-mounted RCA jacks so I was able to plug into it
for both reviewing pics and for sharing images with the other divers and
crewmembers. No film development provisions onboard, but film is obsolete
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
5 stars    
Wakatobi is a great liveaboard destination for experienced, self-sufficient
divers. We enjoyed mind-boggling species diversity of every sort, great
walls, mostly flat seas (nobody barfed on the trip), not much current by
Indonesian standards, reasonable viz, bathtub-warm water, a superior
liveaboard crew/boat/company, tasty Indonesian food plus some American
(eggs in the morning, fries at lunch), and bragging rights at our dive club
once they see my pics. The trip was a bargain: $3,700 per diver from SFO,
including roundtrip airfare to Bali/Flores/Timor, the 12-day liveaboard
itself, all transfers and meals, five nights in Bali at 4-star resorts plus
one night in Timor, and a driver and an SUV while in Bali. Compare that to
Wakatobi Resort (which is way more posh, however). The boat travels most
nights. Weather was mainly sunny, only clouding up at the very end.

Dive after dive I kept seeing new critters. Not a lot of big stuff (except
for a herd of humongous Humphead Parrotfish on one dive and mantas some
other divers saw on another), but huge varieties of nudibranchs, crinoids,
soft corals, hard corals, sponges, sea fans, hydroids, tunicates,
crustaceans, echinoderms, holothurians, turtles, sea snakes, fish (blue
ribbon eel, seagrass pipefish, pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpionfish, clouds
of anthias and butterlyfish, angels and batfish and lionfish oh my…we came
back from every dive dazzled. I recommend doing the Wakatobi trip as a
run-up to Grand Komodo’s Komodo/Rinca trip, which features even amazing-er
sea life, but also rollercoaster currents up to 10 kts. (literally) and
temps as low as 71 degrees below thermoclines.

Everyone on the trip had at least hundreds of dives logged and knew how to
take care of themselves. We love Grand Komodo Tours
(, and plan many more trips with them, but
if you’re a newbie or really rusty and/or expecting to be mother-henned, go
to Palm Paradise Resort at Tulamben in Bali. You’ll get easy, safe,
shore-based diving, my favorite wreck (Tulamben’s Liberty Ship), and a good
taste of what Indonesia has to offer as you build up your skills for
Wakatobi, Komodo, and beyond.

Grand Komodo expects you to know what you’re doing. Its divemasters help
you if you want help but they let you dive your own profile except in big
current drift dives. As one of only two diver-photographers on the boat and
with my spouse limited to snorkeling (recovering from a DVT), I surfaced
alone on many of the 31 dives we did, and the dinghyman did a good job of
picking me up. Be sure to bring a safety sausage, whistle, etc., and
surface with 500psi. Don’t get greedy.

You’ll be rigging your own BC mostly. They fill the tanks in place (usually
over 3,000PSI), so your tank stays with your BC. Most diving utilizes the
dinghy. Occasionally we used the platform on the rear of the boat. Dive
intros were good—critical in Indonesia’s currents—and Grand Komodo provided
two divemasters for the eight passengers on the boat. Also, my wife was
able to snorkel at 80% of the dive sites. Usually a crew member snorkeled
with her. She was out of luck only at a few seamounts we dove. The trip
centered on Wakatobi National Marine Park, but we also did our check dive
and final dive at a little island near Maumere, and did some of our best
dives at Batu Ata, a small isolated island in the middle of the Flores Sea.
We dove all the major Wakatobi islands, which the Wakatobi Resort doesn’t
do by the way.

The Putri Papua is one of the smaller boats in Grand Komodo’s five-boat
fleet. But it was big enough to do the job. We never felt claustrophobic.
Our cabin was reasonably roomy. All meals were served in a shaded, open-air
lounge two floors above our cabin. The dive gear area was one deck lower,
cabins below that. We did a lot of stair-climbing! The crew—an amicable mix
of Moslem, Christian and Hindu Indonesians---was friendly and cross-trained
and everyone understood us. On some boats only the divemaster(s) speak
English. Not so here. It’s a happy, well-run boat. The crew serenaded us on
our last night on board. We went ashore several times, once picking up a
nice Wakatobi park ranger for a few days. He was eager to learn from us
about critters and dive conditions.

Health note: My wife and I ate everything served--no precautions other than
brushing our teeth with bottled water. Both of us got a few mild cases of
the runs in the course of the trip, but never enough to require Ciprio or
Immodium or interfere with our diving/snorkeling. I didn’t see a single
mosquito on the whole trip (October is toward the end of the dry season),
and only got one insect bite, of unknown origin. Liveaboards are certainly
the way to go in the third world if you want to minimize your exposure to
various tropical diseases. The nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Bali, so
dive conservatively. Fortunately the Putri Papua provides long surface
intervals—a necessity in these conditions, I believe.

Travel note: Pellita Air cancelled our flight to Maumere (where the boat is
ported) as we were en route to Bali. So we flew to Kupang in Timor, stayed
overnight there and got to Maumere the next morning, one day late. Grand
Komodo handled all changes and shifted the liveaboard to one day later,
preserving our full 12 days. Three lessons: (1) Always build some flex into
third world travel schedules. (2) Use a dive operator like Grand Komodo
who’ll cushion you from the vagaries of local travel. (3) Use Bali for your
base in Indonesia. The Balinese economy is largely tourism-based; they know
what to do, and they LOVE us being there. You couldn’t wish for a warmer
welcome anywhere. We stayed mainly in Ubud, far from the tourist ghetto in
Kuta, and felt totally safe, day and night, everywhere we went in eastern
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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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