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Dive Review of Kararu -- Cheng Ho in
Indonesia/Bima to Maumere

September, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Rubin, MN, United States (1 report)
Report Number 5244
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Thailand, Palau, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Bonaire, Little and
Grand Cayman, Aruba, Florida, Hawaii
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, rainy, dry  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
74   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
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
  4 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Though I did not have the opportunity to take pictures, there were three
photographers on board, including video, and they all had amazing shots. 
Their biggest complaint seemed to be not knowing when to go with the
wide-angle or close-up lenses. 
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
2 stars   
4 stars    
Did an 11-night Komodo Islands live-aboard on Kararu's Cheng Ho from Bima
to Maumere.  The Cheng Ho is an incredibly large and spacious boat with
huge rooms, en suite bathrooms and tons of storage.  Clean and
well-maintained, it has enough room so you will never feel crowded.  It was
also very stable, even during some rough overnight crossings.  The food, on
average, is excellent for a live-aboard, though a bit routine after a few
days.  You can't beat this boat for luxury and this location for
concentration and diversity. But there were also some significant problems
which would prevent me from recommending this boat.
Right before the trip I was assured that there would be a rental camera on
board and available for my use.  But when I arrived I was told the camera
had flooded recently and I was out of luck.  I should have been warned
before the trip so other arrangements could have been made.
As I was a last-minute addition to the trip, I was given an upgrade to one
of their bridge-level cabins which were huge and unbelievably well
appointed for a live-aboard.  Tragically, it was right above the kitchen. 
The result was an intense sickly-sweet smell of cooking oil whenever the
kitchen was being used.  One night I even had to find myself another room
to sleep in when a crew member got hungry at 3 AM and decided to cook
something.  Apparently, it is common knowledge that there is an odor
problem with this room (as mentioned by another couple with multiple trips
on this boat).  Yet, even though the boat was almost empty, for some
inexplicable reason I was assigned this cabin and not given any warning.  
The non-diving crew was simply fantastic and bent over backwards to make
sure everything went smoothly. Unfortunately, the divemasters were not at
the same level.  They pointed out some basic things here and there and were
great at finding nudibranchs but thats about it.  Even worse, with only
five divers on board out of a possible 20, I and one of the other divers
felt neglected because they seemed to cater to an over demanding diver
throughout the trip. 
The head divemaster seemed disinterested in even being in the water on
several dives.  He would swim so quickly that there was no time to
appreciate the sights if one tried to keep up.  

The second divemaster seemed much more engaged but even he got caught up in
catering to that particular diver.  Considering there were often 4
divemasters in the water with only five divers, it bothered me most that I
was often left alone in the water when that was not my desire.

The on-board trip coordinators were generally very friendly and encouraged
us to voice any concerns we had.  However, when I pointed out that I was
not using Nitrox and that their dive profiles were clearly geared for it,
they told me I should take their Nitrox course.  As I had never needed it
before and had already spent way more $$ than I had originally intended for
this trip, I declined.  Looking back, I should have listened to them. 
Unfortunately, I did not.  The issue for me, however, was that with usually
four divemasters to five divers, they could easily have had one do a
non-nitrox dive profile with me, rather than forcing me to end up alone on
50% of the dives when I had to ascend to a shallower depth earlier than the
On the bright side, the diving itself generally did not disappoint.  Komodo
National Park lived up to expectations with some fantastic diving,
especially Horse Shoe Bay.  Another notable site was Manta Alley where we
were treated to numerous large mantas up close and personal. Seeing these
beautiful giants gliding all around me was the highlight of the trip for

The last few days were spent motoring to Maumere which meant leaving the
park and going to sites that were, quite frankly, dismal.  Fished out and
sparse they were almost not worth getting in the water for.
Another problem caused me almost to end the trip early.  It had to do with
the rinse bins.  Though they had separate rinse bins for cameras, masks and
other equipment, they neglected to change the water in the mask rinse bin
until we pointed out the slime growing on the surface after more than half
of the trip.  

From about the third day on until that point, my mask had been dramatically
and constantly flooding, causing me to shorten and even miss some dives. 
Without a backup prescription mask, I almost abandoned the trip midway
because I was spending most of the time clearing my mask and I was very
frustrated.  Once I stopped using the mask rinse tank, however, my mask
seal was perfect and I was able to dive without a problem for the last few
days.  Following the trip, the other diver using the rinse tank also
reported to me how his mask's seal magically improved after the trip.
Because of all the motoring, there were only 4 dives a day offered on
average.  On the bright side, divers were treated like adults, just as it
should be, and there were no time limits on the dives.  You could follow
the divemasters (if you could keep up!) or do your own thing.  There were
two tenders so there was never a long wait to get picked up, no matter when
you surfaced.
Overall, a great variety of diving on a most luxurious and spacious boat. 
However, for the high cost, the trip is simply not worth it on this boat. 
Definitely go to Indonesia.  However, find another liveaboard for the
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Other dive reports on Kararu Dive Voyages

All Indonesia Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Indonesia
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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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