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

Kararu -- Cheng Ho, Sep, 2009,

by Mark Rubin, MN, United States ( 1 report). Report 5244.

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

Weather sunny, rainy, dry Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 74 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 others.

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 me.

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 money.
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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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