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Dive Review of Kararu Dive Voyages/Cheng Ho in
Indonesia/Bima - Komodo

August, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Liz Hanks, CA, USA (1 report)
Report Number 3637
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
PNG, Sulawesi/Indonesia, Palau, Fiji, Australia, Galapagos, Socorro,
Seychelles, Hawaii, Little Cayman, Bonaire, Cozumel, Roatan, St. Lucia,
Monterey/California, Florida.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

calm, currents  
Water Temp
76   to 81    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
20   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
None.  Solo diving allowed.  Stay down as long as you like.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
On the dive deck there was ample "wet" room for stashing the
housings with cabinet storage underneath (bring zip-loc bags to keep stuff
dry).  Inside the main salon and close to the dive deck, there was a large
dry charging station area with both 110V and 120V power strips. 

We had 10 divers and a ton of gear.  It would've been crowded with a full
load of 20 divers if everybody had photo/video gear.  I gather they'll soon
be adding extra space on the dive deck to accommodate more photographers.

After each dive, the crew gave each housing a dunk in a dedicated camera
rinse tank.

There is also a superb media room with a large plasma TV for reviewing
footage and a large selection of movies and books.  There are also PCs with
Photoshop installed in some cabins.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
5 stars    
This was a Light&Motion videography trip organized by Dan Baldocchi and
Michael Topolovac. The itinerary was really ideal: 11 nights from Bima to
Komodo. We flew in and out of Bima and got to explore a lot of the Komodo
area with minimal crossings and wasted time.

Dan and Michael were fantastic group leaders. We had video related lectures
on several days, and critique sessions in the evenings. They also let us
use their FX1 and D200 rigs when they were available and some of us are now
spoiled for life.

The Cheng Ho is the newest addition to Kararu's fleet and is big beautiful
wooden sail ship (although the sails only come out for photo ops). The
cabins are quite large by liveaboard standards and get cleaned twice daily.
Each has its own A/C unit with remote control. There is a ton of room on
the boat for lounging around with a book or working on a tan.  A few nice
touches included an on board masseuse, laundry service, and nightly turn
down service.

The daily routine was well thought out. It started at around 6:30am with a
cold breakfast that included fresh fruit, juices, cereal, croissants, etc.
The first dive was at 8am and was followed by a warm breakfast. The
selections were from a fixed menu that included things like pancakes, eggs,
noodles, and porridge. After the second dive at 11am, a lunch buffet was
always ready. Then came the third dive at 3pm, with a sweet or savory snack

Night dives were not to be missed on this trip. Luckily they were at
6:30pm, instead of after dinner, so you didn't have to worry about being
too tired or hammered to participate. That left dinner at around 8pm, which
worked out quite well.

The food was outstanding. Chef Steve had themes for every lunch and dinner,
alternating between Eastern and Western cuisine. His creations were truly
marvelous. Even the afternoon snacks and soups were delightful, and during
the main meals, there were always several dishes to choose from. Dinner was
served outside on the top deck when the weather cooperated. There was an
honor system sheet for the adequate selection of wine, beer, and liquor. 

The diving is done from two tenders that get boarded via wooden steps on
the side of the ship. The steps were a little wobbly and some divers chose
to have the crew load their tanks onto the tenders. Most divers geared up
before boarding. By default, the crew also loads the photo/video gear into
the assigned tenders. Everybody was diving Nitrox and fills were pretty
consistent at 3000PSI and 32-33EAN.

Before many of the dives, a current check was done to see which site was
the most diveable. The briefings were fairly detailed and included a
hand-drawn map of the site. The divemasters (Gusti, Kerri, Hergen, and Sam)
were all excellent. They took turns showing us the incredible critters in
the area that would be otherwise impossible to spot. Hergen and Kerri were
also the cruise directors. I can't imagine a better pair in charge of our
enjoyment and well being. They were constantly making sure that everybody
was happy, that any issues with cabins were quickly resolved, etc.

The sites fell into two broad categories: Muck (with spectacular critters)
and current (with abundant fish life, colorful coral, and good visibility).
We also had one amazing giant manta dive. On the critter side of things, we
saw several types of pipefish, cuttlefish, lionfish, scorpionfish,
frogfish, stonefish, octopi, eels, all kinds of nudibranchs, flat worms,
crab, shrimp, and a few stargazers and pygmy seahorses. On the night dives,
it seemed like there was an interesting critter every few inches. On the
current dives, we saw schools of jacks, sweet lips, rainbow runners,
sweepers, anthias, etc.  Lots of white tip sharks on one of the dives,
turtles on another, giant mantas on yet another dive. The coral was
abundant, colorful, and healthy on many of the current dives.  

In the middle of all the diving, we went ashore a few times in search of
the cute and cuddly Komodo dragon. On Komodo island itself we only saw a
baby one in a tree. On Rinca, on the other hand, we ran into at least a
half a dozen grown-ups (a few at the ranger station; a few on the side of
the hiking trail), as well as a water buffalo, monkeys, wild pigs, and

While all of this was going on, Steve Fish, the boat's resident
videographer, was busy shooting footage of us with his FX1. At the end of
the trip, we watched what he had put together. He doesn't use any stock
footage (and doesn't have to in this area since it's so rich with life).
Most (if not all) of the divers bought his DVD. It was so much better than
our own amateur footage :-).

Also at the end of the trip, we all got a print out with a list of all the
islands and dive sites we visited, along with the dates. That made it easy
to fill any gaps in the log books. The page also included all our e-mail
addresses so we could stay in touch after the trip. Nice touch.

The crew took care of getting us to the airport, checking us in, paying for
excess baggage fees (there's a limit to what they'll cover but we didn't
exceed it by enough to matter), and making sure we got off to Bali safely.
The Indonesian bureaucracy is gargantuan and the crew did everything they
could to insulate us from it.  

The only negatives I can think of were fairly minor: the noise level during
the crossings (bring ear plugs; it's a wooden ship and it makes noise when
it's motoring), and the lack of a light above the sink in the cabins.

I can't recommend this outfit enough. I'm definitely looking forward to my
next trip with these guys!
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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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