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Dive Review of Kararu/MV Voyager in
Indonesia/Alor, Banda Sea, Raja Ampat

February, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Dave Van Rooy, Bali, Indonesia
Reviewer   (4 reports, with 2 Helpful votes)
Report Number 2349
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, incl much of Indonesia, Palau, Fiji,
Solomona, Vanuatu, Sipadan, ...
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy  
calm, choppy, surge, currents, noCurrents  
Water Temp
82   to 86    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
10   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dive sensibly  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 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  
Voyager has a very roomy setup for UWP's with lots of storage and work
space.  Rinse tanks and special handling by crew and two large rinse tanks.
 Big battery recharge area.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
5 stars    
This was the maiden voyage of Kararu's ( new boat, the MV
Voyager, which replaces the Sea Safaris III. It's a 4 deck, 46 meter (~150
ft) long, 10 meter beam steel hulled Norwegian ferry, just recently
converted by Kararu for diving. It's the sister ship of the Cehili, which
used to dive the Banda Sea with Larry Smith in the early 90's. It has 4
decks and lots of room compared to most live-aboards. two engines, 4
generators, and a host of other equipment a bit rare at best on other
Indonesian vessels, including satellite internet connection for email and 2
masseuses. Its 10 cabins have en suite bathrooms, tho we were only 14
divers. Quite spacious and different from the typical Indonesian Phinisi
vessels. They have a large dive deck and camera storage and work area.
Getting on/off tender boats could be a problem in rough seas.

For a shakedown cruise, I thought most things worked well tho the reverse
osmosis water maker broke down, they had a few problems with the Nitrox
blending, the tender boats need a bit of redesign on seating, and a few
other minor problems. Food was generally pretty good tho sometimes portions
were small and timing wasn't always very good -- they have since changed
chefs. Overall I'd rate it a big improvement over the phinisi's both in
terms of comfort and seaworthiness and safety. They have some kinks to work
out yet tho.

This 14 night trip started in Maumere, Flores, then went to Alor, up
through the Banda Sea to Gunung Api, Ambon, and Banda Neira, and on thru
Misool Islands in Raja Ampat and ended in Sorong, where the boat will be
based for the next few months. Because of covering such a large and diverse
area, the diving was incredibly varied, from muck full of critters to rocky
terrain full of sea snakes, to pristine walls covered in soft corals and
gorgonians and loads of tropicals with occasional sharks (black tip),
turtles, tuna and the like. The variety and selection in such a trip is
hard to match.

Our diving in the Maumere area and Alor had lots of nice critters including
clown frog fish, bobbit worm (1.5" diameter), a recently discovered
rare blue lion fish, zebra crabs and coleman shrimp on fire urchin, several
orange ringed pipe fish dancing together, and a host of others. The
Biangebang spot in Alor is particularly rich in muck critters. Then off to
Gunung Api diving with dozens of sea snakes, with many handling them and
posing for pics.

We then went on to Ambon, being the first live-aboard back there since the
troubles began years ago. We had a red carpet welcome including a feast and
special dance put on by the new Maluku Dive Resort. Some great stuff at the
harbor pier area, the first (?) muck spot (1994 on Cehili with Larry Smith,
Burt Jones, Maureen Shimlock, ...). But it's a lot trashier now, and lots
of old, noisy boats made it appear not so safe to dive. A couple of dives
got aborted due to raging currents coming up. Moved on to a new site off
Nusa Laut, east of Ambon. Almost all 14 of us rated this dive as one of the
most beautiful dive spots we'd ever seen -- a beautiful wall opening to
loads of bommies covered with dense brilliantly colored soft corals and
fans in about 30' with so many schools of fish, we gave up counting. A
passing leopard shark added to the excitement. Truly a wide angle

We moved on and dove Banda Neira area -- one of my favorite spots anywhere,
and not just for diving -- for two full days, one extra due to a storm that
came up. But everyone was quite happy to stay as the place is so incredibly
interesting and full of history (it's the place Columbus was searching for
in his journey to the new world, but it's almost totally forgotten by
travelers now), and diving in the harbor is exceptional to say the least --
dozens of mandarin fish almost always out, and the prime attraction for us
was watching a school (?) of squids (18" to 2') lay eggs at the same
spot every few minutes. They'd come in pairs or larger groups and flash
colors and poses, like some aliens, and the female would lay the egg in the
branches of a tree while the larger male hovered overhead. Several of us
were doing 5-6 dives/day watching the show, which included other
attractions. Shore expeditions to the market and around the island and
shopping for spices and pearls, along with touring the old Dutch and
Portuguese forts added variety to the diving being offered.

After the weather settled down we moved on around Seram, missing Koon where
we'd hoped to dive, but waters were still too rough. An exploratory dive
near the eastern end didn't yield much so we moved on to Misool Islands in
Raja Ampat area. This area is amazingly beautiful topside, at least
rivaling Palau's rock islands. And it's rich in wide angle and macro
critters, including Torizumi shrimp, wobegong sharks (two, each about 5'),
great soft corals and sea fans.

We did a few land "expeditions" besides Banda Neira, including
visiting one of the few villages still allowed to whale (using dugouts and
old harpoons manually thrown), a couple villages in the Alor area, Ambon,
and a tender-boat tour of the rock islands. These added to the richness of
the whole experience.

All in all, a really exceptionally good trip on a welcome addition to the
dive boats operating out here.
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