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Dive Review of Kararu/Cheng Ho in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

November, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Linda Rutherford & Ron Welf, CA, USA
Contributor   (16 reports, with 2 Helpful votes)
Report Number 3738
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Caymans, Hondoras, Bonaire, Belize, Yap, Palau, Truk, Cozumel, Taveuni,
Matangi, Kandavu, Beqa Lagoon, Lembeh, Bunaken, Spidan, Wakatobi, Solomons,
Gangga, Raja Ampat
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
81   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 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
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Crew treated cameras with great care.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
3 stars    
The Cheng Ho is an attractive wooden 160-foot schooner, leased as a result
of problems with the Kararu Voyager. The Cheng Ho is stable and smooth on
the seas. During this cruise, we were told the boat would operated at 6
knots, perhaps running this slow to conserve fuel. 

Cabin #107 in the bow had a comfortable king bed. For being so far forward,
we were surprised how quiet and calm the cabin was. Our shower and toilet
were combined in one small space. We had no real hanging space, so we
rigged an in-cabin clothesline to hang our shirts, swimsuits and towels.
There was no light over the sink and mirror. 

During this November 4-16 Sorong to Ambon cruise we had heavy clouds and
several days with rain. The weather cast darkness over the reefs. The rain
caused the boat to leak, but the crew worked quickly to deploy plastic
sheeting over the camera area. They promptly applied the plastic to the
cabins that had leaks and replaced the wet bedding. 

Dives took place from aluminum tenders. Our group of twenty was divided
into three groups each with a dive guide. Gusti, with twenty years
experience in the area, was the lead dive guide. The boat provided
trouble-free Nitrox. The water temperature was 82°-84°F and
currents were mild. 

On three days, only two dives were possible because of the boat schedule.
When moving at approximately 6 knots, the boat took twenty hours for
relocation from Misool to Koon. The two dives in Ambon were scheduled
within 24 hours of our departing flight, so we did only one as a safety
precaution. Often we did three dives in the same location during the day,
so when the fourth was offered at night in the same location (Nusa Laut,
for example), we were not inclined. We skipped all night dives. We did 29
dives, out of 36 possible dives in 12 days. 

It was a great pleasure to have their ship videographer Steve Fish aboard.
Steve loves his job and enjoys helping people. He helped us and several
other people with camera problems. He is a great asset for the boat.
Considering how dark it was underwater due to weather, his video of our
trip was remarkably good and captured the highlights.

There were a variety of small and medium tropical fishes, generally under
18 inches, most under 10 inches and many under 6 inches. Lots of
butterflyfish, groupers, angelfish, parrotfish and colorful wrasse, as well
as schools of spadefish, pyramid butterfly, fusiliers, red-tooth trigger,
bluestripe snapper, hornless unicorn, anthias and small glass fish. Other
creatures were the palette surgeon, ornate ghost pipefish, clown trigger,
bluestriped fangblenny, slingjaw wrasse, spotted and six-line soapfish,
long-nose hawkfish, checkered snapper, pygmy seahorse, orangutan crabs and
porcelain crabs.

We saw bumphead parrots, several humphead wrasse, a dozen dogtooth tuna,
two schools of barracuda, midnight snapper, a couple of turtles, one large
marbled ray, three mobula rays, and one gray shark sleeping deep in a
crevice. No one on our trip saw the much-advertised wobbegong or epalette

Although a couple of dives were billed as muck, these dives did not have
the shock & awe experience that we had in ten days of diving in
Lembeh Straights or the muck or off Buton, Waketobi. If your prime interest
is muck diving, Indonesia has better alternatives elsewhere. 

If you wish to see virgin coral reefs swarming with schools of small
colorful fishes, you will be highly satisfied. The sparse human population
in this remote area has kept the coral in pristine condition. It was not
unusual to see unbroken hard coral in a flowering rose-pattern as far as
the eye could see. When the sun finally came out, there were many
opportunities for spectacular wide-angle photography.

Overall, we found the trip to be relaxing and pleasant because of the fewer
dives per day and the ample space aboard for lounging: the boat has 3
levels plus a roof-deck with lounge chairs. Try to get a deluxe cabin. Ours
was ok, but we could not see much out our porthole that was above eye
level. The only mosquitoes we encountered were on the trip to the bat cave
and the sunset beach party with drinks hosted by the Kararu.

The food was good and there were many choices at every meal. The local crew
was friendly. We were surprised to discover the local crew were good
dancers, even able to keep up with our athletic trip leader Cindy LaRaie in
three hours of dancing. Dive guide Kerri gave lessons in the Hustle. The
few souls who were not into the dance music in the main salon had ample
area aloft to retreat to the sound of the sea and breezes.

Employee Herg did a good job of handling our luggage. He checked in our
baggage early and used the boat group rate to avoid the dreaded excess
baggage charges.

The only negative was the flight out of Ambon, where we boarded with a
hundred coughing religious pilgrims. It seemed dangerous to be in an
enclosed airplane with so many sick people. We rested poolside in Bali for
two days before continuing home. Including flight delays, the trip home
from Bali to San Francisco was 26 hours. A day after we arrived home, our
doctor recorded a 103.4 degree fever which took 4 days to tame. Well bring
surgical masks if we have to take this inter-island flight again.

The cost of the trip with port fees, fuel surcharge, visa, park fees,
inter-island flights, necessary layovers and Nitrox was $6,467 per person
from San Francisco. Since the travel time is significant, we recommend
adding ten days land-based diving near Lembeh. We spent a week at Gangga
Island Resort, prior to this trip and were delighted with the diving and
customer service. This add-on reduced our cost per day expense and was a
welcome luxury, with personalized service.
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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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