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Dive Review of Kasawari Lembeh/Kasawari & The Damai in
Indonesia/Lembeh & Irian Jaya

Kasawari Lembeh/Kasawari & The Damai, Nov, 2009,

by Phil & Patricia Tobin, Oregon, United States ( 2 reports). Report 5356.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Wider Caribbean, Belize, Caymans, DR, Honduras Mexico, Saba, Florida, PNG, Borneo, Indonesia, Red Sea, Thailand,
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 79 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 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 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Outstanding for all forms of photography

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments My wife and I decided to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, her 55th birthday and our 600th dive. Originally we were just going to spend 11 nights at the Kasawari Resort in the heart of the Lembeh Straits.Muck diving at its finest. We had been to the Lembeh area once before and found the diving absolutely fascinating.

In the meantime, our dear friends Beth and Shaun Tierney from SeaFocus of London, England called. They are the authors and photographers of Diving the World, Diving Southeast Asia Diving the World Revised and The Essentials Christmas Island Travel Guide all of which are outstanding dive/ travel books. They invited us to join them and 3 other couples to experience a brand new (at that point unfinished) liveaboard called The Damai.

THE KASAWARI RESORT was one of the few resorts where we would love to come back for another stay. It would be very hard for me to find anything negative about this small boutique resort. It has 11 beautifully appointed teak bungalows, all with private bathrooms and indoor and outdoor showers. The rooms are meticulously cleaned each morning with clean towels every other day. The rooms are large with a desk, plenty of light, closet space for your clothes and an extra large deck for late night relaxing. You have the option to use the air conditioning or ceiling fan or both. A spot was set up for us in the changing room near the dive deck with everything we needed made available. Our tanks were filled for us after each dive. Once we had shown the dive hands how we liked our gear set, they took care of it each day. We did two morning dives and one afternoon dive each day and a night dive was available to anyone who wanted one. Our gear was washed and hung for us after each dive so all we had to do was come off the boats, step out of our gear and head for the showers at the top of the deck stairs. A lot of thought went into the design and the layout of the diving section, with plenty of room and non-slip floors and toilet and shower areas very near. The dive boats were some of the easiest to get in and out of and hot towels, tea or water were waiting for you upon your return from the dive. In our 39 dives we never had a dive less than 65 minutes long. If you had any request the dive master would find it for you.

The 4 meals a day (early and late breakfast) were outstanding with a choice of 3 or 4 entries. The wine was Chilean and a little expensive but when you consider where you are it was acceptable. All the meals were served in the Main House which was a two story combination of restaurant, kitchen, resort office, library, camera room and rest rooms and central gathering area.

The office manager Anita was there each morning to greet us and make sure everything was as we had wanted. One morning I had insignificantly mentioned to her that my ear was slightly tender from so many dives and an hour later a bottle of local ear medicine was sitting next to my bed. On our last day, we asked if she could arrange for us to go to Bitung to see the early morning fish market and sure enough a van with a driver and a guide gave us a 3 hour tour of the town of Bitung.

About halfway through the 11 nights, after our afternoon dive, my wife and I spent a couple of hours around the pool relaxing. When it was time for dinner, we went back to our bungalow to find a romantic table had been set with candles and music. Dinner was served to us on our balcony and a special anniversary cake had been baked in honor of our 35th anniversary.

All of the staff was beyond outstanding. Whatever our needs were, they were responded to with a smile and a bow. After the first day, Stephanie, part of the kitchen staff, knew I drank my water without ice and that I loved the chocolate mousse. She made sure I had my favorite dessert each evening. The dive staff was absolutely amazing in their ability to find the critters and to help us with all our needs. Ali the head dive master made sure the dive operation worked like clockwork.

On the last day of our vacation we always ask ourselves if we would you like to return..And our usual answer is yes .But there are other places we would like to discover. This time the answer was yes, can we afford to do it again next year?


THE DAMAI

On the morning of the 14th day of our trip, the staff of Kasawari drove us back to the Manado airport where we met up with the rest of our gang for a 3 hour flight east to Sorong, Indonesia. Sorong is on the northern edge of Irian Jaya or West Papua New Guinea. Beth and Shaun had put together a group of 8 to be one of the first group to cruise on a brand new liveaboard called The Damai which means peace. The ship is a new Phinisi two mast schooner and the brain child of Alberto Reija who helped design and build this luxurious boutique liveaboard. He also acts as the cruise director. This is a liveaboard that most divers would fine hard to imagine, let alone get a chance to spend 11 delightful nights at the edge of West Papua. Every amenity one could imagine was there. Wine, pop, nitrox, diving lights, diving gear, fancy soaps and lotion were all included at no extra charge. I know the cruise might sound expensive but with all the extras and level of luxury, this is an outstanding value.

Our room #1 was downstairs. The dimensions were larger than our master bedroom in our home. We had two king size beds, a separate room with a bath tub and shower, two separate desks, a separate room for the toilet, and meters of room to walk around, with plenty of large drawers to store your clothes. The woodwork in our room was meticulously done with plenty of natural light from 4 portholes and a multi-functional lighting system at night. The other rooms on board were much the same with just different bed configurations. All the rooms had air conditioning.


It was evident from the moment we arrived onboard, that The Damais reputation was going to be built on customer service, luxury and state of the art EVERYTHING. When we landed in Sorong two pieces of luggage were missing. We were told that The Lion Airs plane was too heavy and they were left behind. Before we had departed port aboard The Damai, the crew had purchased extra clothes for me and another diver. We were outfitted with brand new dive gear. Once the luggage was located, it took one extra day, Alberto had it brought over to The Damai.

One can have the best boat and the best of everything on the boat, but if the crew is not great, then everything seems to fall apart. Alberto had handpicked most of the staff from previous boats he had been involved with. My count was 18 staff and each one was better than the next. The boat captain and Alberto kept a firm hand on what each staff member was doing and the ship ran like a clock.

Before each dive at least two of the dive guides would make a quick check of conditions below so that when Alberto gave his dive briefings the information would be as current as they could make it for us. 4 or 5 dives a day were normal, and the ship often moved during the night to the new location along the West Papua coast.

The dive deck was unique in that each station had its own rinsing tank between you and the next diver. Under the seat where you pulled on your suits, was a storage compartment for things that you wanted but didnt always need. The dive briefings were at this same area on the dive deck. Water was served before each dive and hot chocolate or hot tea after the dive. The staff took your readied gear and placed them on the appropriate tenders. You just had to remember your fins and mask.

The dive tenders had wide seats and were designed by Alberto. Your tank slipped into a hole so they stood ready for you to slide your arms into the BCDs. Everyone did back rolls into the water, cameras were handed out and down you went.

The communal area on The Damai was small but adequate. With the dinning area on one side of the room and chairs and chesterfields on the other with a wide screen TV in between. The camera room was also small, enough for 6 max at any one time. But there were plenty of 110 and 220 outlets and drying towels and shelves for storing extras. At the rear of that deck were chaise lounges and chairs for evening chats enough for all of us to sit and have an evening totty as we watch the sunsets and the intense fires that appeared from the disappearing sun.

The food was tasty, plentiful as well as nutritious. Each guest was given a couple of choices before each meal and if you did not like what was going to be served, the chef would whip up something else to satisfy even the most demanding guest. My wine glass was never left half empty and the varieties were more than adequate. Beer, bottled water, and sport drinks were also available at no extra charge.

The top half of the upper deck was the captains quarters, the wheel house and the second half was a sun deck with a sliding cover to protect against the intense sun. King size mattresses on each sides of the deck made it easy for a small group to gather and talk diving, as well as single chaises for one to take a snooze. At any one time all of us could lay out and there was never a shortage of room. Drinks were always served and one night we had dinner under the stars.

The diving was outstanding. I think it would be fair to say that the diving was one of the best in the world. The critters are plentiful, the soft and hard corals are outstanding, and with mild currents, the numbers of fish is beyond belief. We encountered large pelagic like mantas, woebegone sharks, napoleon wrasse the size of VW bugs. It seemed to me that everything was on steroids. And at the other end of the spectrum, we found tiny critters, all the way down to pigmy seahorses. (Im proud to say I was able to find one myself and all the dive guides gave me hugs and high fives) It will be very hard to find diving that will surpass Triton Bay where we spend the last two days.

We reluctantly departed the ship in the town of Kaimana and flew back to Manado and then back to Singapore for the last three nights of our month away. Both The Damai and Kasawari Resort were extraordinary experiences that will remain my two favorites in the mired of diving locations and liveaboards.

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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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