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Dive Review of Komodo Alor Safari (also known as Grand Komodo)/Putri Pupua in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat Islands

November, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Lee Thé, CA, USA
Reviewer   (6 reports)
Report Number 4139
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Indonesia (Komodo, Wakatobi, Bali); Philippines (Puerto Galera); Hawaii
(Big Island, Maui); Baja California (Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas);
Caribbean (Exumas in the Bahamas, Cayman Brac & Little Cayman, Cozumel,
British Virgin Islands); California (Monterey Bay, Catalina Island); Canada
(Vancouver Island); Florida (West Palm Beach)
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
80   to 84    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
20   to 40    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Don't drain your tank--that's about it. Grand Komodo won't let newbies on
its Raja Ampat liveaboards; they assume you're an experienced diver. If you
want help they'll give it; if you don't they'll pretty much leave you
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
For skilled divers this is the photographic motherlode. Grand Komodo's dive
guides are all locals, and they will bust their humps to find whatever
you're looking for--and I've got the shots of pygmy seahorses, ghost
pipefish, huge cuttlefish, sea moths etc. to prove it. The boat has plenty
of outlets to charge your batteries (including one in each camera, plus
some 110V outlets in the lounge to complement the normal 240V outlets
everywhere else), a fresh water rinse tank just for cameras, and a large,
pretty dry camera table on the dive deck. The lounge has a TV you can plug
your camera into to share your shots Also, our boat, the Putri Pupua, only
carries 8-9 divers, and the crew of 8 includes two dive guides. So you're
likely to get your shot instead of having to wait while a dozen other
photographers strobe the teeny brains out of some poor pygmy seahorse.
Other boats won't bother you either. The Raja Ampats seem almost devoid of
human life—quite a change from, say, Cozumel, or Puerto Galera. Fewer
divers = better UW photography!
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
4 stars    
The Raja Ampats may well boast the richest amount/variety of life on Earth;
and you can enjoy it if you're up for the sometimes swift currents and
warm, murky water. Don't get bent, though. Medical help is far, far away.

But for skilled, prudent divers this is the motherlode (though Komodo
Island comes close). Grand Komodo's dive guides are all locals, and excel
at finding interesting critters. Also, our boat, the Putri Pupua, only
carries 8-9 divers in four cabins, and the crew of 8 includes two dive
guides. So you get a lot of personal attention.

Think of the Raja Ampats as New Guinea diving for half the cost, since
you're flying in via Bali instead of Australia. Now think of using Grand
Komodo as doing it for $1,500 less per person than the other Raja Ampat
boats charge. That's because you're paying Indonesian prices, for which you
get an Indonesian boat owned and operated by Indonesians, with Indonesian
dive guides, and Indonesian food (which is wonderful food, heavy on the
rice and the fish, and not too spicy. 

The boat ain't luxurious but we still had a full bathroom and decent AC in
our reasonably roomy cabin, as did the others. At least one of the dive
guides speaks English, but what counts most is their ability to find you
what you're looking for underwater, and they excel at that. And the chase
boat driver excelled at finding divers—once I got blown off a reef into the
open ocean by myself and he found me right away. 

This was our third trip with Grand Komodo, and we've come to appreciate how
their agents shepherd us from the airport in Bali through all the
intermediate stops required to get to the Raja Ampats. This is especially
important because the airlines are starting to really stick you for that
big heavy bag of dive gear; yet our Grand Komodo agents worked with us to
get the surcharge down to about $25 each for the round trip from Bali
through Makassar (on Sulawesi) to Sorong (on West Papua). It could have
been ten times that. 

However you get to the Raja Ampats, make sure you have help like we got
from Grand Komodo. 

The Putri Papua is about 80 feet long, sturdy, with squeaky-clean
compressors. You rig your BC with a tank and it stays there for the rest of
the trip. They fill the tanks in place. And we always got clean, ample
fills. Sorry, no nitrox. Mostly we dove from the chase boat, which looked
like an inflatable someone had coated with fiberglas to make it rigid—which
is exactly how they did it. A decent ladder made entry/exit easy. 

The crew was quite friendly. You could mix with them or not, as you choose.
We mixed. Passengers have a lounge on the deck with a sun deck (covered
with an awning) above it. We didn't make much use of the roof deck, though,
due to a pair of chain-smoking Austrians. The boat doesn't make its own
water; they buy water from tenders here and there, plus using one onshore
faucet on one of the Raja Ampats. For drinking we had plenty of bottled
water. Overall the boat was clean and sufficient. We did get a leak in our
cabin during an evening downpour—right over our bunk. But they fixed it in
a few hours and got us dry sheets. 

The Raja Ampats comprise a huge number of mostly uninhabited islands, many
quite small. Typical dives would drop us into the lee of a small island;
we'd have to make sure not to get caught in the current whooshing around
the island. We generally did four dives a day including a night dive at 7pm
before dinner. Out of all the dives we did only one was a bust—they docked
in a small bay one evening and had us go in within the bay instead of going
around the corner in the chase boat, and the interior of the bay was close
to lifeless. But all the other dives made up for this annoyance. 

I noticed more large reef fish—many a meter or longer—than in most tropical
dives we've done. On the other hand, 90% of Raja Ampat's reefs have been
bombed. But because the conditions here foster reef growth so much, that
hasn't put much of a dent in the local populations, and some critters like
the kind of rubble you get after bombing. That said, we saw some of the
most magnificent underwater landscapes I've ever seen anywhere, and there
was a lot of vigorous apres-bombing reef growth. I got the impression the
bombers only sweep through once in a while. 

It is a national park, and the more divers go there, the more incentive the
locals and the Indonesian government have to make it diver-friendly. The
dive guides tend to do whatever it takes to get photographers their shot,
but hopefully as time goes on they'll learn to dial it down a bit and go a
little easier on the wildlife.

As for the creatures we saw—we came back from every dive (with that one
exception) with our heads spinning. It's too much to take in, really. Not
just new species but new kinds of critters (like pleurobranchs, which
resemble living frisbees). And even when it was something more common, like
a trumpetfish or a goatfish, it would be a new species that might or might
not be in the huge three-volume book set on Indonesian fish that's stored
in the Putri Pupua's lounge. 

Night dives were equally spectacular. 

Biggest fish I saw were some two-meter wobegong sharks. Smallest were
several species of pygmy seahorse. Possibly the most interesting were the
cuttlefish, often a meter long. Most frustrating was a dive just to see
mandarinfish, when I only caught a glimpse of one.

After the Raja Ampats, anywhere in the Caribbean is about as interesting as
an Indiana quarry.
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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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