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Dive Review of Mermaid I in
Indonesia/Bali to Komodo

Mermaid I, Sep, 2005,

by John M. Artim, CA, USA . Report 2103.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving Monterey, CA, USA
St. George's Cay, Belize
Cozumel, Mexico
Permuteran, Bali, Indonesia
Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, dry Seas calm, choppy, currents, noCurrents
Water Temp 68 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 35 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Typically 100' depth limit, one hour maximum bottom time, end the dive at around 750psi to do a mandatory 3 minute safety stop and surface with about 500psi.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments Kay Golding, the dive master and tour leader for our trip, provided a great deal of very useful advice on what to find and where. She also had a small Sony camera for rent by the day which my buddy used on three of the six dive days.

The dive deck included a separate dip tank for cameras, flashlights, and computers.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was the most awesome diving experience of my life! The sheer lushness of the reefs must be seen to be believed. It took me most of the first three days (out of six) of diving just to take it all in. Where other "good" reefs I've seen were covered in various coral, sponges, and other encrusting organisms the reefs in this part of Indonesia are stacked three and four deep. The effect is a giant swirl of color and motion. The fish life, particularly the smaller (<3') fish, were more plentiful than anywhere else I've been. And the variety of the dives was spectacular including walls, patch reefs, sea mounts, and sand flats.

The current was only really up at one site--Lighthouse Reef--and consequently this was the best chance to see larger pelagics including white-tipped reef sharks, and some other sharks cruising the blue that I was unable to identify. With stronger currents they get more pelagics.

Dive entries were either giant strides from the Mermaid's dive platform or backrolls off one of the two dinghies (RIBs) used as dive tenders. The dingy operators were really first class. As soon as they spotted a surfaced diver they always checked for an OK sign.

Kay Golding is an excellent dive master and tour guide. Unfortunately, she had a bad cold the week of our trip so she only went out on a couple of dives with us. Her dive briefings were thorough and included a highly-detailed hand-drawn map of the site with key depths marked, indications of probable currents, and the intended dive profile. Kay then concluded with a very complete listing of the creatures of interest most likely to be seen at the site.

I was especially delighted by her attention to safety before, during, and after dives. There was a strict no diving after alcohol policy. The Mermaid has an ample supply of oxygen onboard available for Nitrox (we typically did the second two dives of the day on Nitrox) and for first aid purposes. In her first briefing Kay warns everyone that conservative diving is a must considering the three to four dives-per-day schedule kept up for six days and the fact that at the furthest point in our trip--Komodo--we would be 30 hours cruising time from the nearest hyperbaric chamber in Bali.

Even with Nitrox she took extra precautions. Any diver using Nitrox was required to measure their mix and sign off on a check-in sheet. Kay also regularly reminded other (non-Nitrox) divers that we might spend more time at depth than they could safely do.

We had a couple of minor equipment snafus which Kay and her staff were quick to help us with. On one occasion I broke a fin buckle just as our dingy was about to pull away from the boat. Kay was able to lend me a spare strap until after the dive when I could go back to my cabin and retrieve my spare. My dive buddy's BC oral inflator valve stuck open at the end of one dive. The staff spent about an hour with it cleaning the valve and repairing the leak.

Our only complaint about the dive crew--and the ONLY thing that prevents them from getting a "5" rating--is that regulator dust caps were routinely left off of the regs after they cleaned up from one dive and set up for the next. We complained about this and Kay was seen having words with the dive staff but the problem persisted. Otherwise, the dive crew went out of their way to make sure they did as much prep and clean-up work for us as they could.

We shared this trip with 9 other divers. Six were a group from Germany, one was a lone diver from Moscow, and the other two were a couple from California. We split into two teams--the German group took one dingy and dive guide and the rest of us used the other dingy and dive guide. We were not required to stick with the dive guide. My buddy and I did split off on our own a couple of times (letting the guide know ahead of time) because our group tended to bunch up and get in each-other's way particularly on night dives. This worked out just great for us.

The only real problem was that one diver in our dingy was a photographer and she paid no attention whatsoever to whom she finned or flailed as she went for her photos. She also tended to monopolize photographic opportunities--even opportunities I had found for myself! Kay tried to address this in the dive briefings but the behavior persisted. I doubt there was much anyone could do. The guide went out of his way to try to mitigate this problem. Ironically, she apologized profusely after each dive--only to do it again on the next one!

Our trip included a few optional land stops including one on Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons (definitely worthwhile). If you get a chance, take advantage of the offer to walk around some of the small islands along the way.

The food and other service on the Mermaid are outstanding. The cook is Indonesian and we adored the Indonesian dishes she created including a really awesome fresh snapper. I think if you were a vegetarian (one of the German folks was) or wanted American/Continental food you might not be as happy. We were lucky enough to be given a cabin upgrade to the master cabin. For a boat cabin, it was positively spacious! Air conditioning was somewhat weak but air temperatures were very high (about 80F) and, with the in-cabin fan provided, we much preferred this to the meat-locker cold-room effect some air conditioners provide. The shower/head/vanity area was quite roomy. The room had adequate storage space and, if requested, the crew would stow luggage below-decks. Our room also had a DVD player and TV. We surprised ourselves by watching a couple of movies before turning in.

We're ready to do this trip all over again!
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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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