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Dive Review of Peter Hughes/Paradise Dancer in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

December, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by John Sommerer, MD, USA
Sr. Reviewer   (10 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 4614
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Borneo, Caribbean, Costa Rica, Easter Island, Galapagos, Komodo, New
Zealand, N. Sulawesi, Palau, PNG, Revillagigedos, Tonga, Yap 
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, rainy, cloudy, dry  
calm, currents  
Water Temp
82   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
No deco (but no checking). 60 min dives, and whole tender came back
together, so any extensions kept others waiting  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
1 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Camera room on boat a little small if more than a third of the divers have
cameras. Nice facility, rinse tanks, etc. Seemed to be careful handling by
crew, but there were a LOT of camera and other equipment casualties during
our trip.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
2 stars   
4 stars    
The ship (it's way too big to be a "boat"): fantastic.
Beautifully appointed. Huge rooms, even if you don't book the "Master
and Commander" suite (which we didn't). Interface with friendly (but
nameless and unintroduced) crew through Henrick, the chief steward (super
guy, nothing was impossible, always on top of things) and the dive staff.
Food well-prepared, but some deliveries did not happen, so ingredients
became monotonous and limited (how many different ways do you want to eat
quail eggs?). Beverages ran out.

Dive staff: capable, but clearly not very familiar with the dive sites
(since the ship had only done a few Raja Ampat itineraries so far). Ongko
(Papuan) knew the area best, since he worked at Kri Eco Resort for years,
but he was oriented toward big things, and not overly communicative. Acho,
from Sulawesi, was the best dive guide, but had only been sent to the boat
recently, and his experience with the dive sites was very limited (some he
had only snorkeled). Wendy was OK, but seemed more into the
"architecture" of a dive site than the wildlife. We knew that
this was an early trip for this ship in the area, so accepted the inherent
risks, but wouldn't do it again. Current is a strong influence, and if the
dive isn't set up right, you can end up spending your whole dive drifting
over rubble, away from the area you were supposed to be exploring  (this
happened multiple times to us). I would not recommend going to Raja Ampat
unless the dive staff are very, very familiar with the area. A list of GPS
coordinates from other divers just won't cut it. Has the dive industry ever
heard of a "soft opening?"

Dive safety: The nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Manado. As such, it
surprised me that a number of divers were diving with computers that didn't
work (one fellow was in guage mode for most of the trip) I was both
surprised that they wanted to do it, and that Wendy allowed it -- except
that the ship had only a few computers to rent. We loaned one of our spares
to another diver whose unit failed late in the trip. One elderly diver,
diving Nitrox, was routinely way below safe limits. The ship's two oxygen
analyzers failed, and only  intervention from one of the divers caused the
adaptation of a hand-held unit to the tank filling system. Best guess is,
we were way above 32% for a few dives.

Other Peter Hughes issues: The fuel surcharge we paid back in $4.00/gal
times of course was not reduced now that gas was down to $1.75/gal in the
US, and MUCH cheaper in Indonesia. Land-side handlers left us in the dark
(literally, since we left Lembeh at 2:30am to make an alleged 6:15 flight
to Sorong, finding no airline related staff at the airport on arrival -- we
finally left at noon) regarding very dodgy flight arrangements. Changes
from the "airlines" were not passed on. Many of the things in the
sample itinerary on the web site (village visit, Wayag Is, and many other
destinations) are clearly not even remotely in the cards. Wendy repudiated
the web site in her initial briefing. I probably won't do any future diving
with Peter Hughes.

Raja Ampat: Very beautiful reefs. The marine biodiversity is, indeed,
amazing, but at least on our trip, was expressed only in small fish (and,
to some extent, critters). Although we saw lots of wobbegongs (enough that
people got to the point of not swimming over to see them), and a few
endemic epaulette sharks (hence the rating above) there were no large fish
like reef sharks, grouper, tuna, etc. Even the reef fish were almost never
as big as a foot. No schools of jacks, small schools of fusiliers and
rainbow runners. Two schools of barracuda and a couple of manta dives were
the only pelagic relief. You need to ask yourself if it's worth the time,
effort, money, and risk (for brevity, I've decided not to detail the issues
with the small Indonesian "airlines" serving this remote area) to
dive here. After regarding the familiar-looking karst islets one day after
several particularly boring dives, a group of us described the Raja Ampat
as "Palau, without the fish."
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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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