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

Peter Hughes/Paradise Dancer, Dec, 2008,

by John Sommerer, MD, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 4614.

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

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No deco (but no checking). 60 min dives, and whole tender came back together, so any extensions kept others waiting
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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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