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Dive Review of SMY Ondina in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

November, 2005, an Instant Reader Report by Mike Oelrich, VA, USA
Report Number 2359
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Hawaii, All over the Caribbean, Galapagos, Socorro, Australia
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, rainy, cloudy  
calm, choppy, currents  
Water Temp
78   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Basically none -- but stay within the limits of courtesy and common sense. 
Ddive as many times as you want, subject to the limits of schedule, current
and your computer's algorithm. First drink = last dive.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Large covered, padded, camera table that reaches all the way across the
stern with a "roll-down" shade that affords protection from
direct sunlight and some protection from rain blowing in.  Baskets in
shelves under the table.  Two dedicated rinse tanks adjacent to the camera
table with hinged lids that double as benches when closed.  Crew is very
experienced in assisting with camera gear.  Compressed air for drying
equipment.  Cubbies in the "dive locker" with power outlets for
chargers -- bring your own power strip (220V!) if you want more than one
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
5 stars    
Trip was booked with Deb Fugitt of City Seahorse, Inc. -- my third trip
with her.  This was billed as a dedicated photo charter, though
non-photographers were welcome, with limited participation (total number of
guests reduced by two (once you included Deb and her partner Tony) from the
normal boat load).  Deb took care of all the arrangements including
transfers, overnights, etc., and helped me set up a pre-trip trip to Lembeh
Resort.  The charter originated from and ended up in Sorong.  Flights back
and forth via Manado and Singapore to the U.S. east coast.

The Ondina is a traditional Indonesian pinisi-style vessel.  Though it has
sails, they were only unfurled on the last day as a photo op for the
guests.  The boat is about 30m long and is fairly wide for a boat of that
length.  The boat is made from hardwood and is clean and very well
maintained (the boat goes through a refit each year during the rainy
season).  There are 8 comfortable cabins with the "standard"
single-over-queen arrangement.  Each cabin has its own air conditioning
unit.  En-suite bath in each cabin and ample storage space for both clothes
(in a large deck-to-ce cabinet) and luggage (under the bed).

The excellent meals, are served in a large air conditioned salon.  On our
trip the fare tended to be more traditional food (which Deb requests for
her charters and which is, admittedly, what I prefer) with the occasional
European dish thrown in.  It is my understanding that the regular fare
tends to favor the opposite combination.  Vegetarians are easily
accommodated if they make their preference known ahead of time.  Soft
drinks are free with meals and available for a fee at other times.  There
is a charge for beer.  There is a sundeck on the top with a tarp for shade
(if necessary) and the available massages are done there.  The boat also
has a well-stocked first aid room with its own bed, oxygen and assorted

Upon arrival, guests select a station in the "dive locker", a
large room near the stern.  Separate room for hanging/rinsing wetsuits. 
Set your gear up on a tank and it stays there for the duration of the trip.
 A basket under your station holds your fins/mask/etc.  When it is time to
dive, the crew loads your tank/BC and your camera onto zodiacs and you
proceed down stairs on either side of the boat to board a zodiac.  All
diving was done from the zodiacs with a standard backroll entry.  The boat
operators were very adept at working together to keep track of guests and
ferry them back and forth from the boat.  No Nitrox on our charter, but it
should available starting in 2006.

The diving in Raja Ampat, the area of Indonesia around the northern tip of
Papua, is some of the best I've ever experienced.  Though there are not a
lot of "monster fish", the sheer abundance of other fish more
than makes up for it.  Most diving was done in moderate to slightly strong
current as that is what brings out the soft corals and the fish.  The
zodiac drivers, especially Michael, were adept at judging the current and
dropping divers in exactly the right place to hit the sweet spot on the
reef.  Deb, who has been diving there for many years, was careful to help
select the right time and place to dive and if conditions were not optimal,
she would request that the boat proceed a short distance to a better spot. 
The current, soft corals and abundant reef fish make for nice wide angle
photo opportunities and the majority of my dives were done with a wide
angle lens.  Schools of barracuda, jacks, and unicornfish were common and
the occasional large school of silversides was sometimes thick enough to
blot out the sun.  While big-animal action was sparse, there were a few
turtles, wobbegongs, the occasional flight of rays and rarely, a black tip
reef shark.  The area is also home to small epaulet sharks.  On one night
"exploratory" muck dive, the only "bad" dive of the
trip, one of these small sharks was a welcome sight as I didn't see much

In addition to wide angle opportunities, there are plenty of chances to do
macro work.  One site, "Waterlogged", was particlularly good --
in one spot there, one can find orange, yellow and "plucked
chicken" pygmy seahorses in fans within a span of 50 feet.  Another
fan contains pink pygs at 15fsw and I found a few more at 80fsw.  In
addition to the pygmies, which can actually be found all over Raja Ampat,
the site had an abundance of interesting nudibranchs (including the
infamous "solar powered" variety, which I'd never seen before),
small cuttlefish, fire urchins with resident Coleman shrimp, sea cucumbers
with commensal crabs and one lucky fellow spent about twenty minutes
following a blue-ringed ocotopus around after the rest of us had surfaced.

Raja Ampat also offers the chance to do some "mangrove-style"
diving and we were able to partake at a place called "The
Passage", which is a narrow shallow channel between islands.  The
tides sweep through the center of the channel so most diving is done along
the sides in protected eddys.  Photographers are treated to soft corals
growing on fallen logs just below the surface with overhanging trees (and
if you time it right, the sun) above.  Archerfish and halfbeaks are a nice
change of pace from the usual reef fish.  The Passage also has good
critters and on this trip there were several neat green and black
Lamellarids (akin to large cowries) out and about.

All in all, an excellent trip.  I highly recommend Raja Ampat, the Ondina
and City Seahorse, Inc.
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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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