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Dive Review of Tambora in

July, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Richard J. Troberman, WA, US
Contributor   (12 reports, with 2 Helpful votes)
Report Number 5640
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
North Sulawesi, Bali-Komodo, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Palau, Papua New
Guinea, Galapagos, Australia, Belize, Cayman Islands, St. Vincent, Grand
Turk, Bahamas, Hawaii.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

rainy, cloudy  
Water Temp
84   to 86    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Follow dive computer; bottom time of 60 minutes, but not strictly enforced.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
2 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Separate large rinse tank for cameras only (water changed regularly).  The
crew carried the cameras to the skiffs, and handed them to the divers once
in the water.  Camera room with power outlets for charging components.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
2 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
2 stars   
2 stars    
For several months prior to this trip I had been watching for a reader
report on Borneo or on the Tambora, but never saw anything on either.  Now
I think I know why.  Despite (or maybe because of) my high expectations,
the diving in Borneo, at least on the east coast (East Kalimantan and
Celebes Sea), was extremely disappointing.  The reefs along the entire east
coast have been totally destroyed by dynamite fishing.  Although I had
heard about dynamite fishing in the area, I had no idea how widespread and
destructive it is.  I went on this trip for the big stuff, but all we saw,
for the most part, was small stuff.  Even the large numbers of Mantas that
are reported to frequent Sangalaki were absent (we saw only 4 or 5).  We
also saw only a handful of sharks (white-tips, black-tips, grey reef
sharks), and a few tuna and giant trevally.  The barracudas were still
present in large numbers at Big Fish Country and Barracuda Point, but that
was one of the few bright spots.  When the reefs are destroyed, as these
were, there is no reason for the hunting fish to hang around.

We began our 11 day trip by meeting the Tambora in Tarakan (a one hour
flight from Balikpapan).  From there we traveled down the east coast of
Borneo, including Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban, Maratua, and Mataha Islands.
We then crossed the Makassar Strait for some exploratory diving along the
west coast of central Sulawesi before ending the trip in Palu, Sulawesi. 
The reefs on the Sulawesi side are in even worse shape than those in
Borneo!  Most of the Tambora trips to Borneo begin and end in Tarakan, but
this trip ended in Palu in preparation for moving the boat to Bali for dry

The Tambora is a new wooden Indonesian style boat, in its second year of
operation.  While it holds up to 16 divers, we had only 6 on this trip. 
Tambora claims to have been built by divers for divers, but it has some odd
features.  For example, all of the wetsuits are hung in an interior dive
staging area, where there is no ventilation and no opportunity for the
suits to dry between dives or even overnight.  The Tambora is well equipped
for cameras, with a large separate rinse tank, which was cleaned often, and
a separate charging room.  Diving is done from two inflatable tenders. 
Back-roll entry, and a swim ladder for exiting.  We generally did four
dives a day, including a night dive, although on two days there were only
three dives due to moving the boat.  A total of 36 dives were offered
during the nine and one-half diving days.  Nitrox blend of 32% consistent
on every tank.  The crew was eager to help in any way possible, and the
dive guides were good at finding stuff.  The food could best be described
as average.  We encountered heavy unseasonable rain, and all of the cabins
leaked.  The owner of the Tambora (who lives on the boat) says that this
problem will be resolved during the upcoming dry dock.

One highlight was a night land excursion on Sangalaki Island to see nesting
sea turtles, and the release of hatchlings.  The Sangalaki Lodge has been
closed for several years, but the turtle conservation program sponsored by
the WWF and other non-governmental agencies is still running.  Another
highlight was a snorkeling trip to a saltwater lake on Kakaban, home to
four types of non-stinging jellyfish, which is very similar to Jellyfish
Lake in Palau.

If I had known beforehand what I know now, I would not have done this trip.
 There were a few nice walls and some good current dives, as well as a few
good muck dives.  But the widespread destruction of the reefs really put a
damper on this trip.  I could not in good conscience recommend this
itinerary to anyone, unless they were doing a documentary on the evils of
dynamite fishing.  Save your money and go someplace else.  
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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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