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Dive Review of Tambora in
Indonesia/Lembeh, Ambon

Tambora, Oct, 2013,

by ann mcgrath, VA, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 7201 has 2 Helpful votes.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving [Unspecified]
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 20 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions One hour was enforced on most dives
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish For Subscribers Only
Small Critters For Subscribers Only Large Fish For Subscribers Only
Large Pelagics For Subscribers Only

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter For Subscribers Only Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's For Subscribers Only Shore Facilities For Subscribers Only
UW Photo Comments There is room for two people in the camera room at a time, and counter space for about five set ups. ... Subscribe to get the full story. For Subscribers Only  Active subscribers continue reading here

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

Accommodations For Subscribers Only Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude For Subscribers Only Environmental Sensitivity For Subscribers Only
Dive Operation For Subscribers Only Shore Diving For Subscribers Only
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ For Subscribers Only
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced For Subscribers Only
Comments The Good:
The cabins are large with lots of storage. No bunk beds. There is enough space under each bed to store long suitcases, all your clothes, and PFDs. In the cabins below, there is a large piece of furniture for clothes, and a smaller cabinet and a desk. There is also space next to the beds for little stuff, even a small compartment. There are lots of plugs on the boat and in the cabins for charging, if you have adapters. The bathrooms are good size.

The skiffs are large, and padded! There is plenty of room for each diver, and the padding makes it very comfortable. (The ladders are short, though.)

The diving in Lembeh is generally excellent. There are tons of critters, and schools of bait fish, shrimp fish, Banggai and pajama cardinal fish, and other interesting stuff. You will find ghost pipefish and octopus often, and many unusual fish, nudibranchs and other critters. You may have to dive in some trash, but there is great stuff everywhere.

The staff. Some know your name the first day, and will do almost everything for you. There is a staff member to get you a drink, one to get your towel (the one with your name on it), one to hang up your wetsuit, etc. the three dive masters are good and will find good stuff. But keep your eyes open, because we also found a lot of good stuff.

There is an on-demand water heater in the bathroom, so you'll always have hot water, even if the pressure isn't great.

If you like white rice, you'll be in heaven. There is plenty of it at lunch and dinner! The food is good and plentiful. There is an early breakfast of fruit, toast and cereal before the first dive. You order "second" breakfast before the first dive, which is a traditional western breakfast, including eggs, pancakes, and some Indonesian noodle and rice dishes. Lunch is after the second dive, served family style. Dinner is usually after the night dive (7:30 or 8). There is a snack after the third dive, and usually tea after all the dives. You can get coffee, tea, juice and soft drinks at any time. There is Bintang beer available also. Fresh fruit as always available.

Most things are labeled with your name: deck towels, water bottles on the skiffs, your gear basket, Your gear and your camera.

One couple got very sick, probably due to something they picked up in Bali, and the boat owner was very good about getting them in touch with ... Subscribe to get the full story. For Subscribers Only  Active subscribers continue reading here
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Subscriber's Comments

By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Oct 23, 2013 09:39 EST  
I forgot to mention the dynamite fishing. There was evidence of it in most places, and we even heard it while underwater, which is quite frightening!
By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Oct 23, 2013 09:41 EST  
Bring with you: lots of probiotics, you'll need them; ear drops; nasal rinse kit; DiveAlert; anti-diarrhea meds; nausea meds; gas treatment; Bonine or your sea sickness med of choice; water purification drops; snacks, in case the food doesn't suit you; safety sausage; extra vest or hood; parasite treatment; long pointer; reef hook; alarm clock; enema kit; coconut oil (a natural antibacterial, anti fungal that is good internally and externally). I also recommend bringing wheatgrass and blue green algae tablets, because the chlorophyll is great for eliminating unhealthy bacteria.
By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Oct 30, 2013 08:21 EST  
It turns out the bacteria on the boat is GIARDIA! I can't stress enough how unsanitary and downright unsafe this boat is.
By Tim Rock in GU, US at Nov 05, 2013 21:14 EST  
I hate to say this, but this "review" (hatchet job) seems to come from someone who wants her hand held every minute and didn't get it. Is this her first time in Indonesia? Who even thinks of drinking tap water in Indo, much less on a ship? Also - "Unlike every other live aboard I've been on, they don't wake you up in the morning, so be sure to set an alarm!" What???? Go back to an Aggressor. This just smacks of inexperience and bitterness. Sorry. I got very little but disgust from this diatribe.
By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Nov 06, 2013 08:49 EST  
Hi Tim! If you look at previous reviews of Tambora, they are exactly the same. I am absolutely *not* a person who wants their hand held, but nice try. And no, I've been to Indonesia several times. We didn't *drink* the water on the boat, but it was not even safe to brush teeth with. Hope that helps.
By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Nov 06, 2013 09:10 EST  
Hi Tim! If you look at the other reviews of Tambora, they are mostly exactly the same. Everyone on the boat agreed. We didn't drink the "tap water", we were infected with giardia just by brushing our teeth with it, and possibly by eating fruits and vegetables. I've been to Indonesia several times, and if you look at my previous reports, you will see I have good things to say about the area. I am an assistant instructor with almost 1000 dives, so "inexperience" doesn't apply, and I'm not bitter in the least. Nor do I need my "hand held", but I was disappointed by Tambora. So was everyone else.
By Tim Rock in GU, US at Nov 07, 2013 05:50 EST  
Since the Captain is out at sea and can't get to internet, he asked a friend of mine to send this reply for him. My friend isn't an Undercurrent subscriber, so he sent it to me. The response from Tambora: To: Undercurrent Magazine Date: Nov. 2, 2013 Attn: Ben Davidson, editor Re: Tambora Live Aboard Review Dear Mr. Davidson, Recently Undercurrent published an article by a correspondent named Ann McGrath who was recently on one of our trips (Oct 6 18, 2013 - Lembeh, Halmahera, Obi Ambon). I regret that your writer did not enjoy her time with us as we strive to make everyones dive holiday with us the best experience we can possibly offer. I would like to offer some insight into our actions. I hope that you will see, after reading my responses, we acted in the interest of expedience, safety and practicality. This cruise started in Lembeh and ended in Ambon. As much as we would like to be able to, we cannot control Mother Nature and this trip had two subsequent rough crossings, with 6 to 8 foot (2.0-2.5m) swells coming from starboard. This does not affect vessel safety. If we thought it would, we would not travel. However, the Tambora is an Indonesian phinisi like most Indonesian live aboards. This style of vessel, as well any other boat of similar size, tonnage and draft that I am aware of, rolls when hit by a beam sea with waves of this size. The Tambora being a wooden boat, the wood squeaks, sometimes quite nosily, and hence few people, including my crew, got a good nights sleep during these two crossing nights. There is very little that could have been done about that I am afraid, other than not sailing at all. Also, when seas are rough, we anchor the boat in the lee of an island rather than standing off an unprotected dive site. A priority is getting people safely from the vessel into the dive tenders and back again. This is a major safety measure we take. Safety cannot be ensured with the vessel rolling and the tenders moving up and down along the side of the vessel. As a result, the tender boat rides to and from a given dive site can become longer than usual, and the sea at the dive site is choppy making even the tender boat rides a little uncomfortable. Again, the only way to prevent this would be not to dive at all. We prefer to err on the side of safety. For accuracy, one (not some) porthole on the starboard side developed a small leak at a gasket. A minimal amount of water came in through the gasket. This was also due to the wave size at the crossings. The porthole did not leak at any other time nor did anyone elses. Yes, I do an extensive briefing on the first day when guests arrive. This briefing covers essential topics that are important for everyones well-being. It is not intended as a lecture but as valuable information to make the trip as pleasant and stress-free as possible. The briefing includes safety aboard, vessel layout and orientation, cabin features, daily routines and dive organization. During the briefing, I inform our guests that tap water is safe for tooth brushing, but that drinking it is not recommended. There are drinking water bottles in each cabin and places to get safe water to fill the bottles with. I am not aware of anyone actually drinking water from the tap, If so, this would be the exact opposite of what is being instructed in the briefing. Listening to the briefing at the beginning of the trip alleviates many potential problems. For whatever reason, it appears your correspondent did not hear some of these points. We are always happy to answer any questions our guests have, even if it means repeating something we have covered in the introduction. If in doubt, guests are encouraged to ask. Over the course of the cruise and on different days, four people went down with diarrhea; I am not sure what was the source of this. Other guests and all of the crew were not affected. There are no bugs or bacteria on the boat. Myself and my family and crew live on this ship 24/7. We strive to keep it a clean and healthy environment. As I write this, we have just finished the next leg of our trip, which was Ambon to Maumere. All guests and crew experienced no health problems of any sort. What had caused the people on the previous cruise to contract diarrhea remains mystery. Nothing similar had ever happened before leaving me to wonder how they had contracted this and from where? All cabins were cleaned and inspected before guest arrival, as well as cleaned daily. Linens were changed over the course of the cruise. There is no mold smell in the cabins and your correspondent did not mention this during the cruise. If she had, we surely would have investigated. We just arrived in Maumere, All cabins were used again on this trip. There is no mold or any other smell. Yes, we have plastic in a few cabins in locations where ceiling leaks previously occurred. These are in place as safeguards. We can never be 100% sure that there will be no leak developing at some stage. During this cruise, there was no leak, and on the subsequent cruise we just finished in Maumere, there was no leak either. Still, we keep the plastic sheets in place, as a safeguard against a potential leak in the future. They might not be aesthetically pleasing to see, but they work. Yes, our dive tenders have no shade; I am unaware of any liveaboard that has dive tenders with a shade. The dive tenders stay on the dive site all the time during the dive (they dont go back and forth to the main boat). The drivers know the direction that we follow. They will pick people up at the end of the dive. Typically, the waiting time for the dive tender to come and pick a guest up is less than one minute. If people spread out into different directions over the course of a dive, and hence surface in different locations, it may take longer since the boat will need to go back and forth between the divers to pick everybody up. There was one dive during Ms. McGraths cruise where the current changed on us 20 minutes into the dive and we had no choice but to abort. There were a few dives with current, and people are supposed to back roll and get down fast or else they will drift off and miss the spot. We try to hand the camera gear as safely and quickly as possible. The majority of our dives are not strong current dives, however. On most days, our regular dive times are 8:00, 11:00, 15:00 and 18:30. I find nothing unusual about this. Yes, Lembeh area was very busy. Thus, we all had to share dive sites. Putting more things into perspective would invariably entail an even more lengthy response. Suffice it to say I am saddened this guest did not have the experience she and I would both have hoped for. I am most certainly not in the business of torturing guests. Myself, my family and my entire crew work very hard every trip to make sure our guests get the best trip possible. We are a floating wooden hotel and dive shop often working in very remote parts of Indonesia and we do the best we can with the resources we have. I take every suggestion and criticism seriously and Ms. McGraths review falls into that category. I do not know her live aboard background or past experience in Indonesia, but whether novice to Indo diving or experienced pro, we strive to do our best to make each member of the group satisfied within the limits of safety and common sense. I will state that we have a lot of happy guests who leave the ship after one of our trips and we have many repeat customers. I do hope those facts are also taken into account by people considering us as a diving experience. Uwe Günther President & Cruise Director TAMBORA DIVE CRUISES www.tamboradive.com
By ann mcgrath in VA, US at Nov 03, 2015 10:31 EST  
Fascinating, if not entirely truthful, response. Thanks for posting!
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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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