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Dive Review of Tambora in
Indonesia/Lembeh, Ambon

October, 2013, an Instant Reader Report by ann mcgrath, VA, US
Contributor   (19 reports, with 5 Helpful votes)
Report Number 7201 has 2 Helpful votes
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, rainy  
calm, choppy, surge  
Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
20   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
One hour was enforced on most dives  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
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Small Critters
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Large Fish
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Large Pelagics
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Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
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Boat Facilities
2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
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Shore Facilities  
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There is room for two people in the camera room at a time, and counter
space for about five set ups.  ...
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Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
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3 stars
Service and Attitude
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Environmental Sensitivity  
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Dive Operation
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Shore Diving  
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Overall Rating

Value for $$
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3 stars   
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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,

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 
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Subscriber's Comments

By amcgrath815 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 amcgrath815 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
By amcgrath815 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 TheRock 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
By amcgrath815 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
By amcgrath815 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 TheRock 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

    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
By amcgrath815 at Nov 03, 2015 10:31 EST  
Fascinating, if not entirely truthful, response.  Thanks for posting!
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