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Dive Review of Amira liveaboard in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Amira liveaboard: "Outstanding Raja Ampat Getaway", Oct, 2016,

by Steven Moore, CT, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 9250 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We were excited to learn about the Amira, especially considering its price (US$4,750 pp for a 10n/11d cruise, about $1,500 less than the competition) and availability. Usually the boat is filled 2 years or so in advance, but we were lucky to find space just 13 months ahead. The boat isn't very well known in the US and does most of its marketing in Germany and Europe. As the co-owner and cruise director, Bruno Hopff, told us at dinner, they want to expand their US marketing, but typically are full with their current plan. And they should be filled; they offer luxury, wonderful service, a friendly and encouraging ambiance, and great value.

Our travel saga was typical for the trip. JFK to Hong Kong to Jakarta, then an 8 hour layover before leaving for Makassar and then Sorong, arriving at about 7am. Total travel time was somewhere around 42 hours, including layovers. The friendly and engaging Amira crew members met us immediately outside customs with cold water and luggage assist. Ten minutes later, we were in the van for the 10-minute ride to the harbor and a short tender ride to the boat. Amira is a typical, 3-masted wooden boat built specifically for diving, and it shows. Access is easy, the dive deck spacious and well thought out. We were the first guests aboard at about 8am, and the other guests arrived throughout the day. Once all 17 passengers were aboard, we sailed for Misool that afternoon/evening. The boat holds a maximum of 18 divers, and for this cruise had 21 crew members.

Since we sailed the first day, we experienced the chef and wait staff before we had a chance to try the diving. It turned out to be a great way to travel. The food was outstanding, overall. The schedule was for a "small breakfast" of coffee/tea/toast at 6:30am, before the first dive briefing, although coffee, tea and snacks were available all day. And guests placed their orders for "second breakfast" from a consistent menu at that time. The menu included mostly American/European choices, although both fried rice and fried noodles quickly became guest favorites. The banana pancakes and cinnamon french toast probably got the most takers, along with omelettes/eggs. Second breakfast came between the first and second dives. Lunch was at about 1pm each day, featuring at least 3 choices, usually served buffet style. A hot snack was available after the 3rd dive (4:30 or so), and then dinners were either buffet or served on the beautiful main deck under the canopy. The chef has been with the boat since it began service about 10 years ago, and he was a master of his trade. Meals included varied tastes and styles, although most included local flavors for the sauces on the chicken, fish and beef that were the basis of the meals. My wife had requested vegetarian meals, and each meal had something special and delicious for her. (Several of us poached from her leftovers because they were so good.) In addition to the meals, there was fresh fruit on the table with each meal, and everyone took advantage of the mango, papaya, bananas and other luscious choices.

Diving began the first morning, with the boat anchored in a beautiful bay surrounded by islands. Seas were calm for most of the entire cruise, only becoming choppy one or two days. While not rainy most days, there were periods of heavy rain, and that affected diving. Visibility was less than we had expected, sometimes not much more than 30 feet or so, due to runoff from the nearby islands and also the amount of plankton in the water. It wasn't enough to impair the dives, but did cut down on seeing big things in the distance. The first dive set the tone for the cruise in one very positive way: we encountered the first large schools of fish, many different kinds, and different sizes. From swirling, darting masses of silversides to pods of 150 barracuda to schools of trevally, fusiliers, and wrasse. And I've never seen fish as large as some of these: Bumphead parrotfish as large as I am; 6-7 ft long barracude; huge (and in one case, aggressive) titan triggerfish; 2-ft tall batfish.

We did encounter current on some dives, and sometimes they were much stronger than the "mild to moderate" flow the dive guides talked about in the briefings. But the guides were very safety conscious -- and the boat provides diver-location devices to everyone at no charge, just in case. The benefit of the current was to enhance the numbers of big fish. That included the giant mantas on a couple of the dives near Misool. With wing-spans of 20+ feet, these graceful creatures were the highlight of several dives.

In general, the dives were very fishy and beautiful. And we saw the variety of animals that make this part of the world special: barramundi, epaulet sharks, squid, etc. One highlight of dives in this area is finding Wobbegong fringed sharks. We saw them so often that my dive log finally said, "more Wobbegongs, ho hum". Almost every dive... And some dives included more unusual denizens. A "sharksucker" (remora family) kept buzzing us on one dive, likely looking to attach to our tanks, we were told. There were nudibranchs and worms and such on almost every dive, including some species I haven't seen on several previous trips to Indonesia. Reef sharks were present on some of the dives, though not all. (And I had never seen one species -- its fins had a black tip, then a white band immediately under that, before the gray body.)

Night dives offered their own special attractions, from squid, flatworms, decorator crabs, to very unusual types of 3-in wide, 5-foot long worms -- maybe a type of cucumber?

The reefs were spectacular and healthy, and had tremendous diversity. Soft coral, hard corals of several types, huge gorgonians, sponges, etc. Overall, just beautiful and delightful.

There were 35 dives offered over 9 dive days, plus the possibility of another dive or two on the last day, depending on your flight schedule back in Sorong. And while the diving was both the purpose and the highlight of the trip, I also have to acknowledge the fantastic service provided by Bruno and the entire crew. They were welcoming, responsive, engaging and supportive. On a couple of evenings, 4-6 of them brought guitars, a drum and a homemade, one-string bass fiddle to the main deck and serenaded us for a while after dinner. It was a bit surreal that first time, listening to decidedly Indonesian accents singing Beatles tunes, and everyone had a wonderful time.

The bottom line is that this was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable holidays we have ever experienced. The overall quality was outstanding, from the food to the rooms (spacious and comfortable) to the crew to the dives. And while I didn't enjoy the extended travel to get there or get home, I would do it again tomorrow, if I could. The Amira doesn't have the name recognition in the US that some others do, but it offers the same quality and even better value. I recommend this operation highly. And I'm already trying to figure out when I can make a second trip with them, possibly to another destination.


Websites Amira liveaboard   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving US, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (x5), Caribbean, Alaska
Closest Airport Sorong Getting There Lengthy flights from mainland US to Jakarta, then either direct or one-stop to Sorong

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy Seas calm, currents, no currents
Water Temp 82-85°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 20-100 Ft/ 6-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Time limits, usually 60 minutes but 50 on night dives.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Well designed camera room on the boat. Plenty of space and adequate charging access. Tender drivers quickly became familiar with each person's set-up and had the gear waiting on the tenders before the dives. Clean, spacious, dedicated rinse tanks.
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By Gabrielle Villarinoin Prachuap Khiri Khan, TH at Nov 16, 2016 03:59 EST  
Thank you very very much Paul for your comments and kind words about AMIRA, our crew and our operations! We thrive to be the BEST - from the time of inquiry - until you step off the boat! Note: AMIRA's maiden voyage was in NOVEMBER 2016 (which makes 6 years 'old') - and we do re furbishings every year at dry dock! Gabrielle from MSV AMIRA . Contact me for availbility for cruises in 2017 or 2018 !! Glad to assist !
By Gabrielle Villarinoin Prachuap Khiri Khan, TH at Nov 16, 2016 04:01 EST  
oops, I meant to WRITE STEVEN !!! :)
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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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