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Dive Review of Dewi Nusantara in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Dewi Nusantara: "Raja Ampat Beyond the Hype", Dec, 2014,

by Jeremy Cohen, IL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 8098 has 6 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments
Eleven nights aboard the Dewi (pronounced, Day-We) Nusantara. There is so much hype these days about dive locales and boats. Catherine and I hoped only for a good boat and good diving. Dewi Nusantara and Raja Ampat far exceeded our expectations.

Acres — literally acres — of healthy, thriving coral gardens supported an inspiring diversity of fish, creatures, soft and hard corals, and sponges in quantities and colors that created an emotional high. Surfacing from a night dive on Christmas Eve that included a bashful (use your red focus light) walking shark offered up an stunning star-lit sky. A morning of muck diving off of Batanta Island will not disappoint - neither the quantity of critters nor the tropical aroma carried on the breeze from the heavily forested Batanta.

A half dozen mantas danced for us, or rather, despite our presence, for an hour at Manta Sandy, a shallow cleaning station reef. There was no chumming, no flood lights lights, just the satisfaction of a natural ocean encounter in a region that justifiably claims to have the highest marine biodiversity in the world. The trip is a photographer’s dream, though just as importantly, leaving the camera on board for a dive or two and allowing ourselves to immerse ourselves in the moment was a wonderful reminder of what diving and travel are all about.

The dive guides are pros with very sharp eyes. Pigmy seahorses and ghost pipefish become the norm. We saw several octopi. Dive groups are limited to four or five divers to avoid crowding. There is plenty of personal space underwater and no follow-the-leader mentality, though some chose to say close to their guides.

The boat is immaculate, clean, and inviting from the large cabins to the comfortable salon. The food was varied and very good and the crew was sincere in their willingness to cook something special when the main course did not fit personal taste. The skiff drivers were always helpful. Wendy, our cruise director, was frenetic, everywhere, always on top of everything, empathetic, entertaining, entirely upbeat . . . honestly, the best cruise director we’ve encountered. She immediately found a battery charger for me when mine failed. That both Wendy and boat owner/ship designer Guido Brink were fluent in Indonesian, knew the crew, the region, the dive sites and the boat like parents know and love their children created a respectful and caring cruise.

Encounters with mantis shrimp, sharks, octopi, turtles, mating sea hares (who would exaggerate about a biology lesson such as this?), uncountable varieties of nudibranchs and worms, sea snakes, silversides by the thousands, bait balls, black tip reef sharks, and more, and more, and still more. This is not gin clear water. Wide angle lenses here are best deployed up close and personal to avoid sand particles and plankton. But then the lovely, and usually moderate current and plankton are our friends as they bring the critters. Yes, sometimes there is significant current, enough to make a reef hook appreciated. No complaints, however, when we hooked in for a safety stop at the top of the reef and found ourselves in the company of a school of large spade fish and a curious tuna. Generally, the diving is relatively shallow - from two to three feet in the mangroves where hatchet fish make for nice upward shots and, despite the rumors and the dark shadows, not a crock to be found -- to seventy or eighty foot depths with soft coral covered walls. Both relative newbies and old salts will enjoy the diving, though this is not the place to make your first dozen or two dives.

We cannot image a better boat, crew or diving destination or, for that matter, more than a very few situations worldwide that meet the Dewi Nusantara standard. This is uncrowded diving in which even the most experienced diver will make more than one first personal sighting.

A couple of quick observations. The Jakarta traffic is as bad as it's rumored to be. That makes the nearby FM7 hotel a reasonable place to spend a few hours or a day and a night. "Porte," one of two hotel restaurants, has a free and appetizing breakfast buffet and an adequate wine list at dinner. The hotel’s other in-house eatery, A.J. Brandon, had a so so breakfast and never heard of “white wine.” “Just red wine, sir/ma’am," which forced us to enjoy a G&T, or two, the first night. We’ve no complaints – just remember that the hotel does have two restaurants and they are not the same. FM7 also has a well stocked gym and lap pool.

Despite the traffic, we took a six hour private Jakarta tour with Farid, who works through Tours by Locals. He is thoughtful, speaks fluent English, and is very accommodating. Prices are reasonable. The traffic requires patience. It's slow and thick. Lunch at Café Batavia was fun – a old Dutch building turned into a restaurant just a few years ago, with windows overlooking the town square that is a gathering spot for families and children. We had a great time walking along the commercial wharf in Batavia where the dock crews were delighted to talk with us — and to be photographed -- as they offloaded the last remaining fleet of sail powered cargo vessels. We were welcomed at President Obama’s fourth grade elementary school where children were playing tag steps away from a bronze Obama (as a ten year old) statue.

Now a serious concern — Garuda is the only domestic airline approved by the European Union. It's not the only airline. Choose carefully. "The others do not serve Europe, so there is no reason they would be approved by the EU," our long trusted and favorite diving travel agent, Jenny Collister at Reef and Rain Forest, reminded us. Garuda did not charge us for overweight bags. Our inter-island flights from Jakarta to Makassar and then on to Sorong were clean and in good working order. Traveling on a different airline returning to Jakarta, however, the planes were filthy, the service was poor, the food was unappetizing, we paid extra for the same luggage that went free on Garuda, and the rumors of less reliable service and safety were ever-present in our thoughts - amplified, perhaps by tragedy of the Air Asia flight headed for Singapore that disappeared hours after we landed safely in Jakarta.

Heads up -- the announcements at the Sorong and Makassar airports were in Indonesian with no English translations (though Makasar’s new airport does have a nice Starbucks near Gate 2). It was only our experience as frequent travelers that pushed us to check and check again and finally learn of a gate change as the flight in Makassar was boarding for Jakarta. Our fourth visit to this region, our take-away is that it's best to overnight in Bali, to fly locally on Garuda, and to add an extra night or two if necessary to avoid the Jakarta traffic and most of the local airlines.

Sometimes good diving and a good boat are just luck. The right week. The right crew. The right weather. Our conclusion at trip's end is something more.

Dewi Nusantara is a professionally run treasure, purposefully designed, crewed, and outfitted to provide water babies, whatever the time and tide, with an opportunity to immerse themselves in a rewarding and natural ocean encounter. Raja Ampat is a unique estuary of bio diversity, natural beauty, and solitude. The Dewi and Raja Ampat are meant for each other. Together, they are a reminder of why, after 49 years of diving, it is always worthwhile to slip away from routine to return to our favorite environment, the sea.
Websites Dewi Nusantara   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving South Pacific, Central Pacific, Eastern Pacific, Sea of Cortez, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Oman, Socorro, Puget Sound, California Channel Islands, Galapagos, Indian Ocean, Caribbean, Western Atlantic
Closest Airport Sorong Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, currents, no currents
Water Temp 85-87°F / 29-31°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 25-75 Ft/ 8-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Surface within 60 minutes. Safety stop for three minutes.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Well equipped dry camera room, 110-240 volt charging (no adapters required), a little cramped with a full compliment of photographers, but certainly serviceable and safe. Crew takes camera to the dingoes and returns them to the freshwater tank on deck. Very careful handling.
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Report currently has 6 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Blake Hottle in CA, US at Jul 29, 2015 14:05 EST  
Thank you for this beautifully written, exceptionally helpful review.
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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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