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Dive Review of Dive Damai/Damai I in
Indonesia/Banda Sea

Dive Damai/Damai I: "adventures in the eastern Banda Sea", Oct, 2014,

by Rickie Sterne/Chris Button, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 7955 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 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Our two-week cruise aboard the lovely Damai I took us to only three sites we had visited on a previous, "classic" Banda Sea trip. We boarded the boat in Ambon. Three dives were offered in Ambon Bay that day. We thought a Rhinopias, a blue ringed octopus, and a coconut octopus carrying eggs constituted a good start to any dive trip.
The Damai I can carry twelve divers, but only seven were on board for our cruise. Our more-or-less English-speaking group consisted of two Californians, two northern Brits, an Aussie, and us two Arkansans. Due to the small number of divers, each couple enjoyed a private dive guide during the entire trip. The Aussie woman, a fairly new diver, was assigned a permanent guide to herself. The other three excellent guides rotated among the couples.
The dive deck on the Damai is the most spacious in the world. Each dive station is separated from its neighbor by a small private rinse tank. In addition to giving divers elbow room, the individual rinse tanks protects camera ports and means that divers can rinse their masks without concern for infection control. All diving is done from tenders. The crew carried our gear and our cameras to and from the tender boats, which are entered via a ladder on the starboard side. Gear was handled very carefully, and no diver reported any gear or camera damage. The tenders have holes for tanks and no gunnels. The usual entry was by backroll, but the dive guide and tender driver were happy for me to don my gear in the water. The very stable ladders are at the stern of the tender, making it easy to climb out of the water under gear. Most divers, however, chose to hand their gear up before exiting the water. Tender drivers stay on the dive site during the dives. Another indication of the Damai's concern for diver safety is that each dive guide carries an EPIRB device. We were served water on the dive deck before we entered the tenders, and we were welcomed back with hot cocoa. The crew rinsed our neoprene in some sort of cleaner after each dive and hung it to dry. When we came on deck for the next dive, we found our wetsuits and rash guards neatly folded at our dive stations. Each dive station is assigned the name of a fish or critter and has a specific towel embroidered with that critter for drying off after a warm shower on deck post-dive. When I brought our rinsed swimsuits up to the dive deck to dry, a crew member always took them from me to hang them on the line. Dry suits were placed in a covered plastic box for retrieval. Before dives, crew members actually helped divers dress out, pulling on booties for some as well as zipping wetsuits over hoods.
The Damai I is a beautiful, spacious boat. We had a double cabin, not one of the luxurious master cabins, just a regular double cabin. It was a spacious as many hotel rooms. The bed was at least king size, and had a very comfortable mattress and good quality linens. Reading lamps on each side of the bed provided a strong but focused light, great for couples like us in which one partner reads later than the other. The wardrobe and underbed drawers provided adequate storage space for our clothes and stuff. There was a desk where we could download photos and log our dives. The bathroom was spa-like. The large shower had both a rainfall shower head and a handheld head. There was plenty of hot water and good water pressure, even when everyone on board was probably showering at the same time. The Damai provides a full range of good quality toiletries - shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion - as well as a hair dryer. And how did we ever dive without a warm, fluffy terrycloth robe apiece? The entire boat is squeaky clean. The steward cleaned the cabins twice daily, once during the first dive and again during dinner. We put our dirty laundry in the basket in the morning, and it was returned, neatly folded, in the afternoon.
The salon offers a horseshoe shaped banquette around the dining table and a second banquette in an adjacent area for relaxing and consulting the marine ID library, which includes Allen and Erdmann's three volume opus, The Reef Fishes of the East Indies. The jars of Oreos and salted peanuts may have attracted a few people to that area as well.
The general daily schedule on the Damai I was continental breakfast, then the first dive, followed by full cooked breakfast. Then came the second dive and lunch. After a period for reading and napping on the spacious sundeck came the third dive, an afternoon snack, often a night dive, and a three-course dinner.
While we are easy to feed, we are not indiscriminate about food. We thought the meals on the Damai were quite good. Much of the food was western, but it was very well prepared. The continental breakfast which began our day always included fresh baked croissants as well as fruit and toast. Each diver ordered his full breakfast before the first dive. Both western and Indonesian dishes were on offer, and the chef went to great efforts to cook eggs exactly as guests liked them. The mie kwah and mie goreng were excellent. After breakfast the lunch menu was announced. If any guest did not like the menu, he was welcome to order something different. The club sandwiches were considered a tasty alternative as were omelets. Lunches began with a salad, and the entree was followed by fresh fruit. The dinner menu was announced at lunch, and again guests were welcome to order a personalized meal. The first course at dinners was a homemade soup accompanied by fresh baked bread. Entree included beef, fish, and chicken. Desserts were homemade sweets, all good. Afternoon snacks were quite varied, including muffins, cakes, and spring rolls. The British couple celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary during the trip, and the crew served them a private dinner on the back deck. They then joined the rest of us for the dessert course, a heart-shaped anniversary cake. All meals were attentively served by the Balinese waiter. On the last night we enjoyed a rijstafel, possibly the best Indonesian meal we have ever eaten.
A recent lead article in Undercurrent decried the Damai's coffee as bitter. We and three other divers on our trip are very serious and selective coffee drinkers. We were all delighted with the espresso and Balinese coffees we were served. The Damai is only the second liveaboard we have been on that served really good coffee. We felt as if we were in a premium coffee house.
But the reason we had flown twenty seven hours to Indonesia was not to eat or enjoy a lovely cabin and sundeck, but to dive. The Banda Sea itinerary offers a variety of good diving. After several muck dives in Ambon Bay, the boat moved out to the south side of the island so we could dive at Pintu Kota, a large coral-covered arch filled with schools of unicornfish and fusiliers. Then we sailed southeast to Amed, where the sloping walls were frequented by large schools of fusiliers, surgeonfish, triggerfish, and jacks. Two hammerheads swam fairly close to us at only 80 feet! We pressed on to Banda, where we dove on a lava flow that in 1988 had completely destroyed the reef. Now the lava is densely covered with fast-growing hard corals, lettuce leaf coral, tables of acropora, and some staghorn corals. Small fish swam in clouds over the new reef. We also watched three broadclub cuttlefish blanch white as they laid eggs deep within the coral.
At Banda Neira, we made the mandarinfish dive in the evening, and the brilliantly colored dragonets made a good show of male display and the their mating dance. At Hatta Island we dropped through a hole in the top of the reef into a large cavern with sea fans and black corals suspended from its ceiling. We then emerged at forty five feet onto a beautiful wall with large barrel sponges spawning. We went to Pulau Manuk to dive with sea snakes. There was indeed a goodly number of sea snakes, both olive and black banded, hunting among the coral heads and swimming around us. We also encountered a school of circling barracuda and a large colony of garden eels at this site.
Nils Atoll (Nils Desperandum on European maps) was a beautiful site with huge schools of fish encircling us. The walls around Nyata gave us a vision of truly pristine diving. The beautiful hard and soft corals were filled with small colorful fishes and critters. Several divers described diving in this area as a privilege.
We were very pleased to dive again at the Valley of the Clowns in Alor. The mile-long carpet of various anemones with their anemonefish, dactylids, and porcelain crabs is a unique diving experience. We didn't even care that the water temperature was 75 degrees. The diving around Kawula featured lovely coral-covered sand slopes packed with small fish and critters, including a very showy blue ringed octopus. Our last dive of the cruise was made at Pulau Komba, a small active volcano. Komba Slope was one of those breathtakingly beautiful walls with deep declivities and a lovely garden of soft corals at the reeftop. There was a crevice packed with literally a dozen large lobsters, as well as numerous nudibranchs and clouds of anthias and juvenile fusiliers. As we returned to the boat after this spectacular dive, Komba bellowed and erupted in a cloud of smoke as it spewed molten lava down to the sea.
In addition to two weeks of really, really good diving with private dive guides, we also enjoyed a few adventures on land. We did the walking tour on Banda Neira. We also visited a traditional whaling village on Kawula that is licensed to take up to twenty five whales per year using traditional fishing methods. After visiting the village and seeing the church where the image of Christ grasps a harpoon above the altar, we were given a demonstration of their whaling technique- straight out of Melville. Two guys in our group decided to try their hands at harpoon casting. The first man could not even stand up on the prow of the small boat while the villagers rowed. The second, our fearless cruise director, fell into the water as soon as he lifted the harpoon. Twas questionable whether the divers or the villagers enjoyed his discomfiture more.
But our greatest above water adventure took place at Pulau Komba. We dined under the stars on the sundeck while the volcano erupted every twenty five minutes about three hundred feet away. We could feel as well as hearing and seeing the larger eruptions. And now we fully understand why volcanoes are considered gods.
Our trip aboard the Damai I was a memorable one. Was there a downside? The Nitrox system was not functioning, and we did miss Nitrox. While the Damai is expensive, one pays for luxury. And the Damai delivered luxury on all fronts: great diving with excellent dive guides in very small groups, attentive service in every aspect of the operation, very comfortable boat facilities, and good food. The last example of the Damai's service occurred at the end of our voyage. A Damai staff member came to our cabins and weighed our packed bags. He told us what the overweight charges would be (the Wings flight from Maumere to Bali allows only 10 kg of checked luggage) and we paid him. The next morning when we reached the Maumere airport, Simon handed us our baggage claim checks and our boarding passes with departure tax receipts attached. Wow!
We definitely felt we got our money's worth on this trip and are planning to dive with Dive Damai again next year. Enough said.
Websites Dive Damai   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Bay Islands, Belize, Bonaire, Caymans, Cozumel, Turks&Caicos, Sea of Cortez, GBR, Fiji, Truk, Yap, Palau, other areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport Ambon for this itinerary Getting There Denpasar-Surabaya-Ambon on Garuda;pretty direct & easy thanks to Reef & Rainforest

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 75-82°F / 24-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions dive safely; dive guides stayed down as long as we wanted to and as long as we had air
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments The Damai I has a dedicated camera room with twelve work stations. Both 110 and 220 plugs are available. Towels were provided, and when I needed an Allen wrench and a box wrench, a crew member quickly found them for me. We were encouraged to stow our cameras in cabinets beneath the work stations for overnight crossings. Great setup for UWPs!
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Subscriber's Comments

By ken smith in CA, US at Nov 19, 2014 13:22 EST  
Perhaps our full review of the Damai led them to make a few changes. Ben Davison
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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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