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Dive Review of Dive Damai/Damai I in
Indonesia/Cendrawasih Bay

Dive Damai/Damai I, Aug, 2013,

by John Sommerer, MD, US (Contributor Contributor 15 reports with 6 Helpful votes). Report 7137 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 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 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Fabulous! Two week trip starting in Biak, ending in Manokwari. All the main sites in Cendrawasih Bay noted in _Diving Indonesia's Birds Head Seascape_ by Jones and Shimlock, plus a trip north to Mapia Atoll, as well as some new sites with WWII wreckage. Mapia was exploration, and while it led to a rather rough night's travel back south, it was diving like I haven't seen in years. Grouper in unbelievable numbers, from tiny to huge, giant schools of barracuda (I finally had the 360 degree surround vortex of big chevron 'cuda) and jacks, big rays, a few sharks, etc. Some of the diving in Cendrawasih was "average" with little potential for wide angle, and rather shy fish for portraiture (of course, some of those fish are endemics you won't see anywhere else, and the cruise directors made sure you knew where to look for them). And then, of course, there are the whale sharks under the bagans in Kwatisore Bay. For two and a half days, we had at least four whale sharks at a time, and an open dive deck. Several mornings, there were bottlenose dolphin taking the fish that fell from the "sweet spot" near the keep net. Vis varied over the time we were there, but everyone got many great images of "Mr. Big" (and unusually, Ms. Big, too). As someone who has only seen whale sharks on one other trip, I have to say that I'm probably sated for life, at least in the sense that I won't pick destinations or times just to maximize probability of whale sharks (though I'll enjoy any that happen to swim by). Many of the Cendrawasih photos on the web suggest that you're always going to see the keep net or the bagan, or your fellow divers, but a little swimming and the fact that the sharks sort of take turns in the sweet spot means there's plenty of opportunity for shark only, or sharks plus sun ball, or sharks plus model. Cruise director Simon even has a shot of shark plus dolphin!

Damai I is a fine boat (maybe a little on the small side with respect to the dining area and the lounge, which I gather is why Damai II is bigger). The cabins were on the palatial side, with huge comfortable bed, storage, excellent working desk, and very large bath. But the real differentiator is the service and attitude of the crew. They are always looking for ways to help, and it would have to be a pretty outlandish request that didn't get a positive response. In fact, I made one pretty outlandish request that got an amazing response. The headboard behind my head made a really loud creaking noise with every role of the boat, because it was jammed against the wall. (In my own defense, this was no minor creaking like all wooden boats exhibit -- it was a SHEEK-crack! every few seconds). I mentioned this twice, and my dear wife made a recording of the noise to prove I wasn't nuts. I returned from the first dive later that day to find our cabin under reconstruction. The bed was disassembled, moved, and reattached - a big carpentry job given that the king needs to be able to change into 2 twins. Slept like a baby the rest of the time.

Want different food from the menu? No problem. Crew almost too helpful on the dive deck -- I like to dress myself. Fresh ground coffee, soft drinks, beer, massages (max of three/day), nitrox all no extra charge.

Crew had more of a sense of humor than I'm used to finding with the unfailingly polite, but frequently rather shy Indonesian dive boat crews; perhaps the main point was most of them spoke very good english. Anyway, made for a lot of fun.

The dive guides included Gusti (justly famous and knowledgable -- if he waves you over, you better go), and Adri, who was also a great critter finder. Two other dive guides were less effective, in one case perhaps because of inexperience, in the other perhaps because of attitude.

Highest praise for cruise directors Simon Marsh and Andrina Bindon: experienced, knowledgeable, great conversationalists, helpful, funny, resourceful, proactive, and diplomatic (with a bit of sardonic wit). I look forward to diving with them again (and as soon as possible). Frankly, I dreaded the long series of flights to get from Jakarta to Biak and from Manokwari back, along with the inevitable dead time before the boat is ready for you and after you've gotten off. None of that with Damai! Picked up at 5:00am at Biak airport, taken directly to boat for a relaxing day, breakfast, lunch, and a nap before the introductory dive. And at the end, Andrina took all our checked luggage to the airport, got our boarding passes, paid our (deeply discounted, thanks to her negotiation) excess baggage fees and airport departure tax, while we had a hot breakfast aboard.

A tip on getting to Cendrawasih: I'd strongly recommend going all Garuda, as they give you 15kg extra for dive gear on top of your 20kg allowance. Sriwijaya gives you 20kg, and their excess baggage charges are $2-$5/kg. Lion air give you only a 15kg allowance, with excess charges even higher. Unfortunately, Garuda doesn't serve Manokwari. Damai will fit you out with dive gear (quality stuff, again, no extra charge) so you don't have to hall your own all the way there, but I like to dive with gear that I'm used to.
Websites Dive Damai   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Costa Rica, GBR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, New Zealand, PNG, Polynesia, Revillagigedos
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy, currents, no currents
Water Temp 84-86°F / 29-30°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions "We are going to treat you like adults."
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks > 2
Turtles > 2 Whales 1 or 2
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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 Excellent camera room, each guest has own rinse tank, crew very careful and helpful with your camera gear. Cruise directors very good photographers, willing and able to help you with equipment problems, or even loan you something to try out.
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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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