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Dive Review of Diving 4 Images/KM Ciska in
Indonesia/Halmahera, Moluccas

Diving 4 Images/KM Ciska, May, 2005,

by Dave Van Rooy, Bali, Indonesia (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 1732.

Photos Submitted with this Report

Click on an image to see an enlarged version and captions

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This was a "one-off" exploratory trip to a place where virtually no one else dives (Halmahera is the big island between Sulawesi and Papua). The last reported diving there was over 5 years ago, tho some reports had been very good. There are no dive operators around at all. Graham Abbott of Diving 4 Images (www.diving, the trip leader, had chartered the Ciska to do some exploring and had asked a local diving group if anyone might be interested in joining the trip. He had talked to some on an earlier scientific mission in the area and had at least acquired a few good pointers about where there was some potentially good diving and where not to go. After our 6-day trip he was to be the guide for another scientific expedition in the area on the Ciska. This was an opportunity many of us couldn’t resist.

Having done many exploratory trips, I was not expecting such overall excellent diving as we found here. I'd expected lots of bombed out reefs, but actually we encountered very few. 90% of the reefs we dove were pristine reefs with fish and coral life extremely prolific. We had some dives with so many large schools of fish, we lost track. Sharks, usually black tips in the 4-6 foot length, were abundant (2-10 seen on most dives), with some gray reef and white tips and some epaulet sharks. Other highlights included schools of skip jack, tuna, unicorn fish, anthias (10 times more abundant than I’ve ever seen), fusiliers, rainbow runners, surgeon fish, long and short fin bannerfish, sweet lips, , bumphead parrots, a few napoleon wrasse, red-tooth trigger fish, blue-stripe barracuda, black-banded angelfish and lots more. We dove several sea mounts, sometimes with strong currents and people got separated. No real strong up or down currents tho.

Critters, not as much as the Komodo area but still lots, for example: ornate and robust ghost pipefish, blue ribbon eels, Saron shrimp, mantis shrimp, bobtail squid, a few pygmy sea horses, blue ring octopus, orangutan crabs, soft coral crabs, … And there’s lots of healthy corals, both hard and soft.

The Ciska is a 73 foot comfortable and seaworthy boat with a good crew that is based out of Makasar, Sulawesi. We were crowding 12 divers on it, but the price was exceptionally good. Each of us had a small bunk bed with little storage space in the 4 rooms available (one room with 6 single beds) Two toilets at the rear served all of us plus the 9 crew (no hot water). So this was not luxury diving by any means nor was it billed as such (Id been on the boat before). The owner is Belgian so he has a well trained chef, so the food was generally pretty good, with three large meals/day. But for the price and where we were, I'd do it again without hesitation. But it's definitely not the boat for many accustomed to more space and luxury. They had one tender boat and a well-trained crewman who picked us up. Most dives were done from the tender, tho several off the Ciska itself. No nitrox available.

We started from Ternate, the capital of Halmahera. Note that this was one of the major centers of the spice trading in the 15th and 16th centuries. Our course took us south from there to the Goraichi islands, Patinti Straits and around Bacan and some nearby islands. Topside scenery here is breathtaking: most of the many islands are sparsely inhabited and the mountainous landscape is covered with virgin rain forest, with a few scattered palm tree plantations. Lots of exotic bird life flying about, including cockatoos, sea eagles, horn bills, a number of species of parrots and related birds. There are birds of paradise on two of the islands that are supposedly easy to see, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time on our short trip. Volcanoes, most of the classical conic shape, are abundant. Just south of Ternate, we could see 4 volcanic islands in a row, the furthest two being perfectly conical (one is pictured on the 1,000 Rupiah note in Indonesia),with the last two having been such, but eons ago having blown their tops.

Usually we did 4 dives/day including night dives every night. We only had 4.5 days diving for us due to airline problems getting there and leaving. BTW, Graham’s partner Dwi did an excellent job rebooking everyone’s ticket as two airlines had cancelled all of our flights out of Ternate -- we all managed to get off on schedule. Graham did lots of scouting to find good dive spots tho often the charts were not so good. He’s truly one of the best critter spotters around and worked very hard to find good spots with little info to go on. Having dove with him at Wakatobi, with Kararu, and in Bali, I knew if anyone could find us good diving, he’d be the one.

Lots of live-aboard operators in the area are VERY interested in the diving here, as the location between Raja Ampat and Manado (Lembeh Straits and Bunaken) is both logistically viable and opens up new diving opportunities. So expect this to show up on some live-aboards’ schedules in the near future.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Most major places in Pacific and Caribbean, and many places in Indonesia (including Komodo, Alor, Banda, Bunaken, Raja Ampat, Bali)
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy, dry Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 81-83°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-100 Ft/ 12-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Be sensible and usually diving less than 70 minutes (to meet boat schedule)
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
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 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments A couple small rinse tanks. Tho there were about 9 UW photogs, most had small digital setups, so room not a big problem for us.
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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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