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Dive Review of Grand Komodo -- Raja Ampat Explorer in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Grand Komodo -- Raja Ampat Explorer, May, 2010,

by Mel Cundiff, CO, US ( 1 report). Report 5660.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Most of the best coral reefs in the world.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 85 to 89 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 15 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 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 [None]

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 MV Raja Ampat Explorer, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
May - June, 2010



On May 24, 2010, nine of us who have shared multiple diving trips to the western Pacific embarked on a twelve-day trip to Raja Ampat aboard the flagship of the Grand Komodo Fleet, the MV Raja Ampat Explorer, (www.komodoalordive.com/aboutus.htm). Almost all of us have been diving in Raja Ampat previously and have been on three other Komodo boats. This was the most comfortable of the lot, having a length of 109 feet, a beam of 24.4 feet and a crew of 11.

If there has been one stand out from our Komodo trips, it has been the boat crew, consisting
of only Indonesian natives with an infectious desire to make our trip as successful and comfortable
as possible. For instance, as we came back to our cabins after our night dives, there were glasses and ice awaiting us for a celebratory toast of Scotch before going to the mess for dinner. While only a few of the crew could speak English, we never had a communication problem! All aspects of our boat accommodations including food, diving and diversions were totally professional and attended to.
Reno Kirtya, the fleet owner, had graciously arranged to have Weka, our dive master, and Agi, our cook, on board for us. This was our fourth trip with these two, and four of the other crew members had been with us on at least one previous trip. I have bragged about the food on these boats for years and Agi is the best! Breakfasts were mostly American style, with lunches and dinners mostly Asian style with lots of fish, shrimp and chicken. There were always ample seconds, and there were creative between-dive snacks.

There were four standard dives a day, always including a night dive, and several of us got in
38 dives on the trip. We had three dive masters and all dives were done from two hard-bodied zodiacs. With only nine divers on a boat equipped for 14, we had a lot of room. The dives were only minutes from the mother ship, so the two zodiacs with three dive masters could easily handle a full boat of 14 divers. After a dive the crew stowed our gear, and with two dive deck showers we were clean and dry and seated in the mess hall quickly. Our rooms had en suite showers, but they were seldom used.

The camera table and rinse tanks were adequate, and forward on the main deck was ample room for battery charging with numerous 110 and 220 outlets. The monitor in the mess was used to view our video and still images, and there were DVD movies available. There was a good selection of ID books to identify the critters we were seeing.

Trying to describe the diversity of organisms in an eastern Indonesian marine environment to
a naïve diver is ludicrous at best. Even veteran divers to this area are constantly seeing new species
of fish they havent previously identified. The diversity of organisms is just plain overwhelming, thus providing reasons for divers to return. For instance, in some of the worst dive sites in Raja Ampat the species diversity can be 5-10 times greater than in the best of the dive sites in the Caribbean. I have outlined some of the prominent species of the area on previous write-ups and will refrain from repeating myself here. As I log my dives I highlight any species that I havent recognized seeing on previous trips, and there were 25 new species I saw on this trip, about half of which were nudibranchs. I saw many more than this these are just the ones I recognized as new at the time.


Among these there were two stand-outs. One was a 22-inch long, very dark-red hexabranch I saw on a night dive. There were a number of smaller ones of toned-down reds-to-earthen colors, but this was full bodied and robust. One guide book indicates that they have been seen to 20 inches long in the Red Sea, so this was obviously a world-class sized nudibranch. Secondly, I had heard about a walking octopus prior to this trip but had never seen one; but on a night dive, as if performing on a stage, with a red-to-brown, peanut-shaped body about 2 inches long, one came bipedaling towards me on two of its tentacles projecting downward a couple of inches toward the substrate with an upright stance like a person walking. The other tentacles were not visible. Before I could get anyones attention, it found a hole and quickly disappeared.

On what I thought was good authority, I had heard that the most diverse reefs were in the southern part, so we spent the first six days diving around Misool before heading where we had dived before in northern Raja Ampat. We all agreed that the northern islands had the greater diversity of organisms. However, one dive near Misool had about 8-10 different hues of some of the most beautiful broccoli corals I have seen anywhere Fiji included. Pygmy sea horses (multiple species), walking (Epaulette) and carpet (Wobbegong) sharks were seen on many of our dives, and the world-class giant clams were common in these northern islands. The very largest of these clams reached a length of 68 inches, and their robust central girth was almost circular in cross section. There were a half dozen others we saw that were 60 inches in length. These dimensions exceed those found in any guidebooks and using a few estimates (e.g., such as a 68-inch clam approximates a sphere of about 40 inches in diameter; CaCO3 having a density of 2.7; and the shell constituting about 1/4 of the total body weight of the clam) would bring the weight of these largest of clams to about 1730 lbs., significantly above that of the largest Colossal squid which weighed in at 1091 lbs. and is considered to be the largest invertebrate on record. I think there is a good chance that this record can be challenged.

While in the south, the toadstool-shaped islands like those of Palau were common there were
a couple that stood on a narrow, slender stalk of rock that supported the above-water islet from 40-50 feet down. One could swim around the narrow base and look upward at the umbrella-shaped island above with a diameter 3-4 times greater than its supporting rocky stalk.

Surely the most memorable dive to most of the members of our group was the second manta dive near Kree. We spent 60 minutes at 60 feet watching four mantas continuously circling two raised outcrops with lots of cleaners providing services for them. The wing spans ranged from 13-17 feet, and by the end of our session their passes were within touching distance of us. They were still there when we left. Instead of the typical angelfish cleaners, these cleaners were butterflyfish and wrasses.

Our bookings for these trips have been arranged by Nancy Gimblin of Great Destinations out of Sacramento (www.skindiver.com/). She has traveled and dived extensively in Indonesia since 1967, long before it became a popular dive destination.

Mel Cundiff Broomfield, CO 8/04/2010
Cundiff@Colorado.EDU
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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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