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

Grand Komodo Tours/Raja Ampat Explorer, Jul, 2008,

by Fred Turoff, PA, USA (Top Contributor Top Contributor 30 reports with 13 Helpful votes). Report 4415.

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 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The Raja Ampat area has so much to see. This was my second trip there, this time on a liveaboard, the “Raja Ampat Explorer,” run by Grand Komodo Tours. GKT runs excellent trips at a lower cost than other liveaboards I’ve investigated, and even goes out if the passenger number is low. We had 10 in our group, with 12 crew. This trip was led by Larry McKenna, the founder of “Save Our Leatherbacks Organization.” Since it was a research trip, it is tax-deductible, according to Larry. As the boat wasn’t full, several of us had single accommodations, which was an unexpected treat. Meals were varied and plentiful, with several entrees offered along with nicely done vegetable dishes. Snacks were available at any time. Our day went: light food, dive, breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, rest, night dive, dinner. Whenever a meal had a spicy dish, which I avoid, there was a non-spicy dish as well. Soups were especially good and offered daily. Freshly made tropical juices pleased my palate.

Flight schedules that were changed altered our planned early departure from Sorong, so we missed some planned dives at the beginning of the trip. The next morning, our first two dives, near Mois Su to see some WW2 wreckage, had the poorest visibility of the trip, so wide-angle photography was severely limited. Warm water all week helped me enjoy the dives, as I get cold easily, being thin. However, I prefer seeing reefs to wrecks, so these two dives were not as interesting, although we had a schools of both bumphead parrotfish and barracuda swim by. That evening we went to observe a female leatherback digging a nest and laying eggs at night on the largest (18km) nesting beach known. Thanks to villagers Larry has hired to care for turtles rather than hunt them, nests are marked and watched over while turtles are observed and defended. After waiting a good while on the beach (covered with clothing and insect repellent to ward off voracious no-see-ums) we were alerted to a turtle that had come ashore over a km away, so we walked to find it digging its nest. It was wearing a tracking device that had worn grooves and abrasions in its soft shell. The villagers cut it off to provide relief for the turtle and said they’d return it to its owner. Watching this huge turtle (maybe 1000 pounds) dig and lay was fascinating and lasted well over an hour. Once finished, she headed for the water again and nearly stepped on a hatchling heading to the sea also – my dive buddy picked it up, saving it from being squashed. We saw other hatchlings and made sure they made it to the water. The next morning we returned to the beach where villagers were excavating a nest that was hatching to help the babies get to the water. All of us got to help hatchlings, and we learned that many eggs don’t hatch and some babies don’t make it to the surface. Then we headed west for more diving, but current slowed our transit so we missed more planned dives that day.

The next morning we were by Kri Island, where Sorido Bay and Kri resorts are (I had stayed at Sorido two years prior). The diving here was superb, with excellent visibility and numerous fish and critters. We found three species of pygmy seahorse and numerous other critters. Although later dives had variety, I feel this area had the most. One dive at Chicken Reef had such abundant fish life, my buddy and I just stopped in the water, grinning, to watch the parade. Our travels also took us to Gam, Kawe, Wayad, Urani, Waigeo and Fam Islands, and we did night dives at both reefs and under village jetties. A visit to a pearl farm gave us insight into that industry. Diving eight days, I did six days of four dives per day, including a night dive, sandwiched between a first and last day of only two dives per day.

So much underwater life in warm, generally clear water! We saw: many pygmy seahorses; octopi, squid and cuttlefish (bodies from 1cm to 30cm); countless nudibranchs, flatworms, shrimp and crabs; wobbegon, epaulette and other sharks (I found a cooperative juvenile epaulette on a night dive and photographed another which, unknown to me at the time, had a shrimp perched on its head); schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda, sweetlips and striped grunts; tridachna clams 2-130cm; healthy coral everywhere. I observed and photographed a close encounter between a xeno crab and a shrimp on a rope coral, where the crab climbed slowly toward the shrimp, which began backing up when the crab was maybe 2cm away.

In between dives, we enjoyed the island scenery, sunrises and sunsets, plus visited some islands to meet the people. A trip around the rock islands in the Wayad Island area made me think about geologic times past when that area must have been underwater and the islands were coral mounds. It was reminiscent of a trip around Belau.

The entire crew, captain and cook included, helped us divers in and out of the dive boats and kept all aspects of the boat running smoothly. Passenger dive gear problems were carefully fixed when possible. My criticisms are few – more camera space would be needed if everyone had a large rig – I reserved a space early for mine, and two leaky bathroom sinks needed shore items for repair.

I stayed in Bali two full days after the trip, which I would recommend to anyone making this journey. My buddy and I visited a wood-carving business, an elephant park, the Nangnang waterfall and toured the countryside to see how the people lived outside of Denpasar. On a previous visit I saw other things to make me appreciate Bali and the US. Indonesia, and Raja Ampat in particular, are destinations all serious divers should visit. I’m ready to go back.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving USVI, BVI, Saba, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Sea of Cortez, Costa Rica, Coco Island, Revillagigedos, Red Sea, Micronesia, Sipadan, PNG, Galapagos, Komodo, Lembeh Strait
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, surge, currents
Water Temp 83-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 20-100 Ft/ 6-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 40m depth limit
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 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 Battery-charging facilities were adequate. If all divers had big photo rigs, more table space would be needed. Photo table in dive-prep area served as tool bench also, but space occupied wasn't needed as we had indoor dry areas (tables and storage) for cameras. Dedicated rinse tanks for cameras were provided. Dive guides found plenty of subjects 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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