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Dive Review of Grand Komodo Tours and Dives Ltd./NA in
Indonesia/Wakatobi, Flores Sea

Grand Komodo Tours and Dives Ltd./NA, Oct, 2006,

by Lee Thé, C, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports). Report 2173.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving California (Monterey Bay, Catalina Island), Hawaii (Maui, Big Island), Florida (West Palm Beach), Canada (Vancouver Island), Mexico (Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, Sea of Cortez), Indonesia (Bali, Nusa Penida, Komodo, Rinca, Sangeang, Flores Sea, Wakatobi Marine Park), Philippines (Puerto Galera), BVI, Caymans (C. Brac, Little Cayman), Bahamas (Exumas, New Providence)
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 80 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Depended on the dive site and current conditions; in strong current drift dives it was follow the leader; otherwise we could dive our own profile.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Ample for digital photographers, with a large carpeted dry table for cameras in the middle of the dive prep area & a camera rinse tank, plus 240V electrical outlets in every cabin (standard two-round-prong Euro-style plugs) as well as a power strip in the lounge area plus two 110V outlets from a large inverter. Also, the dingyman and the rest of the crew were very good about handing cameras down to divers in the water & taking them back from them into the dinghy & the main boat. Dives were not expressly photography-oriented, so I had to "shoot & scoot" to catch up with the group; however, Grand Komodo would be happy to accommodate photography-centric groups (ours was not), and one of the two divemasters was particularly good at finding hard-to-find camera subjects for me, such as pygmy seahorses and miniscule nudibranchs and crustaceans, while the other divemaster kept watch over the group in general. The TV in the lounge area has front-mounted RCA jacks so I was able to plug into it for both reviewing pics and for sharing images with the other divers and crewmembers. No film development provisions onboard, but film is obsolete anyway—right?

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Wakatobi is a great liveaboard destination for experienced, self-sufficient divers. We enjoyed mind-boggling species diversity of every sort, great walls, mostly flat seas (nobody barfed on the trip), not much current by Indonesian standards, reasonable viz, bathtub-warm water, a superior liveaboard crew/boat/company, tasty Indonesian food plus some American (eggs in the morning, fries at lunch), and bragging rights at our dive club once they see my pics. The trip was a bargain: $3,700 per diver from SFO, including roundtrip airfare to Bali/Flores/Timor, the 12-day liveaboard itself, all transfers and meals, five nights in Bali at 4-star resorts plus one night in Timor, and a driver and an SUV while in Bali. Compare that to Wakatobi Resort (which is way more posh, however). The boat travels most nights. Weather was mainly sunny, only clouding up at the very end.

Dive after dive I kept seeing new critters. Not a lot of big stuff (except for a herd of humongous Humphead Parrotfish on one dive and mantas some other divers saw on another), but huge varieties of nudibranchs, crinoids, soft corals, hard corals, sponges, sea fans, hydroids, tunicates, crustaceans, echinoderms, holothurians, turtles, sea snakes, fish (blue ribbon eel, seagrass pipefish, pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpionfish, clouds of anthias and butterlyfish, angels and batfish and lionfish oh my…we came back from every dive dazzled. I recommend doing the Wakatobi trip as a run-up to Grand Komodo’s Komodo/Rinca trip, which features even amazing-er sea life, but also rollercoaster currents up to 10 kts. (literally) and temps as low as 71 degrees below thermoclines.

Everyone on the trip had at least hundreds of dives logged and knew how to take care of themselves. We love Grand Komodo Tours (www.komodoalordive.com/home.htm), and plan many more trips with them, but if you’re a newbie or really rusty and/or expecting to be mother-henned, go to Palm Paradise Resort at Tulamben in Bali. You’ll get easy, safe, shore-based diving, my favorite wreck (Tulamben’s Liberty Ship), and a good taste of what Indonesia has to offer as you build up your skills for Wakatobi, Komodo, and beyond.

Grand Komodo expects you to know what you’re doing. Its divemasters help you if you want help but they let you dive your own profile except in big current drift dives. As one of only two diver-photographers on the boat and with my spouse limited to snorkeling (recovering from a DVT), I surfaced alone on many of the 31 dives we did, and the dinghyman did a good job of picking me up. Be sure to bring a safety sausage, whistle, etc., and surface with 500psi. Don’t get greedy.

You’ll be rigging your own BC mostly. They fill the tanks in place (usually over 3,000PSI), so your tank stays with your BC. Most diving utilizes the dinghy. Occasionally we used the platform on the rear of the boat. Dive intros were good—critical in Indonesia’s currents—and Grand Komodo provided two divemasters for the eight passengers on the boat. Also, my wife was able to snorkel at 80% of the dive sites. Usually a crew member snorkeled with her. She was out of luck only at a few seamounts we dove. The trip centered on Wakatobi National Marine Park, but we also did our check dive and final dive at a little island near Maumere, and did some of our best dives at Batu Ata, a small isolated island in the middle of the Flores Sea. We dove all the major Wakatobi islands, which the Wakatobi Resort doesn’t do by the way.

The Putri Papua is one of the smaller boats in Grand Komodo’s five-boat fleet. But it was big enough to do the job. We never felt claustrophobic. Our cabin was reasonably roomy. All meals were served in a shaded, open-air lounge two floors above our cabin. The dive gear area was one deck lower, cabins below that. We did a lot of stair-climbing! The crew—an amicable mix of Moslem, Christian and Hindu Indonesians---was friendly and cross-trained and everyone understood us. On some boats only the divemaster(s) speak English. Not so here. It’s a happy, well-run boat. The crew serenaded us on our last night on board. We went ashore several times, once picking up a nice Wakatobi park ranger for a few days. He was eager to learn from us about critters and dive conditions.

Health note: My wife and I ate everything served--no precautions other than brushing our teeth with bottled water. Both of us got a few mild cases of the runs in the course of the trip, but never enough to require Ciprio or Immodium or interfere with our diving/snorkeling. I didn’t see a single mosquito on the whole trip (October is toward the end of the dry season), and only got one insect bite, of unknown origin. Liveaboards are certainly the way to go in the third world if you want to minimize your exposure to various tropical diseases. The nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Bali, so dive conservatively. Fortunately the Putri Papua provides long surface intervals—a necessity in these conditions, I believe.

Travel note: Pellita Air cancelled our flight to Maumere (where the boat is ported) as we were en route to Bali. So we flew to Kupang in Timor, stayed overnight there and got to Maumere the next morning, one day late. Grand Komodo handled all changes and shifted the liveaboard to one day later, preserving our full 12 days. Three lessons: (1) Always build some flex into third world travel schedules. (2) Use a dive operator like Grand Komodo who’ll cushion you from the vagaries of local travel. (3) Use Bali for your base in Indonesia. The Balinese economy is largely tourism-based; they know what to do, and they LOVE us being there. You couldn’t wish for a warmer welcome anywhere. We stayed mainly in Ubud, far from the tourist ghetto in Kuta, and felt totally safe, day and night, everywhere we went in eastern Indonesia.
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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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