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Dive Review of Kararu Dive Voyages/Cheng Ho in
Indonesia/Bima - Komodo

Kararu Dive Voyages/Cheng Ho, Aug, 2006,

by Liz Hanks, CA, USA ( 1 report). Report 3637.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was a Light&Motion videography trip organized by Dan Baldocchi and Michael Topolovac. The itinerary was really ideal: 11 nights from Bima to Komodo. We flew in and out of Bima and got to explore a lot of the Komodo area with minimal crossings and wasted time.

Dan and Michael were fantastic group leaders. We had video related lectures on several days, and critique sessions in the evenings. They also let us use their FX1 and D200 rigs when they were available and some of us are now spoiled for life.

The Cheng Ho is the newest addition to Kararu's fleet and is big beautiful wooden sail ship (although the sails only come out for photo ops). The cabins are quite large by liveaboard standards and get cleaned twice daily. Each has its own A/C unit with remote control. There is a ton of room on the boat for lounging around with a book or working on a tan. A few nice touches included an on board masseuse, laundry service, and nightly turn down service.

The daily routine was well thought out. It started at around 6:30am with a cold breakfast that included fresh fruit, juices, cereal, croissants, etc. The first dive was at 8am and was followed by a warm breakfast. The selections were from a fixed menu that included things like pancakes, eggs, noodles, and porridge. After the second dive at 11am, a lunch buffet was always ready. Then came the third dive at 3pm, with a sweet or savory snack afterwards.

Night dives were not to be missed on this trip. Luckily they were at 6:30pm, instead of after dinner, so you didn't have to worry about being too tired or hammered to participate. That left dinner at around 8pm, which worked out quite well.

The food was outstanding. Chef Steve had themes for every lunch and dinner, alternating between Eastern and Western cuisine. His creations were truly marvelous. Even the afternoon snacks and soups were delightful, and during the main meals, there were always several dishes to choose from. Dinner was served outside on the top deck when the weather cooperated. There was an honor system sheet for the adequate selection of wine, beer, and liquor.

The diving is done from two tenders that get boarded via wooden steps on the side of the ship. The steps were a little wobbly and some divers chose to have the crew load their tanks onto the tenders. Most divers geared up before boarding. By default, the crew also loads the photo/video gear into the assigned tenders. Everybody was diving Nitrox and fills were pretty consistent at 3000PSI and 32-33EAN.

Before many of the dives, a current check was done to see which site was the most diveable. The briefings were fairly detailed and included a hand-drawn map of the site. The divemasters (Gusti, Kerri, Hergen, and Sam) were all excellent. They took turns showing us the incredible critters in the area that would be otherwise impossible to spot. Hergen and Kerri were also the cruise directors. I can't imagine a better pair in charge of our enjoyment and well being. They were constantly making sure that everybody was happy, that any issues with cabins were quickly resolved, etc.

The sites fell into two broad categories: Muck (with spectacular critters) and current (with abundant fish life, colorful coral, and good visibility). We also had one amazing giant manta dive. On the critter side of things, we saw several types of pipefish, cuttlefish, lionfish, scorpionfish, frogfish, stonefish, octopi, eels, all kinds of nudibranchs, flat worms, crab, shrimp, and a few stargazers and pygmy seahorses. On the night dives, it seemed like there was an interesting critter every few inches. On the current dives, we saw schools of jacks, sweet lips, rainbow runners, sweepers, anthias, etc. Lots of white tip sharks on one of the dives, turtles on another, giant mantas on yet another dive. The coral was abundant, colorful, and healthy on many of the current dives.

In the middle of all the diving, we went ashore a few times in search of the cute and cuddly Komodo dragon. On Komodo island itself we only saw a baby one in a tree. On Rinca, on the other hand, we ran into at least a half a dozen grown-ups (a few at the ranger station; a few on the side of the hiking trail), as well as a water buffalo, monkeys, wild pigs, and deer.

While all of this was going on, Steve Fish, the boat's resident videographer, was busy shooting footage of us with his FX1. At the end of the trip, we watched what he had put together. He doesn't use any stock footage (and doesn't have to in this area since it's so rich with life). Most (if not all) of the divers bought his DVD. It was so much better than our own amateur footage :-).

Also at the end of the trip, we all got a print out with a list of all the islands and dive sites we visited, along with the dates. That made it easy to fill any gaps in the log books. The page also included all our e-mail addresses so we could stay in touch after the trip. Nice touch.

The crew took care of getting us to the airport, checking us in, paying for excess baggage fees (there's a limit to what they'll cover but we didn't exceed it by enough to matter), and making sure we got off to Bali safely. The Indonesian bureaucracy is gargantuan and the crew did everything they could to insulate us from it.

The only negatives I can think of were fairly minor: the noise level during the crossings (bring ear plugs; it's a wooden ship and it makes noise when it's motoring), and the lack of a light above the sink in the cabins.

I can't recommend this outfit enough. I'm definitely looking forward to my next trip with these guys!

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving PNG, Sulawesi/Indonesia, Palau, Fiji, Australia, Galapagos, Socorro, Seychelles, Hawaii, Little Cayman, Bonaire, Cozumel, Roatan, St. Lucia, Monterey/California, Florida.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 76-81°F / 24-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 20-100 Ft/ 6-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None. Solo diving allowed. Stay down as long as you like.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 2 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 On the dive deck there was ample "wet" room for stashing the housings with cabinet storage underneath (bring zip-loc bags to keep stuff dry). Inside the main salon and close to the dive deck, there was a large dry charging station area with both 110V and 120V power strips.

We had 10 divers and a ton of gear. It would've been crowded with a full load of 20 divers if everybody had photo/video gear. I gather they'll soon be adding extra space on the dive deck to accommodate more photographers.

After each dive, the crew gave each housing a dunk in a dedicated camera rinse tank.

There is also a superb media room with a large plasma TV for reviewing footage and a large selection of movies and books. There are also PCs with Photoshop installed in some cabins.
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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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