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Dive Review of Kararu/MV Voyager in
Indonesia/Alor, Banda Sea, Raja Ampat

Kararu/MV Voyager, Feb, 2006,

by Dave Van Rooy, Bali, Indonesia (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 2349 has 1 Helpful vote.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, incl much of Indonesia, Palau, Fiji, Solomona, Vanuatu, Sipadan, ...
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy, surge, currents, noCurrents
Water Temp 82 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 10 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive sensibly
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales 1 or 2
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 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 Voyager has a very roomy setup for UWP's with lots of storage and work space. Rinse tanks and special handling by crew and two large rinse tanks. Big battery recharge area.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was the maiden voyage of Kararu's (www.kararu.com) new boat, the MV Voyager, which replaces the Sea Safaris III. It's a 4 deck, 46 meter (~150 ft) long, 10 meter beam steel hulled Norwegian ferry, just recently converted by Kararu for diving. It's the sister ship of the Cehili, which used to dive the Banda Sea with Larry Smith in the early 90's. It has 4 decks and lots of room compared to most live-aboards. two engines, 4 generators, and a host of other equipment a bit rare at best on other Indonesian vessels, including satellite internet connection for email and 2 masseuses. Its 10 cabins have en suite bathrooms, tho we were only 14 divers. Quite spacious and different from the typical Indonesian Phinisi vessels. They have a large dive deck and camera storage and work area. Getting on/off tender boats could be a problem in rough seas.

For a shakedown cruise, I thought most things worked well tho the reverse osmosis water maker broke down, they had a few problems with the Nitrox blending, the tender boats need a bit of redesign on seating, and a few other minor problems. Food was generally pretty good tho sometimes portions were small and timing wasn't always very good -- they have since changed chefs. Overall I'd rate it a big improvement over the phinisi's both in terms of comfort and seaworthiness and safety. They have some kinks to work out yet tho.

This 14 night trip started in Maumere, Flores, then went to Alor, up through the Banda Sea to Gunung Api, Ambon, and Banda Neira, and on thru Misool Islands in Raja Ampat and ended in Sorong, where the boat will be based for the next few months. Because of covering such a large and diverse area, the diving was incredibly varied, from muck full of critters to rocky terrain full of sea snakes, to pristine walls covered in soft corals and gorgonians and loads of tropicals with occasional sharks (black tip), turtles, tuna and the like. The variety and selection in such a trip is hard to match.

Our diving in the Maumere area and Alor had lots of nice critters including clown frog fish, bobbit worm (1.5" diameter), a recently discovered rare blue lion fish, zebra crabs and coleman shrimp on fire urchin, several orange ringed pipe fish dancing together, and a host of others. The Biangebang spot in Alor is particularly rich in muck critters. Then off to Gunung Api diving with dozens of sea snakes, with many handling them and posing for pics.

We then went on to Ambon, being the first live-aboard back there since the troubles began years ago. We had a red carpet welcome including a feast and special dance put on by the new Maluku Dive Resort. Some great stuff at the harbor pier area, the first (?) muck spot (1994 on Cehili with Larry Smith, Burt Jones, Maureen Shimlock, ...). But it's a lot trashier now, and lots of old, noisy boats made it appear not so safe to dive. A couple of dives got aborted due to raging currents coming up. Moved on to a new site off Nusa Laut, east of Ambon. Almost all 14 of us rated this dive as one of the most beautiful dive spots we'd ever seen -- a beautiful wall opening to loads of bommies covered with dense brilliantly colored soft corals and fans in about 30' with so many schools of fish, we gave up counting. A passing leopard shark added to the excitement. Truly a wide angle extravaganza.

We moved on and dove Banda Neira area -- one of my favorite spots anywhere, and not just for diving -- for two full days, one extra due to a storm that came up. But everyone was quite happy to stay as the place is so incredibly interesting and full of history (it's the place Columbus was searching for in his journey to the new world, but it's almost totally forgotten by travelers now), and diving in the harbor is exceptional to say the least -- dozens of mandarin fish almost always out, and the prime attraction for us was watching a school (?) of squids (18" to 2') lay eggs at the same spot every few minutes. They'd come in pairs or larger groups and flash colors and poses, like some aliens, and the female would lay the egg in the branches of a tree while the larger male hovered overhead. Several of us were doing 5-6 dives/day watching the show, which included other attractions. Shore expeditions to the market and around the island and shopping for spices and pearls, along with touring the old Dutch and Portuguese forts added variety to the diving being offered.

After the weather settled down we moved on around Seram, missing Koon where we'd hoped to dive, but waters were still too rough. An exploratory dive near the eastern end didn't yield much so we moved on to Misool Islands in Raja Ampat area. This area is amazingly beautiful topside, at least rivaling Palau's rock islands. And it's rich in wide angle and macro critters, including Torizumi shrimp, wobegong sharks (two, each about 5'), great soft corals and sea fans.

We did a few land "expeditions" besides Banda Neira, including visiting one of the few villages still allowed to whale (using dugouts and old harpoons manually thrown), a couple villages in the Alor area, Ambon, and a tender-boat tour of the rock islands. These added to the richness of the whole experience.

All in all, a really exceptionally good trip on a welcome addition to the dive boats operating out here.
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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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