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Dive Review of Kararu/Cheng Ho in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Kararu/Cheng Ho, Nov, 2007,

by Linda Rutherford & Ron Welf, CA, USA (Contributor Contributor 17 reports with 6 Helpful votes). Report 3738.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Caymans, Hondoras, Bonaire, Belize, Yap, Palau, Truk, Cozumel, Taveuni, Matangi, Kandavu, Beqa Lagoon, Lembeh, Bunaken, Spidan, Wakatobi, Solomons, Gangga, Raja Ampat
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy Seas calm
Water Temp 81 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 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 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Crew treated cameras with great care.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments The Cheng Ho is an attractive wooden 160-foot schooner, leased as a result of problems with the Kararu Voyager. The Cheng Ho is stable and smooth on the seas. During this cruise, we were told the boat would operated at 6 knots, perhaps running this slow to conserve fuel.

Cabin #107 in the bow had a comfortable king bed. For being so far forward, we were surprised how quiet and calm the cabin was. Our shower and toilet were combined in one small space. We had no real hanging space, so we rigged an in-cabin clothesline to hang our shirts, swimsuits and towels. There was no light over the sink and mirror.

During this November 4-16 Sorong to Ambon cruise we had heavy clouds and several days with rain. The weather cast darkness over the reefs. The rain caused the boat to leak, but the crew worked quickly to deploy plastic sheeting over the camera area. They promptly applied the plastic to the cabins that had leaks and replaced the wet bedding.

Dives took place from aluminum tenders. Our group of twenty was divided into three groups each with a dive guide. Gusti, with twenty years experience in the area, was the lead dive guide. The boat provided trouble-free Nitrox. The water temperature was 82°-84°F and currents were mild.

On three days, only two dives were possible because of the boat schedule. When moving at approximately 6 knots, the boat took twenty hours for relocation from Misool to Koon. The two dives in Ambon were scheduled within 24 hours of our departing flight, so we did only one as a safety precaution. Often we did three dives in the same location during the day, so when the fourth was offered at night in the same location (Nusa Laut, for example), we were not inclined. We skipped all night dives. We did 29 dives, out of 36 possible dives in 12 days.

It was a great pleasure to have their ship videographer Steve Fish aboard. Steve loves his job and enjoys helping people. He helped us and several other people with camera problems. He is a great asset for the boat. Considering how dark it was underwater due to weather, his video of our trip was remarkably good and captured the highlights.

There were a variety of small and medium tropical fishes, generally under 18 inches, most under 10 inches and many under 6 inches. Lots of butterflyfish, groupers, angelfish, parrotfish and colorful wrasse, as well as schools of spadefish, pyramid butterfly, fusiliers, red-tooth trigger, bluestripe snapper, hornless unicorn, anthias and small glass fish. Other creatures were the palette surgeon, ornate ghost pipefish, clown trigger, bluestriped fangblenny, slingjaw wrasse, spotted and six-line soapfish, long-nose hawkfish, checkered snapper, pygmy seahorse, orangutan crabs and porcelain crabs.

We saw bumphead parrots, several humphead wrasse, a dozen dogtooth tuna, two schools of barracuda, midnight snapper, a couple of turtles, one large marbled ray, three mobula rays, and one gray shark sleeping deep in a crevice. No one on our trip saw the much-advertised wobbegong or epalette sharks.

Although a couple of dives were billed as muck, these dives did not have the shock & awe experience that we had in ten days of diving in Lembeh Straights or the muck or off Buton, Waketobi. If your prime interest is muck diving, Indonesia has better alternatives elsewhere.

If you wish to see virgin coral reefs swarming with schools of small colorful fishes, you will be highly satisfied. The sparse human population in this remote area has kept the coral in pristine condition. It was not unusual to see unbroken hard coral in a flowering rose-pattern as far as the eye could see. When the sun finally came out, there were many opportunities for spectacular wide-angle photography.

Overall, we found the trip to be relaxing and pleasant because of the fewer dives per day and the ample space aboard for lounging: the boat has 3 levels plus a roof-deck with lounge chairs. Try to get a deluxe cabin. Ours was ok, but we could not see much out our porthole that was above eye level. The only mosquitoes we encountered were on the trip to the bat cave and the sunset beach party with drinks hosted by the Kararu.

The food was good and there were many choices at every meal. The local crew was friendly. We were surprised to discover the local crew were good dancers, even able to keep up with our athletic trip leader Cindy LaRaie in three hours of dancing. Dive guide Kerri gave lessons in the Hustle. The few souls who were not into the dance music in the main salon had ample area aloft to retreat to the sound of the sea and breezes.

Employee Herg did a good job of handling our luggage. He checked in our baggage early and used the boat group rate to avoid the dreaded excess baggage charges.

The only negative was the flight out of Ambon, where we boarded with a hundred coughing religious pilgrims. It seemed dangerous to be in an enclosed airplane with so many sick people. We rested poolside in Bali for two days before continuing home. Including flight delays, the trip home from Bali to San Francisco was 26 hours. A day after we arrived home, our doctor recorded a 103.4 degree fever which took 4 days to tame. Well bring surgical masks if we have to take this inter-island flight again.

The cost of the trip with port fees, fuel surcharge, visa, park fees, inter-island flights, necessary layovers and Nitrox was $6,467 per person from San Francisco. Since the travel time is significant, we recommend adding ten days land-based diving near Lembeh. We spent a week at Gangga Island Resort, prior to this trip and were delighted with the diving and customer service. This add-on reduced our cost per day expense and was a welcome luxury, with personalized service.
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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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