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Dive Review of Ondina in
Indonesia/Komodo National Park

Ondina, Jul, 2011,

by DAVID SHEM-TOV, NA, United Kingdom (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 6229.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Cocos, Gallapagos, French Polynesia, Palau, Truk, Maldives, Red Sea, Mediterranean.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 21 to 27 Celsius Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 15 to 30 Meters

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No mandatory in-water decompression diving.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins 1 or Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 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 A covered area with dedicated water tanks, storage and setting up counter on the stern of the boat, behind the dive deck.

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

Accommodations 3 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 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Most American divers know the Ondina from the charters organised by Deb Fuggit of Texas. Although I have never met her, I am given to understand that her trips are run differently than the regular charters. You should research whether you find her protocol suitable before signing up. You could, however, join the Ondina's other charters as an individual or a small group. This is what my buddy and I did. It was our second time on this boat. Our first trip to Raja Ampat two years ago was interrupted by a diving accident, necessitating our early evacuation. Enrique Rubio, one of the partners, kindly invited us to return. We were only to pay our airfares, park fees and for onboard purchases. Naturally, we would not have accepted the invitation if we had any reservation about our safety.
We chose a 10 night trip to Komodo (Bima-Bima.) I had been to this area before, on Kararu's Sea Safari III. Like the Sea Safari, and Edi Frommenweiler's pioneering Pindito liveaboard, the Ondina is a traditional-style pinisi schooner. Built in 2002, it has eight double ensuite cabins. Emerging from dry-dock, the boat was fresh, with no malfunction noticeable to us. From a diver perspective, the Ondina's interior stern diver kitting up area is more comfortable than most similar boats, which normally have an open air bow dive-deck. There is an efficient membrane system for Nitrox. Diving is done off two skiffs with a second rotation used to split us into three groups. There are camera set up facilities. Nominally unlimited diving is offered. In practice, it was four on most days. The programme appears to have been largely developed by Enrique's partner Ricard Buxo, a Spanish diving journalist who has been based in Indonesia for many years.
One omission that has not yet been addressed is the absence of warm water in the cabin heads. The owners claim that the water in the cabins is piped around the engines and is actually luke-warm. Like most passengers, I preferred to take my hot water showers in one of the two units on the dive deck. This certainly saves on water consumption. While not a luxury liveaboard, the Ondina is certainly comfortable in all other respects. Our cabins were made up daily, sheets and towels changed every three days. The galley produced varied and tasty western and local meals and snacks after every dive. While not epicurean, they were certainly superior to anything I have been served on most liveaboards. Special requests were accommodated.
At one of the dive sites, a few of us were invited to visit the Arenui, anchored nearby. Cruise director Jerry showed us around. It was a beautiful boat, one of the nicest I have seen, with stunning cabins, indoor and outdoor areas. The waiters, smiling in their golden Balinese headscarves, were certainly more elegantly attired than these on the Ondina. That luxury comes at a price, about 50% extra.
Of the boat crew on our original charter, only Pak Udin, one of the two skiff drivers remained. This, apparently, is not uncommon in Indonesia. Boat wages are modest and staff turnover is high. I was disappointed to learn that the excellent cruise director Celso Barreiros and divemaster Whan left to return to the Mermaid. We needn't have worried. Their replacement Abraham, from Mexico, and Ella, from England proved equally worthy. It was their warmth and enthusiasm that made the experience on this boat so pleasant. Trained by Buxo, with this being their second season onboard, (they previously worked on liveaboards and land-based operations in Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico) they were experienced enough to lead us on great dives without displaying the jadedness that afflicts some of their colleagues.
It could not have been easy for them. The night before we departed the boat's local divemaster quit. They were left to deal with a full complement of passengers: fifteen divers, some with marginal skills and one non-diving companion. Beside us there were two groups, eight Italians and six Romanians. A flurry of phone calls failed to rustle a replacement at such short notice. Nevertheless, Ella and Abraham were both present on every one of the dives and even accompanying the non-certified passenger on a number of 'discovery dives'. Moreover, 'cultural' differences between the Italians and the Romanians meant that accommodating both groups was challenging. The Romanians, in particular, had poorly researched the destination and had come for high adrenaline big animal diving. They also liked to party hard and were content with just one or two dives a day, sometimes missing the occasional high adrenaline dives when they were offered. The Italians were resentful. Abraham and Ella with humour and generosity of spirit largely managed to still the discontented and quell any insurrections that threatened to erupt.
The dives were the regular Komodo mix: lots of Macro and muck diving (more than I wanted - we had to wait around Bima for missing luggage to join us), interspersed with some fishier dives. Our day at Manta Point, on the southern edge of the park was the best - with schools of enormous Barracuda, Trevelly and squid all fighting to distract us from the mantas. Almost as good were the dives at Castle Rock, where we used reef hooks to keep close to the patrolling grey sharks and hunting jacks. We stopped there for another day on the way back. On a couple of occasions Abraham sought out new dive sites. He says that so far, three of the sites he discovered in the last two years number among his twenty lifetime best.
Euro pricing and Spanish ownership (and marketing) mean the Ondina attracts a more internationally varied clientele than many boats operating here. With Abraham and Ella onboard, it offers good value for these seeking a rich diving experience and who are willing to forego some other frills.
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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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