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Dive Review of Papua Explorers in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Papua Explorers: "Papua Explorers- Raja Ampat", Dec, 2014,

by Ashley Alward, AZ, US ( 1 report with 1 Helpful vote). Report 8605 has 1 Helpful vote.

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 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Location: If you are reading this, you know about Raja Ampat. So I won't go into too much detail about the life-altering diving to be had. It is absolutely true, your diving career will be divided into two phases: Diving before Raja Ampat, and Diving after Raja Ampat. The marine biodiversity is stunning. Most of the diving in Raja Ampat is via liveaboard, but my dive buddy is the motion-sick type and we prefer land-based trips. Papua Explorers was ideally situated. The location of Papua Explorers puts it in the center of the Dampier Straight. PapEx is on Gam, but has excellent and quick boat acess to many of the Raja Ampat Classic Dive Sites (Cape Kri, Sardines, Manta Sandy, Arborek, Mioskon, Blue Magic etc). The resort also offers day trips- The Passage, Batanta (P-47 wreck), Penemu (Melissa's Garden) and Fam (Mushroom Islands).

Getting there: it is a long trip. We flew LAX-Tokyo-Jakarta-Sorong. The Jakarta-Sorong leg was on Express Air, which we chose since it is a direct flight (no layover). When we do it over again, we will probably choose Garuda (easier to book, increased luggage allowance for SCUBA gear). It is pretty easy to get a nice day room in Jakarta... but a bit harrowing to get there via taxi! We were met at the Sorong airport, collected luggage, taken to a hotel for a bit of breakfast then boarded the boat for 2hr ride to PapEx. A great time to nap or get to know your fellow travelers.

Packing: 20kg weight limit per checked bag. Fortunately we did not get our carry-ons weighed as we carried all our camera gear in ThinkTank bags... and definitely exceded 10kg/bag. Leave your shoes at home. We pretty much went the entire 2 weeks without shoes. One pair of hikers/keens for the flight and occasional hike +/- flip-flops is all you need (beware that the village dog might steal your flip-flops so be careful of where you leave them!). Umbrellas are provided by the resort. Laundry service is provided (but a bit slow... maybe it was because we were there over the Holidays).

Staff: I can't say enough great things about the staff. Many don't speak English, but have a ready smile and a lot can be conveyed with gestures. They are friendly and love music, we really ejoyed some of the impromptu jam sessions!

Schedule: Breakast. 2 tank am dive. Lunch. 1 tank pm dive. Evening / Night Dive available most nights (sometimes before, sometimes after dinner).

Food: The crew at PapEx did a great job of accomodating my gluten-free dietary needs. Meals were buffet style, served in the common area (a gorgeous, overwater, open-window rotunda). Breakfast was rolls / pastries (not GF), made-to-order eggs, cereal and fresh fruit. I brought my own GF oats since I never leave home without them. Lunch and dinner were a variety of curries, chicken, fish, veggies, etc... always delicious. You will never go hungry. Beer, wine and sodas are on the honor system- you keep a tally of what you took on the cooler and pay at the end of the trip.

Accomodations: The bungalows are gorgeous and comfortable. Each one is over water, and I got great joy in getting up early each morning to watch the baby black tips or baby barracuda cruise by just below my feet. Or too see if the baby spotted eel was in his favorite hole. If the tides are high enough, snorkeling off the bungalows can be fantastic (we saw walking sharks in about 4ft of water). We had some issues with the hot water the first couple of days, but I think they had it sorted out by day 4, and we had plenty of hot water for the remainder of our stay. The staff will tidy the room while the guests are out during morning dives, then provide turn-down service during dinner (they let down the mosquito nets and spray the room to make sure it stays bug free). I am horribly sensitive to mosquito bites, and did not get eaten alive at PapEx- they do a great job of keeping the mosquito population down. There is not AC in the rooms, which is a draw-back to people that can't sleep if they are hot. PapEx is basically on the Equator, so it is warm and humid. Ceiling fans, bedside fans and windows allow for good air circulation. The shore side of the bungalow is about 20 feet from the jungle, so expect a lot of morning bird activity (which I love, but I did hear guest complaints about the noisy birds at 6am).

Internet- the bungalows closest to the jetty may get wifi, but the further ones do not. Just plan on using your computer in the common areas and not in your room. We had the satellite dish break during our stay, and it took several days to get the parts in to repair it, thus had no internet for a few days. Even when we did have internet, it was slow and spotty. Not a big deal, as we were diving and enjoying paradise, but if you are a person that must always be connected, then Raja Ampat may not be the place for you!

Dive Gear: At the end of the jetty is a storage room for dive gear. Each guest is assigned a milk crate for personal gear (mask, fins, snorkel, weights, etc). Wetsuits (and BCD/regs if space) are hung in the storage room as well, which is locked at night. The crew will put your tanks and BCD/reg on the boat, but you are responsible for the personal gear and weight check. Nitrox and air are available. Mostly 80cf and a few 100cf tanks. I don't remember seeing any 63s. There are two large rinse tanks on the jetty, one for BCD/wetsuits, the other for computers / cameras and regs. I can't comment on rental gear, as we took our own. My dive buddy had new fins that (unfortunately) he hadn't tried before the trip and he hated them. Tunc (one of the resort's owners) lent a pair of his own fins for use during the trip at no charge- Tunc is a great guy!

Dive Briefings / Dive Guides: Were excellent. Current direction and strength was checked at each site before the divers entered the water. The guides would draw a map of the dive site and give a thorough briefing (depth, current direction and strength, major land-marks, what to look for, etc). Guides were fantastic at finding those tiny seahorses (Pontohi, Denise's, Bargibanti)! Unlike other places in Indonesia, the PapEx guides generally did not move or position the critters for the photographers (one of my pet peeves is critter harassment, so I appreciated that the guides were respectful to the subjects). In general, when the first diver started to get low on air, all of the divers would come up together next to the guide's SMB for easier boat pick-up. Most boat dives were in the 60min range.

Boat diving: At the time we were there, the resort had 4 boats. Two were larger (could accomodate 10-12 divers), and the other two were 6-8 divers. The two smaller boats were not the fastest, but were reasonably well maintained and had a canopy to keep (some of) the rain out. Do not expect dry storage on the smaller boats. Boat rides to the dive sites were typically in the 15-30min range. Guests were divided into 3-4 groups (depending upon number of guests) based upon their party size and experience. The dive ops manager tries to put the experienced divers and serious photographers together if possible. Then they try to rotate the groups through the dive sites so there is minimal repetition (unless requested). Raja Ampat is a popular dive destination, and several liveaboards were cruising the area Dec/Jan, so we didn't get many of the "classic" sites to ourselves. The captains tried to spread the groups out or the divers were polled to see if we wanted a different dive site if the one we were planning on was congested. Many of the dives were in moderate to heavy current with negative entries. These sites are not good for inexperienced divers or people who tend to have problems with equalization. Visibility was variable, but usually in the 60-80ft range. Unfortunately we had poor visibility / poor lighting at Manta Sandy, which was a fantastic dive at a manta cleaning station. The show was phenomenal though!

There are optional all-day excursions / dive trips. We went to the Passage (included in basic resort package), Batanta (extra) and Penemu (twice!, extra)- and heard that we missed out on an amazing trip to Fam. The day trips were fantastic! The Passage is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. We joined in the village parade at Batanta (between Christmas and New Year's) and had a blast. The P-47 is a gorgeous, laregly intact plane wreck (upside down). The Batanta trip is coupled with a jungle hike (I personally would prefer more dives, but the hike was excellent). The dives at Penemu had stunning coral growth, and the small hike during the lunch break was well worth it for the amazing view.

Jetty Diving: PapEx doesn't have a "shore dive", but you can dive off and under the jetty if the currents are favorable. Directly under the jetty is a critter-hunter's dream. We had harelquin shrimp, mandarin fish (at least 4 pairs!), blue-ringed octopus seen during our stay, but I missed it :(, pygmy cuttlefish, baby frogfish, skeleton shrimp, walking sharks... I could go on and on. Suffice to say that it is worth diving over and over again! We spent hours in front of the resort dusk diving, night diving and fluorescent diving. The only down side to the jetty dives are that a) they are current dependent, and b) they are usually on air rather than nitrox. The resort also requires that a dive guide be with you during the jetty dives (probably to make sure they don't have to rescue divers that got carried away by not paying attention to the current). The guides are great critter spotters and we enjoyed diving with them. The jetty dives are limited by air consumption and No-Deco limits (we had several that were over 90min).

Another great thing about PapEx is that they employ almost all local guides and labor. The resort is (mostly) built in traditional Papuan stye (with Western upgrades), using local resources and labor. The owners of Papua Explorers put their money where their mouth is, and give back to the local economy. We saw this in action, not just in words while we were there, and really appreciate what we saw.

All in all I would highly recommend Papua Explorers as a fantastic land-based dive resort in Raja Ampat. It is not for divers that are inexperienced with current / negative entries, or people that must stay connected and need AC. We will be back.
Websites Papua Explorers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Roatan, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Hawaii, Florida
Closest Airport Sorong Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 80-83°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Diving is in current, so SMBs are mandatory. Bottom times determined by air consumption, and you are encouraged to stay with guide on boat dives (they spot all the great stuff anyway!). The resort requests that a guide be present on the jetty dives, and jetty might be closed if current is too strong
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Amazing location for both wide angle and macro photograpy. Every dive has options from nudibranchs to sharks... so the hardest decision is which lens to bring. Most of the dive boats are smaller and not set up with rinse tanks. Use the soft-sided coolers or a milk-crate / wet towel and you are set. For the most part, distance to the dive sites is very short, and there is a nice dedicated camera / computer rinse tank on the jetty right when you get off the boat. Guides are respectful of equipment and often willing and eager to model for you. Camera room on the jetty is very nice but we didn't use it (we prefer to store and charge in our rooms- personal preference).
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Subscriber's Comments

By carl berensonin WA, US at Nov 13, 2015 15:00 EST  
you are from arizona and are used to the heat.
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