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Dive Review of Tambora in
Indonesia/Borneo

Tambora, Jul, 2010,

by Richard J. Troberman, WA, US (Contributor Contributor 12 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 5640.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving North Sulawesi, Bali-Komodo, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Galapagos, Australia, Belize, Cayman Islands, St. Vincent, Grand Turk, Bahamas, Hawaii.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas choppy
Water Temp 84 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Follow dive computer; bottom time of 60 minutes, but not strictly enforced.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Separate large rinse tank for cameras only (water changed regularly). The crew carried the cameras to the skiffs, and handed them to the divers once in the water. Camera room with power outlets for charging components.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 2 stars
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments For several months prior to this trip I had been watching for a reader report on Borneo or on the Tambora, but never saw anything on either. Now I think I know why. Despite (or maybe because of) my high expectations, the diving in Borneo, at least on the east coast (East Kalimantan and Celebes Sea), was extremely disappointing. The reefs along the entire east coast have been totally destroyed by dynamite fishing. Although I had heard about dynamite fishing in the area, I had no idea how widespread and destructive it is. I went on this trip for the big stuff, but all we saw, for the most part, was small stuff. Even the large numbers of Mantas that are reported to frequent Sangalaki were absent (we saw only 4 or 5). We also saw only a handful of sharks (white-tips, black-tips, grey reef sharks), and a few tuna and giant trevally. The barracudas were still present in large numbers at Big Fish Country and Barracuda Point, but that was one of the few bright spots. When the reefs are destroyed, as these were, there is no reason for the hunting fish to hang around.

We began our 11 day trip by meeting the Tambora in Tarakan (a one hour flight from Balikpapan). From there we traveled down the east coast of Borneo, including Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban, Maratua, and Mataha Islands. We then crossed the Makassar Strait for some exploratory diving along the west coast of central Sulawesi before ending the trip in Palu, Sulawesi. The reefs on the Sulawesi side are in even worse shape than those in Borneo! Most of the Tambora trips to Borneo begin and end in Tarakan, but this trip ended in Palu in preparation for moving the boat to Bali for dry dock.

The Tambora is a new wooden Indonesian style boat, in its second year of operation. While it holds up to 16 divers, we had only 6 on this trip. Tambora claims to have been built by divers for divers, but it has some odd features. For example, all of the wetsuits are hung in an interior dive staging area, where there is no ventilation and no opportunity for the suits to dry between dives or even overnight. The Tambora is well equipped for cameras, with a large separate rinse tank, which was cleaned often, and a separate charging room. Diving is done from two inflatable tenders. Back-roll entry, and a swim ladder for exiting. We generally did four dives a day, including a night dive, although on two days there were only three dives due to moving the boat. A total of 36 dives were offered during the nine and one-half diving days. Nitrox blend of 32% consistent on every tank. The crew was eager to help in any way possible, and the dive guides were good at finding stuff. The food could best be described as average. We encountered heavy unseasonable rain, and all of the cabins leaked. The owner of the Tambora (who lives on the boat) says that this problem will be resolved during the upcoming dry dock.

One highlight was a night land excursion on Sangalaki Island to see nesting sea turtles, and the release of hatchlings. The Sangalaki Lodge has been closed for several years, but the turtle conservation program sponsored by the WWF and other non-governmental agencies is still running. Another highlight was a snorkeling trip to a saltwater lake on Kakaban, home to four types of non-stinging jellyfish, which is very similar to Jellyfish Lake in Palau.

If I had known beforehand what I know now, I would not have done this trip. There were a few nice walls and some good current dives, as well as a few good muck dives. But the widespread destruction of the reefs really put a damper on this trip. I could not in good conscience recommend this itinerary to anyone, unless they were doing a documentary on the evils of dynamite fishing. Save your money and go someplace else.
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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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