Dive Destination Confusion

Burt Jones & Maurine ShimlockThis is an actual sequence of events.  About a year and a half ago one of our long-time clients (let’s call him John Smith) contacted us about an upcoming trip. He asked several questions about the destination (how about “Mysterious Reef?”)  and said that he wanted to go some place “different” because he had been to the same location (why not “Pulau Kembali?”) for his past two trips.  I explained a bit about Mysterious, and a few days later he sent in a deposit and booked the trip.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year.  We’re on the liveaboard, enjoying sunset cocktails and rehashing the day’s dives. Everyone was pretty happy with what they had been seeing so far at Mysterious, but John Smith seemed glum.  I asked him if he was enjoying the trip.  He said, “It’s OK, but it’s nothing like Pulau Kembali.  There’s a lot of fish and the reefs are beautiful, but I’m not seeing many critters.”

I responded, “But I thought you wanted to experience something different like more fish and healthy reefs, and that you were tired of just critter diving.”

He said, “Yes, that’s true, but I thought Mysterious would be more like Kembali.”

As confused as I was (unfortunately I had heard statements like this many, many times before) I realized I was in a no-win situation with John Smith. He needed to start enjoying the “now” and stop comparing this trip to past adventures, which only get better with age. If I had a dollar for every time a client said “I want something different”, and then stood on the deck at the new place and said, “This is nothing like Fiji or the Solomons”, I’d be rich.  Of course, where you dived last month is nothing like where you’ll dive next year.  That’s why you wanted to go there, right? So, the question we, and our our divemaster, cruise director, liveaboard owner friends have for you, the larger community of traveling divers, is “what do you really want?”

If what you want are the exact reefs you love transported to another locale so you can say you’ve been there and dived that, we understand.  Just don’t expect it to happen the way you think it should. Reefs are living things, blessed with their own signature look and dominant species.  You won’t see school upon school of hammerheads, like the pride of Cocos Island, in Lembeh Straits. You won’t see Lembeh’s profusion of nudibranchs in Cozumel, and you won’t find Cozumel’s endlessly clear blue water off Mozambique.  If your agent didn’t oversell the trip, you’ll get what you asked for, baring inclement weather and obscure disasters.

I totally understand wanting to dive in different destinations.  We work mainly on tropical reefs in Indonesia, but we’re ready for a change, a trip to Cocos or Guadalupe Island for some big shark action.  Yet, we also know that every dive on the same reef will be different from the last time you dived it, even if it was yesterday.  That’s the beauty of it, right?  You’ll never be able see it all, and it changes every day, whether it’s your 10th or 10,000th dive.


Their recently published book Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat is the definitive guide to that area and is available thru Undercurrent’s Books.

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1 thought on “Dive Destination Confusion”

  1. Hi Maurine,
    Love the article, and sadly, it’s SO true! Thanks for always being honest and making me laugh with your witty articles!
    Now, I want to go to Pulau Kembali in Komodo and Pulau Baru in Cenderwashi 🙂

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