Was doing a Live-aboard on the Mangguanna in Komodo National Park worth It?

Interesting question. Glad I asked myself. The diving varied between Spectacular – 5 Star – Best I’ve ever done – diving, and pretty medicore. Sometimes on the same dive.

I asked Denny (dive master extraordinare) why we didn’t do some of the seriously famous dives in Komodo National Park (3 sisters, Cannibal Rock, etc.) – instead of hanging just in the more northern part of the park where the water is warmer, but the visibility very constricted by Indonesian standards. Our last dive was a muck dive (Denny’s description during the briefing) and it had water so cloudy I couldn’t see the bottom when I back-rolled in off the tender – and it was just 12 meters (30 feet) below. Visiblity like this means it will be challenging to see the sharks and other larger fish that circle around the reef.

And this was the case on several of the dives – and absolutely true for all the dives on days 3 and 4.

Denny explained that the safety of the guests came first – and they weren’t sure we could handle the serious drift dives. Ok – I can appreciate that I might be of concern, and maybe the vegetarian who just did her 99th dive – but the rest of the group was highly experienced, and would have done them with ease. So I don’t buy that as a reason. I think the issue was that we had to stay close to Labaun Bajo to pick up the Aussies on day 3 – and thus couldn’t just take the boat further away from the home base. This is disappointing to say the least – and not what I and the rest of the group that originally had booked on Moana Crusing had expected, been told, or wanted to happen.

Because we were joined on day 3 by 2 new divers – I believe that the 2 morning dives of day 3 had to be done within speed boat distance of Labaun Bajo, and the afternoon and night dives of day 3 had to be done in easy to dive locations so that the dive master could check out the new comers. This basically cost us one precious day of diving. On day 4 we could only do 2 dives because most of us were flying the next day – and we were scheduled to see the Komodo Dragons – but since the Aussies were doing 4 dives – again the locations were compromised. Yes – I was annoyed.

So – let’s say 1 star for dive site planning, 3 stars for the diving – and 5 stars for criter viewing. I would have loved to do a proper drift dive – I’ve done several before and enjoyed them – and expected that this time – but it didn’t happen. 5 or 6 of the 15 dives we did were outstanding – but that’s just 1/3. I know you can do better.

Another issue – the rats. Ok – it’s a boat – rats happen. I’m not stupid, I’m not ignorant – I know this. But it doesn’t make me happy. But what was of greater concern was the attitude among the crew. When guests comment about the rats eating our toothpaste, leaving droppings everywhere, climbing on our legs while we sleep – we don’t expect a shrug. Even if you can’t really DO anything – pretend to do something.

And this wasn’t just noticed on day 3 or 4 – On day 1 I spotted rat droppings on top of the cupboard in my room – pointed them out to the ‘chef’ – who did arrange to get them swept up. But clearly didn’t even try to arrange for some rat poisoin – and at that point we were close enough to Labaun Bajo to send a tender back. It’s ignoring the issue that makes it a problem.

Food – I commented in an earlier blog that the food varied considerably. I give the ‘chef’ points for trying hard – and there were some serious highlights – Those banana pancakes – perfect. And his smoothies were yummy. But there was a frustrating lack of variety, and nothing really new. Hey – how about some Snake Fruit or Mangosteens? Tempt us – tease us – challenge us. Don’t bore us!

Cabins – except for the rats – were great. My bed was extremely comfortable – plenty of head room even for an upper bunk. I would have liked a shelf in the cupboard – but that’s being fussy. And while the toilet arrangement wasn’t 5 star – it worked great.

Comfort – there were 3 chaises for 6 to 8 divers. So we constantly were fighting, or trying not to fight about who got the chaises. The bean bags were extremely comfortable – but had holes so the little white styrofoam beads keep falling out all over the deck. We complained, we asked for duct tape – we got told ok – and no duct tape EVER showed up.

Library – 3 fish books – NO reef animal book. So it was a good thing that Denny had his personal copy.

Amenities – no decks of cards, no dominos, nothing. No attempt to show videos, no photography station, no where to even plug in rechargeables if you didn’t bring your own converters.

So – would I go back to the Mangguanna? No.

Would I dive with. Komodo Diving? No

Would I dive again in Komodo National Park – Yes. Absolutely. Tomorrow if time, space on board a better boat, and money allowed.

So – bought the T-shirt – have extremely fond memories!

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Why Travel Makes Me Nervous

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – and despite my nervous nelly concerns – here I am on another airplane.

This time I’m heading for Labuan Bajo – the sailing off point for trips to the Komodo National Park. I’m hoping that all will go well, that the folks from Komodo diving (long story – but not the folks I reserved with) will meet me at the airport as planned, that the weather will be great, the boat lovely, the diving spectacular. Sigh – so many things can go wrong of course.

But here’s what seems to be bothering me about travel – particularly travel by myself by airplane. I don’t get nearly as worked up about car trips – but then one can always abort those trips.

So – what can go wrong – you can have problems deciding what to pack, you can discover when you arrive that you didn’t pack the right things, you can have issues at security, you can have problems with your ticket, the flight can be delayed or canceled, you can get lost getting to the airport, you can arrive too late to check in, your luggage can get delayed/never arrive, your window seat can be ‘window-less’, there can be no food on the flight, the bathrooms on the plane might not be working, or you can be refused at immigration (this I have to say has only happened to me once – and they didn’t refuse me – they just made me find my Yellow Fever card in South Africa). To Continue – the people you intend to meet at your destination might not be there, might be delayed, might not recognize you. You can run out of money, not have the right money for your destination (I once arrived in one country – with only the currency of another – really hard to get a cup of coffee. This used to happen really often in Europe before the Euro – I’m all for the Euro.)

Such a complex puzzle – and so many things that can go wrong. No wonder I get nervous. I’m kinda surprised I continue to travel.

But here I am – on my own – flying on Garuda Indonesia Airlines – headed for a place who’s name I can not pronouce, being met (hopefully) by people I don’t know.

Man – sometimes I even surprise myself.

Ok – my diving trip plans – and what can go wrong, will go wrong – just rarely as expected!

Once I’d agreed to come to Bali (awesome decision BTW), and started to do research on my destination – it became clear that a live-aboard dive boat in Komodo National Park was going to be a fabulous option. Not only do I get to do almost unlimited scuba diving for 5 days – I get to see the Dragons!

I cleared that change of plans with my hosts – The Lady in Pink and her hubby – and started doing research. There are probably 50 well known dive boats that cruise the Komodo National Park area – so the first step was to eliminate options. I wasn’t interested in a long trip – many boats are 10 days – too long to be away from my hosts. I wasn’t up for a fabulously expensive operation either – no matter how good – I’m just not that into spending that kind of cash. I didn’t like the idea of having to take a speed boat for an hour or so to get the the dive boat – so I wanted a trip that started from a dock near an airport. And they had to have space available during the time period I was going to be in Bali.

Only one group met all that criteria – Moana Crusing. So started a long involved email chain with the owner Stefan – confirming availablity, arranging 100% pre-payment, determining that I needed re-certification to meet the newer Padi requirements for dives within the last 2 years, conversations about the food, about the services I’d need – like airport pickup, and help with my tanks. (I can’t actually lift scuba tanks – and I also can’t walk with them on my back – surgery in 1984 precludes me from doing these things.) All done, all arranged, all paid for. Done. I’m due to depart from Montreal on March 9th – and my dive trip starts on March 14 – All very cool.

5 days ago (on March 9th) I get an email from Stefan – the owner of Moana Crusing – their boat is stuck in Bira due to ‘weather’ and a problem with the authorties. It isn’t looking good – but he’s working on it. March 10th – another email from Stefan – their dive master and chef are going to get on board another boat – from another supplier – but don’t worry – everything is fine. March 11th – Niel – who I have never even hear mentioned – not once – writes to tell me that I’m going to be diving with Komodo Divers – one of the folks I’d nixed originally because they require you to take a speed boat for several hours from Labuan Bajo. And the boat I’m going to be on is the Mangguana. But don’t worry – they are taking care of any additional costs – and their dive master will be on the boat.

All my Research – all my detailed looking up – worthless. I’m now going on a boat I know nothing about, with a dive group I know nothing about, and this on the word of a guy I’ve never heard of.

Color me blonde – but this made me just a bit nervous. But as befits an experienced traveler – I’m ready to go with the flow…

AFTER I do a ton of google research of course. The good news – actually more people report diving with Komodo Crusing than with Moana Crusing, the Mangguana offers Nitrox, and there are ton of mostly positive reviews on Tripadvisior – generally about a different boat – but run by the same team. And the few references I can find to the Mangguana are actually really good.

So speed boat trip aside – I think I’m going to be ok. Of course I’ll only know when I arrive. But I do have my fingers crossed in a good way.

Signing off to go drink another cup of Delicous Balinese Coffee – The Soup Lady