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

Food aboard the Manguanna – Komodo Cruising – Komodo National Park

Scuba Diving is hungry work. I looked it up – and scuba diving for an hour burns 333 calories. 3 to 4 dives a day – you are talking twice my normal diet! So food is going to be important – divers want food now – and they want it plentiful – and of course they want it good.

How does the chef on the Manguanna deliver? Well – variable is the best answer.

The quantity is perfect – there are always left overs at every meal – even with 6 divers and 2 dive masters chomping in. And there’s more than just 3 meals – there’s a cooked snack after the mid day dive, plus food available in the common area fridge. So quantity – got that covered.

And there is certainly no question about the variety. We’ve eaten about 10 meals now – and there have been no repeats of the final dish. There are repeating ingredients however – banana shows up in about 1 of 4 meals, rice shows up in 3 out of 4 meals, and mystery meat appears in dishes almost all the time. There’s mystery beef, mystery chicken, and mystery fish, served grilled in the case of the fish – and in sauces in the case of the beef and chicken.

There is always something that looks like a vegetable – once it was an Inodesian dish of noodles and vegetables with peanut sauce (Yum), mostly it’s sliced tomatoes with seasoning – or sliced cucumbers with seasoning – or a mixure of both. My husband would be moaning about the overall quality – but I’m happy. It’s hot, well cooked, not overly salty (everyone but me adds salt), and the chef always makes a smoothie to go with lunch and dinner.

My favorite – last nights Pineapple smoothie. Delicous.

For desert – fruit. We’ve had watermelon, Passion fruit, Pineapple, etc. There’s a big box of Khong Guan Biscuits – the club price size – sitting out at all times if you need a munch. Plus loaves of bread, peanut butter – and a variety of Indonesian spreads (Brand is Morin) – Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, Pineapple Jam, Chocolate Peanut, Morin Kaya Spread (with a picture of a coconut on the label), and of course Nutello. The Sisters – being Swiss – are doing a number on the Nutello!

Breakfast is hit or miss. The first morning the chef blew me away with his banana pancakes – oh man were they good. Since then its been more American Dinner with a kick – Pancakes with Hot Dogs, Sunny side up eggs on top of Ramen Noodles, like that. I keep hoping that those banana pancakes will come back – but even if they don’t I’m ok. I had 2 of those!

What’s notably lacking is brewed coffee. So I’ve been coffee free for 2 days and have the caffeine withdrawal headaches to show for it. But it’s probably better for my diving in the long run – so I’m avoiding all caffinated beverages – its water, water and soda water. Plus those smoothies lets not forget.

So – bottom line on the food. A for punctual. A for quanitity. And a C+ for quality. But I’m a tough judge, and those pancakes were wonderful – Ok – give him a B for quality. You don’t have to be 5 star to impress me.

Signing off to go on dive #10! – The Soup Lady blowing bubbles your way….

Life on a Live-aboard in Komodo National Park, Indonesia

I would SO be voted off this island. Not that I’m either surprised or upset – mostly just wish things could be different. But it’s the risk you take traveling alone – no friend to cover your back!

But I’d be here again in a shot anyway – so I guess it’s not that bad an island.

Ok – The Mangguana is an Indonesian style live-aboard dive boat. That means there’s no dive platform – you dive off dingys that take you to the dive site, and then in theory the boat circles around for an hour waiting for someone to surface. Must be boring – and hot – and rather dull – but I guess the kids that do this make a living – and that makes it worth doing. The Mangguana itself has 4 ‘guest’ cabins – each of which has 2 bunk beds, a bathroom (sort of), a sink, and an all important Air Conditioner. You definitely need AC in this climate – that’s even with the breeze.

The bathroom has to be experienced to be believed – It consists of a shower and a toilet – no seperation. And only a shower curtain to separate the bathroom from the bedroom part. So you can sit on the toilet to shower – or just stand and shower. If you do either – use the towel to dry the seat – or you are going to be wet bummed for the day! On the good news front – the shower works fine, and they supply shampoo. So getting rid of the salt water – a natural result of doing an hour long scuba dive – isn’t a challenge.

There are 2 main areas of the boat that are for guest use – in the front is the ‘dive preperation’ area – benches, boxes for gear, places to hang wetsuits. On the upper deck behind the steering house is a huge covered area that serves 5 or 6 times a day as a feeding ground. There’s a giant wooden table – 8 chairs, a fridge for holding drinks (free except the beer – $2,50 each on an honor system), a serving area for misc. food – coffee, tea, sugar, plates, silverware, 2 boxes of cereal (yum), a toaster – and the all important fish books. What’s a dive boat without fish books. They could seriously use a better library though – a reef creatures book would have been so great.

There’s no segregated photo table – so photographers wouldn’t be in love with this boat – and the toilet would definitely disaude my husband from being here – but I’m a happy camper.

There are 6 divers on board – and 8 staff. 2 dive masters one of which I think doubles as captain, the chef, the waiters, the prep cook, the guys who drive the 2 tenders, and then miscellaneous people who appear and disappear without much guest contact. I’m guessing they fill the tanks, clean the dishes, keep the boat ship-shape. I’m not even sure where all of these folks are living – although the below deck portion of the boat must be huge – it’s completely off limits to the likes of us. There’s also the portion directly under the open area living space – maybe that has crew quarters, although I’m guessing it might be the kitchen from the delicious smells.

Ok – so on to why I’d be voted off.

6 guests – to protect the innocent – I’m giving them fake names.

There’s SC – Stalwart Canadian. He’s a Montrealer, formerly helping businesses set up ERP systems – who gave up his job and decided to scuba dive until he ran out of money. This boat is just one stop on his extended trip. He’s actually also my room mate – and a better room mate you couldn’t get. He’s so quiet – yes, even asleep – I often don’t even know he’s in the room. And he’s neat – his clothes are carefully put away – and his bed is MADE. And he’s a good diver. Practically Perfect in every way.

There’s the German – he’s an extremely experienced diver – over 800 dives – and he probably the nicest person among the guests. I don’t know much about him, other than he comes from a small village near Stuttgart – and like me is on a limited time holiday. Although his is not only including this dive boat – it’s including 4 days at this incredible diving resort in the park. I later found out that he’s 52 (surprising that), has a girlfriend who doesn’t care to dive (how sad), and works in a company that makes Headlights for BMW among others.

There are the Sisters – 2 gals from Switzerland – one of whom is a dive instructor. They find me annoying – to say the least – but hey – they are young, beautiful – and there are no eligible guys on board. Must be hard on them. They spent the last week at the above mentioned fancy resort – and now they are here. Great figures, awesome bikini’s, perfect tans – They have been there – seen that – and as far as I can tell find the dives ok – but not great. It’s hard to tell for sure, they tend to sleep or read when they are not eating or diving. But then – so do I.

The last member of our group is the Vegetarian. She’s from Amsterdam – owns a flat there – but seems to not call Amsterdam home. Her mom is Indonesian – and she grew up here in the Island – I’m not sure what she does to afford diving – but she’s tall, thin, wears a different bikini every 3 or 4 hours – and she’s the reason I’m bunking in with the Canadian.

I arrived first at the dive shop in Laboun Bajo – but they had problems fitting me into a wet suit. They had to order one from a different shop – that one too didn’t fit – so a third was ordered. Bottom line – I ended up going to the boat last. By the time I boarded the boat – each guy had taken a cabin, the sisters had a cabin, and the Vegetarian had a cabin. The crew suggested that we share – being both girls and all – but she made a fuss. “I was promised my own cabin – I need my personal space.” Well, don’t we all dear.

But – color me flexible – I don’t mind sharing with a guy – and the SC said he was ok with it too. So we are room mates. And as I said before – he’s the best room mate ever. I literally never see him in the room – I go to bed before he finishes drinking beer at night – and he’s been gone before I’ve gotten up every morning. How he can brush his teeth in silence is a mystery. I even asked him this AM if he slept in our room! (Yes – he did).

Diving is always done in a buddy team. So – the Sisters are one team, surprisingly SC and the Vegtarian (who is actually not nearly as bad as she first appeared) is a 2nd team, the German is paired with one dive master, and I’m paired with the other. When we get in the tenders – everyone gets into one tender – except me and Denny – my dive master/buddy. This is not a bad deal – doing every dive one on one with someone who loves pointing out the fishes, the nudibranches, the reef animals – and can find pgymy sea horses – is never going to be a mistake. But it does mean a lack of comradery with the rest of the guests – hence my certainity that I’d be voted off!

Ok – enough about the boat and my fellow divers – It’s time for out 8th dive of the trip – and it’s only day 2.

Got to go suit up!

Signing off – The Soup Lady