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

200 Dives and Counting!

On March 18th I did my 200th Scuba Dive. Isn’t that cool?

Denny was my dive buddy – and the location was Palau Tenght in Komodo National Park.

I distinctly remember the first time I tried scuba diving – it was at a swimming pool at a hotel in Puerto Rico in 1976 – my husband and I ran into the guy running the resort course and he convinced my husband that even though he had horrid issues with his nose – he could teach him to dive – or his money back.

Such an offer my husband could not refuse.

So – we did it. We took the 1/2 day scuba intro at the pool – which ended up taking us into the swimming lagoon off the beach of the hotel. I’ll bet if we went 10 feet deep – it was a lot.

But we learned to take off our masks, how to breathe thru the regulators, how not to panic if you lost your regulator, and some more of the very basics of scuba.

The really attractive part of the deal was an offer to go to a small island 17 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico – Culebra – and do 2 boat dives there. To avoid the issues of flying after diving, the plane was actually open to the air (no pressure) and flew less than 200 feet above the waves – and they had to weigh us to determine where we should sit. In order to land – the plane tipped sideways thru 2 mountain peaks.

What nuts we were – but we did get to do 2 dives in crystal clear waters – and probably to a max depth of 25 feet. It was awesome.

Went home – got certified.

And now I’m doing #200. Wow – been a long way, lady.

I admit to hoping that #200 would be as memorable as #1 – but it was not to be. The memorable dives here in Indonesia (Komodo National Park) were 197 (Manta Point), 194 (Shot Gun), 189 (Castle Rock), 190 and 193 (Crystal Rock), and 191 (Secret Garden). The rest – including #200 – are a blur, nice but not spectacular.

There are other dives among the 200 that stand out – the overhangs and tunnels off the east coast of Grand Cayman, muck diving in the seriously cold water in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, and of course the Roraima – a wooden sailing boat that sits in 185 feet of water off the coast of Martinque. That was done as a decompression dive of course – with tanks tied off at 25 feet and 15 feet. I also fondly remember the sponges in the cave in Greece, and the octopus that AquaMan – our dive master in Greece – found for us to play with underwater.

Nice memories of blowing bubbles. Here’s the next 50 (I’m doubting I’ll make more than that.. To busy doing too many other things)

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….

Manta Rays – the B-52 Bombers of the Pacific Ocean

Manta Rays are cool. And huge. Seriously huge. They act like they own the seas – and I suppose in a way they do. I can’t imagine a shark taking down a manta – I can’t even imagine them wanting too!

And Manta’s don’t eat divers – I’m not actually sure that they eat meat. Which brings up one severe lack on this dive boat – no one with a background in fish behavior – at least no one who speaks English. So I don’t really have anyone to ask. And the fall back solution for lack of knowledge – Google – is definitely hors de combat – No internet here – there’s barely cell phone coverage. Ok – actually – there isn’t cell phone coverage in any of the protected ancorages we’ve been in – even if you can see a tower – and there are towers – it’s still a challenge.

Anyway – back to the dive at Manta Point.

Because Manta’s need space – no protected reefs for them – the dive starts on a rubble field. The challenge – find the mantas! We’d seen several on the surface from the boat – SC actually threw on his fins and mask and snorkled out to get a good look – but now we had to find them in their element.

Good news – Denny has a 6th sense for this – and with only a few twists and turns – got me to exactly the right spot. The trick is to get up current from the Manta’s – so they swim towards you against the current. No problem for the Mantas – but us poor humans don’t swim up current very well. So we have to go in above where we hope they will be hanging getting a nice cleaning from the cleaning crew, and then drift down towards them. We catch a glimpse in the gloom of these large triangular shapes, and sink to the bottom and hold on for dear life. The current tries to pull us down stream – but we want to stay here in hopes the Mantas will do a ‘fly by’.

And surprisingly – the magic works! Denny and I hold on to the rubble at the bottom – and the Mantas arch and curve and glide their ways towards us. There are 2 at first – a Giant Black Manta, and then close on his heels is a smaller – but still huge – Devil Ray Manta. Like Giant vaccum cleaners, their open mouths sweep in all the algae they can devour, and they continue swooping and swerving around us for what feels like several minutes. After these 2 leave – 2 more appear – Wow. That’s 4.

They are so close you can see their eyes, their mouths, the fish doing the cleaning – litterally B52 fly bys underwater.

They eventually are above us – and we release our hold on the rubble to continue the drift dive. We come across 4 turtles – each more adorable than the last, and a small shark asleep on the sand. Among the rubble are coral mounds with lots of fish – but between the Mantas, the turtles, and the shark – what more do you need? Apparently Nudibranches and Lion Fish!

The first dive of the day was also glorious – a fish market or Aqurium as you will. The funniest moment of the dive – we pass a group from another boat who are surrounding a turtle taking pictures. And one diver takes a SELFIE with the turtle. He has one of those long stick remotes – and is holding it out in front of him while he poses near the turtle. I almost swallowed my regulator laughing!

Huge Porcupine fish, huge morays, lots of micro stuff, huge Sweetlips, and of course a shark. My favorite moment – well aside from the turtle seflie – was later in the dive when Benny and I found a turtle on it’s own. I was above him, Benny below – and he swam right up to me – so close I could have kissed him! Imagine – me nose to nose with a turtle – very cute.

Signing off to get ready for my 200th dive!

The Soup Lady

What a difference a day makes – More excitement on the Liveaboard!

Last night the Vegetarian showed up at my door – sobbing and needing a hug. What the? Just goes to show ya – never make assumptions about people – you are so often completely off base!

While I don’t think the Vegetarian and I would ever be best buddies – I talk way too much for her – we did find a common ground – and agreed to be friends. How cool is that!

I’ll back track a bit. At dinner, the dive masters announced that the next morning we’d be doing two really cool dives – Batu Balong and Manta Point. That was the high point. Then they announced that after the 2nd dive, we’d be joined by two more divers. They were coming by speed boat from Labaun Bajo. Oops – that messes the sleeping arrangements – big time. And how is that going to impact the buddy teams? Questions – Questions!

To review – there are only 4 cabins. The Vegetarian has one, the German has one – I’m sharing with SC, and the Sisters have a cabin. Where are we going to put 2 more people? Clearly – either the Vegetarian and German bunk together – or the new folks split up and sleep in different cabins. Either way – the Vegetarian is losing her single cabin. And she was broken up about it.

Turns out it wasn’t just that either. Her father was having surgery that day – and that was putting pressure on her. Plus – she stopped working a year ago to rebalance herself – what ever that means. She wants only positive energy in her life – and when things go against plan – it just becomes challenging to stay positive.

All of which makes me feel sorry for her of course – and part of me wants to tell her – shape up. You are 35 years old, you have enough money to travel at will in facinating places, you are healthy – get a grip. But that isn’t the whole truth – it’s hard to be alone. And I’m sure without her admiting to that issue – the lack of support network hurts. You need to be able to reach out to people and be sure in your own mind that the reaching out will be welcome. That of course is the trick – how do you know your reaching out will be greeted with concern, interest, and thoughts for your well being?

Heavy thoughts for such a beautiful place!

But things do work out. The 2 dives were amazing – more on that later – and the new couple are very experienced – and have their own dive master from Komodo Diving. So our buddy teams don’t change, which is a good thing.

As for sleeping arrangements – the German gallantly offers to move in with the Vegetarian – who can’t take the additional pressure of a change in rooms – and the couple (lets call them Aussies) gets the German’s room. Of course this morning the gal of the Aussies complained bitterly about how her bed is uncomfortable – a comment that all of us completely ignored.

And while they are seriously on the hefty side – the guy is 6’3″ and I’d guess well over 250 lbs and the gal is about 5′ 8″ and around the same weight – they are highly experienced divers, have 6 grandkids, and even better – Speak English! So, while accented, it tips the scales towards English as the main language. They also turn out to be very very funny! They completely cracked us all up talking about the Kangaroo’s in Austrialia. Turns out that she likes to take in the babies to raise when their mother’s dies – and he likes to run them over with his SUV equipped with a ‘Roo Bar’! Not only are they funny, well traveled, and English – they work full time. She manages a chain of homes for the disabled, he’s a project manager for a mining company in Austrialia. Very nice folks, and great at keep the conversation going over dinner. Their dream – to own a yacht and cruise the world – diving all the way around. Good luck to them I say!

And the Vegetarian got word that her Dad is fine. Trama over for now.

Personally – I’m going Scuba Diving.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Best Dive EVER!

Actually – I’ve had two of the best dives EVER so far this trip. Dive’s so outstanding that you will remember them forever – Dives that had everything. And we’re only on dive 8 of 18. What will they pull out of their hats this afternoon, tomorrow, the next day.

Castle Rock and Crystal Rock are comletely amazing dive sites – with the one we just finished – called Shot Gun a very close second.

I’m not going to bore you with a list of the types of fish we saw – lets just leave at a zillion and all be happy. These sites rocked because of the close encounters of the fishy kind – running into multiple turtles, 10 sharks, unknown scazillions of fish. And they rank amazingly high on the topography mark as well.

Let’s start with Castle Rock. On the surface, there is nothing to see, it’s all hiding below on an exposed rock mound that is teaming with fish and corals, both hard and soft. Because it is so exposed, and because the tides here run in and out – there’s a lot of current around the rock. This makes it an ideal place to see schools of fish darting in and out of the coral, or swimming idlely around and around the rock. Sharks of course love to see circling fish – so we get treated to several circling sharks! Denny, my dive master and buddy extraordinare – shows me how to hold on to a dead piece of coral in order to watch the show over/above/around us. It was awesome.

Crystal Rock – similar name, simlar geography – differes only in that there are actually 2 reef areas – separated by what Denny calls ‘The Fish Market’. I’m guess that is because it is here that Sharks come to pick up lunch. We enter with a fast decent to get below the surface current – and stablize at about 70 feet to enjoy the show. Denny is an expert at spooting Nudibranches – there are lots to see too. Brightly colored, these reef dewlers makes for nifty micro diving. We swim over the rubble to the Pinancle, circle it admiring all the brightly colored inhabitants – then swim back to the main rock to accend. Denny says we’ll do this dive again – and I’ll thrilled.

Crystal Rock – 2nd Time. This time we do Crystal rock first thing in the morning. Timing matters because different fish are active at different times of the day – with early morning seeing the most activitiy. I love the slanting light in the early morning better too. The Sisters convince Sarif and Denny – our 2 dive masters – to schedule this dive at 7:00 am – with the briefing at 6:30. Remember – these are all boat dives so after the briefing – we have to board a small boat, drive to the dive site, then get wet. Denny and I head off in one drection, the rest in another. Back roll off the boat – and we immediately spot a black tip shark, who is as surprised to see us as we are to see him. He makes one lazy circle between Denny and I – giving me a hard cold stare. Am I breakfast? Do I look yummy? Or too bony?

Fortunately, he decides against a taste – and swims off into the blue. Whew.

We continue our decent, round the corner of the pinnacle – and there’s another shark asleep in the sand. Ok – asleep is good. Further on – two small baby sharks are there to be found, also lounging around doing nothing much. But that’s not the end of it. We continue to circle the mound, and come upon 3 more sharks – in hunting mode! Denny grabs me and pushes me on his back. I get it – this is not about thinking I’m cute – this is about making like a really really big fish – so the sharks will decide to try for easier game. They criss cross in front of us twice – and again decide for easier stuff – and make for the blue.

Ok – that’s a lot of shark sightings for a dive that isn’t a ‘shark dive’. For once I’m going to be lowish on air. Lowish for me means coming back with less than 1000 lbs – and I’m already at 700. I signal Denny that we need to do our safety stop – and on the way up to 15 feet – there’s a gigantic turtle – stuffing his face. He’s using his front fins to hold the food, and munching away. Honestly – it’s so human – it’s scary! The turtle is probably 1/2 my size, and comletely un-interested in us. So we get the best decom ever – 5 minutes of turtle watching. And for the icing on an already over the top cake – a unicorn fish – large of course like everything here in Komodo National Park – swims right by. 5 Stars!

Oh yes – and somewhere in amongst the shark and turtle sightings – Denny also finds a Pgymy Seahorse, 2 huge Morays, 2 star fish, green coral packed full of little fish that poke their heads out – and dodge back in as soon as I wave at them.

Our 2nd dive of the day is called Shot Gun – and I’m thinking – how can you possibly compare with Crystal Cave. And yet – it does. This is one of those cool topography dives – where the briefing takes 30 minutes to cover all the different things we need to think about. The dive starts on a zen voyage thru a sandy field spotted with sea eals, coral mounds, and the occasionally huge Sweetlips (that’s a type of fish). But we gradually are swept by the current into a funnel between two island peaks – and the current picks up steam. A ring around a ravine and we can look up to see dozens of difenent schools of fish swimming in all directions. We climb up the ravine, and then grab a hand hold at the top to prevent the now extremely strong current from sweeping us further away. After a time admiring the schools from the top – we let go – and are swept away over the coral heads. It’s like flying surounded by water! At the end of our wild ride, we decom over a field of soft corals larger than I’ve ever seen before. Stellar dive.

Signing out because we are diving again in just a few minutes – The Soup Lady

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

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