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….

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