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Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

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Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#1  Postby decimal86 » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:09 pm

What do you understand by " your baggage is checked through to Makassar? " details in a moment. . . .
Our flight details are SIN/JKT/UPG (Makasar) on Lion Air,we were given boarding passes SIN/JKT and JKT/UPG. Our baggage tag were printed JKT and UPG. And a big TRANSIT sticker on the side.
When we arrived at immigration JKT it was another chaos!!
Apparently nobody is in transit. Everybody  at the international arrivals goes through immigration and not "Transit" as shown.
So we cleared immigration and customs, and some alarm went off in my wife's head. She said we should wait and see just in case our bags came out.
And it was a good thing too because our bags did come out!!! What the . . . .
Whats the point in me checking it through when it is going to come out at the first point of arr?
No wonder some other forum says their bags never arrived.
If we had left the baggage claim area, it would have been a horrible dive holiday. Women! You gotta trust their intuition.
There is no getting away from changing terminals. From international arr you have to get into a shuttle bus (free) to get to domestic terminal. No easy task my friends. Though the buses are frequent, the number of pax and airport workers is overwelming. If you can, ask the bus driver to open the rear door to deposit your dive bags. If your dive bags are in front or rear of the cabin, when you arr at the domestic terminal, you have to fight a tidal wave of ppl trying to exit.
A taxi ride will cost about 50,000 rupiah.
We had a fantastic lunch at Restu which is right in front of the bus stop at the domestic terminal. Not exactly cheap but amboi sedap-nya!! daun limau perut. It really buka selera even now 2 weeks after i can smell the scent of the leaves.
Hmm, no coffee just 3-in-1.
Check-in at their domestic counter and they were not surprised that we had to DIY from the international terminal.
Domestic airport tax 40,000 R.
Sign says "Hotspot" di sini but i could not receive any.
I have read from most forums that you will need to stay one night in Makassar on the way to boarding your LOB. We chose one in the city. Amaris Hotel sounded convenient, next to a shopping center, should have no problem getting a SIM card. Although the hotel advertised that WiFi was free we were not able to log in during the 24 hours that we were here. Otherwise the room had a TV, air-cond, hot water, shampoo, bath gel, water fountain, free b fast,clean sheets. The shopping center had a very big megamart, 2 in fact. All the food were halal. No i did not ask about beer. They had Ya Kun kaya toast though. Food was cheap. Mountain bikes were cheap. Garments were cheap though not branded.Durians were in season,but i did not try them. SIM cards for calling/data roaming were avail in the shopping center.
KFC gave free Wi Fi. Thks Colonel Saunders!
Took in a movie recent one as well after lunch. It was in English with bahasa indonesia subtitles. I guess everyone was reading the subtitles. Really comfy seats good sound system and cheap priced tickets. Well kept toilets. But what in the world does this sign mean? I did not make this up.
The flight UPG/SOQ was in the wee hours of the morning. If the fare from the airport was say "X" the taxi fare from town to airport would be X plus 50%. We had to pay for the toll on the highway from the airport. Most forum would recomm that you stay at the airport hotel.
Checked in early, had a cup of 3-in-1 and surfed the net. Very strong signal. Even in gate 2 we could receive the Wi Fi. Makassar Int airport has a lot of cafe open at this unearthly hour .On this day,the change of gate was not announced over the PA. Almost got caught. I am only guessing, litigation is uncommon here? There was no illumination on that staircase down to the road to board the bus to take us to the airplane. Its 4 am!!!  Sriwijaya served cold bakmie goreng with kerapok. And hot tea or coffee. A hit with the locals from the empty trays returned.
It takes about 2 hrs to get to Sorong. If its so wrong, how do you ever get it right? Hahaha. I apologise, i think its funny.
We were met by Cedric the cruise manager. A very professional and entertertaining guy. There were 12 altogether on this cruise. Less than they hoped for so we had plenty of space to store our things and suit up.
The cabins are spacious. We had a cabin that could take 3 comfortably. Ensuite bathroom. Air-conditioning. I would like to rant a little bit here. The last LOB we went had a hole of 4 " diam and a thermostat that was already at max and no cold air. On the BM this was a normal house air cond-LG.
Check this out! They had a waterproof duffle bag for each cabin! For beach outings or for keeping all your cash and passports in case you need to jump ship in a hurry?
2 charging points. The rest are in the audio video lounge.They also launder your clothes for a small fee (the crew earn extra doing laundry and wait for it. . . . massage-- this cost a bit) they have washing and drying machines on board! No more strange smelling clothes!!
All our dive gear were set up according to a numbering system that had towels in the top compartment. You suit up in the dive deck then walk into the tender and all your gear including camera will be handed to you in the tender. They have a shelf in the center where your camera sits.
2 big tubs to rinse your cameras when you return. A shelf with a towel to dry your camera. Impressed! I bought one of those gizmo that you connect to your inflator hose and hose off the water droplets before you open the casing?
4 garden hoses to rinse off the salt. Plenty of places to sit and don/doff your gear. I like. Oh if you decide to take the BM chose number 19 or 20 trust me on this one if you are the sort to rinse your bcd and its insides after every dive.
They do not jump off the back off the mother-ship. Everybody back rolls from the tender into a dive site.
House keeping, collection of marine park fee, indemnity form, a detailed briefing on our entire cruise.
We set off at 1430 hrs for our check out dive. . . .what a blast!
It was a shoal not too far from the airport. To get ourselves acquainted with the dive style here on the Black Manta.
And there they were….. 2 wobbegongs under an arch! First box on the list, check!
2 crinoid shrimps, a crocodile fish on our check out dive!
This is Raja Ampat! (you gotta do it like James Earl Jones in CNN).
First impressions count and now i am really hooked.
Dinner was good. Always plenty of fruits. The cooks made it a point to ensure the food was hot when you came back from your lunch or night dives, nice. I have often wondered fish and chips should be a walk in the park for most dive resorts?
We got to meet everybody else on board and its good to see that everybody came with a positive attitude. A lot of Singaporeans.
After dinner BM started off for Penemu. I dont know what we did but the wind soon picked up and threw a couple of sofa cushions into the sea. Rain came down in buckets. We called it a night and slept easily in our cabin. My fears of a Merlion acts were unfounded.
They came and knocked on our doors at 0615 hrs. A quick brief and a pre-breakfast then we dived Melissa's garden. Because of the rain last night, the vis was not that good. But the corals were very much alive and so were the marine life. Light current. This place is full of crinoid shrimp and crabs! All the good things they said about R4 is absolutely true!
Mayhem,  had their fair share of wobbegongs and nudi branch. Very big ribbon eels. Mantis shrimp. Bumpheads and schools of chevron and giant baracudas. We did a night dive at Yangeffo island. I have to be honest, not as spectacular as Lembeh. But enough to satisfy most appetite. You need to be patient before the DM finds something special. And towards the end of the dive the swimming worms of Ayer Prang (a dive site in Lembeh)attacked us. The other DM who is also from Lembeh said he had one lodged in his ear before and it was painful!
Meals on board the Black Manta catered to most.Although the cooks were muslim,there was bacon for breakfast. I think you have to tell them in advance before you arr of your dietary needs. Bread with bread spread. And cream crackers sprinkled with sugar. (childhood fav of mine)
A full tray of tea, Nescafe, Milo and local coffee powder. I wish they had a sieve. . . or a french press.
Cedric- the cruise director is very entertaining. His description of a dive site and the props he used were so creative. We actually looked forward to his brief.
The audio video lounge had state-of-the-art equipment. Videos of their Komodo trips and also a photo shoot-out that was held in Feb 2012. Karaoke as well as movies were avail. 2 guitars!
The second day was what this boat was all about---Black Manta! The site is called Manta Spa. Very strong currents we waited 35 mins before 3 of them made their grand entry. These babies were big, very very big! And i thot the ones in Maldives were. These were 12 m across. They really loved the strong currents. In the afternoon when we repeated they did not show as the current was slack.
They also wanted us to see how beautiful the islands were devoid of villagers and floating debris. Shallow waters with corals below, all quiet except for our motor, thats when we decided to row. It was picture perfect. One of those you have to be there moments.
Then we snorkeled in another part of Yanggefo where archer fish were found in schools. You know right they have a cousin who cleans? Karcher! Hahaha i could not let that pass sorry.
Oh it seems it is an unwritten law by the local authority that only one boat or resort may dive at one site at any time. Neat huh?
That night i felt my throat was bit sore and was coughing a bit. Went to sleep and woke up to a giant headache and massive coughing. What to do. . .
Dive lor. Sardines! So called because they were packed like sardines. Huge schools of sweetlips,fusiliers, baracuda, some bumpheads, trevally, were swirling overhead. Reminiscent of Sipadan.
I was coughing underwater.
I was also feeling very cold. Kept checking my dive comp but it showed 29.
Went back to the boat, took 2 panadol and hoped for the best.
Mikes point did it. At the end of that dive, i had to tell my DM-Antho that i was too sick to dive. All the green stuff was coming out from my nose. But Mikes point was beautiful it was an underwater mountain slope. Plenty of macro in its walls. And these squat lobsters were everywhere. At the end of the safety-stop there was a swim through! Kewl man! But we have yet to spot a frogfish. Found 2 dragonet.
Because of my state of health i missed Cape Kri and a night dive at Dampier Straits. But the kitchen staff were very attentive to me and made me porridege and oatmeal. A gesture i will never forget. Another note i made-we are so used to a phone signal we miss it so much? When we saw the crew whip out theirs so did we. We were all on one side of the boat living our modern lives again.
The next morning i was still sick and missed Blue Magic and Chicken Reef, Friwinbonda, Rock 5. Heard the group say the vis was bad and the current was fiercely strong at chicken reef.
On the night dive yesterday they saw a blue ring octopus, flamboyant cuttle fish, many small squids
We spent a lot of money on this trip and together with the airfare even more dineros. The most so far. The package was free gear, free Nitrox, return airfare UPG/SOQ/UPG, land tranfers from SOQ airport to harbour. US 3200 covered just about everything.
Took a lot of travelling to get here. It is on the same time zone as Japan.
Most times there was no cellular signal. They do have a satelite phone.
I spent half the trip couped up in my bunk nursing a bad cold.  But if everything  had gone nicely . . . No i will not come back. The pinnacles, walls, drifts and canyons can be found in Sipadan or Bunaken. The macro can be found in Lembeh. My most memorable moment was sitting in the tender in the lagoon. Phi Phi has this too but there a hundreds of tourists. They have a funny way of organising their dive schedule amongst the LOB s they visit each other by tender. How about the radio?
We moored at a village named Sonoek, you have to picture this. . . I am in bed when i should be diving with the others and there is this constant laughter coming from the village. I opened the window a little bit and there were these families of Irian Jaya descent chatting about something and the group would erupt in roaring laughter! Even the children. Then a lady would chip in and that brought another round of full throtlle laughter. And it went on for about an hour.
Isnt it wonderful to just sit in the nights breeze and share your laughter with neighbours? Even though my head was pounding with stampeding pontohi it brought a smile to my face.
It was probably political---the hilarious laughter. Much like home.
The last day is always the hardest, isnt it?
Just when you have gotten to know the divers, crew, and kitchen staff its " selamat berjumpa lagi"
Checked-into an oven!! No air cond…. one ceiling fan. And smokers everywhere. . . and these ‘koteka’ ---penis sheath hanging everywhere to be bought as souvenirs for friends!! What ? one size fits all? And the obvious—to be worn inside or out? The answer—depends on the size buddy!! But seriously…your brother comes back from perth and buys apple struddles and you? You? A koteka??  Lu gila ke?
To be safe i decided to check my luggage to UPG only.  It was a bus ride to the airplane once again. It was Sriwijaja Air again to UPG. They served a luke warm nasi padang with a warm banana. Inflt sales were brisk and terminated when the order to land was given over the PA.
Makasar Int airport is bigger than Bali when viewed in bright daylight. Wi Fi is avail for the price of a coffee and the cashier will provide the password. There is a food court inside though the outside restaurants looked more delicious. But it was heavy with cigarette smoke, you could cut it with a knife! Airport tax 40,000.
You have to move with the locals if they get up and start for the door. There are no more calls to board when in the boarding room. Crafty. . . .
Garuda meals were industry std EY fare. Feature films avail for a swipe of your credit card. Seats were significantly comfortable.
This report does not have the usual accompanying shots as my camera drowned. Sorry.
The boat itself? Luxurious enough for me as diving goes. Who else would provide a waterproof duffle bag for personal use?The dive staff were all excellent- most are from Lembeh and Manado! No surprises there. They cleaned and dried all our gear and when we had identified all, then  they pack our roller bags. Did i say free Nitrox? I later found out that that there were 4 different packages that were bought by us. So do a bit of keyboard pounding!! I would say i saved 120 US!
The kitchen staff were so nice to me in my hour of need, what else can i say? Except ribuan terima kasih.
Raja Ampat.
When you are in the presence of royalty, you quiver a bit, you stammer, and the scale of your expectations just goes galactic!! And in this instance it was well justified. Because I have not even covered half of it from the looks of the map. It is majestic, it was an honour to be in its fold. And I am grateful for the opportunity.
In closing, if you want to see Mantas (chances are good only if the current is strong) really big Mantas together with all the other supporting cast of marine life then R4 should be on your radar. We did not dive Misool. We dived Penemu, Fam, Yanggefo,Dampier Straits, so in truth we did not cover the 4 kings. But from the scale of things it would take months to really appreciate its beauty. Call me sick (as i was . . . ) but i will always remem that cacophony  of laughter at that jetty with a quarter moon and the breeze through my window
alamak, the tank goes at the back??
decimal86
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#2  Postby DM » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:06 am

You know right they have a cousin who cleans? Karcher! Hahaha i could not let that pass sorry.

funny & nice report! u can publish a book already. :)
Be happy, rain or shine, wet or dry!! ;)
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#3  Postby Narco » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:40 am

Very detail report lah Decimal bro!. Like a travel/diving guide.. hehe and very dramatic as well.
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#4  Postby mamakpenang » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:44 am

wow....nice one bro..... :D
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#5  Postby reztitan » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:07 pm

Fascinating report. Seldom read such long post without photos. But your creative approach on your dive report keep me reading on.

Great job bro.
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#6  Postby decimal86 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:13 pm

i confess, i am long winded. but i also write down everything "i think" could be useful. i apologize if some were not....my camera died (sob sob) this trip. so no photos.
alamak, the tank goes at the back??
decimal86
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#7  Postby Narco » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:42 pm

Nevermind the camera died Decimal bro.. what important is you are still alive and kicking to tell the story of your valuable experience.. hehe :D
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Re: Raja Ampat on KM Black Manta 21/03/2012

Post Number:#8  Postby decimal86 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:23 am

Narco wrote:Nevermind the camera died Decimal bro.. what important is you are still alive and kicking to tell the story of your valuable experience.. hehe :D


argggh, that be true me hearties....and next week, arghh be sailing (jetting to Ambon, Maluku Divers) and somemore mucking about. just got myself another E-PL1 and raring to go
alamak, the tank goes at the back??
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