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Trip Report For SV Mona Lisa, MV Mangguana and Komodo Live Aboards


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#1 JKrumsick

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:33 PM

Hey Everyone -
Just a quick story about my experience with Komodo Live Aboards.

I booked the MV Mona Lisa in March 2011 through a company called "Dive Adventures Asia". The operation of this live aboard is more interesting because there are no set schedules. You have to take a speed boat to the main diving vessel so the schedules are flexible (which was new to me). I was also excited to dive on a sail boat.

Everything was going smoothly until I got on the speed boat. We went right past the Mona Lisa (which was in the harbor) and onto another boat called the MV Mangguana! I tried to talk with the boat driver but he spoke no English. I figured I would straighten all of this out when I spoke with the captain of the Mangguana. The speed boat trip was not the best either... the sea was very rough and I was picturing my poor canon glass losing a couple years of life due to the slamming of the hull on the water.

Once aboard the Mangguana and looking at the incredible beauty of the Komodo islands, my nerves settled down. I learned that the Mona Lisa had been in the harbor since January for repairs. I was amazed that I had booked a boat that had already been in the harbor for 2 months. Even when I was in the office, no one told me about it. Also, there was no diving Nitrox on the Mangguana, which I had already paid a premium of $150 for!

With no phone or internet access the only people to take the brunt of my complaints were the crew of the Mangguana... I couldn't bring myself to be harsh on them though. It was a great crew that I enjoyed a lot. Bruce and Darmin, the dive masters, were very entertaining hosts and very kind. They are also accomplished divers who shared a lot of good stories.

The diving was also fantastic. I believe I spotted a total of 27 mantas on the trip... the largest probably over 10 foot wide. Plenty of sharks, turtles and great macro life. The coral was very nice as well.

The last day we went onto another island to do a Komodo Dragon tour. If you ever get a chance to do this.. you can skip it. Some people just fly out to Labuan Bajo for the day just to see the dragons. It is the same to see them in the zoo. The one's on the island were sitting outside of the village kitchen and we didn't see any in the forest.

When I got back to Labuan Bajo and wanted to talk with the boss about the confusion, it took me 5 minutes of arguing with the sales agent before he told me that the boss (Jan) was "upstairs having a coffee". He came down and we started talking about how I was on the wrong boat. He was loaded with excuses and that the Mangguana has bigger cabins and is more luxurious than the Mona Lisa (if you looked at the photos online, you would never believe this). Although, according to the website, the Mangguana costs more per night than the Mona Lisa. He also told me that the Mona Lisa had been in port for 3 weeks. I told him that it had been in port since January and it was obvious he was lying. I didn't believe anything he was saying and told him I wanted a refund for the nitrox and to be compensated for being booked on the wrong boat. He said that wouldn't be a problem.

So it has been two days and no word yet. I emailed both Dive Adventures Asia and Jan today.

Overall, the diving was fantastic and the crew great. But not being on the right boat and the ineptitude of the operators is too much for me to recommend this to anyone. Better to go with a different operator.

There should be an organized forum for liveaboard reviews on wetpixel. I can't find anywhere on the web with reviews!

Safe Travels.

#2 Shasta_man

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:26 PM

There is a slight difference to seeing the Komodos in a zoo...

There's no fence between you and them and you can see them relatively close up and see how big those claws really are. You also get to see like 8-10 really large ones all in a small area. They cruise around so you probably see more activity than you would typically see at the zoo. We saw some in the forest and they subtly displayed some of their hunting skills which aren't obvious to the inexperienced.

Despite looking much like California with some tropical plants mixed in, you can see a lot of other interesting critters you won't see elsewhere.

It may not be exciting for everyone but not quite as bleak as painted.

You ought to get the nitrox money back, but I'm thinking the boat money is gone.

#3 sasdasdaf

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 05:21 PM

Sorry to hear about the boat screw up. It's quite unscrupulous of them to do a bait and switch on you and not own up to it.

Do you have some pics from the trip to share? I've always been interested in Komodo.

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#4 JKrumsick

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 06:46 PM

There is a slight difference to seeing the Komodos in a zoo...

There's no fence between you and them and you can see them relatively close up and see how big those claws really are. You also get to see like 8-10 really large ones all in a small area. They cruise around so you probably see more activity than you would typically see at the zoo. We saw some in the forest and they subtly displayed some of their hunting skills which aren't obvious to the inexperienced.

Despite looking much like California with some tropical plants mixed in, you can see a lot of other interesting critters you won't see elsewhere.

It may not be exciting for everyone but not quite as bleak as painted.

You ought to get the nitrox money back, but I'm thinking the boat money is gone.


Thanks for the response. Ok, so I was being a bit hyperbolic, seeing the dragons out there was better than at the zoo. I didn't mean to paint such a bleak picture of it. But I wasn't too happy about the guide who kept poking them with a stick and moving them around. We didn't see any other critters and it just felt like a tourist trap to me. The trek up the mountains was kind of nice though. The trees on the island look like something out of a Doctor Suess book.

@sasdasdaf - I really would love to upload some photos but my netbook cannot convert RAW files. I may be able to get to a workstation someplace and do it but I would rather focus on my time in Indonesia :-). When I get back I will post a bunch of my favorite photos on here. I highly recommend Komodo though! The diving was some of the best I've ever done.

I will be off to Lembeh Straits and Manado and then Palau in the next month so we shall see how they all stack up!

Best