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Liveaboards in Sulawesi

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I'm hoping to go to Sulawesi for a month next summer. Planning to dive Bunaken, Lembeh, but I would like to top it off with a liveaboard. I've found a few operators by searching the internet (wallacea, murex, liburan), but maybe some of you can help me with tips. I want what I guess most others would want; good, varied diving, reasonable comfort and not too expensive.

 

Thankful for any input!

 

Paul

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I think the answer depends a bit on what you want a liveaboard for. I understand that there are some liveaboards based in Manado at least part of the year, and I've heard there are also now 2 or 3 boats offering dives in the Lembeh Straits. I think some boats based in this area occasionally go up north to the Sangihe Islands (but I haven't heard much good about Sangihe Isls.)

 

Given what can be done based in a resort (KBR or Lembeh Resort) in the Lembeh area, or in Manado/Bunaken area from any of the many operators there, I think you would want to know where a liveaboard in North Sulawesi would be taking you that (1) you can't get to using day-boats from the resorts, and (2) are places you really want to go. With respect to 1, keep in mind that some of the Manado operations have fast, long-range boats (or at least used to) that can cover a lot of the less heavily dived sites between Manado and Lembeh, if that's what you're interested in.

 

If you want to combine your diving in north Sulawesi with a liveaboard trip, I'd be more inclined to look at other prime areas in Indonesia that can only (or best) be dived from a liveaboard.

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Ok, thanks for your views. It makes sense what you say, rdelfs, that in order for at liveaboard to be worthwhile, it has to reach other areas than the dive centres do. I've seen there is a liveaboard to the Togian Islands. But I've also heard that the reefs there are quite damaged by dynamite/cyanide. It's difficult to estimate the value of those reports via the internet though. Maybe there are other operators in the south of sulawesi, around wakatobi for instance? I'm aware there is a dive centre there, but they are above my budget.

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I will post a full article on the Sengihe Islands and Murex Live aboards when I return in late October.

Take it from me Sengihe Islands ROCK. Probably the most biodiverse area in the world.

We will be running a 2004 cruise too if you're interested?

 

Cheers,

 

Bob

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I certainly would be interested, but it would have to be sometime late June or in July. How long is the liveaboard, price, route etc?

 

Paul

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More on liveaboards in Indonesia...

 

Most of the liveaboards I know here in Indonesia cost considerably more per day than land-based diving., unless you happened to be staying at an Aman Resort. Paste, you'd mentioned that the Wakatobi Resort is above your budget - I'm not sure what their costs are, but I think it would be hard to find a good liveaboard that costs any less.

 

Some of the top tier boats (Pelagian, and Komodo Adventurer, a new catamaran) are now charging US$300 a day. Others (such as the Kararu boat) are less, but most still in the $250/day range. Evening Star II was even less expensive, but I understand that operation may be shutting down soon.

 

All these boats I've mentioned are mainly operating in Komodo area most of the year, but this winter several will be rebasing to Rajah Empat (West Papua) over December-March, which is the rainy season in the Bali-Komodo area. There is a lot of enthusiasm about the diving in Rajah Empat, and if demand is there some boats may start operating there more of the year. Another interesting possibility is to find a transfer trip, when these boats are rebasing. Most of the transfers to and from Rajah Empat involve roughly two-week trips between Sorong and Kupang (West Timor), which include several days diving in the Rajah Empat area,

plus numerous stops in the Banda Sea (including Banda Islands) and Alor region. Some of these sites can be quite spectacular, and are difficult or impossible to get to any other way.

 

As I'm sure you're aware, there are a lot of factors to be considered in selecting a live-aboard. Safety should be number one, particularly if you're looking harder at the lower-cost operators in order to reduce costs. The fact that a boat is less expensive doesn't mean it isn't safe, but I think it's worthwhile to look into what type of vessel, its condition, safety and communications equipment on board, etc. before putting your money down.

 

If you're a photographer, then it's important that the boat be "photographer-friendly." Most are, but some aren't. Protected space to work on cameras adequate for as many photographers as will be on board, rinse tanks, charging facilities, etc. Another issue is the style of diving and sites. Some boats cater primarily to macro photographers, do mainly macro sites. Others are more into wide-angle stuff, big pelagics, drift dives, etc. If you have strong preferences in the kind of diving and/or photography you do, you won't be happy if the philosophy and operating practices of the people running the obat lie in a different direction.

 

Robert

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Thanks for your reply Robert.

 

Regarding budget, I'm a bit cheap as I've got used to Pulau Weh prices after I've been there twice. $2 for accomodation, $16 dollars for a boat dive, equipment included. I realize those are not the prices one can expect in the rest of Indonesia, but since there's a war raging in Aceh, I can't go back there. The Wakatobi resort is roughly $200 per day incl all diving. I find that a bit steep, and I know there are liveaboards in Sulawesi that are $120-$160 per day, which I find very reasonable. Safety might be an issue, or other things, which is why I would like to hear from someone who's been on these trips. Still it's a long time till June (sigh!), but one needs to dream to survive the Scandinavian winter.

 

I've heard about the Raja Empat, and it sounds spectacular but both the flight from Europe and the diving is more expensive than in Sulawesi, so it'll have to wait. These two week transfer trips you are mentioning, do you have any idea how much one would pay for one of those?

 

Paul

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As Cyber said wait till then end of October. Several of us are going and we can all give you our impressions. Although, Bob is doing a full report. Thank God, that takes me out of having to do it. I'm still working on the Port Hardy one.

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You can be assured out trips will include both macro and wide angle diving. Lembeh, Bunaken Bangka & up into the Sengihe Islands, a volcano too! Hope you like frog fish GPF's and Pygmies... You'll see lots!

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