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There is a trip report, gallery, Multimedia show from our trip on the Paradise Dancer here: Aquablue Dreams Really an incredible boat and great crew. The other boat I have heard rave reviews about is the Arenui (SP?)
hi, anyone been on a liveaboard in the Raja Ampat area? There are so many to chose from, so I would appreciate a recommendation.. Ta
The question is hard to answer without knowing your budget and preferences for some of the amenities (e.g. hot shower, air conditioning). Paradise Dancer and Arenui are at the higher end of the spectrum, i.e. you pay the most, but you get some of the nicest amenities. And do a search on the forum.
I've just booked on the Arunui with Scuba Dive Asia who have chartered the whole boat - as i enjoy luxury and diving it seemed the best bet... and the $1000 dollar discount! but until I get back I can't let you know if it is as good as a true boutique hotel. I guess if this trip going the first two weeks of May works then more boats will work Raj Ampat longer... lets hope so..
Just got back from 14 days in Raja on the Damai - best liveaboard I have been on anywhere - hands down. (Was on Paradise Dancer 2 years ago, which was pretty good)
Virtually the identical boat as the Arunui and similar in size as most of the others in the area (PD is much larger) - Arunui and Damai were on the same site for a couple of hours.
However the Damai only has a maximum of 10 divers - normally 8 but they can squeeze another two in as guides. We had 9 divers - two were travel agents/guides that had booked the boat for three weeks and wanted to check it out so were in the tour guides cabin not normally used for guests.
For 9 divers they had 4 guides and all 4 guides were excellent. Patient, and knew where to look for stuff. I typically dive solo so really only dived wth the guides on about half of the dives but when I did they were excellent. Really knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Food was excellent - better than PD.
Rooms were enourmous - my cabin was 16 by 18 - other cabins were similar.
Camera set up is good with lots of power and a reasonable amount of space. If all 8 divers had big cameras it might be a bit crowded in the camera room but we had only 4 larger cameras and a couple of point and shoot so space was not an issue at all.
Service was as good as it gets. Was met at all stages of the trip in Indonesia and luggage and tickets were managed. If you wanted something on the boat it was there. I found that the fins that I was carrying just did not work in the currents we were playing in - with the length of dives we were doing - so they provided me with alternatives. Someone tore their wetsuit - Damai had one that fit as a replacement. Dive gear is included for those that don't want to travel with their own. I had my own so didn't use the boat's. Multiple tank sizes are available - I was diving an AL 100 - others were diving AL 100, AL 80 or AL 63 depending on preference. Nitrox is included and was 32 +- .5 for the trip.
Not to say that they can meet all requests, but they sure tried.
Dives were as long as you wanted to make them and if you wanted to go back in the water right away to get a particularly unique critter the skiff was ready to make that happen.
The only complaint I had was that the noise on the boat is high with generators running 24/7. I needed earplugs to sleep. This is normal for me on most liveaboards, but this is a smaller boat than PH so the engine room is closer to the cabins and therefore noisier.
For the slightly more that Damai charges having only 8 - 10 divers with 4 guides is the best way to dive Raja IMHO.
Not sure if there are any openings left but if you get an opportunity to dive this boat - take it.
PS - Mike Veitch is the new Cruise Director on the boat - a long time member of the board. He runs a great trip.
I just returned from Raja Ampat and stayed in a resort which was great. There were more than enough dive sites in the Northern part of R4 to stay on land and only need to travel 30 mins or less by boat to access for a week. I know most people prefer liveaboards for R4 but I feel this is only necessary if you're staying for longer than a week or really want to dive some of the southern dive sites. If you do stay on land make sure you look into any fuel "surcharges" for accessing manta point and the passage before booking. They often want to charge 30 Euro per person which is rediculous and should accept a 30 Euro per boat surcharge for these two sites if you negotiate up-front.
Search YouTube for "AllClassDivers" for a short video of our trip.