Amira Live-Aboard Review0
Photo and article By Jinky Dinorog
The first time I went to Raja Ampat and dove its waters took place two years ago in an eco-resort. Back then , I was already in awe of its beauty both above and underwater. But I was told that Raja Ampat is best experienced on a liveaboard, so imagine the excitement I felt when I found out that I will be going back to Raja Ampat and this time on board AMIRA, a liveaboard that started operating in 2010 and runs charters to Indonesia’s top diving destinations.
We had to take two more flights from Singapore to get to Sorong (jump-off pont to Raja ampat) and stay there overnight. Our scheduled pick-up at the hotel in Sorong where we stayed overnight was at 9:00 in the morning. The representative who introduced himself as our dive guide was on time. It was about twenty minutes travel time from the hotel to the port where all the liveaboards are moored. We waited a little for the dinghy to get us and bring to Amira. The moment our feet stepped on the wooden liveaboard, the crews greeted us with a warm welcome, showed us where we have to put our shoes as we won’t be needing it during the entire trip and immediately guided us to our cabin, which is located on the upper deck (we found out that the cabins on lower deck are more spacious compared to what we’ve got). We were given a briefing about everything we need to know about our room and once everybody was ready, we started to fill-up paperworks then followed by boat orientation. We didn’t dive when we arrived as there’s no known good dive site in Sorong. Instead, we started cruising to be able to get on time to our first dive site in Raja Ampat the next day. Briefing was done both in English and German since most of the guests at that time were Swiss and Germans.
Depending on dive schedule, the crew usually rings the bell half an hour before dive briefing (most of the time, dive briefing schedule is at 7:30 ; 11:00 ; 15:00 pm then night dive at 18:30) for light breakfast and coffee. The crew also took our order for main breakfast. Prior to dive briefing, a crew will go and check the dive site for currents, visibility, etc. We were divided into four groups, four divers per dive guide. There’s a time interval given after each group leaves so as not to overcrowd the dive site and also to give more space in the dive deck since it’s not big enough to accommodate sixteen divers and crews assisting the guests all at the same time. Nitrox is analyzed by the crew, but we have to log it down along with our signature. They also took care of our fins and tanks (if you don’t want to bring it yourself) and take it to dinghy , Before the dinghy goes to the dive site, the crew always reminded us if we have brought our mask, snorkel and camera with us. Maximum dive time is 60 minutes including the safety stop. What I’ve noticed is that guides don’t give hand signal for safety stop and just give the hand signal at the end of the dive when we’re about to ascend. After each dive, there’s a hot tea or fresh juice ready when we got back.
Main breakfast is served afterwards at the fore deck under a canopy. This is also where we had our lunch and dinner on days when it’s not raining, otherwise meals are served inside the main deck. What I liked about diving with Amira is the provision of ENOS, a locator tracking device that we can use in the incident of getting separated from our group due to strong currents (no need for SMB). There is no charge if you opt to use it but once you lose it, you’ll have to pay for it.
While we were out diving, the housekeeping staff makes up the room and turndown service was made during dinner. Most of the time, lunch is buffet style while dinner is served ala carte or set meal but there were nights that they also served buffet. There are snacks and free-flowing coffee or tea throughout the day. Special coffee like cappuccino, espresso and latte are available for a fee, as well as beers and sodas. There’s a sheet of paper provided where we wrote down the beers or sodas that we have consumed.
We were lucky to have a good weather, calm sea and relatively smooth sailing most of the time during trip. The only downside is since the boat is made of wood, the floor can get really slippery when it’s wet and can burn the sole of our feet when it’s hot. I saw two divers slipped and fell on the floor while walking. Furthermore, there are patches on the ceiling (that looked like a baby’s diaper) supposedly to prevent leaks when it rains, which for me looked unpleasant when it’s known as a luxurious liveaboard.
On days when we dove in the no-take zone, the cruise director had to coordinate the diving with the Misool Eco Resort. The same thing happens when other liveaboards are in the area to avoid bringing the divers in the same site at the same time. Diving in the no-take zone of Raja Ampat (Four Kings, Nudi Rock, Boo Window, and Magic Mountain are my favorites) is definitely the highlight of this trip. It’s good to know that there are still dive sites where we can enjoy the sight of abundant marine life and healthy reef (presence of Napoleon wrasse, school of barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, mackerels, fusiliers, and even sharks ) in these days where illegal fishing is rampant and climate change affects the corals.
Apart from diving, we also enjoyed sight-seeing tours, the beaches of Raja Ampat and Triton bay, waterfalls, jungles, and even snorkeling with a whale shark that happened to be in the area at the time we were there.
A summary of our bill was given the day before our departure as well as departure details. For cash payment, they only accept Indonesian Rupiah or visa or mastercards for credit card. Upon departure, we were assisted by the cruise director and dive guide all the way to checking-in at Kaimana Airport.
I can say that diving Raja Ampat and Triton Bay on board Amira Liveaboard is a great experience. We have enjoyed not just the dives but the top-notch service of the entire crew from the cruise directors to the boat tenders, who all made sure that we all have a memorable and wonderful holiday.
Raja Ampat / West-Papua / Indonesia - Premium Diving with Amira Liveaboard
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