With some of the most epic and well documented diving in the world, Indonesia has become a popular destination for travellers looking to indulge in the wonders of the sea. But serious divers face a choice upon arrival: to locate themselves on the shores of various islands and travel by land, or to fully indulge in the adventure lifestyle by booking a luxurious cabin on an Indonesian liveaboard dive boat that will do the travelling for you.
But, there are some important factors you should consider when making the decision about chartering a liveaboard in Indonesia. After all, no one wants to be out to sea eating poor quality food on a trip with people they don’t like, or worse, find themselves under the not so experienced care of a Dive Instructor who doesn’t know the area. To make sure you choose the right boat and have the experience of a lifetime in Indonesia, we’ve put together this checklist to ensure you know what to ask about when you’re planning your Indonesian liveaboard experience.
In Indonesia there are many incredible dive sites but of those, the best two are undoubtedly the region of Raja Ampat and the protected areas of the Komodo National Park. It’s more than possible to include both of these areas on a liveaboard journey, so make sure you ask any companies you are considering whether they’ll do so. Then make sure you’re clear about where the boat will launch. Boats commonly depart from Labuan Bajo in Flores, or from Sorong in West Papua. It’s also important to make sure you ask about the weather and timing of your trip. Both of these areas are welcoming to tourists, but you should know that West Papua requires an extra day of travel from Denpasar.
If you’re an experienced diver you’ve likely got some, or all of your own equipment, but make sure the boat you’re considering has ‘top notch’ gear anyway. Ask them what kind of equipment they have, look for reputable brands and ask them if the gear is regularly serviced. Some Indonesian operations skimp on this vital factor and the result is equipment that is aged or damaged. Ask them if they have spare parts, if they can carry out unexpected repairs on board, and even how many tanks they’re operating. They’ll need to have an air compressor on board but these machines can be noisy, so make sure there are enough tanks to get you and your dive buddies through the day before the machine is switched on. Also, double check that the company has DAN insurance, and oxygen on board in case of emergency.
Whether you’re sharing a twin cabin or planning to book your own, really look at the photos and make sure there’s enough space for you to catch a decent night’s sleep. A common mistake friends make is trying to squeeze three into a room that was built for two people. Unless you’re chartering a super yacht, the cabins on any boat are built to be compact, so ensure that there’s enough storage, that the beds are comfortable and that there are enough bathrooms to accommodate you.
Don’t hesitate to ask about the crew who’ll be on board with you. Are they experienced, have they been working together for some time, or are they newly assembled. It’s especially important to ensure your Dive Instructor or Dive Master knows the area well and if they are trained in first aid. Also ask the company if there are other certified divers in the crew, and what languages they speak. It’s always reassuring to feel as if you can communicate your needs to at least one of the crewmembers. A good boat in Indonesia will have someone who can speak English, Italian, Indonesian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
As a paying customer the team should be ready to assist you with anything you may need and that means you can expect them to keep up a professional standard of service throughout the whole trip. So ask about the service, is there a cabin boy to clean your room and wash clothes? Does a waiter attend the meals and can someone make you a coffee in the morning? Indonesia’s beautiful environment needs protecting so ask the company what they do with the rubbish and also whether you’ll have access to a TV, DVD player and sound system should the weather turn and require a movie night.
Food and beverages are an important part of your liveaboard experience. There’s nothing nicer than sitting back watching the sunset and enjoying a gorgeous meal after a day in the water! Before you choose your company, check to see if the chef has been professionally trained. If you’re on a longer trip, you can expect there will be times between ports where fresh food gets a little low, so ask about what’s served when that happens. Also, ask about what drinks are on board, can you bring your own wine or do they accept requests to stock spirits of your choice? Be aware that in Indonesia, the supply of alcohol is often limited, this is due to the largely Muslim population in many areas of the archipelago, so make sure your demands are reasonable but also that you feel accommodated.
Some companies run the same trips over and over and have no flexibility about routes and schedules. This can be disappointing if you find a sweet spot that you want to dive again or if the weather turns. Make sure you ask the team whether they are willing to be fluid with the schedule? Depending on the length of your charter you’ll always sacrifice one stop for another, but ask if they’re willing to do this should you desire it. There’s nothing worse than finding a diving mecca and having to pull anchor when you want to spend more time exploring!
Though diving may be your main motivation consider a company who also offers adventures above the water. Indonesia is rich with many experiences on land as well as in the sea. Whether it’s island hopping in search of unique cultural experiences, mountain climbing, fishing, sea kayaking, water skiing or even exploratory trips into unchartered areas. Further to this, does the boat have a qualified PADI or SSI instructor so you can up skill on your diving? If so consider becoming an advanced or rescue diver while on board and using the time to better your underwater skills.
Many liveabords run large operations where you’ll find yourself on board with 15-20 people! Think about how this will impact your serenity and sense of freedom. While there are benefits to meeting lots of others, consider smaller boats with a higher level of luxury and service. The lovely thing about a smaller group is that you get to know each other intimately. You share in moments of joy and beauty together and it’s a bespoke experience. The main factor to consider is comfort, boats have limited space so do yourself a favour and make sure you don’t get caught out by a ‘cookie cutter’ type of charter where you’ll feel like just another cog in the factory line.
This is the one area where most people go wrong. You need to consider that you’re not just paying for your diving; you’re also paying for all of your food, accommodation and entertainment for the period of your trip. So make sure you weigh this up when you’re making cost decisions. If you choose to see this beautiful country by land you’d be paying added expenses anyway but a liveabaord trip is generally all-inclusive.
Explore Indonesia With Mantra Dive And Sail
If you’re looking for a boat trip that ticks everything on this list then consider Mantra Dive and Sail. The company offer bespoke liveaboard experiences throughout Indonesia with everything from 2-day to 25-day trips available. You can book the whole boat for a journey of your choice or just a private cabin on one of the trips they already have planned. Liveabord is the best way to dive the archipelago of Indonesia so ensure you’re getting what you pay for with a quality company! Click here for more information and start planning the trip of a lifetime.