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May 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fiji, Iceland, Maldives, Raja Ampat

trouble in Cozumel, a bad critter-handling policy in Kauai

from the May, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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A Raja Ampat Liveaboard Bargain. With luxury Raja Ampat liveaboards running as much as $7,000 for 10 days (outrageous in Indonesia, a place where American go to retire because it is dirt-cheap), and booked a year in advance, too many divers have been priced out. So the new and more than adequate Aussiemanaged, French-owned Calico Jack is a welcome addition -- how about 11 nights in Raja Ampat for $2,200 to $2,800, or five nights diving Komodo for $1,450? Joanne Pannell (Geraldton, WA) was aboard in January and says, "This is a budget boat, cold showers (though in Raja Ampat, this isn't a problem) but spacious cabins, ensuite bathrooms and one hot shower on deck. It has a lovely, knowledgeable French cruise director who speaks fluent English and an excellent, French-trained chef who cooks Indonesian and European cuisine . . . There is a maximum of 10 guests. The dive deck is well laid out and functional . . . Usually four dives a day, with good surface intervals . . . The itinerary runs from Misool in the south to Waigeo in the north. All the dive gear is new. No Nitrox and no dedicated photography table; if more than half the guests were photographers, lack of space could be an issue." Pannell saw everything one expects to see -- great schools of fish, sharks (wobbegongs and black-tip reef sharks), mantas, devil rays, pygmy seahorses, and nudibranchs. Non-diving activities include kayaking, bird watching, trekking and village visits. Calico Jack's fees are in Euros, so the prices will fluctuate accordingly. ( )

Coiba, Panama. While the reviewer in our Panama travel story found fault with the dive leaders at Coiba Dive Center, Jennifer Widom (Stanford, CA) dived with Scuba Coiba in January and reports that she was happy with their operation. "Our family took the standard three-day, nine-dive trip to Coiba Island. While the diving doesn't match up to Socorro or Cocos, it was pretty darn good. While some dives had periods of little activity, and not every dive site has pretty reefs, we saw a great deal: ever-present white-tip sharks, two giant manta rays, stingrays, eagle rays, fleets of mobula rays, turtles, seahorses, frogfish, eels, schools of barracuda, and innumerable schooling fish. Apparently, everything is highly seasonal -- water temperature, visibility and underwater life. Our friendly guide, Nicholas, did a good job managing the expedition; he largely just showed the way and kept an eye out for the good stuff. Accommodations are in ranger-run bunkhouses with five to six beds and private bathrooms. The island has its own interesting wildlife and a few hiking trails." ( )...

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