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Intro •  Nabucco Island Resort  •  Guides & Safety  •  Diving in General  •  Barracudas: Big Fish Country   
Manta Rays: Sangalaki Island  •  Jellyfish Lake: Kakaban Island  •  Flying Foxes  •  Still Life Gallery

Guides and Safety

At the time of our visit Nabucco had functioned as a dive resort for eighteen months and had two Indonesian dive guides, both PADI Divemasters: One from Jakarta and one from the neighbouring Maratua Island. The resort had two dive boats: One with room for 12 and one with room for six divers. In spite of this only one oxy-box was available but – as we later found out – no-one knew how to operate it, so it didn't really matter.

Giant clamp

There's 1½ metres' difference between high and low tide in this area so on almost all our dives we went with the current though on some occasions going against would have been totally impossible. No more than 100-200 metres from Maratuas's east coast the depth plummets to a staggering 2½ kilometres, and four out of five dives were vertical wall dives.

For once our logbooks and certificates were studied thoroughly but other than that the dive guides didn't impress us at all. Briefings were kept to “reef on your right shoulder” or “maximum dive time 60 minutes or 50 bars” whichever came first. If we asked them what to expect from the dive, they didn't reply “to get wet” but they might as well have done just that.

We had an incident where a not that experienced diver went into deco after a hectic dive at Barracuda Point at Kakaban Island. The chaos that followed is almost indescribable. As the deco diver apparently couldn't read his own dive computer someone on our boat calculated – without checking with the unfortunate diver – how long he was to remain at five metres. Don't ask me how. A couple of other divers started to shift dive gear from the big boat to the small boat as they wanted the big boat to quickly get the deco diver back to the resort. They hadn't considered that putting 12 fully equipped divers on the small 6 seater boat through a rough sea might present a far worse scenario.

The guides? They went on a hike on Kakaban Island, the boat crew sat cosily at the rear of the big boat and chatted, and the one person that perhaps should have reacted and calmed everybody down – a German CMAS instructor – didn't do anything at all. So it fell to us to put a lid on the situation as best we could. The crew couldn't find the oxy-box let alone assemble it so we started by doing that. And then after some heavy discussion we managed to stop the two divers from shifting gear. When the unfortunate deco diver surfaced a quick glance at his computer revealed that he seemingly was okay but perhaps should skip tomorrow's dives just to be on the safe side. And then he happily emptied the oxygen bottle.

In all fairness, the resort has changed dive guides since then and hired a professional instructor to sort out the safety issues. But it does go to show that conservative diving well within the limits is a must – especially when you're stuck on a rocky outcrop eight hours by low-flying helicopter away from the nearest recompression chamber. All our dives were fairly deep and demanding, and with a temperature of 40 degrees in the shade dehydration and possibly the bends were a very real possibility.

Hard corals from dive site Turtle Parade


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