Dive Komodo ; Rays, Reefs and More
Dive Komodo ; Rays, Reefs and More…
For once the guest of the Phi Siren and her crew were off to a regular start, no temporary airport closures, large flight delays or missing suit cases. Everything went smoothly; a good omen for this wonderful 10 day trip to the North and South of Komodo National Park. Our divers were a mix of Dutch, Swedish, English and Americans and their ages and experience levels were just as varied, from instructor level to a 16 year old Open Water Diver with just about 10 dives but each have learned something new during the trip and seen some fantastic new creatures under and above the Flores Sea!
After a good first night’s rest in Bima Bay we set sail at 3am for Sangeang Island. A giant volcanic island with two peaks, the beaches are black lava sand and so the diving of course is pure muck diving! Our first dive was on Bonto Reef and as usual we asked our guest at the end of the dive to practice their SMB skills and the group of Alex participated in the exercise for the crew, usage of the diver recall system and diver in deco, with lowering a deco or stage tank to 5 meters. All performed well and as usual, SMB setting skills by the guest could be improved:). We followed up with a relaxing dive on Techno Reef with big schools of yellow striped snappers and red tooth trigger fish before moving the yacht closer to Komodo and set sail for Gilli Banta where we had two dives, one in K2 and the night dive in Gazer Beach. What an amazing night dive again, two stargazers, a stonefish and a white leave fish, cuttlefish and hunting lion fish, what a great finish for our first day.
Day number two woke us with a fantastic sunrise in Batu Monshu, our sister ship the Indo Siren next to us and a wonderful drift dive from Big Nose back into the bay, a huge marble ray greeted us on the descent and a juvenile manta said hello during our safety stop, what more can you asked for? Afterwards we had the most chilling dive in Coral Garden and spend 20 minutes observing the Jaw fish turning and rotating their offspring’s eggs in their mouth The third dive of the day at Crystal Rock with medium current from the north east made us try a negative entry on the east plateau and we were the only ones there enjoying the bait bail of blue fusiliers being hunted by jack fish and giant trevallies, as well as white tip reef sharks, just amazing. After that we set foot in Gilli Lawa Laut where we were anchored in the bay we call Crystal Bay and walked up the hills with a big cooler of Bintag to look west to Sangeang and Gilli Banta to see the sunset, and what a sunset it was amazing and almost endless! The two Volcano peaks rising in an orange pink sky!
Day number three is off to an exciting start with Shotgun, the passage between Gilli Lawa Laut and Gilli Lawa Darat. Also known as Calderon, the pot! What a great ride we had and lots of green turtles in the end on Flamingo Reef as well as some leaf fish. Dive two for the day we set out for Castle Rock at slack and we had an easy entrance down to 25 meters, bait balling fusiliers and huge school of bat fish patrolling white tip reef sharks and the grey ones paid us a short visit. Now we set sail for Current City, beautiful blue sky almost no wind we sailed all the way to Makassar Reef and did a nice dive with white tip reef sharks, black tips and bamboo shark, eagle rays and a big marble ray, sadly no Mantas, but not unusual for this time of year, and we still move to Manta Alley a little later. Sunset at Wainiloo and mandarin diving at its best, once again we had an “all you can spot mandarin and picturesque dragonets dive” at Wainilloo as well as lots of other critters. When we surfaced we had the most beautiful sunset sky above us. For dinner we celebrated Amelie’s birthday with the crew dressing up in fancy dress!
Day four had some changes in store, we got a weather warning for the south of Rinca so we decided to stay up north and also skip the dragon walk for today since rain was falling on Rinca all morning. We went for Batu Bolong and a spectacular dive with hundreds of fairy basslets and damsel fish pulsating in and out of the rock and finger coral. After Batu Bolong we headed one more time for Makassar Reef in search of the illusive Mantas, although all enjoyed the ride we had no Mantas again, they all seem to be south at the moment. After we headed for Tatawa Besar and had the easiest dive alongside this fantastic colorful reef that reminds you of a summer field of flowers and grass. We had turtles and one wonderful bamboo shark sleeping as well as schools of bat fish and oriental and harlequin sweetlips. When we pulled up anchor we got stuck on a steal cable so I dived down to 25 meters to have a look what’s it attached to, it turned out that it was an old anchor. So Iain and Idived down one more time to tie a rope around and salvaged it. Afterwards we went for Sebayur Kecil and had a fantastic night dive with bamboo shark, stone fish, leaf fish, crocodile fish and hunting octopus.
Day five started with a supposed to be slack dive in Tatawa Kecil, but half way through the dive the current changed and we spend most of the dive trapped in spurning flower coral on the plateau! A hardy breakfast was needed as we headed for Nusa Kode and Horse Shoe Bay. The weather and the waves looked fantastic and with a strong receding tide from the north east we made it down there in 2.5 hours. Cannibal Rock gave us 25c water temp and 5m visibility but what an abundance of critters. We had several giant and painted Frogfish, lady bugs, zebra crab and leopard commensal shrimp on the fire urchin, post pelagic ghost pipe fish, sea apples as well as seahorse pipe fish. The night dive at Torpedo Alley treated us with the name givers and sea horse as well as the infamous Bobbitt worm! A further day was spent in South Rinca diving Boulders and Cannibal Rock once more afterwhich we travelled back to the south of Komodo to Loh Serah for a night dive at the Phinisi Wreck.
Day seven early in the morning we made a runner for Manta Alley and were lucky that our secret passage way was not too wavy. We had the whole bay to ourselves and made three fantastic dives with 5m Mantas as well as black tip reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse and the largest parrot fish I have ever seen. Once again we ventured into the Indian Ocean and steamed up the eastern coastline of Komodo Island with the sun setting to our right, what a wonderful journey up to Pantai Merah or Pink Beach as it is called for the last dive of the day looking for clown frogfish, leaf fish as well as mating mandarin fish.
Our eighth day of the trip starter we a fantastic walk seeing many Komodo Dragons, they are in mating season at the moment and very active indeed. A big breakfast was flowed by a day dive at Pink Beach getting a good look at those orange frog fish again from the night dive, as well as the leaf fish. On the way north to Gilli Lawa Laut we stopped one more time in Batu Bolong and had the whole block to ourselves with amazing clear water and 8 huge hawks bill turtles munching away on sponges. Last dive for the day in shot gun for sunset. One more try for that adrenalin dive through the barrels of a shot gun. And it was a great sunset ride from east to west, with numerous white tip reef sharks hunting.
After an amazing sunrise we pulled up anchor and went for Castle Rock, with rising tide we had the current from the east and we dropped on to the eastern plateau went down to 30 meters and hung a while with the grey reef sharks. Afterwards we moved up to the reef to watch the white tips staying there until the first diver had 70 Bar before ascending to shallower depths. During our safety stop we were in the midst of a fusilier bait ball under attack by giant trevallies and jack fish. Last dive of this trip was at Crystal Rock and what a mega current dive this was, we jumped on the eastern plateau again amidst white tip reef sharks and waves of strong ripping current from the north, wow! One more chance to use the newly purchased reef hook! When we came up the crew already had set the sails and we started our return journey to Bima on Sumbawa. What a great finish of a spectacular live aboard trip. Sadly just when we got to know each other, we have to part again, but maybe one day we will meet again on one of our sister ships in the Siren Fleet. Till then a big farewell and safe journey home from all of us on the Phi Siren.
We want to welcome 6 new Nitrox Divers in our midst, Hurra to Suzanne, Graham, Frank, Leslie, Monique and Mathew. You can sit on the big table from now on:-) Cheerio Alex
Photos by Inge Onderwater