Aqualung Safari trip
This new trip truly had everything: great guests, great aquatic life and a great opportunity for our divers to benefit from the presentations and innovative dive equipment provided by our friends at Aqualung, two of whom joined us for a special 10-day Aqualung Safari. We kicked things off with a check dive at Techno Reef, where we enjoyed the company of a gregarious reef octopus under the smoldering peak of the Sangeang volcano. Later that morning, our guests marveled at the diversity of nudibranch species gliding (ok, more like creeping) over the dark sands at the Estuary. Then it was on to Gili Banta and the abundant sweetlips, crustaceans and turtles of K2. For many of our guests, however, the best part of Day 1 was the night dive at Circus. Highlights included stargazers peeking up from beneath the sand, snake eels, otherworldly decorator crabs and pygmy octopuses. It was all we could do to get the guests out of the water and back on the Indo Siren for dinner.
In the days that followed, the diving only got better. As we drifted with a relatively mild current at Shotgun, we spotted one white tip reef shark, then another. A few black tips joined in the action, bringing the total shark count to five. Once we passed through the “shotgun” itself, we had our first encounter with a reef manta. All things considered, not a bad way to start your morning. Our second dive of the day at Crystal Rock was action packed, with a strong current turning the twin pinnacles into a swirling cauldron of fish life. The conditions at Castle Rock were a bit milder but the fish were no less abundant, with white tip reef sharks and giant trevallies patrolling the waters in search of an afternoon snack. During our night dive at Spanish Dancer Heaven, patience paid off. Only minutes before coming to the surface, one of our guests finally spotted a 30cm example of the flamboyant nudibranch we had all come to see. Well done!
The Indo Siren then made its way to Current City, where we did two dives each at Batu Balong and Makassar Reef. As the current was falling for each of or visits to Batu Balong, we stayed on the sheltered south side of the dive site. The hawksbill and green turtles must have had the same idea, as we seemed to find one in every nook and cranny of the reef. At Makassar Reef, the current was fairly mild, so little exertion was required to spend time with the 5 or 6 mantas we encountered on each of our dives.
A steady stream of jokes and good-natured ribbing provided the soundtrack for this trip, so it was no surprise that the group had a great time during the dragon walk on the island of Rinca.
No sooner had we regained our land legs than we were back in the water, this time in Nusa Kode at the southern end of Rinca. Cannibal Rock is world renowned for its amazing diversity of coral and critter life and it certainly did not disappoint, providing us with an up close view of a giant frog fish, dozing cat sharks, zebra crabs and an amazing variety of nudibranchs.
During our previous visit to Nusa Koke, we had seen an extremely rare white manta at the surface, so we were thrilled to spot this magnificent creature once again and to capture it on video as it swam alongside our dive tender.
Another remarkable inhabitant of the waters around Nusa Kode is the lacey scorpionfish (rhinopias aphanes), which we often see at the site called Boulders. We had seen a gorgeous purple specimen on our two previous cruises and, sure enough, the same fellow was waiting on the sand right where we left him. It was wonderful to see our divers encircle the rhinopias at a respectful distance to give this rare and beautiful animal every bit of the appreciation it deserves. A spectacular night dive among the torpedo rays, bobbit worms and other bizarre critters of Torpedo Alley wrapped up our visit to Rinca and whetted everyone’s appetite for what awaited the next day.
MANTAS!!! A short crossing back to Komodo brought the Indo Siren to Manta Alley, where the presence of numerous cleaning stations usually ensures there will be lots of mantas, and almost as many dive boats. But to our surprise the Indo Siren was the only liveaboard in the area. Lucky us! Our first dive at Manta Alley started slowly, with only a few mantas passing by our cleaning station during the first 10 minutes. Then the action heated up. Towards the end of the dive, we spotted a train of 9 mantas soaring over the sand. The second dive was even better, with somewhere between 15-25 individuals passing back and forth throughout the dive, the type of experience that will humble even the most experienced diver.
Sad though we were to leave Manta Alley, more great diving awaited. We returned to Current City, where our third visit to Batu Bolong greeted us with a rising current, allowing us to finally explore the dramatic topography on the north side of the site. On our second visit to Shotgun we encountered much stronger current than the first, so our guests could truly understand how the site got its name. The highlight of our return to the north, however, was our second visit to Castle Rock. This time, the current was a bit stronger, so we hooked in on the west side to enjoy the show. And what a show! Huge schools of neon fusiliers swirling all over the rock while giant trevallies, white tips and grey reef sharks passed in the blue. When it came time to unhook and drift slowly towards our safety stop, the sight of graceful white tips cruising above the rock, silhouetted in the early morning sun, provided the perfect conclusion to a brilliant 10 days of diving.
This was a wonderful group of divers and a wonderful safari both in and out of the water. Special thanks to our friends at Aqualung, whose informative presentations and awesome gear really helped our crew and guests take their diving to another level. We can’t wait to see you all again aboard a Siren Fleet vessel!