Amazing dives for our Komodo farewell
Amazing dives for our Komodo farewell
Our new guests were ready for a new adventure on board the Indo Siren. First on the schedule was Sangeaong were we arrived at our first stop just in time to enjoy the sunrise. We all hoped to see lava flowing, but on this day the volcano was silent under bands of wispy haze. The diving, however, was spectacular. Minutes into our check dive at Techno Reef, we spotted yellow and white ornate ghost pipefish camouflaged in a feather star. The excitement continued with leaf and Papuan scorpionfish, peacock mantis shrimps, the cacera nudibranchs and, best of all, two swimming stonefish. Our second dive at Hot Rocks was all about the small stuff: the bargibanti pygmy seahorse and the tiny bublles rising up from the dark volcanic sand! Our guests were crazy about both. For our afternoon and evening dives, we moved the Indo Siren to the island of Gili Banta, where our guests enjoyed enticing a juvenile ribbon eel from its hole at K2 and snapping pictures of the wonderfully odd creatures (e.g., the reticulate stargazer) that inhabit the night diving site known as Circus.
After a restful night’s sleep at BatuMonco, we started our day of diving with a leisurely drift through Coral Garden. We always enjoy the water clarity and wonderful coral bommies at this site, but the unquestioned star of today’s dive was a 3.5 meter oceanic manta that cruised past at the 45 minute mark. It always pays to keep one eye out in the blue! We then moved the Indo Siren to GiliLawaLaut, home to several of Komodo National Park’s most famous dive sites. At Crystal Rock, we saw a bit of everything: pygmy seahorse, white tip sharks, schools of trevallies and sweetlips. Meanwhile at Castle Rock, a mild current allowed our divers to pocket their reef hooks and circle the entire site. Typically, a mild current at Castle does not provide for fist pumping excitement, but this day was an exception with a huge school of fusiliers swarming the rock as giant trevallies, white tip reef sharks and napoleons weaved through them. Absolutely magnificent.
Our guests are loving the warm, clear water of north Komodo, so we have decided to tweak our itinerary to give them a few extra dives in this area before moving farther south. Our first dive of the day was at Lighthouse Reef, where we finally got a taste of the current for which Komodo is famous. Hooked in at the exposed corner of GiliLawaLaut, we flew like kites in the current as white tips and an extraordinary number of giant marbled groupers moved past. Later in the morning, we again jumped Castle Rock and were again treated to the overwhelming abundance of marine life that makes that site famous among divers the world over.
Our guests greeted the new day with a medium paced ride through Shotgun, the channel between GiliLawaDarat and GiliLawaLaut. the marine life was abundant: white tips, black tips, an eagle ray and an all too brief visit from a reef manta. We then moved the Indo Siren into Current City where we had a fantastic dive on the south side of BatuBolong. As usual, the “Rock With A Hole In It” was a madhouse of underwater activity, with multiple turtles and napoleons cruising among the clouds of damselfish, butterfly fish, anthias, et cetera. Continuing south, we stopped for two dives at Pink Beach, where every bommie we swam past seemed to yield some sort of wonderful creature, from soft coral crabs to octopusues. A great day of diving from start to finish.
After a brief land excursion to see some Komodo dragons, we moved the Indo Siren to Padar Island for a dive at TigaDara where we spotted a couple of giant frogfish hidden among the gorgeous soft corals. Then it was on to Horseshoe Bay in south Rinca, where our guests marvelled at the sea apples, fire urchins and wonderful macro life at Cannibal Rock. The highlight of the day, however, was our night dive at Torpedo Alley, where the parade of oddities included a stargazer, a coconut octopus, a wide array of decorator crabs and three of the Torpedo Rays for which the site is named.
We began our first full day in southern waters with a visit to Boulders and, although we didn’t find the lacy or paddle flap scorpionfish that we have seen in the past, we did spot a fringelip flathead, a broadclub cuttlefish as well as plenty of nudis and zebra crabs for the macro enthusiasts. During our later dives at Cannibal Rock and Rhino Rocks, we encountered orang-utan crabs, peacock-tail anemone shrimp, and a huge solar powered nudi to keep the strobe lights flashing. Then it was time to leave the brilliant soft corals and unexpectedly warm waters of Nusa Kode and make our way to LohSerah in southern Komodo. We don’t do much wreck diving on the Indo Siren, so our guests appreciated the chance to check out the sunken phinisi (engine intact) at LohSerah Bay. The usual batfish were cruising curiously around the wreck and a huge reef stonefish was an unexpected treat.
We knew from the get go that this group was all about the mantas. So we were naturally delighted to discover upon our arrival at Manta Alley that we would have the dive site all to ourselves. For our first dive, we had 4 mantas circling a cleaning station only a few meters from our group. For the second dive, the mantas were even more numerous and more willing to approach our divers. Following our second manta dive, we moved the Indo Siren north to Padar for a dive at Padar Bay, which we might have to rename Frogfish Bay after spotting three of them – two giant and one painted – all between 8 and 12 meters.
Our return to Current City marked a return to the crystal clear waters of the north, and where better to enjoy the benefits of 30m visibility than BatuBolong. Our second visit to the Rock With A Hole In It proved even better than the first, as a slack tide allowed us to explore both sides of the site in all its sharky, turtleriffic, napoleon. Mild conditions stayed with us through our late morning dive among the wonderful boulders and overhangs of Tatawa Kecil. A bit of current finally kicked in after lunch, perfectly timed for our afternoon dive at Makassar Reef. Drifting south over the rubble, we spotted about 5 or 6 mantas, most of which were just passing by. Once we arrived at a patch of soft coral, however, we got to spend a good bit of time with 3 large white tips and a couple of green turtles. A night dive in Komodo Bay featuring a cantaloupe sized helmet snail put the wraps on another great day aboard the Indo Siren.
Back to GiliLawaLaut! And back to some of our favorite sites: Crystal Rock, Castle Rock and Shotgun. At Crystal, conditions were once again ideal and fish were abundant. Our group was particularly thrilled to find a large napoleon resting under an overhang, quite an unusual sight during daylight hours. At Castle, the current was mild but that didn’t keep the sharks away. We counted 7 white tips along with the usual schools of surgeonfish, bat fish and snappers. But the best dive of the day was unquestionably Shotgun, where we had sharks over the sandy bottom, giant trevallies in the canyon, a swift ride through the channel and close encounters with mantas in the shallows. In other words, everything we could have asked for in one fantastic dive.
Our last day of diving had plenty of excitement to offer. We began with a return to Lighthouse Reef at the tip of GiliLawaLaut. As was the case yesterday at Castle Rock, the current was mild but sharks were plentiful, and we enjoyed the company of both swimming white tips and a sleeping nurse shark. Later that morning, we cruised with the current along the colorful east side of Tatawa Besar. At this point in a cruise, we would typically be returning west to Sumbawa. However, since this is a “transition trip” (meaning, this is the first of two cruises that will take us from Komodo to Raja Ampat), we continued eastward to SebayurBesar for our final dive. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed the rugged underwater landscape that brought another great day of diving to a close.
The last full day of our cruise was a day of rest, spent leisurely cruising along the north coast of Flores to Maumere. That said, we did take a short break to visit the 17 Islands marine park for a bit of fun (log rolling, anyone?).
We could not have asked for a better group of divers to help us bid farewell to Komodo for 2014. We will be sad to see them go, and we hope to see them all again soon. Perhaps in Raja Ampat!