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Komodo Trip Report, July 2015

Komodo Trip Report, July 2015
Several years ago we made numerous trips to Komodo on small dive boats that allowed us to dive around the islands for a few days at a time. What we saw then solidified our love for the underwater world. This time we would return for a 10 night itinerary on Indo Siren Liveaboard allowing us to dive all our favourite dive sites plus many sites we had never visited. We were of course keen to see how Komodo had changed over the years and we hoped the diving we had loved all those years ago would still be just as good.

Our trip to Komodo would start and finish in the sleepy port town of Bima on Sumbawa Island. Onboard this trip were an international mix of divers from the UK, US, Norway, Czech, Ireland, South Africa and Germany.

Heading out of port we set sail for Sangeang Island famous for its great macro sites and here the highlight dive was Techno Reef where we found many types of Nudibranchs, Octopus, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, huge Garden Eels, tons of Yellow Snapper, shrimps, Leaf Scorpionfish and a beautiful juvenile Lionfish. Sangeang is a spectacular volcanic island with a smoking crater and down one of its slopes you can see where the lava flowed during last year’s eruption. Along the shore of Sangeang Island you can see many Water Buffalo walking along the beach. Later in the day we moved to Gili Banta where our day dive at K2 dive site provided an encounter with the largest Moray Eels I’ve ever seen, there were two of them sharing a home and they really looked like they could have taken your arm off! K2 also had an amazing array of beautiful hard corals and many interesting Nudibranchs. We stayed at Gili Banta for our night dive and were rewarded with numerous species of shrimps and crabs, Stargazer, Indian Walkman, Snake Eels and Squid hunting at the surface!

For our second day of diving we headed to Komodo Island to dive its famous Northern dive sites. Our first dive was at Coral Garden where we encountered Mantas at both the start and end of the dive! Visibility was fantastic at this dive site and the early morning sun rays lit up the Mantas beautifully. At Coral Garden we also encountered Batfish, Whitetip Reef Sharks, lots of Fusiliers and Sweetlips, Giant Pufferfish, and thousands of Glassfish around the bommies. Two of Komodo’s most famous dive sites are the submerged pinnacles of Crystal Rock and Castle Rock and these were next up for us. At Crystal Rock we had plenty of big fish, including several really big Napoleon Wrasse, Giant Trevallies, Giant Barracuda, Dogtooth Tunas, Whitetip Reef Sharks hunting through schools of Surgeonfish, lots of Fusiliers and Bannerfish, schools of Batfish, Giant Pufferfish, Octopus, Bluefin Trevally, Hawksbill Turtles, Pygmy Seahorse and a huge Eagle Ray! That evening we celebrated our fabulous days diving by climbing one of Komodo’s peaks for fantastic views over the archipelago. A few cool Bintangs on the beach were the icing on the cake as the sun set!

We next began the journey down the East coast of Komodo stopping to dive at some legendary dive sites along the way, including Tatawa Besar and Batu Bolong. We also dived Makassar Reef in search of more Mantas and whilst we didn’t encounter these giant rays we did find a rare Bamboo Shark resting on the ocean floor and an Eagle Ray – not bad conciliation prizes! Tatawa Besar and Batu Bolong gave us plenty of big fish action with many of the same suspects from Castle and Crystal Rock been present at these dive sites. Tatawa Besar is also home to some of the most beautiful soft corals in Komodo, whilst Batu Bolong is awash with small orange Anthias making these sites not only exciting big fish dives but also exceptionally beautiful. All of our dives on the North and East coasts of Komodo provided superb visibility adding to the wonder of been surrounded by so many hunting fish. Our final dive of the day was a sunset dive at Wainilu on the Northern coast of Rinca Island and here we perfected the art of patience whilst photographing Mandarin fish, Picturesque Dragonets, Boxer Crabs with their anemone pom-poms, and Marbled Shrimps!

The next day we rose early for one of the most exciting moments of any trip to Komodo, a visit to see the Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island. We were especially lucky on our tour to encounter two Komodo Dragons mating and our guide kindly informed is that they have not one but two penises, a short one and a long one. As well as encountering many Komodo Dragons, from large adults to small juveniles, the tour also afforded us with some fantastic views out over the islands.

Following our land tour it was time to head to South Rinca, for some of the world’s best macro diving. This diving would be very different to the dives in North Komodo with the emphasis very much on the weird and wonderful critters instead of big fish and we would also see a drop in water temperature and visibility. Our first dive was at Pulau Padar where unexpectedly we saw several Mobula Rays plus lots of great macro, including a very small red Frogfish, lots of Nudibranchs, Emperor Shrimps and Harlequin Crabs on Sea Cucumbers, Blue Spotted Stingrays and Ribbon Eels. We then moved to Nusa Kode where we made a total of five dives on world renowned macro sites such as Cannibal Rock, The Boulder, Rhino Rocks and Torpedo Alley. The following is a brief critter list from our dives at these amazing marco sites: Bumble Bee Shrimps, Ladybug Amphipods, Zebra Crabs, endless types of Nudibranchs, Bigfin Reef Squid eating a fish, lots of Blue Spotted Stingrays (one attacked my camera), Seahorse, Octopus, Frogfish, Emperor Shrimps, Crinoid Squat Lobsters, Mantis Shrimps, Skeleton Shrimps, Giant Frogfish, Coleman Shrimps, Orangutan Crabs, Cockatoo Waspfish and a tiny yellow Box Fish. Whilst we were in South Rinca we also took a dingy ride to the beach to see more Komodo Dragons and to our delight they swam out to us – what an experience!

Macro lovers could stay in South Rinca for weeks at a time finding different critters on every dive but a Komodo trip is all about variety so we next set sail for South Komodo to another very famous dive site – Manta Alley! At Manta Alley you can often encounter these beautiful rays in large numbers but we were not so lucky with just one Manta on the first dive and then four Mantas on the second dive. Manta Alley also had plenty of schooling fish, really large Pufferfish (these are everywhere in Komodo!) and some Hawksbill Turtles.

Following our fun in South Komodo it was time to move back up North to some of our favourite dives sites with warm water and crystal clear visibility. We would dive the top sites such as Batu Bolong, Castle Rock and Crystal Rock again as well as some new sites such as Pink Beach and Golden Passage where we had a lovely encounter with a Blacktip Reef Shark. Our second time diving Castle Rock was undoubtedly the best dive of the trip, no current, perfect visibility and more fish life than you will see on any other dive site in South East Asia – truly a dive I will remember for the rest of my life! In North Komodo we also climbed another of Komodo’s peaks, this time with even more spectacular views across the archipelago with the low tide serving to highlight the amazing reefs that fringe the islands of Komodo National Park. And of course there was time for Bintangs on the beach!

For our final dives we ventured to Bima Bay and here the dives were very reminiscent of those in Ambon’s Twilight Zone. Our Bima Bay dive sites, called Nudibranch Reef and the Unusual Suspects, were incredibly critter rich, with a wide array of Nudibranchs, Coleman Shrimps, Pipefish, Ribbon Eels, Boxer Shrimps, Bubble Coral Shrimps, Striped Catfish, Spiny Tiger Shrimps, Thorny Seahorse, a very strange pair of Leafy Filefish and a Frogfish!

With our diving complete there was time for plenty of celebrating on the boat for what was certainly an amazing trip full of diversity, big fish, critters, dragons and amazing topside scenery. Indeed the topside scenery in Komodo is unique and like nothing you will see elsewhere in Indonesia.

This Komodo trip far exceeded any previous trips I’d taken to Komodo both in terms of the diving and the land excursions. The dive sites are still as I remember them and if anything they had more fish than I’d previously seen on them. For the macro dives you need the best dive guides and we owe a lot to the Indo Siren dive guides who helped us see and photograph everything that was weird and wonderful. On our last dive they asked what I would most like to see, I said a Spiny Tiger Shrimp, a 1cm critter I’d never seen in all my trips to Indonesia – they found one within six minutes of the dive starting! We will certainly be coming back to Komodo soon for more amazing dive adventures!