Cyclones, Mantas, and Dragons, Oh, My!!

Trip Start Nov 14, 2012
Trip End May 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Kanawa Island Resort
What I did
Komodo National Park

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Monday, January 14, 2013

Our determination to reach Kanawa Island finally panned out after hunting down the booking station in the little port town of Labuan Bajo.  We heard that there had been some damage to the resort's jetty that resulted in difficulty getting to the island.  Once we arrived at the island, saw the remains of the jetty, and spoke with the western dive masters, everything made more sense. Apparently, the island had experienced the worst cyclone in all of the natives lives (25-30 years) just 2 days before we arrived.  The waves were so big that they just ripped the jetty right out and totally demolished it. The house reef was largely crumbled and much of it buried by sand.  The resort's touring boat had also been demolished by the storm. The whole resort had a feeling of a funeral, leaving us to think "what did we get ourselves in to?!"

We were 2 of 6 total guests - the other 4 were locals, making for a very isolated feel.  Skylar stayed up for a beer at the dive shop to get the skinny, and it sounded like the entire operation was shut down. No diving. No boats leaving the island. No gas. SOL. 

The next morning, I saw that 2 of the guests were heading out to a boat. By the time we had figured out where they were going, the boat was gone.  They were heading out to Rinca to snorkel and see the Komodo dragons. We asked about going out on a trip and it seemed "missed the boat".  This place is so confusing - we thought it was clear that we had wanted to go out the night prior but were told that no boats were leaving. So frustrating!! Luckily, it was a sunny day, and we had the whole day to work on our tans :)

That night, Ed, the owner of the dive shop, stopped by while we finished dinner and said it would be a shame for us to come out and not dive.  He suggested we go to Manta Point and a second dive spot, depending on the currents, all contingent on good weather. Oh, the smiles on our faces at the possibility of diving!! We both willed for nice weather, got our wish, and headed out on our private dive boat with two instructors ready to see the mantas!!

During our pre-dive briefing, Ed informed us that mantas can be fairly inquisitive, and, if we were relaxed and stationary, the mantas often swim close by. The currents are strong and we must find safe spot to secure ourselves.  Easier said than done, especially as both Skylar and I have never touched anything underwater (at least not intentionally). We succeeded and were graced by a giant manta swimming right over our heads... totally amazing!!!

Our second dive was quite phenomenal as well - a small arch rock island with fierce currents on either side; the down currents can send a diver to 60 or 70 meters underwater - not good!!!  We safely stayed in between the currents and saw a whole gamut of colors - reds, greens, yellows, pinks, blues, and on and on... There were several large schools of fish and a white tip shark right off the bat.  The shark followed us for a bit and ensured that I stayed close to Skylar and Ed!!!  Ed pointed out some new nudibranchs for both of us - a super cool blue dragon. They're very hard to see, even though they're typically very brightly colored. We also saw several lion fish, huge groupers, titan triggers, huge oriental sweet lips, huge butterfly fish, a giant moray eel, the list goes on...

The next day we insisted on going to Rinca to see the Komodo Dragons. We were the last remaining guests on the resort  and they tried to talk us into waiting for more guests despite the fact that we were leaving the next day.  Not sure why they didn't do the same when the guests went on same trip 2 days prior - we would have happily joined - but who knows.  So, we ended up on our own private trip again.  Snorkeling was OK at the first spot; definately some damage due to the cyclone, but most of the smaller micro corals had survived. We saw loads of colors and huge variety of fish.  I am quite fond of the "irregular" fish such as box fish and porcupine fish, and had fun chasing them around.

The komodo dragons are pretty lazy most of the time - but I'd rather not see them when they're active!! They are ambush hunters and kill their prey by lacerating with sharp teeth and infecting with loads of strains of bacteria (e.coli, etc.) resulting in a slow death up to 2-3 days.  The dragons eat their prey whole and often vomit the skull, resulting in a bunch of skulls on display throughout the island. On Rinca, they typically eat deer or water buffalo and only eat once a month.  We were glad not to have too exciting of an experience with these ancient dragons!!

After a few nights on the island (and being the only guests), we were happy to leave after 4 nights.  Back to the cute/confused/juvenile port town of Labuan Bajo for a few nights then back to Bali.  Our time in Indonesia has flown by!!!
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