Diving Komodo Style
Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
92Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Where I stayed
The first night.
Having checked out of our room and paid our 3 million Rupiah bill, we then dropped our backpacks off at the dive school before going for breakfast. We are both very excited about the 8 night 17 dive live aboard called The Jaya, our very own pirate ship for the week. Having sat on the beach for the day, we arrived back at the dive school at 4pm to meet our fellow divers and dive crew. The boat holds a maximum of 12 divers plus dive staff and crew, lucky for us only 8 people had signed up for this trip so lots of room on the boat.
The Jaya was moored up just off shore so we piled into a motorised dingy ready for our eight nights at sea. We had been warned that the boat was a bit basic but it was still a bit of a surprise how basis she was. We had our own cabin.... well we had a cupboard with a double bed in and room to stand our rucksacks up in. There is a massive shaded deck with bench seats at the end and deck chairs scattered round. This leads to a sun deck that is a bit scary as it has no sides so you could potential fall in if the sea got rough. It was however a fantastic place to lie watching the stars. The front of the boat was decked out with dive gear, tanks and a large compressor user to fill the tanks up after every dive.
The dinner bell went and we ventured down to the galley to tuck into rice, veg and chicken our first meal on the boat. It was dark by the time the boat set sail and we spent the evening getting to know everyone and staring up at the colossal amount of stars that were visible because there was no light pollution. We all turned in hoping our rooms weren't going to be too uncomfortable. Our room was very hot and was visited by a number of baby cockroaches throughout the night, so no not that comfortable. This didn’t dampen our spirits as a number of the others had dragged their mattress off their beds and slept soundly on the deck.
Day 1 – First Dives.
We woke up early happy to leave our wretched room and go up on deck. The other basic thing on this boat is the toilet and shower, two very small rooms with enough space for a sink, toilet and hose. Fresh water is very sparse so you have to have a quick shower down with the hose, lucky we are diving every day or it might get stinky.
We had a quick breakfast of cornflakes and banana, before climbing into our dive gear for our first dive of the day on Medang reef off the island of Mayo. The first dive is an easy dive, a get you know you dive. This gives the dive guides knowledge of how well we can dive and whether we are going to be able to handle the strong current diving in Komodo. The diving was pleasant and the other couple Justin and Christine were paired up with us and our great dive guide Anna (from Sweden, smoking body*). The others on the boat are two young girls from German, Anna and Eva, a guy from the UK called Kip and Helly from Finland who has a perfect and very posh English accent. The other dive guide is Christian (Anna’s Boyfriend) who is a solid lump of muscle with a fantastic dragon tattoo and finally, Shannon who is our cruise director and an expert on diving in Komodo.
We came up from the dive to a second breakfast of pancakes which were consumed within minutes and spent the next few hours finding our sea legs, exploring the boat but mainly sitting round chatting. The second dive at Satonda reef off the island of the same name was equally easy, nice gentle start to a week of diving.
That night we dragged our bed up on to the deck and snuggled down for a cool and bug free night under the stars.
Day 2 – Swimming in a volcano
Woke up with the sunrise, not the most spectacular one I have seen but still great to be able to watch it from the comfort of your mattress. Our first dive of the day was to Bubble reef off the island of Sangeang. This volcanic island has lava close to the surface so when we dived over the black sandy bottom you could see small bubbles floating up to the surface and the sand was warm to the touch when you pushed your hand into it. There was also a number of nudibranch (sea slugs of different colours) which are very rare to see normally so it was wonderful to spot so many and such a variety in one area.
We moored up on Satonda Island and took the small boat over to the jetty. Another volcanic island this one has a huge lake in the middle of it. We walked up to the view point, which made us puff and pant but the photos were worth it. The long walk back down left us looking forward to a cool off in the lake, but when we got in it was hotter than we were and also oddly salty.
A lot of chilling on the boat before our next dive and a ton of food, they do feed us well on this trip. Our second dive was called High Voltage Reef and the current was real strong and we all came up knackered from constantly swimming into it. Dinner was ready when we got back up and sat around chatting for a while but the early mornings and a tiring dive meant most of us were ready for bed by 7.30pm. As we were all just dosing off, the tiniest cloud appeared and the rain fell down, with no real cover against the rain we had to scurry back to our roach infested, cabins for the night, however we were all so knackered we slept like babies.
Day 3 – Dragons & Manta’s
The boat arrived in Komodo late evening and we woke up early the next morning ready to meet our first Dragons. We had a guide walk us through the national park, telling us stories of tourists being bitten by them and how a small local boy got eaten by one. This filled us with confidence as we walking through this small woody area. We saw half a dozen Komodo Dragons who were wandering round the ranger’s office and a few on the way back to the boat. They are very big and although they don’t look it, very fast. They feed on deer and buffalo and have the full run of the island. It is breading time and all the Dragons go to the north of the island to mate and build nests for their eggs. We were on a tight schedule because of diving and were unable to do the full tour, which would have taken nearly 4 hours, so we only got to see a few of the lazier ones that don’t wander too far from the ranger station. This was fine by us, it was so fantastic to be on Komodo and to have actually seen a real Komodo Dragon.
Our first dive of the day was at 10am and was another tough dive, very fast current and we fought like mad against for 35 mins before running low on air and coming up. This is the first dive on Komodo, we have two more to do today.
Dive number two was awesome, probably one of the best dives I have ever done. Firstly there was a strong current but one we just sat in and let it take us along. The current took us past the highlight of the dive a Manta Ray cleaning station. The visibility was not great so when the first two Manta’s were pointed out I couldn’t really see them. As we got closer I realised I had been looking for something much smaller, each Manta had a 4 metre wing span and were stationary in the current while the cleaner fish went work on their nooks and crannies. The only movement was the tips of their wings waving up and down, they were magnificent to see. Gary turned round and came face to face with another one who had just swum in for a clean, he was so close you could have stroked him. We grabbed on to a rock so we didn’t drift away and watched them all for a while. As we drifted off in the current again we came across a huge black Manta, bigger than the others we had just left. We left him and saw two more having the works done. Isn’t nature amazing? We all came up in awe of what we had just seen, it was fantastic.
Our third dive was an adventure. We took the small boat for a 40min journey through big waves that crashed over the boat soaking us all, one of guys had to bail the water out so we didn’t sink. The journey took forever and was a bit of scramble getting ready in the wooden boat, while sitting on the edge and trying not to fall in whenever someone moved and rocked the boat. Eventually we were all ready and roll backwards off the side of the boat into the water. We all met up at the bottom and set off for our dive. Within seconds the currents changed and we all found ourselves stuck in between two strong currents trying to drag us off the reef. We found bits of rock and hung on by our finger tips while the dive guides edged their way round to find a better route. We ended up climbing our way up the reef face, like Spiderman, until we were near the surface and then we let go and drifted up. We were down a maximum of 19 mins and up and back on the boat and heading in, Batu Balong reef was left unexplored. It hadn’t been too stressful but the dive guides where worried we hadn’t enjoyed it and thought it had put us off......not a chance.....bring it on!
Day 4 – Turtles and Rescues
After a fantastic night sleep up on deck, we went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 6.30am ready for our first dive of the day. I think we were so worn out from the three dives the day before. I was aching and tired and not up for an early dive at all, we kitted up and climbed into the small wooden boat. We crashed along the waves back to our nemesis, Batu Balong, our disastrous dive the previous day. A little unsure we wanted to revisit it, but by the end we were glad we did. We saw six turtles all crunching their way through the coral. One of them we drifted down the wall face and stopped right next to him, he was hanging on reef chomping his way though some coral, turned round and looked at us as if to say 'Sod off I’m eating my breakfast’. While looking at the turtles, we nearly missed a shark also resting on the reef. The small 2 metre reef shark then got up and swam past us. The whole dive was very cool and made getting up early worth it.
Two hours rest before the next dive which had us diving in off the big boat and back into the fast current, drifting along looking for mantas again. It’s very relaxing going with the current, travelling along watching the sea bed go by. We found five more manta rays but then our dive was interrupted when Kip’s regulator stopped working, which for none divers is the bit that goes in your mouth and gives you air. With wide eyes full of fear he swim 15 metres against the current up to the dive guide, which for this dive was Shannon, grabbed his regulator out his mouth and started sucking on it like a baby. They both then went up to the surface we all followed. He was fine when we got to the surface, a little shaken but happy enough that by the time we got back to the boat he let us tease him about it. That’s what happens when you go upside down under a manta ray.
The third dive had no exciting ends, it was a lovely relaxing dive with a eagle ray thrown in. We were back on the boat for the afternoon and enjoyed sunning on the deck and reading books while the young members of our group when to climb a mountain......mad fools....they also came back and did a night dive!!! Life is easier on the boat now, we have found our sea legs and got into a routine.
Day Five - Diving Komodo
Morning comes round far too fast on this boat, another sunrise watched from our bed on deck. First dive of the day was one we have been practicing for all week. We had to learn something called negative entry. Normally, when you dive with any dive school everyone gets their dive gear on and gets in the water, you then all bob around on the top to check your equipment, clean your mask and just generally make sure everyone is together and ready to dive before you then go down for your dive. Negative entry means you jump in or back roll off the small boat into the water and keep on going, get yourself head first and kick until you reach the bottom or the rest of your group. The reason you do this is to combat strong current. If you all met at the top before going down the current would have you 2 miles away before you got everyone in the water. Komodo diving is the best in the world but also the hardest because of the unpredictable currents, they can be calm one minute and then racing at 2/3 knots either pushing you up to the surface, down to the bottom or out to the blue. Shannon has over a hundred and fifty dives on komodo and can read a change in current or whether a dive is going to worth doing or not. The first dive of the day was at Castle Rock and we are going to do something called split diving. This is when the current hits a pinnacle under the water and it splits to go round it, which leaves a nice little pocket in the middle with no or little current. We drop into this pocket and hopefully see all the big fish, sharks and mantra that come in with the current to feed. The current wasn’t too strong and we dropped in to the pocket very easily we found a rock to hang on to and watch a performance of white tip sharks and schools of fish swim past. It was very relaxing. We come up from the dive abuzz with things we had seen and how easy it had been. Breakfast of banana pancake met us when got back on board and an hour and half rest until the next dive.
The second dive was at Crystal Rock also off Komodo. This also had a strong current and we found a good few rocks to hang on as we watched a white tip reef shark swim up and down in front of us getting closer and closer as he got use to us being there. Just as he was getting really close he was chased off by a big fish called a travally. Reef sharks are about two metres long and are the most common sharks you will see on any reef. The currents shifted while we were down diving and we had to almost rock climb up the reef to get to shallower depth because the current was push us down too fast. Hand over hand from one rock to the next with the roar of the current in your ears. When we got to the top the current there was pushing up and over the reef we got swept in to the blue and had to do our safety stop drifting along. We drifted for a while but then noticed lots of bubbles round us. Above us, below us, to the side of us, these were our bubbles but they had got caught in another couple of currents, one going up and one coming down, making like a washing machine effect with us in it. Nothing scary but it was really weird, you couldn’t see anything but bubbles and we kept going up and down with the currents like jack in the boxes.
The third dive of the day was back to Castle Rock as everyone had enjoyed it so much the first time. We were told the current had changed but no one expected it to have changed that much. The current was racing round the pinnacle at 4 knots and there was no split so no way of getting out of it. We rock climbed up the reef with the relentless current beating down on us, trying to drag us backwards. It was hard work and I used up most of my air just getting to reef and climbing up it to meet the others. We still had the dive to do. Eventually one of the other girls and I were low on air so we all let go and drifted out to the blue to get picked up but the boat. It was a difficult dive and had been exhausting. The afternoon was then spent relaxing and swapping stories. The diving in Komodo isn’t dangerous, it’s just difficult. Before all the dives we are giving a briefing and told what to do in case thing go wrong. In most cases it just a case of let go of the reef and the boat will pick you up.
The two German girls Eva and Anna are leaving us today. We dock for the night in Flores where they are getting a flight back to Bali before flying home. We all went ashore for the evening to have a few drinks on dry land. Shannon and Kip have taken a shine to these two pretty frauleins so stayed behind when we all left to go back to the boat... ahh young love! We waited on the jetty for Harry (one of the boat crew) to drive us back in the wooden boat. We started to get a lot of attention from the local kids, before we knew it we were surrounded by about twelve of them all asking twenty questions. They thought it was very funny the way we got into the small boat and all posed for a photo when Gary got the camera out.
Day 6 Castle Rocks!!!!
Woke up before sunrise, so sat up and watched it emerge over the islands of Komodo, beautiful! By 7am everyone on the boat is up and about getting cornflakes, washing, brushing teeth, etc.. First dive of the day is back to Castle Rock with hope of easier currents and lots to see. Our little group is now down by two, so each dive guide has taken two people, we still got to keep Anna, Justin and Christine were with Christian and Helly and Kip were with Shannon. The current was good and we found a comfortable rock at 30 metres down to hold on to while we waited for the show to begin. The current didn’t disappoint, as we peered into the blue water from our vantage point on the reef we noticed all the larger fish suddenly make a dash back to the reef and disappear. We then saw a large gray shark glide in followed by......a dolphin!!! The dolphin swam in about 4 metres from us, turned round and swam out to the blue. It was back in a flash followed by a smaller dolphin and their baby. They all swam around in front of us for a short while, doing that thing where they swim on their tails. Then as soon as they appeared they then turned round and shot off to the surface and then they were gone, back out into the blue. Leaving us with massive smiles behind our regulators and doing little dances while still holding on the rock. The gray shark was then followed by a white tipped reef shark but they now looked so small against the dolphins, and to be honest we were so keyed up from the dolphin sighting that even when we saw a turtle on the way up ..it was only a turtle!!!
Everyone was envious that Gary, myself, Anna, Christian and Christine were the only ones to see them. Christine’s husband didn’t feel well and sat out this dive......he was gutted. The others had just left the area we were sitting to go higher.....they were livid. It’s very rare to dive with dolphins, but for them to come that close and with their young, it was very special.
We had a long rest and a bit of a journey before the next dive, so lots of sitting round reading books and taking about our dolphins. The second and last dive of the day, only two dives today, was at GPS Point. This started as a bit of a rock climbing dive again but we found a nice calm pocket in the middle of the current and drifted round admiring the coral. A large gray shark swam past me and Anna but only Gary saw it, Anna and I were sharing into the blue looking for something exciting..... we didn’t know it was behind us.
We are on our way back to Gili Trawangan now, full steam ahead, we have two more dives tomorrow and then we will wake up in Gili T. The sea was fairly calm so I asked the skipper if I could have a drive of the boat. He showed me our heading, basically keep that island in your sights, and then went off to have his breakfast. I was fine for a while but then the front sail caught the wind and the boat swung 45’ and we were heading for a different island. I gave out a panicked yelp and the skipper came running. I don’t think I am very nautical. It was a good job I chose then to have a go at my seafaring skills as a short time after the wind picked up, the waves got high and we were being thrown all round the boat. It was a bit stressful for a while.
Day 7 - Last two dives
It had been a rough night, the wind was still blowing hard when we got up at 7am. Kip was sleeping on the top deck, he gave up at midnight and slept in his bunk, at 3am his mattress (and these things are heavy) sailed off the top and smashed into our deck below, good job he wasn’t still on it! All it meant for us was put a few more layers on and snuggle under the covers.
It was so rough in the morning at it didn’t look like we were going to dive. We sailed on through and by 10am the sea calmed down and wind had dropped and diving was back on. We had two easy dives to finish our week off. Gary found a Manta Shrimp that punches the air to get rid of predators. Shannon found a Pygmy Seahorse, which is the smallest thing I have ever seen and I have to say looked like a bit of snot on the coral...but don’t tell Shannon that he was very pleased with his find.
With our two very relaxing dives over a few of us got the dingy over to the Island of Moyo where we walked to the waterfall. It was a very odd feeling as I walked longer the tree lined path to the falls, the ground kept tilting and rocking like I was still on the boat. The waterfall wasn’t that impressive but the local lads that had followed us showed us just how impressive the waterfall could be. They grabbed a swing rope that was tied to a tree and then started throwing themselves off the top of the waterfall and in the deep water below. More impressively they then walked back up through the waterfall to do it all over again. Our guys had a go too, Gary and I sat this one out getting a bit old for those sort of things.
We had a few beers with our last dinner on the boat and spent the evening recapping on the events of the week. We have had a fantastic time and loved every minute of being on the boat and the fabulous diving. Made some good friends and hope to do a similar trip again someday.
Day 8 – Breakfast on the beach
We got up with the sun and watched it rise over Gili Mino and Lombok, hopefully our last sunrise for a while.....I would like to sleep in longer. We packed our rucksacks and met on deck for our goodbye speech from Shannon. Breakfast burritos where waiting for us on the beach, so we all climbed in the wooden boat and waved goodbye to the crew and the Jaya for the last time.
The diving was excellent, the adventure was priceless, the staff and crew where fantastic. If you dive then you have to dive Komodo!!!!
*Comment by Gary
**Underwater photo’s courtesy of Justin and Christine
Thanks to Gili Divers www.facebook.com/people/Gili-Divers/100000123558349