KOMODO & THE NUSA TENGGARA, INDONESIA
Diving Dragon Island and Beyond
Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 26-28°C/79-82°F
Special Offer: Save £340/$535/€400 on WAOW cruises to Komodo between 26 June - 4 July, 6 July - 16 July and 18-29 July 2013
Diving: Walls, coral gardens, critter diving, caves, sharks, turtles, whales, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays
Nitrox (Mermaid I, Komodo Dancer, Indo Siren, Seven Seas, Arenui)
Willing to share option on liveaboards
Can be combined with Bali, Wakatobi
Land excursions: Trips to Rinca Island to seek out the Komodo dragons are available subject to local conditions.
The long chain of islands extending eastwards from Bali are known to Indonesians as the Nusa Tenggara (or Southeast Islands). Lying just south of the equator, these dry volcanic islands number around 600 and some are uninhabited. The amazing diving in this area is characterized by its incredible variety of reef types and the sheer diversity of its marine life, ranging from tiny critters to very big fish. Caves, walls, drop-offs and superb reefs are all easily accessible. Above water one may see pods of dolphins or Short-finned Pilot Whales migrating to the Pacific Ocean. In summary, almost whatever you are looking for, you should find! No visit to the western Nusa Tenggara would be complete without a visit to Komodo, the island known worldwide for its population of Komodo Dragons, the planet’s largest extant lizard – an agile predator that can grow up to 3 metres in length! All visiting liveaboards include a shore visit to Komodo in their programmes.
The easternmost islands of the Nusa Tenggara, often referred to as the Alor Archipelago and including the islands of Lembata, Pantar and Alor, are remote and surrounded by little-dived, clear blue waters.
THE WESTERN NUSA TENGGARA (INCLUDING KOMODO NATIONAL PARK)
During the cruise you will dive some beautiful sites around the islands of Satonda, Banta, Sangeang, the Gilis (off the island of Lombok) and Rinca (the island to the southeast of Komodo). All cruises spend time at Komodo Island itself, where there will be an opportunity to look for Komodo Dragons. The reefs of the Nusa Tenggara are f very well preserved. Both schooling fish and larger pelagics, plus turtles, dolphins and, possibly, pods of Short-finned Pilot Whales, make for interesting and varied diving. Whale Sharks have been seen in the area and there are a couple of Manta Ray cleaning stations. Gently sloping reefs, steep walls covered in soft and hard corals, underwater seamounts and soft sandy seabeds form the backdrop for some great fish-watching. Black, Picasso and Clown Triggerfish, Regal and Emperor Angelfish and the startlingly brilliant yellow angelfish with big blue lips, known as Three-spotted Angelfish, are colourful and common in this area.
Satonda Island, half way along the northern coast of Sumbawa, has some fascinating dive sites where the reefs are in excellent shape and hold a wide range of corals and fish life. Sand Chute consists of a sandy slope with coral and sponge outcrops, but the highlight here is ‘magic rock’ – a bommie at 22 metres that packs a multitude of marine life into every nook and cranny! Juvenile angelfish abound, presenting everyone with identification problems as the young fish are so different from the adult forms. Hingebeak shrimps, cleaner shrimps, nudibranchs in fabulous green, orange and black, sweepers, a variety of leafish, wonderfully camouflaged decorator crabs, upside down jellyfish, Crocodilefish and Stargazers illustrate the variety of species that occur here.
Within the Komodo National Park is the habitat for about 1000 fish species, over 250 species of reef-building corals, at least 105 species of crustaceans and over 70 species of sponges. Little wonder this relatively newly discovered area is proving highly appealing to more adventurous divers.
The best macro and muck sites in Komodo are the ones north and east of Sumbawa. Unusual Suspects is home to frogfish, ghost pipefish, xeno crab, a variety of shrimp and numerous nudibranchs. Hot Rocks is, from a topographical point of view, a fascinating dive. The sandy slopes continually emit gas bubbles from the ocean floor and the sand is warm to the touch! The slope gives way to a maze of coves, walls and coral bommies stuffed with colourful reef fish and a number of anemones. Circus is a fabulous night dive, as hunting Lionfish use the lights of your torch to stealthily sneak up on their unsuspecting prey. It is quite a sinister sight as they suddenly appear next to you only to swallow a fish whole! Sangeang Island lies at the eastern end of Sumbawa. Underwater photographers are advised to take the wide-angle lens if offered a dive on Mentjeng Wall where a shore-line wall at 15 metres leads to a point which is covered with very pretty soft corals and crinoids. Below the wall a rubble slope hosts colonial anemones, a variety of nudibranchs (mating pairs make excellent subjects for photographers!), Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and those superb walking ‘plants’– crinoids – hanging on to the rubble.
Gili Lawa Laut, a submerged rock to the north east of Komodo has several stunning dive sites. The diving at this coral-covered rock is famous for warm, clear water full of schooling fish. Also known as ‘Current City’, this area offers some truly exhilarating dives. Castle Rock often requires a negative entry as you swim straight to the bottom to catch the current to the edge of the drop-off where you utilise your reef hook. Hook on and enjoy what the current brings your way! White-tip Reef Sharks are almost ever present, Goliath Groupers lurk on the rocks and huge schools of fusiliers and jacks shift with the hunting tuna. Crystal Rock is a similar dive though when the current is slack it is easier to appreciate the stunning walls and the colours in the shallower parts. Between the sharks, the reef and continually checking the blue for passing Manta Rays, you’ll be dizzy by the end of the dive! The crowning glory of Current City is in fact a dive where there are no currents! On the sheltered side of Gili Lawa Laut, is Batu Bolong, one of the most exquisite sites on this planet. The reef top between the surface and 15 metres is like staring down a kaleidoscope. Orange and purple anthias form an ever moving frame to the reef where hard corals in reds, oranges, blues, greens and yellows make the diver groan with delight. The wide angle photographic opportunities are immeasurable and even away from the reef wall into the blue the Bannerfish and Pyramid Butterfly fish are just as distracting. At Pink Beach, the lovely, sulky-looking Oriental Sweetlips (the Angelina Jolie of the underwater world!) hang out. Giant Crocodilefish and Mandarinfish also reside here as well as Yellow-barred Jawfish.
In Horseshoe Bay, south of Rinca Island at Nusa Kode, are some of the most beautiful sites in Indonesia. Be aware though, the temperature here can drop to 21 or 22C and the waters in this small bay are greener than in wider Komodo. At Yellow Wall two yellow-clad reef walls are separated by a sand valley. An abundance of yellow crinoids, yellow cascading coral and plentiful soft Dendrophyllia corals in shades of soft yellow cover every spare centimetre. Go slowly as it is worth closely inspecting the reef for an array of critters. A unique dive site! Cannibal Rock is a pinnacle rising to within a few metres of the surface where Pygmy Seahorses, anchored to sea fans, have been spotted by some keen-eyed divers. Both hard and soft corals cover the pinnacle and hide a stunning variety of creatures. Crinoids, tunicates, cowries, fire urchins, pretty spotted Coleman Shrimps and zebra crabs find Cannibal Rock a suitable home. Nudibranchs are anchored to the corner of every coral bommie and Orange Frogfish of varying sizes are also resident here. Bamboo Sharks hide under rocks, not wanting to be seen, but keep a look out for their give away mottled tails revealing their hiding place. A huge swathe of the reef is replete with anemones of varying colours, all home of course to a multitude of different anemonefish. Larger creatures attracted to this area include huge tuna and ocean-roaming jacks.
Divers visiting Komodo are almost certain to see Manta Rays. Manta Alley, so named due to the high success rate for spotting Mantas at this feeding station is a series of pinnacles and inlets, constantly washed by surge and swell that brings in nutrient rich waters for the Manta Rays to feed on. This is not a straightforward dive as one is continually pushed forwards and backwards in the swell and often end up neatly ‘cuddled up’ against an unsuspecting member of your group, or indeed the side of the pinnacle! Perhaps one of the best all round sites was German Flag in Hingst Bay. The site is so called because you jump in directly under a cliff face that through some geological quirk of fate has formed a perfect German flag with three stripes layered into the rock of black, red and yellow (or ‘gold’ if there are Germans present!) This is an exquisite drift dive across shallow reefs and at any moment one can expect one or more Manta Rays to swoop down. Keep looking around the whole time or you will miss one ‘flying’ up behind you at which point you only see the back of it as it sails off into the blue.
We don’t usually write-up inland locations amongst our dive sites, but there has to be an exception when it comes to Komodo Island for everyone will want to be amongst those who ‘hunt’ for the famous Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest and most ferocious lizard. Up to 3 metres in length, their diet consists mainly of wild deer, wild boar and sometimes other ‘dragons’. They can eat up to 80% of their body weight at one sitting! According to local reports (or perhaps legend), at least 8 humans have been attacked or eaten by dragons. However, it is most likely that you will encounter these creatures lying on a log in the morning sun, or seeking shade later in the day. The flicking tongue will not be issuing forth smoke and fire, but is used as an organ for detecting smell. With luck, you may catch a glimpse of one ‘jogging’ along the beach.
THE EASTERN NUSA TENGGARA (INCLUDING THE ALOR ARCHIPELAGO)
The waters that flow between Pantar and Alor sweep round small islands and islets, and connect the Savu and Banda Seas. The currents created by this water movement provides some thrilling drift diving and some great pelagic sightings. Tuna, sharks, Manta Rays, Napoleon Wrasse and schools of Big-eye Jacks can be seen. There are even reports of sightings of the elusive and magnificent Mola Mola, or sunfish, from time to time. But there are tranquil reefs too, often covered by soft and hard corals with their many-coloured fishy inhabitants dodging through the nooks and crannies. The Volcanic nature of this area gives rise to the ‘black gold’ sand and rubble sites which are endlessly fascinating to divers who enjoy their fish and invertebrate identification and, of course, underwater photographers.
The islands themselves are dominated by jagged mountains and steep valleys, making travel to the interior extremely difficult, but keeping the islands’ indigenous ethnic groups isolated from the outside world and even from each other. Shore trips on the tiny island of Ternate will provide a fascinating insight in to the lives of the people who live here. Their Ikat textiles, for which the locals are famous, are woven from local materials. The Alor Archipelago is becoming recognised as a ‘hidden’ diving area of Indonesia where good visibility and warm waters combine to offer superb diving. Diving The Edge at Ternate offers superb wall diving with caves and overhangs too. But the big attraction of this area (where visibility regularly reaches 45 metres!) is pelagic spotting. Sharks, Dogtooth Tuna and Manta Rays can be seen here, and several sightings of Whale Sharks have been confirmed. At the southern tip of Pulau Buaya, an underwater wall stretches around the island. Punctuated with caves, there is much to explore, if you can see through the curtains of fusiliers that swarm all over the wall! Bigeye Jacks, those buffalos of the sea – Bumphead Parrotfish, and Napoleon Wrasse are common in this area where healthy Acropora and Tubastrea corals cover every available nook and cranny.
For those who enjoy the fascination of smaller marine life, the sand and silty bottom of a dive in front of a village close to Kalabahi holds many secrets. Search amongst the rocks and the odd coral heads to find ghost pipefish, Cockatoo Waspfish and a plethora of different coloured seahorses.
COMBINATIONS: As all trips to Komodo & The Nusa Tenggara start and end in Denpasar, Bali, why not add on a visit to this fascinating island? Alternatively, why not visit extraordinary Wakatobi in southeastern Sulawesi or another of Indonesia’s fantastic dive destinations. Talk to us about the possibilities.
FLIGHTS: Price from about $1487 return from Los Angeles to Denpasar (plus from about $228 return to Bima in connection with Siren cruises, or from about $119 one-way between Denpasar and Labuhanbajo or from about $320 return to Maumere in connection with Komodo Dancer cruises). There are daily flight connections to Denpasar (and onwards to Bima, Labuhanbajo and Maumere).