Another week…another Jaya adventure! Joining us on this trip were Soeren and Kat from Germany, Simon, Mark, Aimee, Flick and Pete from Australia, Julio from Colombia, Sing Yi from Singapore, Altziber and Jose from Spain plus Kev and Ann from England. Instructors Martyn, Carl, Pit and Steve were all ready to show the guests the wonders of the Komodo National Park.
The first half of the venture was going to be a special one as it was Wicked Diving’s first ‘Shark Education’ trip of the season where Pit would give a couple of informal chats about all things shark related and we would plan the dive schedule to maximize our chances of seeing these amazing creatures. And not only that…each diver would receive an SSI Shark Specialty Diver certification to show that they care about sharks as much as we at Wicked Diving do.
Dive one of the trip took place at Bidadari, also known locally as ‘Angel Island’ and a great place to get everybody back in the water. Our guests were in heaven as we discovered cool nudis, sponge snails, flatworms, pipefish and a host of juvenile ribbon eels poking their heads out of holes in the sand. Did you know that all ribbon eels are born male and have the ability to change sex during their lifetime? Incredible! All groups surfaced to a magical sunset and we excitingly chatted about what was in store for the rest of the trip whilst we journeyed to the northern reaches of the Park. During the journey Pit gave us all an informative talk about shark biology and what species of sharks we could expect to find in the Komodo National Park.
With a good first nights sleep for everybody, we were all eagerly awaiting our first dive of the day and our first opportunity to try and see some of the sharks that we all wanted to see. The Passage was lined up as the first dive and we all drifted along hoping for some sightings. Luck was on our side and we managed to see eight or nine white tipped reef sharks as well as a solitary black tip reef shark. Groups also saw eagle rays, hawksbill turtles, bumphead parrotfish, a school of chevron barracuda and even an octopus in the shallows at the end of the dive. What a way to start our special trip! We couldn’t have asked for more.
The second dive of the day was scheduled for Castle Rock, probably the most famous dive site in the Park and the one where there is the greatest opportunity to see sharks during the dive. The current was relatively mild so we could just hover over the drop off with a chance to see something special. Again the dive did not disappoint with plenty of reef sharks swimming in the blue and circling the groups of divers. We made our way to behind the main rock in readiness for our safety stop accompanied by a number of baby sharks having short swim away from the protection of their homes under the table corals.
The final dive of the day was at The Lighthouse, an ‘L’ shaped reef where we have the chance of seeing animals both small and large. With crystal clear visibility we managed to spy many white tipped reef sharks resting on the sand at the bottom of the reef and some groups were thrilled to see their first giant frogfish who we normally find nestled in the crevices of the beautiful coral-encrusted pinnacles at the tip of the site. Another interesting fish fact…the frogfish has the fastest movement of any creature in the animal kingdom with their attack being as quick as 1/6000 of a second! The shark count was exceptionally high on the first day with approximately thirty being seen over the course of three dives. What an amazing way to start our first ‘Shark Education’ trip! After dinner Pit gave us a thought-provoking talk about the threats surrounding the survival of sharks and also the conservation efforts that are currently in place to protect our favourite fish. We also logged the information about all the shark encounters throughout the day so that we could send it off to the Indonesian project of Shark Savers, an international organization whose mission is to save shark and ray species worldwide.
Not only were we hoping to see sharks on this trip we were hoping to see some nice clean beaches so it was time for another of our famous ‘Extreme Beach Cleans’. Split into two groups – Australia versus
the rest of the world, each team raced around the beach to try and fill two bin bags in the shortest time possible. The winners? Team Australia! (with a little help from Martyn). Thanks guys for helping us trying keep the Park as beautiful and unspoilt as possible.
For our final dive in the north of the Park before moving on, we dropped in at Crystal Rock for another chance to see some more sharks. With the current being fairly strong we managed to find some handholds on the rocks and witnessed the spectacle of sharks swimming in from every angle. More sharks! We also saw some other big fish on the dive including schools of giant trevally, big eye trevally and an inquisitive napoleon wrasse who seemed not to care about all the bubbles we were making.
With five dives completed already, it was time to cruise into the centre of the Park and explore a few more of the best sites that Komodo has to offer. Tatawa Kecil is a site that has lots to offer in terms of underwater topography with boulders, overhangs and caves to investigate. The first thing we found was a shark hidden in a little cave. Sweet!
Upon descending the reef we saw a school of midnight snapper playing in the currents as well as batfish hiding amongst the caves and overhangs. A further white tip swam by and we spent an incredible safety stop being surrounded by an enormous school of neon fusiliers who were being hunted by groups of hungry bluefin trevally. Thrilling stuff.
Makassar Reef, a two kilometer long plateau that runs alongside Komodo Island was the next destination for the divers. With a strong current and great visibility, we all enjoyed drifting along and having the sensation of flying underwater! Some groups saw eagle rays and we ticked off three species of shark – white tip, black tip and the brown banded bamboo shark. The soft coral garden at the end of the dive site is a haven for green turtles and all of us saw a handful whilst relaxing after our flying lesson.
The final dive of the day took place at Siaba Besar, a protected bay that is ideal for a spot of night diving. The dive site consists of sandy patches with coral bommies and patches of reef that contain the critters that only show their faces once the sun has gone down. Shrimps and crabs were plentiful and a few blue spotted stingrays were also seen gliding over the sand. Most surprising of all were two turtles that had decided to use a bommie as their bed for the night!
An early morning start meant that we had the Batu Bolong dive site all to ourselves. Referred to by the dive staff as diving in ‘fish soup’ this site never fails to impress. A couple more sharks were seen as well as huge hawksbill turtles, giant trevally and napoleon wrasse. And that’s just looking out into the blue! A closer inspection of the reef rewards divers with colourful nudis, flatworms, scorpionfish and moray eels lurking in the nooks and crannies.
Whilst we bid goodbye to a few of our guests, the remaining divers spent the afternoon on Kanawa island relaxing on the beach and indulging in some snorkelling. The snorkelling session even rewarded Simon with a black tip reef shark underneath the jetty. Lucky man!
The Jaya returned from Labuan Bajo with new guests Timo and Coco from China, Tanya from England and Geoff from the USA. With returning guests Pete and Flick, Jose and Altziber, Simon, Sing Yi , Soeren and Kat we all embarked on a dive at North Point, Kanawa before venturing back into the centre of the Park. As Kanawa is a real macro lovers paradise we were able to get close to the reef and find some nudis, sponge snails, flatworms, juvenile lionfish and even a tiny crinoid shrimp hiding in a feather star.
The morning dive of the following day took us to Tatawa Besar, a staff favourite due to its colourful, pristine reef and the chance to see something special. The current was mild and so we could explore the site at a relaxed pace taking in all the schools of fish and small critters on the reef. And we saw more sharks! This time a white tip and a black tip. Awesome.
After moving back up to the northern tip of Komodo, we had a second dive at Castle Rock with a hope of seeing even more sharks. Yet again we were very lucky as more than ten circled all around us whilst we hung tightly onto the rocks. But it’s not only sharks that we can see at Castle Rock. The site is famous for witnessing hunting and feeding behaviour by schools of hungry fish. This time we saw the neon fusiliers being hunted by marauding giant trevallies with a couple of sharks thrown in for good measure!
The final dive of the day was at The Cauldron, typically known for its super fast drift and big fish action. Starting on the wall we were surprised by a loud ‘whooshing’ noise and a blur of fish darted by. We looked round and saw the chasing culprit…a hungry giant trevally! Drifting into the Cauldron itself we had time to check out both the ‘Fishbowl’ and the stunning soft coral covered wall before being shot out and kicking over to the stunning coral garden. Here we made our safety stop and got our breath back after the ride of our lives!
Heading back to the centre of the Park for the next full day of diving, we made our first dive at Mauan a beautiful sloping coral reef which has the potential for seeing some special creatures. And Steve’s group were lucky with a manta ray at the end of the dive. Fantastic!
Excited about seeing more rays, we had our second dive at Makassar Reef which is the best place in the Park to see mantas whilst diving. Also called ‘Manta Point’ it certainly lived up to its name and we were lucky enough to see around ten of these graceful creatures. One of them was a completely black specimen, a colour morph which we here at Wicked Diving like to call the ‘ninja manta’!
During the afternoon snorkel at Gindang we saw some black tipped sharks amongst the mangroves which added even more sharks to our total number of sightings. The last dive of the day is one which staff and guest alike can’t stop talking about and that is the night dive at Wainilu. We jumped in a little earlier at sunset with the hope of seeing some mandarin fish, a species of dragonet who do a special courtship display at dusk. And we were not disappointed as several of these pretty fish delighted the divers with their antics. We also saw a few picturesque dragonets (a relative of the mandarin fish), cuttlefish, dwarf lionfish, different species of moray eel, pipefish and a pair of fighting hermit crabs to name but a few. Everyone was impressed with what we managed to find on the dive and spoke excitedly about all the species they had seen for the very first time.
And so the final day came and the final dive at Pulau Tengah was on the agenda. Tengah is a great dive for everybody as there is a wall, a sloping reef and a stunning coral plateau full of fish to explore. We recently discovered a ‘shark nest’ with up to ten baby sharks underneath a table coral and we were fortunate enough to be able to revisit it again on this dive. Again more babies were there darting around probably wondering who these strange looking visitors were! Such a fantastic way to end our six days of diving with sharks.
Although the diving was finished there was still another activity planned for the guests. A trip to the dragon’s lair! The rangers on Rinca island showed us a number of large adults and we were also happy to see some baby (if you can call a metre long lizard a baby) dragons in the wild during our forest trek.
And so that was it. Our Komodo adventure had come to an end. We set sail to Labuan Bajo and reminisced about the dives we had done, the things we had seen and swapped details with a hope of diving together again sometime in the future.
-Diving Komodo with Wicked!