Diving in the Komodo National Park was on our bucket list for a long time. Last week, our dream of sailing on a liveaboard through the Komodo National Park and diving on some of the world’s best dive spots came true.
It’s already 10 months since we have done our last dive on the Maldives where we used to live and work for two years. So it was about time for us to get back in the water. The flights from Australia to Bali are very cheap and so we decided to take a break from our road trip around Australia and spend a few weeks in Indonesia.
11 July 2014 – Flight from Lombok via Bali to Labuan Bajo on Flores
After 10 relaxing days on the Gilis northwest of Lombok we fly from Lombok to Labuan Bajo in Flores. Labuan Bajo is the starting point for most of the trips to the Komodo National Park.
We drop our luggage in our guesthouse and head to the dive centre. We have already booked a diving safari for 7 days with one of the many dive centres that are located in Labuan Bajo. We have done a lot of internet research and had some recommendations from a friend that worked on liveaboards in this area.
The dive centre we have chosen is Wicked Diving. It’s one of the budget options to dive the Komodo National Park and we really liked the philosophy of the dive centre. We head to dive centre to check in and sort out the rental equipment. We fill out the paper work and meet Swiss divers that have been on a day trip. The first impression of the dive centre is a bit chaotic but that is probably because the guests from the day trip just came back a few minutes ago.
12 July 2014 – Start of our diving safari through the Komodo National Park and first dive
Today we are very excited and can’t wait to board the Jaya sailing boat for our trip. We drop our luggage at the dive centre. They will bring it to the boat. After lunch at Warung Mama we head back to the dive centre and meet the other guests. On the first half of the trip the boat is not full. We are 8 guests only. Four Swiss, two English one Canadian and one Spanish.
Together we walk to the harbour and embark the Jaya, our home for the next seven days. The 23 metres long sailing boat is simple but comfortable. We have our own small cabin and there are three shared bathrooms with toilets and showers. The crew of the boat consists of seven Indonesians, Martin, the trip leader and the two dive guides Carl and Fauzi.
The mood is extremely good, we are all very excited and are looking forward to the first dive of the trip. On the way to the first dive site, Martin, the trip leader, is giving us a boat briefing and a safety briefing. Sabolan Kecil is a dive site just north of Labuan Bajo. The conditions are good. It is a gentle and easy first dive in crystal clear water. Highlights of the dive are the hundreds of garden eels, a huge cuttlefish, leaf fish and the pygmy seahorses. We haven’t even arrived in the Komodo National Park and the biodiversity is just amazing.
After the dive we sail towards our mooring spot in the north of the Komodo National Park. The Jaya is rolling in the swell of the big waves and in the night we hear her creaking and cracking. It is a handmade wooden boat with a lot of character.
13 July 2014 – Three dives and a visit to the beach
We start our first full day of diving with a highlight of the Komodo National Park. We dive at Crystal Rock. This is an extraordinary dive site with a rock just barely breaking the water surface. The corals are stunning and the amount of fish that swim in the crystal clear water is mind-boggling. We are surrounded by fish and during the dive the current is picking up. That’s what the sharks like and so we spot a few whitetip reef sharks.
After the dive we enjoy our well-earned breakfast and discuss the sightings and our experiences during the dive.
The second dive of the day is on Castle Rock, maybe the most famous dive site in the park. It’s a similar topography then Crystal Rock except that the Castle Rock is completely submerged. We encounter nosy batfish coming close and checking us out, huge napoleon wrasses and several whitetip reef sharks hunting for they pray. What a breathtaking dive.
Again it’s time to eat. It’s lunch this time. The food on the Jaya is delicious and it’s amazing what the kitchen team is preparing in the cramped space of their kitchen.
On China Shop we do our last dive of the day. A gentle drift dive along a reef that is so delicate and full of different corals. We spot different nudibranches, a tiny little ribbon eel, a pink leaf fish and two manta rays towards the end of the dive.
After the three dives we have still not enough and so we head to a beautiful beach. Unfortunately, there is some rubbish along the beach and in only five minutes the whole team collects three full garbage bags full of rubbish. We also wrote a blog post with tips and experiences for booking a eco-friendly liveaboard. Now we have to hurry because we want to watch the sunset from the little hill above the beach. We make it up the hill in time but there are still some clouds that hide the sunset.
14 July 2014 – A full dive day with four dives
Today we dive in the centre of the Komodo National Park. Sleeping – eating – diving is the rhythm of our days on the boat. Tatawa Besar is the first dive site of the day, followed by Karang Makasser, Mauan and Siaba Besar for a night dive. Highlights of the day are a rare clown frogfish, mandarin fish, pygmy seahorses, manta rays and an orang utan crab.
15 July 2014 – Two dives and a visit to Kanawa Island
Not all of us stay for the whole seven days on the boat because the trip is divided into two. Today we will say goodbye to four of the guests and another eight will be picked up by the boat in Labuan Bajo while we stay on Kanawa Island.
But first we do another dive at Siaba Kecil, a drift dive to be precise. It’s great fun to drift along a reef and see the corals passing by. Everything becomes a bit of a colourful blur and it’s definitely not the best idea to look for small staff.
On Kanawa Island we spend a few hours on the beach and relax. Kanawa is a small island with a resort on it. The resort is Italian owned and the bungalows are basic. The beach is fantastic and the water is crystal clear.
In the afternoon we board the Jaya again and meet the new guests from USA, Scotland, Norway and Denmark. Together we sail to the north side of Kanawa Island where we do a nice and gentle dive.
The sunset is beautiful and we can see the nearby volcano erupting.
16 July 2014 – Two drift dives and the famous Crystal Rock
Today is the day of the drift dives. We start with the Cauldron. On the sandy channel, we could also call this ray city, we are greeted by many rays. A handful of them the beautifully patterned leopard rays. In the sea fan close by we spot the tiny pygmy seahorses and further along the channel we see whitetip sharks swimming in the current.
The next channel is called the Golden Passage. The sandy bottom really looks like gold. The dive starts slow but once in the passage the current just sweeps us through.
The last dive of the day is on Crystal Rock.
17 July 2014 – Three dives, snorkelling with Manta Rays and a visit to a pink beach
Another day with three dives. First in the morning we head to the famous Batu Bolong. This is a rock in the middle of the strait that is exposed to enormous amounts of water flowing past. Down currents can be treacherous and it can be tricky to dive. Whitetip reef sharks, hawksbill turtles and big trevallys are the highlights.
Next one is Karang Makassar or manta point again. And again we are very lucky with manta rays. One of the mantas is really interested in Reni and is getting very close.
In the afternoon we visit the island Mauan and have time to relax on the stunning pink beach with crystal clear, turquoise water. We also snorkel with manta rays. The last time we snorkelled with these majestic giants was on the Maldives.
The wind has dropped and so it is time to hoist the sails of the Jaya. We sail to the mangrove island of Kabaa to watch the sunset. After the stunning sunset and whilst the sky is painted in different reds, hundreds of flying foxes emerge from the mangroves and head for a feast to Flores. It’s an awe inspiring experience to see the flying foxes making their way to Flores.
The day is not over yet and we are ready for the night dive on the dive site called Wainilu. It’s a muck dive and we spot a lot of weird little creatures. Scorpionfish, lionfish, nudibranches, flatworms, decorator crab, Indian Ocean walkmen and bumblebee shrimps
18 July 2014 – Our last dive and a trek to the Komodo Dragons
Our last day starts with a breathtaking sunrise over the islands of the Komodo National Park. First we have coffee and then we already get into our gear for our last dive of this trip. The dive site is at Pulau Pengah which is known as the haunted island by the locals. The highlights of this dive are a crocodile fish, an orang utan crab and black coral shrimps but no ghosts have been seen.
Our next stop is at the busy jetty in the Crocodile Bay at Rinca Island. This is the place where we can get up close with the Komodo dragons. At the National Parks office we are greeted by our guides with long sticks to protect us from the mighty beasts. Right at the gate we are already awaited by one of these giant lizards.
On the track we can spot several other Komodo dragons, deer and birds. On a little hill we are rewarded by beautiful panoramic views over the National Park and the moored up Jaya in the Crocodile Bay.
Now it’s definitely time to head back to Labuan Bajo and unfortunately it’s time to say good bye to everybody. Contact details are quickly being exchanged and then everybody leave in different directions.
Facts and Figures about the trip on the liveaboard through the komodo national park
- Dive centres in Labuan Bajo: Wicked Diving, Blue Marlin, Dive Komodo, Komodo Dive Centre, Bajo Dive Club, etc.
- Price for a diving safari from: 3 days from USD 500, 4 days USD 800, 7 days USD 1500
- Additional costs: Equipment rental, Soft drinks and Alcohol, Tips, National Park Fees USD 10-30
- How to choose a diving safari: trip itinerary, availability, eco friendliness, professionalism, quality of equipment, boat standard, price, etc.
- How to get there: Daily flights from Denpasar to Flores with Lion Air are around IDR 500’000 to 1’500’000. Online bookings with European Credit Cards is not possible, we used our Australian Credit Card. You might need to book flights through a travel agent.