Famous as the home of the Komodo Dragon, Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is also one of the most epic places in the world to go diving. Accomplished Canadian underwater photographer Mike Veitch joins Chris Mitchell to discuss why Komodo is incredible above and below the surface.
Diving Komodo – Dive Happy Episode 2 Show Notes
- Mike Veitch: Mike’s official site and his customised dive trip website UnderwaterTribe.com
- My account of meeting the Komodo Dragons up close and personal
Komodo Resorts And Liveaboards Mentioned
Komodo’s Dive Site Locations
(Note – this is just some of the Komodo highlights – there are a lot more sites in the area)
Dive Happy Komodo Trip Reports
- Diving Komodo Trip Report – November 2009
- Komodo Diving: Dragon’s Domain – Komodo 2008
- Komodo Scuba Diving: Enter The Dragon – Komodo 2007
Indonesia’s Main Dive Site Locations
Diving Komodo – Dive Happy Episode 2 Summary
Diving in Komodo Brings With it a Frontier Feeling.
Komodo itself is a very special place. It ha a big variety of different things to see and it is not just specialized in one type of diving that you might find in other areas. There is everything from the smallest macro-critters to big schools of resident manta rays that can be dived with all year round. Komodo has that frontier feeling like you are out there in the middle of nowhere. If you go to West Komodo side, you won’t see a single diver anywhere else. It’s got that real feeling that you are diving somewhere raw and powerful, and is a very special place.
The Marine Preserve Protects Both Land and Sea.
The Komodo area itself ranges from the western edge of the island of Flores and it encompasses three larger islands: the Islands of Komodo, the island of Rinca and the smaller island of Padar, plus several dozen smaller islands that are also within the park, which has been protected since the 80’s. There are only a few fishing boats in the area, but the sea life itself is protected as well as the land life. The dragons, the deer, and the monkeys are also protected within the marine preserve.
The Komodo Landscape is Truly Jurassic, and Wild in Nature.
The top side scenery in Komodo is pretty spectacular as well. It truly is a Jurassic. When you arrive in Komodo, the look of an African Savannah or wild territory is immediately evident. During the high season it’s very dry, and everything turns brown, causing it to look like an African Savannah. But during the rainy season in January or December, everything turns green and low clouds come in. The beautiful blue water is perfectly backdropped by a green jungle background, which can easily be mistaken for that of Jurassic Park.
The Dragons of Komodo Roam the Park.
The dragons can be found in a couple of different areas. The largest population is located on Komodo Island itself. There are something around 1,100 dragons on Komodo Island. Then there is Rinca Island, which is the next main island, home to close to 900. There are also several smaller islands that actually have them as well and you can find them all throughout the park. These creatures are definitely dangerous, and you wouldn’t like to get too close to them. They are opportunistic, so they may appear harmless. Quite often you’ll find them in the ranger station just sitting there sunning themselves and you could actually walk quite close to them and they won’t do anything. But those are somewhat more habituated amongst humans. If you were to walk up into the hills on any of the islands, then you would just instantly become on the dinner menu.
Night Dives Light Up the Komodo Dive Experience.
In Komodo, there are several popular dive sights for those who enjoy a night dive. There’s one in the island of Banta, up near the white sandy beaches. Quite often you will find a lot of stargazers and also, a good healthy population of lion fish there. There’s another one called Wainilu, just right near the Rinca ranger station and that one is really rewarding for a night dive. It’s right in the middle area; sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it’s warm. That mix of water makes the life quite rich. The other really nice night dive is called Torpedo Alley, which is located in Horseshoe Bay and is home to hairy frog fish, normal frog fish, squid, octopus, mimic octopus, all the kinds you typically can find in that location as well.
Komodo Dives Blow the Minds of Photographer with Beauty.
Diving in Komodo is any photographer’s paradise. There are huge amounts of opportunities for photographers, no matter the style of photography they’re doing. From Manta Alley, to Makasser Reef the dive sites are exquisite, and bound to satisfy every type of diver and photographer alike. Another incredible site is Shotgun, which is a little channel that goes in between two islands with quite a mellow beginning which suddenly turns into a massive current that shoots you through the tunnel. Divers simply hook in and spend time in the channel until you finally unhook and swim up into the shallows where you will see the beautiful hard corals. Another really incredible dive site is Siaba Kecil, which is an amazing place for turtles. Finally, Tatawa Besar has stunning orange soft corals, big schools of fish, and incredible hard corals.
Dive Sites in Komodo Reveal Beautiful Images For the Avid Snorkeler.
Most of the dive sites will have decent snorkelling. The snorkelling would really be in the north of Komodo rather than the south. If mantas are active in Manta Alley, this would make for fantastic snorkelling at the dive site. Although you would not snorkel sites like Castle Rock and Crystal Rock, where the liveaboards park right on the beach there are some lovely hard coral gardens to explore, and Tatawa also has great hard corals. Batu Monco up in the north end of Komodo itself, has a couple of amazing dive sites and really incredible snorkelling there as well.
Accommodation in Komodo fit for Land Lovers and Sea Travelers Alike.
Whether land or sea is your preference, in Komodo there are many great options for divers when it comes to accommodation. The dive sites in Komodo are located within the Komodo National Park. This prevents resorts from building at the dive sites, and most are located within the town of Labuan Bajo. However, recently new backpackers resorts were being built away from the town, on the Flores mainland outside the town and closer towards the park. Komodo Resort is located right on the edge of the park itself, so it’s a much shorter ride to the dive sites than some of the others. Another advantageous accommodation option is to choose a liveaboard, which gives you direct access to the dive sites. The key with liveaboard boats is finding one that suites your schedule. Most do an 11 night trip, and others seven. The Mermaid I and II are great liveaboards that leave from Bali, so if you don’t want to fly all the way over to Labuan Bajo, you can jump on and off the boat in Bali.
Diving Komodo – Dive Happy Episode 2 Show Transcript
[0:00:06.2] CM: Hello and welcome to Dive Happy, the podcast about the best places to go scuba diving in Asia. I’m your host, Chris Mitchell and my guest is the accomplished Canadian underwater photographer, Mike Veitch who is also the co-founder of Underwater Tribe, which plans and leads and dive holidays in Indonesia.
Hi Mike, welcome to the show.
[00:00:25.0] MV: Thank you.
[00:00:26.0] CM: So Mike, you have dived many, many times in Komodo. Can you tell us in a nutshell what is so special about diving Komodo?
[00:00:36.9] MV: Komodo itself it’s actually a very special place. It’s got a big variety of different things that you could see there. What I like about it is it’s not just specialized in one type of diving that you might find in other areas. It’s got everything from the smallest small macro-critters to big schools of resident manta rays that can be dived with all year round.
It’s got a very sort of a feel of frontier, the frontier feeling like you’re out there in the middle of nowhere. If you go to West Komodo side, you won’t see a single diver anywhere else. It’s got that real feeling that you are diving somewhere raw and powerful. It’s a very special place.
[00:01:19.6] CM: So it’s also a very big place, right? It covers hundreds of miles and the islands and the water are protected in the same national park, is that correct?
[00:01:29.8] MV: Yeah, that’s correct. The area itself ranges from the western edge of the island of Flores and it compasses three larger islands, the Islands of Komodo, the island of Rinca and the smaller island of Padar plus several dozen smaller islands that are also within the park and the whole thing has been protected now since the 80’s.
So there’s a small few fishing boats that you’ll see in there every now and again but the sea life itself is protected as well as the land life; the dragons and the deer and the monkeys are also protected within the marine preserve or national park as you would call it.
[00:02:09.6] CM: Okay and the top side scenery in Komodo is pretty spectacular as well isn’t it? It’s got a sort of Jurassic Park feel to it.
[00:02:17.7] MV: Yeah, it truly is a Jurassic, which is a great descriptor for it. When you arrive there in Komodo just the look of it, it looks like African Savannah or just wild territory like you would see, as you say, in the movie Jurassic Park. During the high season it’s very dry so the months of July, August there’s no rain. Everything turns brown, it looks like an African Savannah.
But if you go in January or December during the rainier season, everything actually turns green and these low clouds come in and you’ve got this green jungle background. So you are jumping into this beautiful blue water and then you’ve got this green jungle background in the background that makes you look like you’re jumping in with a Tyrannosaurus rex or something.
[00:03:04.3] CM: All right now speaking of dinosaurs, we can’t really go much further into this without talking about the infamous Komodo Dragons. Where about do they actually hang out in Komodo? Is it on Komodo Island?
[00:03:19.5] MV: You’ve actually got the dragons in a couple of different areas. You’ve got the largest population on Komodo Island itself. There’s something around 1,100 dragons on Komodo Island itself. Then you’ve got Rinca Island, which is the next main island, they’ve got about 900 over there and then you’ve got a couple of smaller islands that actually have them.
There is one called Gili Motang, which was some, Nusa Kode also has a few and these are just small islands that are probably only, I don’t know, a couple of dozen square miles in size they’re not big and then you’ve got a couple on the main land of Flores and also recently, the rangers have actually relocated a few to the island of Padar. So they were at state from the island of Padar years ago and now, they just had a few I think five reintroduced to the island of Padar. So you can find them pretty much all throughout the park.
[00:04:12.4] CM: Wow and are they as dangerous as their reputation would suggest?
[00:04:17.0] MV: Well they’re certainly, they’re not the cuddly little lizard that you would find like a gecko. They are definitely dangerous, you wouldn’t like to get too close to them. They’re opportunistic, so they might just be sitting there. Quite often you’ll find them in the ranger station just sitting there sunning themselves and you could actually walk quite close to them and they won’t do anything but those ones are a little bit habituated among humans. If you were to walk up into the hills on any of the islands then yeah, you would just instantly become on the dinner menu shall we say.
[00:04:47.0] CM: Which would then beg the question, do you ever see them in the water?
[00:04:52.4] MV: They can swim and they are known to move from island to island by swimming but it’s not something that they actually like doing but you will see and especially these days, we’re seeing it more and more with the rise of social media, you will see a few of them down in southern Rinca actually entering the water and getting close to the boats that the people are on.
But again, that’s just more habituation of what a few people have been doing trying to bait the dragons to get a photo opportunity and so you quite often see them swimming now but it’s not something that you would see naturally other than this one location.
[00:05:28.8] CM: Wow, okay understood. So just to be clear, are they Komodo Dragons approaching any boat because they, like you said, they’re habituated or are they just going back to the ones that they know that they might get fed from?
[00:05:41.1] MV: Oh no, they’ll come to any boat. So basically there’s this one beach in the southern end of Rinca and it’s called Horseshoe Bay and there’s a population of seven or eight dragons that live in that area and basically, as soon as a boat gets anywhere near the beach, all of a sudden you’ve got these dragons coming down the beach to meet you. So not really a place to go and do any sun tanning.
[00:06:04.2] CM: Yes, that’s Horseshoe Bay is quite beautiful but it’s also one of the most desolate places on the earth, isn’t it?
[00:06:09.9] MV: Yeah, that’s the one that really makes you think of Jurassic Park. You come in and like you say, it’s a horseshoe shaped bay so it’s a very narrow channel of water that is a crescent shape when you come in and you’ve got these towering cliffs on each side. You’ve got eels flying around.
You’ve got these low lying clouds or fog up in the greenery and then as you approach this dark sandy beach, you’ve got the dragons right there. So if you’re ever looking for something to look like Jurassic Park that would be the one.
[00:06:41.3] CM: Now Horseshoe Bay is in the South of Komodo, right? And Nusa Kode is the little island there as well and that area in general, that small area of the bay is one of Komodos’ kind of standout areas. Can you explain a bit about what’s there and why it’s so great?
[00:07:00.4] MV: Actually, Horseshoe Bay is the southern end of the island of Rinca.
[00:07:04.0] CM: Ah okay, sorry.
[00:07:05.2] MV: Yeah and Nusa Kode is the islands there so it wasn’t until probably the late 80’s I believe it was, early 90’s when a few people first started diving there when they found one of these dive sites called Cannibal Rock, which is one of the signature dive sites of Komodo. That rock itself was named because this group of people, a couple of famous photographers like Bert Jones and some other people, they had climbed a nearby rock and they looked over and they could see down in the water this sea mount, which now you could obviously find with Google Earth.
But back in those days, you have to climb up on top of a rock to look down and that has become one of the most amazing dive sites there but the reason why they called it Cannibal Rock was as they were sitting on top of the hill, looking down, they looked back down towards the beach and there was a large adult dragon eating a smaller dragon. So that’s why they call actually called that place Cannibal Rock. But you can imagine they were quickly back down there, going the opposite direction but the area itself again is not a large bay. You’ve probably, from north to south to east to west when you record, it’s probably only three or four miles long but within that area, you have well I’m going to say seven or eight different dive sights that are absolutely just rich.
You’ve got the water coming in from the Indian Ocean so it’s down the southern sides which is the Indian Ocean and just an amazing variety of stuff. You’ve got Crinoids that just cover every surface. Sponges, you’ve got orange Tubastrea coral that’s growing on every exposed surface and lots of fish. Lots of bait fish, lots of anemones, you get frog fish down there, unique nude ranks you pretty much all they find down in the southern area down there. The cold water that comes in during the summer months so August and September time, you get really cold water coming in like 18 degrees Celsius.
[00:09:05.5] CM: Ouch.
[00:09:06.5] MV: That really feeds the rich life down there. It’s actually quite green that time of year but so it’s amazing diving down there during the July-August time more for macro because there’s an amazing amount of little stuff and then if you’re lucky enough to go in the off season, say in December or January, the water typically turns blue and warms up like 27-28 degrees and you can get endless visibility down there without the crowds and there’s just a huge variety of different sites in that bay and just so much rich wildlife that it’s always a real popular place for people to go.
[00:09:44.1] CM: Yeah, I’ve heard stories of the classic Komodo itinerary will be seven or 10 days in a liveaboard and usually they go north to south or south to north but I’ve heard stories of boats just parking up in Horseshoe Bay for four or five days and everyone being sort of deliriously happy because there is just so much in that area. Is that correct? Would you say that’s pushing it for a boat to stay there that long or would people be happy to be there that long?
[00:10:07.9] MV: I think, especially photographers, they would love to be there that long. I was in there one time probably eight days in total. The weather up north was rough so we went down and sat in Horseshoe Bay for probably seven to eight days, the weather calmed down and then we didn’t just dive right inside Horseshoe Bay. We moved over to the southern next bay over to it, that’s the next rock over to it. But that southern section, if you can go down there in January-December-November, the water warms up so it’s actually easy to spend four or five days down there and if you do it in July-August, the cold water, most people would say two days is enough and they don’t want to deal with the cold anymore.
[00:10:47.7] CM: Yeah, need lots of cups of coco for that one.
[00:10:49.9] MV: Yeah and a very warm wet suit.
[00:10:52.8] CM: So once a boat does leave Horseshoe Bay and starts to head north, where are the other key areas as the boat heads north that would probably be like that yeah, you have to start there if you really want to say that you’ve seen Komodo?
[00:11:08.0] MV: Well I think the best place to go after Horseshoe Bay or some boats will do it the other way is, like I say, Horseshoe Bay is at the southern end of Rinca but at the southern end of Komodo itself, you’ve got a smaller bay in there which is where Manta Point or Manta Alley, the famous Manta Alley of Komodo is located down there.
So again, you’re still in that Jurassic wild looking area down there. You’ve got these three small rocks and if you’re lucky like last year, I was incredibly lucky in June-July time just dozens and dozens and dozens of mantas feeding at surface and cleaning at the cleaning station. As long as the weather is clear and the waves aren’t too rough, I could easily spend another two days down there.
So you could easily spend two or three days at Horseshoe Bay and then two days at Manta Alley and you’re already looking at five days just in the south. So easily, easily done and then from there, a typical itinerary would head back up to the north end. So you would go to maybe the Ranger Station on either Komodo Island or Rinca. Both of them have tours that you can do at the Ranger Stations and then head back up north towards Crystal Rock and Castle Rock which are more on the famous dive sites up north.
[00:12:25.4] CM: Right, yes so tell us a bit more about Castle Rock because I have dived there four or five times and every time, it’s just been mind-blowing basically. I don’t know, maybe the one dive site I always think of as the best dive site I’ve ever dived. If you can actually say something like that. I mean is that a favorite of yours?
[00:12:44.4] MV: Definitely. There’s two side by side, Crystal Rock and Castle Rock. One is exposed at the surface, the other one is about five meters down. If someone else is diving one, you switch to the other. So both dives are actually quite incredible. What they’re well known for is just and extreme amount of fusiliers.
The whole water, as soon as you hit the water, there’s fusiliers everywhere and all those fusiliers attract giant trevallies, white tip sharks, grey reef sharks, blue fin trevallies. So at anytime you jump into that dive site, whether there is a ripping current or hardly any current at all, I think what you’ll find is there’s always action going on.
So it’s one of these action packed dives. You need a little bit more current to do it properly but even if there’s no current, you then can explore the entire rock, take time and look at some of the smaller things as well but yeah, it’s a dive site that I can do all day every day.
[00:13:37.9] CM: And then beyond that, the other site that is always pretty memorable is the Volcano whose name I can never pronounce properly.
[00:13:46.6] MV: The volcano itself, the one I’d imagine you’re talking about is Sangeang.
[00:13:51.4] CM: That’s right, yes.
[00:13:52.8] MV: Yeah, that’s actually outside of the park. It’s off the northeast coast of Sumbawa but most boats will also include it when they’re doing a Komodo safari. Obviously you won’t get there if you’re doing it a day boat from Labuan Bajo but on the liveaboard yeah, you will include some Sangeang in your itinerary.
That’s a great location because what happens with that is you’ve got all this action pack diving in Horseshoe Bay and the Mantas and Crystal Rock and Castle Rock but then you head over to Sangeang and now all of a sudden you’re into the little stuff. You’ve got the black sand, you’re looking for the weird nudibranchs, you’re looking for pygmy seahorses. You’re looking for one of those pike fish and all that kind of stuff so it’s almost like a muck dive because it’s got the black sand but it’s clear water. So it’s like diving in Lembeh with clear water.
[00:14:40.4] CM: And it’s got some pretty nice coral there I seem to remember as well and of course the hot rocks.
[00:14:46.7] MV: Exactly so yeah, there’s definitely some nice corals. There’s a lot of soft corals, the sea fans and the hard corals but yeah, the hot rocks is definitely one of the more popular dive sites. You’ve got these volcanic bubbles that just dribble out of the sand. So you can stick your hand in the sand and you could definitely feel the warmth in that. It’s quite cool.
[00:15:04.7] CM: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s such a contrast to Horseshoe Bay. You come from the cold of being down there and you arrive at this sort of tropical waters basically. It’s quite mad.
[00:15:17.9] MV: Yeah, you do 19 degrees, the next day you’re diving in 29, so I know which one I prefer.
[00:15:24.4] CM: Well so mate, Komodo has quite a reputation for great night diving, which is something that people are very polarized about. I know that it’s one of the few places that I am sort of enthusiastic about going night diving. Is there any particular spots that you’re keen on?
[00:15:40.0] MV: There is actually a couple. There is probably three dive sites down there that I really enjoyed for night dives and I am one of these polarized people and I am not a huge night diver but there’s a couple. There’s one in the island of Banta up in the white sandy patch. Quite often you’d find a lot of stargazers.
They’re those weird fish that bury themselves in the sand and look up. I quite enjoyed filming them because you bring in your lights at night and it will bring in the larva and the plankton and the stargazers will actually sometimes leap out and try and grab something that comes toward your light so that’s quite cool.
Also, a good healthy population of lion fish there. Again, they like to use your lights and hunt so one of the night dive sites that I’d like to do. There’s another one called Wainilu, just right near the Rinca ranger station and that one is really rewarding for a night dive. It’s right in the middle area. Sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it’s warm.
So I guess that mix of water makes the life quite rich. You wouldn’t really do it as a spectacular dive. If you’re not a person that likes the weird stuff, you wouldn’t like that dive because it’s just sort of a rubbly bottom with some sea grass in it. So if you’re not into the little stuff, you would go, “Why am I diving here?” But for people that really like the critters it’s an incredible place.
It’s one these places where they had actually found the [unaudible] which is one of these Nudibranchs that looks like a piece of spaghetti. You’ve got fire urchins with the Coleman shrimps and the zebra crabs. You’ve got all kinds of ghost pipe fish, lots of cool things like that and that one of my favorite ones. A typical route that we would do on a boat would be to go over the Rinca ranger station, do the tour in the afternoon, looking at the dragons and doing a walk and then coming out of doing a night dive there before heading either back north or back south.
The other really nice night dive is called Torpedo Alley, which is down again in Horseshoe Bay. It’s just a black sand site. Again, one of these ones where if you don’t have a good dive guide, you’re not going to find a lot but if you’ve got a good dive guide and you’re really into looking for your critters, it can be very rewarding as well. Things like hairy frog fish, normal frog fish, squid, octopus, mimic octopus, all that kind of stuff typically you can find in that location as well. So again, a very good night dive.
[00:18:04.0] CM: Awesome. So yeah, you you’ve talked a lot there and also earlier you’re saying about Manta Alley there, there seems to be just a huge amount of opportunities for photographers here for whatever kind of style of photography they’re doing. Is there any other particular sites besides the ones that you mentioned already that you would think that will blow photographers minds?
[00:18:24.0] MV: Yes, so one of my favorites is there is another manta side up north called Makasser Reef. If you don’t have much luck down in Manta Alley, then maybe you’ll get it in Makasser Reef. It tends to be where the mantas go during the earlier part of the year. So I was just there in April and probably had 15 mantas swimming around me at the surface.
Another dive site that’s quite incredible is Shotgun, which is a cool little channel that goes in between two islands and you jump in the water and it’s quite a mellow beginning and then all of a sudden you get this massive current that shoots you through this tunnel. You hook in — not tunnel, but very narrow passage.
You hook in, and you hang out in there. Sometimes you’ll see mantas there as well, then you unhook then you swim up into the shallows and you get this beautiful hard coral. Other really incredible dive sites there would be Siaba Kecil, which is an amazing place for turtles. Also Tatawa Besar. Tatawa has really nice orange soft corals, big schools of fish and incredible hard corals.
[00:19:32.2] CM: Awesome. Is there much opportunity for snorkelers in Komodo that is compatible with typical liveaboard itineraries?
[00:19:40.4] MV: Yeah, most of the dive sites will have decent snorkelling, not all of them. Obviously if you’re at some of the sea mounts like Castle Rock and Crystal Rock, you wouldn’t snorkel those but just where the liveaboards park right on the beach there’s some very nice hard coral gardens there.
Tatawa has great hard corals, Batu Monco up in the north end of Komodo itself, it has a couple of really nice dive sites and really incredible snorkelling there. But the snorkelling would really be in the north of Komodo rather than the south. Horseshoe Bay, not a great place for snorkelling but Manta Alley on the south side of Komodo would obviously if the mantas are there, that would be fantastic snorkelling.
[00:20:20.1] CM: That would be mind blowing.
[00:20:21.9] MV: But you’ve got to be careful with the currents. So a lot of these sites because they’re small islands even if they’ve got the amazing hard coral, you have to have a boat driver that’s paying attention to the snorkelers and you have to have snorkelers with a bit of an adventure that like a quick snorkel shall we say.
[00:20:36.9] CM: Right, okay. You mentioned earlier as well, we were talking about Castle Rock, about the day tripper boats. So what is the situation now about going out to see the Komodo National Park on a day trip boat versus a liveaboard? Is it quite crowded now or things quite civil and well organized?
[00:20:54.8] MV: There is quite a lot of boat traffic there. You’re getting more and more dive centers in Labuan Bajo itself, and Labuan Bajo just build a new airport so they are getting more and more tourism. So you do get a lot of day boats coming out but they’re not all necessarily divers. So they would just go to beaches for snorkelling. They will go to the national park itself, the headquarters to go tours and see the dragons.
Liveaboards, the season basically is June through September, so you will get a lot of action on a lot of the dive sites because you might pull up to Castle Rock and there’s going to be quite a few boats there but most boats will talk to each other and sort of make an itinerary and say, “Okay. You dive at this time and then we’ll wait for you and then we’ll dive after.”
So it’s still quite civilized the way that everybody talks to each other but if you don’t like busy seasons where you are seeing a lot of divers, then you’re better to skip that June through September and actually myself I prefer to go there on October-November or May because you will see less boats there.
[00:22:01.9] CM: Okay, that’s a great tip and are there any, obviously there will be dive resorts on some of the islands like you just said, is there anywhere in the Komodo National Park that’s sort of like the equivalent of Misool Eco Resort where it’s just right in the heart of the park?
[00:22:17.8] MV: Actually, you’re not allowed to build in the park itself. So most of the resorts are in Labuan Bajo Town but there is one resort on the island. I believe it’s funnily enough called Komodo Resort just in the edge of the park itself. So it is not in the town but it is closer to the park and it’s got nice cute little bungalows.
So it’s a much shorter ride to the dive sites than some of the others and there’s also a new resort that’s sort of a backpacker’s resort that’s opened on the Flores mainland but south of Labuan Bajo so down closer towards Horseshoe Bay I believe. I’m not exactly sure on their location but they’re on the Flores mainland outside of town.
So they’re starting to move away from Labuan Bajo and go closer towards the park, which is good because then it is much easier to go to the dive sites. If you’re just on a day boat from Labuan Bajo, it will typically take you an hour to get to some of the better dive sites. So in my opinion, it’s still advantageous to be on the liveaboard rather than at a resort.
[00:23:20.7] CM: Right and which particular liveaboards do you like the most? Do you have a short list of which ones you enjoyed being on the most?
[00:23:28.0] MV: I’ve got quite a few actually.
[00:23:29.7] CM: A long list then?
[00:23:31.1] MV: Mermaid I and II are good ones. They actually leave from Bali so if you don’t want to fly all the way over to Labuan Bajo, you can jump on and off the boat in Bali. So that’s a different option. Damai, they will do different sort of schedules in Komodo so they’re not necessarily there during the peak season.
Sometimes, they’ll just go during the off season. So they’ll be there say November through February or something like that. Finding a boat that will go there in those later months, October-November I think it is quite a good thing to get away from the crowds but some of the other boats that we’ve used in the area are the Wellenreng, which I quite like because it only has three cabins.
I’ll be going out there in July with them and then the Ambai is another one that my company uses quite often. The key thing with boats is finding one that suites your schedule. Most of them will do an 11 night trip but if you’ve got a shorter amount, you might want to do seven days, that’s available, and then just figuring out what time and year you want to be there.
[00:24:31.4] CM: Right, yeah because it’s interesting because Komodo is like relatively easy to get to because it’s a hopper flight from Bali, it’s only about an hour, an hour and a half?
[00:24:39.8] MV: Yeah, that’s correct.
[00:24:41.7] CM: And then if you choose to sail from Bali, like you just mentioned, that’s usually is a two day cruise before you arrive at the park?
[00:24:49.4] MV: Yeah, I guess you could say that. Typically the boat would leave Bali again with Mermaid, they’re faster boats than the traditional Pinisi so they’ve got a bit of an advantage but they’ll leave Bali early afternoon and then dive over in Western Sumbawa the following day. So [inaudible] area and they’ve got some nice dives there actually. And then they overnight the following night then you’re already in Sangeang. So it’s basically your second day of diving, you are already within the Komodo area.
[00:25:21.2] CM: Okay, so finally is there any particular advice you would give to someone going to Komodo to dive Komodo for the first time? I assume you would suggest having a few dives under your belt first.
[00:25:34.6] MV: Oh most definitely they need some dives under their belt because the key thing there is to expect some currents down there. You can plan it and say, “Okay we’re going to this dive site this time and hopefully we won’t get any current,” but to actually see it at its best, you do need a bit of current. So at a dive like Castle Rock or Crystal Rock, you want a little bit of a current because that’s what brings out the action. That’s what brings out the fish.
If you do it when it’s just absolutely flat calm, you don’t see the best that it has to offer. So definitely get a bit of practice with a bit of currents and expect some current and try to look for — okay, you don’t want to go in the ranging current but expect just at the end of the current or the beginning of the current where you will see some good action. So yeah be comfortable with currents to see Komodo at its best.
[00:26:19.3] CM: Awesome. Okay Mike, thank you very much for that. It has been great talking to you and I hope we can go dive in together soon at some point.
[00:26:27.9] MV: Yeah, good talking to you as well. If you’d like to come to Komodo, let me know. I’ve got a space in July.
[00:26:33.8] CM: All right mate, take care. Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:26:38.7] CM: Thanks for listening to the Dive Happy Podcast. For show notes about this episode including maps of where we’re talking about, travel tips, links to the liveaboards, resorts, books etcetera that we mentioned, and other good stuff, please visit divehappy.com/podcast.
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