Komodo Liveaboard – Trip Report 2013

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Whilst guests Natalie, Mel, Duane, Barbara, Robert, Asha, Alana, Tony, Craig, Tim and Brian relaxed the afternoon away at Kanawa, the Jaya returned to Labuan Bajo to pick up Eduardo from Brazil and honeymooners Oli and Tom from England and off went our Komodo Liveaboard trip!

With all divers back on board and with guides Martyn, Steve, Carl and Marsel we undertook our first dive at North Point, a sloping reef situated in front of the island. A couple of interested eagle rays welcomed the divers although some (and their guides included) were taken aback when a group of hunting giant trevallies came a little too close for comfort! After diving the clouds briefly parted and the sunset peeked through whilst we journeyed up to the northern tip of the Park with the promise of some amazing dives planned for the next day.

In order to beat the crowds we woke early to dive Crystal Rock, one of the most famous dive sites in the park and so named because of its frequent crystal clear visibility. The current was mild and therefore we were able to explore the far reaches of the site at a leisurely pace including the beautiful coral encrusted pinnacles that jut up towards the surface. As we made our way behind the main rock we were greeted by huge schools of long fin bannerfish, surgeonfish and big eye trevally. A safety stop in a real life aquarium. Welcome to Komodo guys!

After breakfast and a rest we jumped in to dive Castle Rock, perhaps the most well known site in the whole park. And why is it so famous? Because it is so incredible! We were immediately surrounded by white tip reef sharks, enormous napoleon wrasse cruised by and huge schools of surgeonfish swam overhead.

But it isnt only the big stuff that this site offers. Cool macro critters such as hairy squat lobsters can be found on the barrel sponges and lucky divers can also see the rare pygmy seahorse here. The one we saw was bright yellow. What a find! Thinking that the dive couldnt get any better we were thrilled to witness a feeding frenzy in the shallower waters. The giant trevallies decided they were hungry and it was time to have breakfast and as they darted into their prey several white tipped sharks joined in on the action creating a mass of activity before our very eyes. An excellent dive for everybody involved.

The final dive of the day was scheduled for The Lighthouse where we were expecting a stunning reef full of life. What we werent expecting was four manta rays swimming overhead! A great surprise proving that anything can happen in Komodo at any time. In addition to the rays we also saw another pygmy seahorse and a black tip reef shark swimming by. The guests spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about what a brilliant dive they had all just had.

Another of our Extreme Beach Cleans took place on Gili Lawa Darat with Alana and her group of fellow Australians challenging the rest of the world. Did the Aussies win? Just about. Crikey. The hilltop sunset relaxed us all even with Natalie making us perform yoga poses on the cliff edge for the camera!

Moving into the centre of the Park for our second full day of diving we began at Siaba Kecil which is possibly the fastest drift dive in the entire Park. And boy what a drift! The reef whizzed past at lightning speed. The latter half of the dive was spent in a far more relaxing fashion with the divers gently drifting across a beautiful staghorn coral garden with the opportunity to spot both green and hawksbill turtles.

Up next was the dive that most guests look forward to when coming to Komodo. Makassar Reef, also known as Manta Point gives us the greatest opportunity to see these majestic creatures in the whole of the Park. With luck on our side after yesterdays manta surprise at The Lighthouse, the divers eagerly anticipated another encounter with Komodos most famous underwater residents. As soon as we dropped in we saw two mantas close to the bottom which prepared us for what we might see for the rest of the dive. Within minutes we had found our first mantas and we clung onto nearby rocks whilst the current washed over our heads. We were certainly struggling more than the rays were! At one point we were surrounded by eight mantas in all directions. And just as a special treat a tawny nurse shark and a black tip reef shark decided to show up and delight us. After the mantas moved on we released our grip and drifted further along the plateau. Soon we found even more mantas. In total we saw twelve mantas on the reef. What lucky divers!

As the dive was so successful, the guests asked if they could dive Makassar Reef again. All of us that work at Wicked Diving love mantas so why not! With every dive involving mantas we log all the encounters and send it to the Manta Trust so this was a great opportunity to provide more research to understand and protect these ocean giants even further.

Impressed by our fun briefings, Duane decided he would also like to give it a go. Dressed in full pirate gear he wowed the guests with his realistic accent and accurate drawings of what we might see underwater. A mermaid anyone?! After a slow start to the dive we were wondering if we had made the wrong decision the dive the same site again. Wrong! After thirty or so minutes the mantas came. And came. And came. Each group saw as many as the first dive if not even more. One group were overjoyed to have a manta come up from the deep to say goodbye whilst doing their safety stop in the blue. Everyone agreed that this was perhaps the best dive of the trip so far.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kfBfVnVY-6E/UfyroEgyMQI/AAAAAAAAOIM/odbbKI-eE0k/s320/IMG_3423.JPGAs a celebratory treat we spent the sunset at Kaaba island which is famous for its daily exodus of flying foxes back to mainland Flores where they feast on fruit before returning back to their island home.

The final dive took place at Wainilu, a staff favourite as its a great site for finding the rare macro creatures that only show their faces at night. Starry night octopus, Papuan cuttlefish, decorator crabs, pipefish and the elusive frogfish were all found on the reef. A great way to end our diving adventures in the park. But we werent finished yet. An early morning date with the Komodo dragons rewarded the guests with these magnificent (and a little scary!) beasts in their natural environment. Everybody was happy to have checked off both of Komodos key species on this Jaya trip the manta rays and dragons. Hoisting sail for the return journey back to the mainland, we all sat down and reminisced about our fantastic experiences and made plans to meet each other again sometime in the future.