Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Visited: April 2019
For many scuba divers, braving Komodo’s powerful currents comes with valuable bragging rights. As more and more of us have made the journey, tales of these pelagic filled waters have spread like wildfire in the diving community. Like those who dove before us, we wanted to see for ourselves what diving in Komodo is like.
Recent headlines may have some believing they have to put their plans for diving here on hold, but as you can see by the date of this post, scuba diving in Komodo is open!
Juvenile Orbicular batfish live in sheltered areas like mangroves and estuaries until reaching maturity. Once in the open sea males can grow to up to 20-inches long.
Despite what you may have read in the media lately, Komodo Island is only tentatively scheduled to be closed for one year and all dive sites in the area are to remain accessible. Komodo Dragons can also be seen on Rinca Island in Komodo National Park, which has long been the preferred area for spotting the reptiles. If you are considering a holiday in Komodo there is no reason to be deterred. This budget-friendly destination offers you access to some of the best diving in the world.
Spring is in the Air! We caught these mini-eyed snake eels making out at Manta Point.
Komodo is most known for the strong, cold currents that rush through its waters bringing fish, plankton and the large pelagics that feed on them, like sharks and rays. The more intense dive sites require a higher level of experience and skill; a fact that has attracted adrenaline junkies to Komodo for some time now.
Scuba diving in Komodo is not limited to braving heavy current and deep waters. The coral gardens, several of which are shallow, are beautiful and filled with life. We had newly certified divers on board with us nearly every day. Dragon Dive Komodo trainers, guides and crew know these waters, how to manage them and the appropriate sites for each skill level.
Our awesome crew
We dove here for a few days, so this post will become really long-winded if I try to talk about every site. I will say that the coral seems nearly untouched, and we saw tons of life even though it was just before peak season. The two sites I found most memorable were Batu Balong and the Cauldron.
Divemaster Simon Overby leading us down the chimney at Batu Balong.
I have done a fair amount of scuba diving in several countries now, so I feel I know an exceptional dive when I get one, and Batu Balong, is a dive that may never leave my mind. When we arrived, the current on either side of the rock was so strong that we could see it churning at the surface. We really could not fuck around here.
A pregnant white tip passing by at Batu Balong, Komodo. White tips give live birth, the gestation period for their embryos is 10-13 months, and litter size varies from one to six pups.
The plan was to get in and kick a short distance to the center of the rock where the water was calm, then drop down to about 30-meters through the rock’s chimney and gradually make our way back to the surface by zigzagging along the leeward side of this incredible coral covered rock.
Our dive at Batu Balong was gorgeous, the coral is pristine, we encountered several sharks, turtles, eels, and loads of fish; including giant trevally and Napoleon wrasse. The open water divers started a bit shallower, but there is plenty to see at any depth, including some of the sharks and turtles I mentioned earlier.
This Beaufort's Crocodilefish was sighted at the Sibea Besar dive site.
If you are headed to Komodo so you can brag to your friends about diving in heavy current, The Cauldron (Shotgun) is a site to make note of. This channel separates Lawa Darat Gili and Gili Lawa Laut in the northern part of Komodo National Park. The rip current that occurs here during a medium-strong falling tide is how the site got its name. Divers drop down the coral slope on the north side then drift dive to the center of the channel called The Cauldron, which is literally a sandy bottom bowl. From here the only thing between divers and The Shotgun is a rock wall.
Dominique John (Germany), Lucy Dudley (UK) and Paula Collins (UK) gear up for a dive. It is not often that the women outnumber the men on dive boats in my experience. I will admit I was very happy to see so many female divers on our boat.
Once divers ascend to the top of this wall the rip current propels them through the channel until they reach a much calmer site called China Shop. This is quite a ride and a lot of fun, but you must be willing to let the current take you. It is not possible to kick against the current and fight your way back and you will only exhaust yourself and burn through your air if you try. Whale sharks and manta rays are sometimes spotted in The Shotgun portion of the channel, where they like to feed on the plankton that streams through here.
An eagle ray was basking in the current during our first dive at Castle Rock. We saw rays, sharks or both during every dive we did in Komodo.
Manta rays and eagle rays can also be spotted at Manta Point. This is a popular site in Komodo, because it is appropriate for divers of all levels, and spotting rays is very likely.
Komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizard on earth, growing to up to 3-meters/10-feet and 70 kg/150 lbs.
Rinca Island does not get its name in brochures as much as Komodo Island does, but as one of the three largest islands in Komodo National Park, it has been welcoming visitors and giving tours to see Komodo dragons for just as long. Rinca Island has not felt the impact of tourism that Komodo has, and there are no plans of closing it to visitors even if Komodo Island does close.
Dragon Dive Komodo staff arranged for a group of us to be taken to Rinca one morning for a tour. It was really easy, the dive boat took us to the island, we did our tour, then we got back on the boat and spent the rest of the day diving. Nice, right?
Diving in Komodo is year round. A few local divers told us pelagics are abundant during January and February, but these are also the roughest months of the wet season, so you must be willing to endure some heavy rain on the boat and on land. The wet season is December-March most years. March through May Komodo is bright and green and springtime regeneration can even be seen in the coral. July through August are good as well, but you have the greatest chance of seeing large numbers of Manta Rays in June and September.
Guillaume Boughar (Divemaster and Instructor) and Alexandra Rawden (Divemaster in training).
Dragon Dive Komodo has a large boat with plenty of seating and a partially shaded sundeck. Lunch is provided and there is no shortage of snacks, water or hot beverages. It’s very comfortable, but more importantly the vibe is good, and I believe this extends beyond our visit, because the crew and the dive guides are so positive, accommodating and competent.
Even when they were clearly busy the staff never failed to stop and ask us how our dives were going and if there was anything we needed. They are extremely knowledgeable about what lives in the sea and helped divers identify aquatic life large and small. When they had more time all of them kicked it with us and included everyone nearby, which really made it easy for all of the guests to interact with each other as well.
Yoshi the Dragon Dive Komodo liveaboard at sea.
The Dragon Dive Komodo liveaboard is a traditional Indonesian Phinisi boat, named “Yoshi.” On-board there is one 4-person dorm with private bathroom and a/c, one double room for 2 with private bathroom and a/c, and one amazing master suite with an ensuite bathroom and a private deck with a stunning view of Komodo National Park.
We stayed in the lovely hotel/hostel just a short taxi ride from the airport. Our private double room was very comfortable and convenient. This location is just a few meters from where fresh fish caught daily is prepared in local food stalls for diners. If you walk a few minutes more you will reach the downtown area where shops and restaurants are abundant. Those too tired to wander can of course just chill out in the courtyard of the resort and take advantage of the 1-for-1 happy hour and delicious pizza made to order in a wood fired oven.
Dragon Dive Komodo, awarded 5-Star Hostel by Hostel Geeks in 2018
You will want for nothing at this resort where the beer is cold and the pool is a welcomed point of relaxation after a day of diving. In fact, there were even a few non-divers among us who came purely for the comforts of the resort and enjoyed day trips to see Komodo dragons and explore local caves at Goa Gajah.