A question I am often asked is, ‘I’ve done loads of Red Sea liveaboards and a couple in the Maldives, where should I go next?’ Well if you love coral reefs and a mixture of big and small marine life my usual answer is Indonesia and more specifically Komodo. It’s a trip that I had wanted to do for many years and it was great to eventually get a week on Mermaid II. The Mermaid II is a comfortable boat with a very enthusiastic crew who were determined to help make it a memorable week for all the guests on board.
The Komodo liveaboards are an easy introduction to Indonesia as, with the Mermaid boats, the start and finish point is usually Bali, which is easy and relatively inexpensive to get too. The boat leaves Bali in the late afternoon and makes the journey eastwards overnight with a lovely sunset as we passed Lombok, arriving at the first dive site just after breakfast. Quite an easy check dive to start with of course, but still lots to see.
We soon moved on to our first unusual dive, the semi-active Sangeang Volcano. Although not actually erupting, there was still the odd boom and plume of smoke from the visible crater. Of course, the dive sites had volcano related names such as Hot Rocks & Bubbles, the latter due to the bubbles of volcanic gas that emanate from the sea bed. Both sites had a nice mixture of bigger fish like sweetlips and our first look at the macro life, such as pigmy seahorse and orangutan crab, found only with the help of the expert guides.
Then we moved on to dive around the island of Komodo itself. An afternoon and a night dive giving a long list of species seen and photographed. The first dive of the next day was another, much anticipated, highlight. The site is called Shotgun, the reason for this soon becoming obvious. All is very calm when you first drop in the water, descending to a sandy bottom covered in about a dozen big stingrays. We dropped into a shallow pit in the seabed and made sure we were all ready for what was to come. As a group we all ascended until the current caught us and we were riding the shotgun, the strongest current I have ever experienced as the water is squeezed between two islands. It lasts a few minutes and is a truly exhilarating experience, hence why it’s a must do dive in the area.
More day and night dives around Komodo followed with everybody happy with the variety of underwater life encountered. The next morning was a chance to go onto the island and get up close and almost personal with the famous Komodo Dragons. You can get very close but luckily there are rangers on hand to prevent anyone becoming lunch for the world’s largest lizard. An hour long walk on the island also brought other wildlife such as deer and wild boar into view.
We then moved to the slightly colder waters to the south of Komodo and the island of Rinca. Although there was also plenty to keep the macro lover happy, such as hairy shrimp and painted frogfish, the highlight here has to be the big stuff. There were plenty of sharks (blacktips and whitetips) and best of all manta rays. Of course, we have all been to sites called Manta Point and not seen a manta at all but this time it delivered the goods with half a dozen sittings. Another site nearby was the stand-out part of the week for me though. On a drift dive over a relatively uninteresting reef I counted at least 25 mantas coming in to the small coral areas to be cleaned. Although there’s never any guarantees in diving, the guides told me they have never been to that site and not seen mantas.
For this trip the boat carried on to Maumere on Flores as the next week it was making its way up to Raja Ampat for the winter. Probably good timing as it was the start of the rainy season around Bali and on our very last dive we returned to the boat in a downpour with lightning in the distance. The normal routing is back to Bali, nice and convenient for the trip home, not that anyone would want to leave such an amazing place. Recommended? Highly!
Diverse Travel Limited