The chance to dive in Indonesia, the country at the heart of the world’s marine biodiversity, is always a privilege. The thought of the dragons of Komodo Island and the amazing dives sites in its surrounding waters also fills me with awe. So you can imagine my delight at the chance to board the new Indonesian liveaboard, the Seven Seas, on a trip around Indonesia’s best loved national marine park.
I arrived late September and, after a night in Bali, checked-in for my morning flight to Labuan Bajo, Flores. Such flights mean you can concentrate all your dive time within the park, instead of spending 2 or 3 days getting to and from Bali and diving (in my opinion) inferior sites. The flight with IAT was on a little twin propeller plane which, to my eternal relief, handled the flight well and was a steady as any jet. On board were a mix of locals, divers and other tourists gazing down as we soared over the ever-changing coastline and shimmering seas. I was glad to see my face amongst them, kissing the tortoise shell.
On arrival at Labuan Bajo’s little airport, I was met by a representative of Seven Seas who took us the 15 minutes from the airport to the jetty. The guests introduced themselves in the minibus and chatted excitedly about what the next few days had in store for this group of disparate individuals, united only by a shared love of the underwater world.
The first sight of our home for the next few days was impressive. Standing tall and proud in the harbour was this elegant, burgundy schooner. A beautiful Indonesian sailing ship with a pronounced bow, belying the hull’s original cargo purpose. The crew, all clad in Seven Seas burgundy t-shirts, helped us on board and greeted us with smiles and welcome drinks. We were shown to our cabins below deck. I had Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic a cabin with twin beds and, as with all, an en-suite bathroom of a standard you would be lucky to find in a hotel, complete with excellent piping hot power shower.
We set off from Labuan Bajo for our itinerary around the northern section of the Komodo National Park. I had memories of the Southern section on a previous trip where water temperatures had dropped to the teens. However, I was pleased that on this trip we would be diving mostly in the north. The diving, as promised, was excellent. The one thing that seems to stand out in Komodo is the sheer colour of the reefs. Where else can you find such a riot of yellow, blue, green, red, brown and pink all in the one spot?
The Diving in Komodo
Of course diving Komodo is such a varied experience that it cannot really be said to be about one thing. There are also great numbers of fish in the right spots. One of my favourite dives was ‘Fishbowl’ where, in addition to shark and ray sightings and myriad little reef fish, there were also big numbers of snapper, sweetlips, trevally and fusiliers. When such fish biomass is set against the vibrant hues of Komodo’s reefs surely there are few other locations which offer so much.
Night dives are another feature of Komodo which must be emphasised. One evening we slipped away on the Seven Seas’ excellent tender (which has the type of simple but effective seating arrangement that should be copied by all dive tenders) to a spot above a dive site known as ‘Spanish Dancer’. In the dark of night a fantastic number of nocturnal creatures were scuttling and slithering over the reef, including highlights such as slipper lobsters (my first sighting) and of course the eponymous Spanish Dancers, whose mid-water dance illuminated by our spotlights provided a breathtaking moment.
Pillarsteen was another highlight for me given its incredible topography with all manner of caves, swim-throughs and chimneys. This felt like a real adventure with the divemaster leading the way into seemingly dead-end fissures in the rock only to be followed by a snake of excited divers emerging out of the other side into the sunlight. As a change from focusing on all the colour and fish, Pillarsteen proved a very popular addition to our cruise.