We’ve just returned from an expedition through the Komodo National Park. For some of us it was one of many trips to this Indonesian divers’ paradise, whereas for others it was their first time. There were 16 of us, almost all of whom had dived with each other before in different parts of the world, thanks to DiveDisplay.
Using different routes, we got to Flores Island where we settled for a time just shy of two weeks. Even mulling around the baggage claim we were taken with the local flavor, seeing a welcoming national dance performance on the stage erected here and in the background, was the symbol of these lands - a statue of a Komodo dragon. Getting to our hotel somewhere on the outskirts of the town of Labuan Bajo, we found that many of us couldn’t get any signal on our cell phones. It became clear that we really had every chance to completely break away from the that virtual world that so constantly dogs us, our fleeting connections at seldom encountered WiFi points were like rare gasps of air. As established tradition dictated, of course, someone from the group had to completely lose their smartphone in order for the trip to be completely successful. And this time, luck didn’t pass us by: three drivers broke, lost or drowned their gadgets, which undoubtedly must be the reason for this having been such a fantastic trip.
Finally, we're off to go diving! We climbed aboard the boat a little bit later than planned (yes, almost every day there would be one reason or another for the late arrival of our boat but it didn’t bother us at all since even then there was a lot to do: counting the crabs on the rocks, waving at the monkeys on the island opposite, or just trolling each other as always, without any real reason) and met our guides: Nun, Fabi, Fundy and Igor, the last of whom turned out to be the welcoming owner of the Red Whale dive center. We were divided into groups of 4 divers + guide and, after entering the waters of the national park, we began to get acquainted with the underwater world.
We performed a check-dive at a depth of twenty meters, with a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius and, right there on the slope, we were met by two huge cuttlefish. What was so striking was the fact that they weren’t at all shy and kindly opened themselves up to inspection from all sides. Next, we had all the regular punters places like this: turtles, leaf fish, ghost fish and a variety of corals and tropical fish. Later in the program of the first day there was a dive in currents at a temperature of 26 degrees, herds of turtles, frogfish, flounders, hermit crabs and much more.
The second day was marked by the longest dives (each longer than an hour) because, firstly, the temperature contributed to this (28-29), and, secondly, due to what we saw underwater. The Batu Bolong dive site is a Komodo icon. Beautiful corals, octopuses, reef sharks, turtles and... a strong down current. By the way, I want to note that, in my opinion, diving in these places isn’t for beginners. If you don’t have at least 50 dives under your belt, it’s too much too early for you to try diving here since avoiding the multitudes of currents just won’t work here, and you need to have an excellent command of buoyancy to avoid damaging the corals. Indonesians are doing the right thing in striving to preserve their fragile underwater world and have imposed a ban on the use of gloves.
The second and longest dive was at Manta point. Just how many were there is a tad hard to say but there must’ve been at least a few dozen. Ninja mantas were especially good; black in colour with some having a small white spot on the belly, Fabi told us that these were the males, and the huge (roughly the size of a decently-sized carpet) individuals with white bellies were female. Finally, our second day ended with a relaxing dive in the city of turtles.
In the first two days we saw so much that it makes no sense to describe each of the next days separately, for there would be a great deal of repetition. Since many of us had been to Komodo several times already, the organizers decided to take us to more distant dive sites to dive in places where none of us had been. I can’t say it was a mistake, because the dancing mantas, bamboo sharks and other large animals deserved to be seen here. But many divers turned out to be unprepared for water temperatures of +24 and began to get cold.
Then we returned to warmer waters and even repeated dives on some of the most liked dive sites. One that wasn’t to be repeated, but was nevertheless the most memorable, was the “Shotgun” dive site, where the dive was like riding horizontally (not vertically!) down a gun barrel. The extremely fast current of a 20-meter-deep trough tried to scatter us, but every few minutes it slowed down to a minimum and allowed us to find each other once again. Personally I rather liked all this despite its extreme nature.
Finally, we met the main locals - the Komodo dragons. Coming closer to the shore, we saw several individuals of different sizes poured onto the shore and seemed to literally urge us to meet with them. However we knew just what this new acquaintance can suddenly snap into, because these creatures are ready to devour not only people but also each other. The nearest dive site isn’t called Cannibal Rock without good reason; here the divers witnessed a gruesome spectacle in which the dragons fed on each other. Having walked around the bay, we began to approach the beach and our brave dive guide and captain went to swim ashore. There they found a dragon, lured him to the shore and teased him a bit before running away at full pelt. It was an extreme sight. Usually a dragon biting a victim, whether it be a buffalo or someone smaller, will follow it for several days until the deadly wound knocks the victim down and can be easily torn to pieces and eaten. Later, we had the usual tour on which lazy overfed dragons will allow you to have a photo taken with the pair of you almost in an embrace. But it wasn’t the same of course.
I was lost! It finally happened. At the briefing before the dive, our guide had said that there would be poor visibility and there was a possibility of a strong current at the dive site so, during the dive, we needed to get down quickly and remain close to each other. I entered water as the last of the group and, hesitating a little, began to catch up with my friends who had disappeared under water, but my efforts proved to be in vain. I saw bubbles under me and followed them. Deeper and deeper. The depth was already 20 meters but no one was there. Further, a descending current caught me and now I was already at a depth of thirty meters. There was no one around, only blue water and poor visibility. Ok, I began to ascend, not realizing that the current was pressing down. I was inflating my BCD when I saw a reading of 28 meters’ depth on my computer and began to work my fins more energetically. I was inflating the BCD even more, but my depth had changed to just 26 meters. I was still inflating the BCD and swimming a few meters to the side diagonally to escape the current, and finally I began to ascend. The computer demanded to make a one minute intermediate safety stop. Ok, done. Then I finally came to the surface without stopping at five meters, as I realize that the guys were already worried. Seeing my group and guide with huge, fearful eyes on the surface, I announced that I had gone to a safety stop and at the request of the computer and I was almost five meters away for about 5 minutes. Then, after changing my tank (I finished off 50 bar), I left with the group for a dive.
After 9 days of diving, the day for nitrogen desaturation came and we all went on a tour of the islands. First, we looked at an island where there was a karst cave. According to a local legend, crocodiles once lived in this cave. There we swam in a cave lake that was strikingly similar to the Mexican cenotes and went on a picnic to another island paradise. The guys were cooking the freshest, most delicious grilled fish smothered with mango sauce, and the girls were trying to get a tan since, of course, you must come back from such a place with vitamin D on the skin.
We returned back through Bali which, compared to Flores, seemed to be the center of civilization: cell signal, English speaking waiters at cafes, bank cards being accepted as payment and electricity without interruption seemed to us as something forgotten. And, as always, on the way back,we began to discuss the following diving trips within our friendly company.