Last year Dom and I had the opportunity to work in Komodo National Park. It is a stunning place, the best place I worked so far.
KOMODO NATIONAL PARK
The 29 mostly uninhabited volcanic islands of Komodo National Park present a very dramatic landscape. It is a pleasure for the eyes. Savannah and sporadic trees cover the tall rugged hillsides. The hills drop down to the strikingly white beaches contrasting with the surrounding green mangroves.
Komodo National Park lies off Flores Island, between the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara. The dry climate and lack of rain for most of the year make cause this area to be much more rugged compared with the rest of Indonesia.
This area is nicknamed “the dry tropics”. From April to November, the rainfall is almost non-existent. This particular climate makes for totally unique settings.
Apart from few fishing villages and communities, the Komodo Dragons are the most notorious inhabitants of the National Park. They are found on the two larger islands, Komodo and Rinca. Every year, a large number of intrepid tourists from all over the world is attracted by these aggressive and rather ugly huge lizards. As a fact they are the largest lizards in the world.
The National Park was founded in 1980, initially to protect the Dragons. Later on the Government. also aimed to protect the abundant marine life by forbidding fishing within the Park. In 1991 Komodo National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage.
Nowadays, scuba diving is considered the main tourist attraction of Komodo National Park. Dive shops are literally growing overnight in Labuan Bajo. Komodo is home to some of the best scuba diving in the world. It offers many different dive sites and an abundance of marine life that is not common to any other area.
Many of the dive sites can be dived on day trips. Others are too far and can only be dived from liveaboards. Many species can be seen. From Sharks to Mantas to schooling Jacks, Barracudas, Sweetlips, Batfish and tiny critters just to name a few. There are many possible encounters when scuba diving in Komodo.
The conditions in Komodo can be very extreme and challenging. Some of the dive sites are not suitable for beginners or inexperienced divers due to the very strong currents. However, strong currents are what make the marine life here so unique.
Soft corals have a close relationship with strong currents, for they need this environment to grow. Big fish love strong currents too. It is their favourite playground. If there were no strong currents Komodo National Park would not be what it is!
Strong currents here are due to two factors. A rather shallow sea bottom (maximum depth reaches approximately 90 mt.) and the position of Komodo and Rinca islands creating a long narrow channel between them. These two agents cause strong tidal currents, for there is a great amount of water channelled through this small passage at falling and rising tides. Of course, they are not strong all the time. Sometime you might go to a dive site and find ripping washing machine currents, then go back another day to the same site and there will be no currents!
Some dives can be an adrenaline burst full of excitement. It needs to be said that sharks and Mantas are huge fans of strong currents. Komodo is blessed with good visibility most of the time.
The many dive sites are located in the North, Middle and South of the National Park. The South area is mainly dived from liveaboards due to the long distance from the mainland. However, the best dive sites are located in the North and Middle and they are easily reachable on a day trip. Every dive site has something special to offer but some are more special than others.
Crystal Rock, Castle Rock and Cauldron are not to be missed. They are all advanced dives due to strong currents. Big chances to encounter big fish! Giant Trevally, White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks and occasionally Mantas.
Batu Bolong – advanced dive, on a lucky day you might spot the magnificent Napoleon Wrasse and White Tip Sharks.
White Sands and Airstrip for Mantas, Tatawa Besar and Siaba Kecil for a fun-filled drift dive hovering above a pristine colourful coral garden, Waenilu for critters lovers. These are all dives suitable for beginners as well as experienced divers depending on the day conditions.
WHEN TO VISIT
We were in Komodo from June till the end of December. The conditions were good all the time. Mantas populate the waters from October to June.
Visibility from March to November reaches 25-30+ meters. During rainy season December till March, it can drop to 7-10 meters.
Water temperatures range between 25-29C.
The busiest months are July, August, October and November.
HOW TO GET THERE AND WHERE TO STAY
Labuan Bajo is the gateway to Komodo National Park.
It is easily reachable with daily flights from Bali (Garuda airline, Lion Air and Wings Air).
The town is in continuous growth and a new airport was open in June 2014. Works are still going on at the airport to make it an international hub.
The area is expecting a great number of tourists coming. Labuan Bajo offers a good choice of accommodation ranging from backpackers to high end.
For divers that want to enjoy more peace and experience exclusive Komodo, Angel Island is the perfect destination.
Angel Island Resort on Pulau Bidadari
There are two other private island resorts:
Kanawa Island Resort on Pulau Kanawa
Komodo Resort on Pulau Sebayur
Have you ever dived in Komodo? Share your experience in the comments if you did!