Introducing you to Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the hottest Indo-Pacific hotspot for diving this year, Komodo National Park. Growing in popularity since receiving it’s National Park status in the early 1980s; a time when only the most experienced divers visited the small harbour town on the Indonesian island of Flores. This small community has since expanded tenfold. From a small jetty of fishing boats in the early 90s, it now hosts a harbour full of vessels ready to offer thousands of guests a Komodo Liveaboard experience like no other. How, you ask? Because this liveaboard has dragons!
Komodo National Park is a bucket list destination for anyone and everyone looking for adventure on land or below the waves. Covering three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar along with 26 smaller ones, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers stunning landscapes, crystal clear turquoise waters, along with nature of Jurassic proportions.
Komodo Island, literally translates to ‘Dragon Island’ and the Komodo dragons are endemic to these lands and protected by the National Park status. Now, rangers are specifically monitoring the Komodo populations and protecting the nests, as many of the islands in the surrounding areas which used to be home to the historic reptile have hunted them to extinction. This nearly became the same fate for the island of Komodo before National Park status was invoked. Arguably the Komodos are King of these islands now, but you can also spot their bigger prey amongst the wildlife, including water buffalos, deer, snakes and monkeys.
These amazing Komodo dragons and their cohabitants can usually all be seen not only on a day trip to the island, but also during a Komodo liveaboard experience; after all, what is a visit to Komodo National Park without heading beneath the waves to see the rest of the wildlife!
The coral reefs and diverse marine ecosystem in Komodo is the main reason it’s become a hot spot for travellers looking to scuba dive; professionals, novices and newbies alike. To really experience Komodo you need to see it from top to bottom; well, at least down to 30m deep. There may be Dragons on land, but descending beneath the blue waters and between the Jurassic islands you’ll find yourself stepping back in time where evolution largely stopped thousands of years ago. Under the water is where the rest of the dinosaurs live: the napoleon wrasses, bumphead parrotfish, hawksbill turtles and trigger fish, the manta rays and sharks, dugongs and dolphins. You name it and you’re probably able to see it whilst diving here at one time or another.
If you’re still feeling unsure about the top reasons to choose Labuan Bajo for a Liveaboard experience like no other, here’s the reasons you should book your Komodo Liveaboard adventure right now…
From stepping off the harbour of Labuan Bajo, to watching the islands pass you by as you make your way to your diving destinations. To backwards rolls into the blue and beyond, up until you settle down with a beer at sunset, then gaze at the stars on the top deck with new found friends. Every moment offers you a new view and a different perspective of this beautiful & thriving landscape.
Home to the Komodo Dragons, tourists can set sail to Rinca on a gentle trek to see these almost mythical creatures. Guided by a ranger you can walk through dragon territory to seek out some fantastic views and breath taking, or perhaps nail-biting nature!
On one or two evenings on a Komodo liveaboard you’ll find yourself sailing to small islands for a gentle trek up to the top, where you’ll undoubtedly get the best view of the park from up high – perfect for that drone shot you’ve been after for your holiday video!
Day trips are great fun and work with shorter timescales, but if you have the time a liveaboard really is the only way to see the park. Cruising between the islands and waking up to soft haze of pinks and blues across the water as the current rips lines through the otherwise sparkling waters, whilst the moon sits still in the sky. It is something utterly encompassing and an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
When it comes to day trips, there can be setbacks and delays that might mean you don’t get to the dive site at the ‘prime time’ for the mantas. When you join the liveaboard its schedule is entirely focused around visiting the sites at the best time of day to ensure maximum impact, complete enjoyment and hopefully the highest chances of meeting the locals. Locals in Komodo include the majestic Manta Rays – they do have a high season but they can also be seen all year round in fewer numbers. Truly one of the ocean’s most humbling creatures.
Visit one of the most beautiful sites Komodo has to offer, Siaba Besar and don’t be surprised if you meet the biggest Green Sea Turtle you’ve ever seen! Local guides might call him Grandpa because he definitely rules the roost and he’s got Grandma usually not too far away nestled into the staghorn coral. Be sure to pose for a photo, as these turtles aren’t shy and enjoy staying relaxed as they have their picture taken.
When you’re on a liveaboard there is no shortage of food, drinks or world class views to enjoy. With up to four dives scheduled in daily, you have a constant stream of meals and snacks at your disposal. Diving can be quite strenuous on the body so it’s important to keep hydrated and well fuelled, especially if you catch one of the cold currents that can often run through the park! On the liveaboard you can expect a light breakfast snack before you head out for your early morning dive, and a hot, full breakfast when you return. After the second dive it’s a little snack before lunch, where you’ll then wait a couple of hours before rolling back into the water for your third dive.
Lots of divers spend this time napping, it’s a hard life living on the ocean! When you arrive back to home sweet home after your third dive, you’ll be enjoying a feast of dishes for lunch and you’d better believe you’ll be ready to tuck into piles of food after all the excitement the day has offered. On one or two of the nights you’ll be offered a night dive, which will bring you to your fourth dive of the day. This is usually a great experience in Komodo, especially the muck dive of Wainilu, which is home to a host of weird and wonderful creatures that emerge in the dark hours.
You might head out for a sunset dive or brave the dingy ride to the dive site in pitch black. Whatever the exact timing is, you’ll be provided with a torch to shine your way through the dive site and see all the crazy critters.
Coming back up from this dive, despite the warm waters and temperatures of Komodo, it’s likely you might feel a bit chilly on the boat ride back. So get yourself ready for a hot shower and a big meal! The stars are out now so it’s the perfect time to jump up on top deck and wash it down with a cold beer (or whatever you might fancy!).
When is it possible to see a blue ring octopus, barracudas, black tip, white tip and grey reef sharks, turtles, a flamboyant nudibranch, a pikachu nudibranch, eagle rays, manta rays, pygmy seahorses, cuttlefish, frogfish, pipefish, yellow finned tunas, sweetlips, anemone crabs, painted spiny lobsters, soft and hard corals in massive proportions and find endless whip coral shrimps, not to mention a host of other magnificent bucket list finds, all in one day?
We’d challenge you to do this in anywhere but Indonesia. There’s a trick to finding them though, the real professionals will know which waters certain animals prefer, whilst times of the month dictate the volume of certain fish or activities, but you can be sure that where there is current, there is life! All things love the current, it brings in nutrients for all of the fish, whilst sharks use it to minimise the effort of breathing, mantas use it for feeding. We’ve only got one other location where you could see all this, and a place that comes highly recommend – Raja Ampat; you can find the feature with full details up here next month.
In Komodo there are many ways to dive, often a specific site can provide vastly different experiences depending on the current; the direction and the strength at which it’s flowing can tell us a lot about how we do or don’t dive it. In some cases the dive site can be enjoyed on a rising and a falling tide, whilst others depend on one or the other for safety reasons. Sometimes a dive site can last sixty minutes and another time you can almost zipline through on the tide in less than ten minutes!
There’s something in the diving world called a split, it’s a terminology for water movement around an island or pinnacle, and usually divers aim for it. This requires a negative entry into very fast-moving water and aiming to get down to the calm spot where the current splits in two directions around the object – this is where you can hook in and watch all the action, until drifting around the lea-side for a safety stop.
Whilst sitting in the spilt you will find you’re joined by schools of fish who are also hiding from the oncoming current. The surgeonfish, snappers, batfish and small fish all sit directly behind the corals and rocks, providing them with coverage from the oncoming water movement. Whilst out in the current the bigger fish play catch with each other, as grey reef sharks, giant trevallies, tunas and barracudas look for a meal amongst the fusiliers and rainbow runners.
You can listen for the loud revving noise underwater, as you see the giant trevallies swoop through the schools of fish for a meal. The fish movement swoops and darts in different directions away from the predators. Sharks then appear in the blue for the fallout from the attack, preying on any dazed or injured fish for supper. It’s a thrilling watch and despite simply hooking on and hanging in, you feel the rush of the water past your face and body, holding you in a superman-like pose and you can even have sharks circling mere feet away from you.
Bring any snacks or drinks (particularly alcohol you might fancy) onboard with you, as many liveaboards are limited to what they will stock onboard, ask in advance if you aren’t sure.
Always make sure you have packed all your medical equipment, especially anything that is crucial for you. You will need to complete a medical assessment form beforehand, if you have any serious illnesses you’ll need to be signed off by the doctor to go diving. If there’s anything you take for seasickness or allergies, be sure to have it packed.
The liveaboard has onboard emergency supplies for first aid and oxygen for potential DCS incidents, but it is still potentially a long journey away from the main town of Labuan Bajo where proper medical care can be given, so it’s advisable to take this into consideration.
At sea there is a much lesser risk of mosquitoes and bugs biting you, due to the constant wind but you may be bitten during land visits to the islands, so it’s best to bring bug spray and lotion just in case.
Bring more than one set of swimwear – two sets allows you to swap out of your wet one and let it dry whilst you can remain warm and dry between dives. Also bring something warm for the nights – layers are important, as it can be chilly in the evenings and yet sleeping quarters can be incredibly stuffy.
Bring shoes for walking, if you head to the island of Rinca for the Komodo dragons, you may want to wear full shoes, as there are snakes on the island. The trek, though it has a well-trodden path, is not a paved path and could conceal unknown locals. Full shoes are also a safer option for the gentle trek up to the top of Wainilu for sunset, there is a second spot on Gilli Lawa Darat. However, that is currently closed due to a fire that spread across it from unsafe fire practices by tourists.
Don’t chase trash underwater and endanger yourself! It’s always important to pick up any pollutants in the ocean, however, please bear in mind your safety when doing so – if it’s deep, watch your limits and if it’s far – how far? Do not get caught in the famous Komodo currents chasing a crisp packet. The best way to reduce plastic pollution is by bringing as little as possible on board and when visiting islands, then making sure you take all your rubbish with you; leaving no damage to the environment through littering or starting any fires. The land is very arid and the fire can catch quick.
Make sure Batu Bolong is on your dive itinerary, the dive site translates to ‘Hole Rock’, as on the surface you can see the small rock and indeed – there is a hole! This site is rated in the top ten dive sites of the world, and it’s no wonder as this underwater mountain has something to offer no matter which way you dive it. It’s not for unqualified or open water divers however, with the current pushing past it at all times it is home to a diverse range of marine life, including nudibranchs, blue ring octopus, turtles, barracudas and sharks, not to mention the beautiful coral that covers it from 30m deep to the beautiful shallows as they rise up above the water. These strong currents can make for challenging and exciting dives, which makes the guides’ jobs in this part of the ocean extremely important.
April to December is peak season to visit, during this time you’ll dive the north sites of Komodo and enjoy warmer waters, this is also high season for the manta rays. To find out more about booking your liveaboard experience, get in touch with us at Scuba Republic, diving and operating our vessels in the Komodo National Park for twenty years, we have the knowledge, experience and commitment to ensuring you enjoy the ultimate Komodo experience; both above and below.
For more inquiries on the Komodo Liveaboard Trip, please do not hesitate to contact us on: email@example.com