Manta Diving in Komodo

Trip Start Dec 15, 2008
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Trip End Dec 19, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday 18th December
 
  Woken by the horn of the ferry leaving to Sulawesi. It's about 5 levels high and packed to the brim with locals moving between islands. The streets are jammed with people who've just gotten off, and with minibuses taking these people inland. Amongst the chaos I find the Reefseekers' boat (a grand version of what I spent the last two days on) and meet Tono, my divemaster, and Kath, the operator. There're five other divers on the boat. Some want to call by Rinca and do a short trek, and I'm more than happy to join in. It's only an hour's trek so we don't even get out of the lowland monsoon forest. See some scrubfowl close up, macaques in the mangroves, and a heap of resident dragons in the camp. We're actually escorted from the jetty to the camp by a pair of dragons... and no guide in sight!!!


Back on the boat and its off to 'The Airfield', a dive site on the eastern side of Komodo. This dive is a negative buoyancy one, which is something entirely new for me, and there's also a 2 knot current. What this means is that we sink to the bottom quickly and grab onto whatever we can to stop us getting swept all the way to Sulawesi. The current is insane. In slow-motion we pull our way hand over hand (dodging urchins) through the rubble to the edge of the airfield. An airfield for manta rays. At least a dozen, circling around, waiting for their chance to land and get cleaned by the wrasses. There is a lot of sediment, so the vis is only about 10 metres and usually can only see one or two rays at a time. But the others are lurking about in the haze. They're huge, about four metres from wingtip to wingtip, and they glide slowly about with minimum effort, seemingly impervious to the currents. It's the fast currents that bring the mantas to Komodo - the plankton is concentrated into a smaller area as the water forces its way through the straits between the islands. A pair of mantas dance together above us. It's incredible. The dive lasts an hour, at 12 metres.

  We have lunch and an hour's break before starting the second dive at a site called "Orange Grove". We start at a place called Manta Corner, and sure enough, several mantas come up to check us out. Then we follow the 'drop off' (it's a pretty shallow gradient, hardly a 'drop') along with the current. Here the current is a lot slower and the visibility is greater. The colours are incredible. Everything is bright and loud, sometimes even fluorescent. Soft corals billow in the current are everywhere, it has to be seen to be believed. The orange soft corals, after which the site is named, were breathtaking despite not being fully 'out'. Apparently when the current is really strong they will balloon right out into huge flowers to feed. That would be a sight to see. The others are cold and swimming to stay warm, but I'm loving it and take my time, hence why I find the sleeping reef shark and they don't. Among the other goodies are nudibranchs, a hawksbill turtle, eels, lionfish and some giant sweetlips. This is definitely the best dive I've ever done. Gotta come back here.

It's about 4:30 when we get back to Labuan Bajo. I find the TransNusa office and reconfirm my ticket, then find a wartel with phone to call home and let them know where I am. Mum sounds less than impressed that I've taken off again without telling them. OK Mum, from now on I'll let you know before I go places. Except for when I go to Afghanistan.
Find the only ATM in town (pop: 15,000) and then pick up my CD of the dive photos. Meet the other divers for tea at a restaurant overlooking the harbour. We're all leaving Labuan Bajo tomorrow, all dispersing in a number of ways and directions. Then it's back to the Gardena for bed - and hopefully - a sleep-in!
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