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|Newsletter November 2012|
Exploring the Deep South of Komodo, October 2012
Trip Report by Mark Heighes
During the month of October, the South East trade winds that blow relentlessly across Eastern Indonesia start to ease as the transitional period begins before the winds change to the North West. While the dry season comes to an end and the wet is about to begin (with "wet" being relative of course, in Komodo), the cool, murky and nutrient rich waters of the south are flooded with warm clear currents. The underwater world down south changes rapidly during this time. Its inhabitants start preparing for the changing conditions as the new season approaches. This is a great time to make observations on behavior and witness unusual events in the marine environment here. For many species of reef fish this is the beginning of the spawning season, when some fishes form dense aggregations and display color changes, territorial behavior and of course the act of spawning. This is also my favorite time to explore the Indonesian seas.
In 2010 during our first 24 day trip dedicated to exploring the Forgotten Islands (in the South Eastern Banda Sea) we planned a trip with Nancy McGee to explore and gain a greater understanding of the southern regions of Komodo and it's neighboring islands. So I guess you could say that I have had 2 years to think about the areas I wanted to visit and exactly how we are going to go about it.
The first ingredient we need for a successful expedition like this is a group of like minded guests with a sense of adventure and a willingness to make most of any situation. Nancy could help out there and as usual she was keen to break new ground, just as we did on the first Forgotten Islands trip 2 years ago.
A capable boat and crew always helps, especially manning the dive tenders as you are never certain of what's going to happen during exploratory dives or exactly where you might end up surfacing. Another handy ingredient is to have a good plan A, with plans B and C up your sleeve. If one gets to plan C it's probably time to get out of where ever you are and cover some distance overnight, to another location.
On October 7, 2012, Nancy and the guests arrived in Labuan Bajo, the now not so sleepy village which is the gateway to Komodo. All luggage is intact and on time. The boat and crew are ready to go and the excitement of a voyage into the unknown is contagious. We sailed for a nearby island for a checkout dive and then on to Komodo to do a day of diving on some old favorites and very fishy sites. We then repositioned the Seven Seas and anchored near the northern entrance of the notorious Molo Strait, off the small village of Rinca.
Early the next morning at first light we would make our dash south with the turning of the tide and transit the passage with the Seven Seas for the first time. Molo Strait is a very narrow passage between Flores and Rinca. The tidal flow in the passage reaches speeds of up to 14 knots creating massive whirlpools and cross currents that can has smash vessels against its rocky shores. To complicate matters even further the passage it has a small island situated right in the middle.
The passage has claimed the lives of many seafarers in the past, attempting to take the short cut to the south to save about 35 miles. Only last year a cargo vessel carrying rice lost control, hit the island, and went down taking the lives of 3 crew members who were reported to have been sucked down in a whirlpool and never seen again. We awoke the next morning after a somewhat restless sleep to find our predictions were correct and had a gentle push through the narrows at the onset of the falling tide. It is all about timing in Komodo...
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The Seven Seas - Grahalia Tiying Gading 18, Suite 1 - Jl Tukad Pancoran
Panjer Denpasar 80225 - Bali - Indonesia