The Seven Seas at Padar Island, Komodo National Park

The Seven Seas News - February 2015

"Play it again, Sam" - South Komodo (31st January to 13th February 2015)

Trip Report by Sonia Goggel. Photos and videos by David George.

Being a nomad has quite some advantages ;-) for one, one may choose where in the wide and beautiful world one calls 'Home' and ... one may choose to call several places 'Home' ... all the places where one's human and fishy twin souls live, or a place (or several) one particularly feels attached to, hence feels at Home ... of course, the Seven Seas definitely qualifies as one of these Home places... All in all, being a nomad is a very fortunate state of being I can highly recommend ;-)

I cannot believe a year has gone by already since we last set foot on our Seven Seas Home and hugged our Seven Seas smiley and gentle Family. Needless to say, it is AWESOME to be back for some more Seven Seas love and magnificent South Komodo diving in the company of dear friends, almost the same dear friends, who met last year for the same trip ... South Komodo is so full of magic, we just had to come back for some more ... "Play it again, Sam" ;-)

So here we were, cinematographer Tom Campbell and his hard working elflike partner Beth Davidow, and many more dear friends from Australia, South Africa, Scotland and the USA, geared up with many cameras of all sizes and shapes, ready for another unforgettable South Komodo experience, and unforgettable it definitely was, yet again!!

Once all the camera gear, drones included, was safely on board, we departed for our South Komodo adventure, clockwise around this time. Our first stop was to be Wainilu at North Rinca, where a good omen welcomed us in the form of a tiny, orange painted frogfish, spotted masterfully by Chris, the Giant Nemofish.

As the current was right, we surfed through the majestic and very narrow Selat Molo Passage between Rinca and Flores, at almost twice the normal Seven Seas cruising speed, definitely an exhilarating experience.

Giant Frogfish
Juvenile Frogfish
 
Reef scene

 

Our next destination was Sowalu Bay on South-East Rinca, where we dived at Torowalu Point and Rosie's Rock, then explored Baleh Island, by Flores, before setting off to Horseshoe Bay on South Rinca.

At Torowalu Point we drifted along a shelfy wall covered in soft corals, and a set of bolders with numerous large white and red black coral bushes, blanketed in dense schools of yellowtail fusiliers, surgeonfish, red snappers and jacks. Eagle-eyed Irwan and Jeffry also spotted six Bargibanti pygmies in a fan for us. Notoriously, the whole wall was also densely populated by what we first thought were delicate hydroids, but turned out to be the thin arms of feeding juvenile Pseudocolochirus or Colochirus sea cucumbers, a remarkable sight we had never observed before. At Baleh, not only was the wall spectacularly and colourfully colonized with soft corals, crinoids, fans and black coral bushes, Irwan also found two frogfish for us, one of them a gorgeous juvenile yellow painted one, always a favourite ;-) We also spotted huge jawfish, repeatedly leaving their holes completely, and many ribbon eels in the sandy shallows.

Awe inspiring Horseshoe Bay was next. Invariably it is hard to leave this area, so we stayed put for the next four days feeling blessed amongst the gorgeous mountainous landscape, visiting the famous Komodo dragons on the beach, admiring the majestic white-bellied sea eagles, and diving our favourite sites over and over again: Eagle Rock, Yellow Wall of Texas, Super Bommie, Pelican Point and Wall, Boulders, Crinoid Canyon, and of course, Cannibal Rock.

Diving here simply makes you want to dive here over and over again. The walls definitely display that incredibly lush density of growth, which bestows a distinct subtropical feel to the diving in these, predominantly cool water washed, southern parts of Komodo. It is like diving in New Zealand, but replacing the sea plants, bryozoans and corallomorphs for thriving soft corals, crinoids and sponges, and keeping the little fans, black coral bushes and whip corals, the huge variety of tunicates and zoanthids, as well as a great array of colourful nudibranchs. The result is a growth so thick, one hardly can find a place to put a stabilizing finger down.

The fish life is also spectacular with large schools of blackspot (L. ehrenbergii) and bluestripe (L. kasmira) snappers densely blanketing the reefs, while fusiliers of many species, schooling bannerfish (Heniochus diphreutes), yellowmask surgeonfish (Acanthurus mata) and spotted unicorns (Naso brevirostris) swarm around in the blue, patrolled by a variety of jacks, Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) and the occasional white tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), mobula or eagle ray. A great abundance of very colourful reef fish species is also present, most remarkably and invariably a very high count of butterflyfish species on every dive, which is an indicator of high reef health.

Blue Ribbon Eel
Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse
 
Clownfish
Crinoids and Tubastrea
 

Interestingly for fish lovers, here in South Komodo, it seems common to observe black velvet angelfish (Chaetodontoplus melanosoma) and vermiculated angelfish (Ch. mesoleucus) with its beautiful blue mouth, as well as the large semicircular (Pomacanthus semicirculatus), six-banded (P. sexstriatus) and emperor (P. imperator) angelfish, but not the yellow-mask (P. xanthometopon), blue-girdled (P. navarchus) and regal (Pygoplites diacanthus) angelfish, which seem to be more common in the northern areas and the Banda Sea. Equally, scalefin anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) are the only common anthias in South Komodo, while we observed purple anthias (P. tuka), squarespot anthias (P. pleurotaenia), redfin anthias (P. dispar), as well as stocky anthias (P. hypselosoma) much more profusely in the central and northern Komodo areas.

Of course, our dear friends, the very cute and minute ladybug amphipods, so like VW beetles with orange wheels, made repeated, sneaky, photo-bombing appearances, displaying quite obvious smirks as they did.

Our night dives were mainly spent at Torpedo Alley, but current permitting we also ventured out to Cannibal Rock and Little Yellow Wall. We found flamboyant cuttlefish, hatching anemonefish wiggling their way out of their eggshells, bobtail squids, numerous nudibranchs, amongst many other critters, and the walls and bommies painted an intense orange, due to the very dense and open cup corals.

Chris, Jason and myself, great followers of under-the-stars sleeping were highly rewarded by clear night skies and no rain. The lucky blue skies also accompanied us during most of the days, which made our whole trip and the stunning Komodo above the water scenery even more breathtaking. Dave found the early mornings especially productive for his drone-captures, masterfully videoed footage of the Seven Seas surrounded by blue sky and clouds reflected in the flat seas, and the dazzling mountains, where sheer rocky walls are embedded in rainforest and grassy slopes.

Leaving Horseshoe Bay was only possible with the promise to return soon. A hope for M..... (large-white-and-black-floppy-things-flying-by-elegantly) brought us to South Komodo's Langkoi Island, where we spent a day admiring them at M.... Alley ;-) not many creatures are more gentle-eyed and superb. We were so lucky to observe as many as fifteen of them hovering effortlessly and gently in the alley, while we hung on to the rocks for dear life in the howling current ... Tom L filmed Go Pro selfies with at least six mantas ... Absolute magic!!

Sadly already on our way back, Padar Island, between Komodo and Rinca, was next on our diving menu. Talking of menu ... Widhi, our Chef, spoiled us rotten with completely gorgeous Indonesian, as well as international cuisine of the finest kind. Thanks to Jason, happy birthday again, we enjoyed a very yummy chocolate birthday cake ;-)

The scenery offered by Padar Island is of beauty beyond belief! Sheer black cliffs embedded amongst grassy, hilly slopes and ridges, pink and white beaches, perfect sunsets ... Paradise found ... Besides astounding diving, Barb and Russ did extensive early morning hill walks, bringing back video clips of great views, while Tom L and Chris went on kayaking missions, and Jason had a good swim to one of the stunning beaches nearby, where he drew a great 'THANK YOU SEVEN SEAS' ;-) message on the sand, to which we all unanimously agreed with a huge applause!! The famous over-the-hill-white-sandy-beach-to-pink-sandy-beach walk with nibblies, cocktails and a magnificent sunset, dutifully and most professionally drone-documented by Dave ;-) was a must and a great favourite!

Manta at Manta Alley
The Seven Seas in Padar
 
Cyproidea amphipod
Tube anemone
 

Many other talents came to light as the days peacefully passed by ... there were John's miraculous 3D underwater video clips to be enjoyed on a 3D screen; Charlie's most hilarious sound effects; Alan's unfailing Scottish humour, unsurpassable charm and superb Celtic flute tunes accompanying the Crew's guitar and singing; Yofin's incredible and energetic massages curing everybody's ailments, physical and mental; Jason's perpetual hot-flushes (we never knew, men could actually and so acutely suffer from menopausal symptoms at such a young age), which kept him cosily warm in his 3mm shortie, while all of us normal mortals where shivering our butts off in our 7mm suits; Karl's unique talent of talking underwater making himself always perfectly crystal clear; Roland's fire urchin juggling attempts; daily fights over the most coveted Cookie Jar, ferociously protected by The White Goat, a generous donation by The Australian Secret Goat Society, viciously beheaded by ship's doctor Alan, but gratefully surgically super-glued back by Charlie; a unique appearance, exclusive only for Seven Seas, of the famous M&M Snorkeler, albeit displaying doubtful mask clearing skills; and there were, of course, the outstanding evening film and photography presentations by Tom C, Beth, Charlie, Dave, Carole, Barb and Russ, which we enjoyed immensely and were extremely fortunate to be able to attend!!

The diving at Padar Island was indeed astounding: Three Sisters, Pillar Steen, Gigi Rusak, Snapper Rock ... dense soft corals, huge white and red black coral bushes, crinoids, tunicates and fans, blanketed in a fish soup of fusiliers, snappers, surgeons, jacks, sweetlips, and well visited cleaning stations, some white tip sharks and mobulas ... Glorious sightings of a very giant light green frogfish balancing itself on a rope amongst green sponges, patiently yawning for the cameras, as well as an equally large black frogfish, a small white one, a trapeze crab with an orange egg mass, a black ghost pipefish camouflaged in a crinoid, and many colorful nudibranchs...

Banded pipefish
Chromodoris Elizabethina nudibranch
 
Tubastrea cup corals
Reef scene
 

Already back in North Komodo, the beautiful pink beach dive, Pantai Merah, was our next stop. Three minutes into the dive my butterflyfish count was already at thirteen ... an unforgettable dive was obviously coming our way: Dense clouds of fusiliers, GTs, surgeons, snappers, damsels and anthias over pristine staghorn coral fields and rocks covered in soft corals and huge balled up, purple anemones ... absolutely breath taking diving ... there were also eagle rays, a very large marble ray, turtles and Indonesia's biggest moray eel ... big end-of-the-dive smiles got immensely larger when a pod of dolphins swam gracefully under the bow of our rubber ducky, turning to look up at us with obvious smiley eyes ... another dream come true ... Chris was completely besides herself, and rightfully so ;-)

Another blissful dive was the Seven Seas Secrets: A completely pristine hard coral garden blanketed in cardinalfish, sweepers, anthias, damsels and fusiliers, with all the other reef fish mixed in, amazing visibility and warm water ... thoroughly enjoyable and the perfect sandy bottom for an exclusive performance of the gold medal winning Seven Seas Underwater Acrobatic Team, upside down swirling dervishes and all ;-)

The final cherry on the cruise cake was another go at the large-white-and-black-floppy-things-flying-by-elegantly M-creatures at Karang Makasar and very lucky we were, indeed, as we had close up encounters snorkeling and diving, of what could have been about fifty of these wonderful creatures for two hours, during which our hearts skipped many beats!! What a way to end yet another magic Seven Seas Cruise!

Cuttlefish
Octopus

Of course, no Seven Seas Cruise would be complete without music, cocktails, nibblies, a BBQ, a huge bonfire and general merriments on the last evening.

We are already longing for our next Seven Seas adventure ... November 2016 to the Forgotten Islands for a WHOLE month, YEEPEE!!!!! We can only leave our Seven Seas Family knowing when we will return ... Very professional, safe and kind Captain Wahyu and his unique, outstanding, fabulous and supercalifragillistic Crew have a very well-settled and very special place in our hearts!! Linda and Karl ... Grand Jewels amongst Cruise Directors, completely and absolutely one (two) of a kind, incredible assets to Seven Seas and totally beloved Friends!

Thank you, Dear Friends, for yet another absolutely brilliant BLAST of a Seven Seas Cruise!! We love you all DEARLY!!

A special thank you goes to superbly efficient and ever so graceful Candra of Seven Seas office for her brilliant service and care before and after the Cruise, tons of emails and ... mountains of camera and other luggage processing, even on her week-end... terrific job!!

Fat sea hugs, safe bubbles and tons of love,
Sonia


Group photo

Blue spotted stingray
Smashing mantis shrimp
 
Reef scene
Ghost goby on soft coral
 

» Click here to see what our guests had to say about this trip.


Go to top