The Seven Seas News - June 2016
Komodo in May/June 2016
Trip Report by Mark Heighes. Photos by Foued Khaddachi.
We are back in my favorite haunt after rejoining the expanded fleet of dive liveaboards in Raja Ampat this last season. It was good to get back to Raja Ampat, even though we had much enjoyed our 2 year stint working South Komodo. We had so much great diving to ourselves down there from December to April, letting the rest of the fleet fight for sites in the Dampier strait and Misool. That was pretty much how it was up there this year as well. Yep... it's getting busy on the water these days! Everywhere you go, even the Forgotten Islands are not so forgotten anymore. The good thing about that is that the presence of the liveaboards keeps destructive fishers away from the sites. The odd thing about it is that everyone seems to be doing the same itinerary and same old sites and is basically busy following each other around.
All of the top dive destinations in Indonesia still have much more to be explored. The sheer number of vessels operating today only encourages me more to go out and off the beaten track, to be on our own, and to find new sites. Nothing gives me more pleasure than finding a new world class site and staying one step ahead of the rest of the fleet.
I've just joined the vessel in the not so sleepy anymore town of Labuan Bajo after 3 months back home in Aus. Seven Seas is looking good as usual. Even though it's our last trip before dry dock, the ever present and smiling crew has kept her looking good during the long voyage out to Raja Ampat and back.
The month is May which is a good time to be in Komodo. April-May-June and October-November are the best times to be here as it's the change of seasons and there is a lot going on underwater. Conditions can be excellent on all sites in both North and South Komodo.
It's day 3 and oddly enough we haven't seen another diver yet. Clear water in the South so we headed down and no one knows where we are. The diving is good. Very good!
Onboard we have our new Chef named Totok. This is only his second trip but he has already impressed our group of French divers. Totok doesn't know it yet but he has just met his second family and home away from home. He is a keeper and I hope you all can be the judge on that.
Moving right along, it's now day 7 and we are still in the South. We have had Manta Alley to ourselves for the last 2 days and just can't get enough of it. There will be no critter diving on this trip. Lots of fish and the bigger the better, was the group request. We have had some good sized fish and I just saw a very curious Giant Queensland Grouper yesterday. A first for me in Komodo, and what a great surprise that was!
Today we checked out an uncharted 10 meter mound that rises from 60. I have had my eyes on it since we found it on the Seven Seas depth sounder some years back. A small group of us dropped in on it early morning in crystal clear water and very little current. We found two giant rocks sitting together. The biggest was 10 meters to the top and blanketed in red Anthias. It was without a doubt one the best big fish dives I have ever had in Indonesia.
We were all completely stunned. A very large school of barracuda came to greet us followed by a family of Potato Grouper. Next we had 3 Napoleons, one the size of a small car. We were buzzed by massive GTs and had schools of large bigeye jacks, snappers, fusiliers, sweet lips and surgeons all around us and right in our faces. The snapper were large and a species I don't remember seeing before. All I could think was that they must have come up from very deep water. We also saw sharks on entry and an Eagle Ray on exit.
Upon surfacing I asked the others if it was a dream. We immediately named the site The Dream as we raced back to the Seven Seas full of excitement to tell the others of our new find. Our original plan to head up North is now on hold as we definitely need to do the Dream again a few times before we go. It was impossible to do the dive safely on the now quickly rising tide so we did a "fill-in" drift dive at an old favorite site, The Fish Market. Always good fun.
But we couldn't wait get back to the Dream for the afternoon dive. It was different this time. The visibility was down 75%. The fish were there but we just couldn't see them. Our plans to head North are still on hold. Let's see if we can get it with good visibility early tomorrow. As luck turned out we hit it again in clear water and everyone got to dive the Dream. I'm definitely looking forward to spending a lot more time doing the Dream in the future.
Without a doubt Komodo still has some of the best big fish dives that Indonesia has to offer. And the good news is that we are getting closer than ever before as the fish become more and more familiar with divers.
We finally moved up North to spend the last few days. Castle Rock had 3 large Grey Reef Sharks on it and so did Crystal. Good to see the Sharks holding on and even expanding in the area. Batu belong was so good in every way that we did it 3 times and also had good shark action on it.
To wrap it all up we had some high voltage drift dives just to keep the adrenalin levels up. We did this during the biggest tidal cycle of the year. It was the most fun I've had underwater in a long time. Actually apart from some patchy coral bleaching it was the best I've seen Komodo in a long time. There is no doubt in my mind that Komodo still has some of the best all round diving Indonesia has to offer. Big or small it's got it all.
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