The Komodo Island National Park in Indonesia is one of the best places I have gone scuba diving. Having dived in a few amazing places before, including world-famous Pulau Sipadan in Malaysia, I was a bit fearful that it would be hard to impress me anymore. The Komodo Islands definitely proved to me that there are plenty of wonders left to see under the waves. It’s a place of staggering beauty.
Many of the highly sought-after dive sites around the Komodo Islands can be easily reached by daytrip from the small port town of Labuan Bajo on Flores. As a budget traveller I raised a few eyebrows at the prices of liveaboard packages advertised online, but rest assured you can cherry pick your dives while taking more affordable daytrips. One dive shop, Wicked Diving, also has what they call a floating hostel, which is simply a boat that’s permanently anchored inside the national park and where you can stay a night or two (or longer). This costs more than just going on daytrips, but it cuts out 2 to 3 hours of sailing in the morning, and it’s a sort of liveaboard-on-a-budget experience.
WATCH: Highlights from diving Batu Balong and Sabayar Kecil.
One thing to keep in mind is that diving the Komodo Islands is not for absolute beginners. This is due to the strong currents in the area which require a decent level of comfort with scuba diving to navigate properly. As a new diver or a novice you can still dive here, though you are likely to be taken to more sheltered dive sites that aren’t as exciting. The currents depend largely on the moon cycle; when I was there the current were quite moderate, though the local dive masters told me that at certain times of the month or year the currents become too strong even for them (in such cases, alternative dive sites are selected).
Out of the different dive sites that I went to, I can especially recommend the following ones:
One of the most spectacular dive sites in Komodo and for many the main reason to come. This pinaccle can be dived only in zig-zag fashion along one of its sides due to the currents. The site is full of fishes – so many that your head is constantly on a swivel. Gorgeous.
Another popular site, this one is in the north on the edge of where daytrips will go (it takes about 3 hours to get to). Great site for encounters lots of sharks, and big schools of fishes.
Possibly my favorite, in more of an understated way. This calm and shallow dive goes along a reef and ends up in a sandy area. Apparently a great place to see cuttle fish (I saw 5 on a single dive).
Mauen and Manta Point
Famous dive sites for reliable sightings of manta rays year-round. I, however, was not quite so lucky…
While I had heard many divers talk of seeing 15 or more mantas on a single dive, I unfortunately saw not a single one. This was very disappointing though not entirely surprising, as I’ve had bad luck in finding mantas ever since I started diving (and I haven’t been succesful in seeing one yet). One time in the Philippines I even went into extreme currents and had to use hooks to attach to the reef and prevent myself from drifting away — alas, no mantas. These creatures are fast becoming my Captain Ahab obsession. If I had been able to stay longer in Labuan Bajo, I surely would have tried again!
If you are a scuba diver and you’re going to Indonesia, you owe it to yourself to come to the Komodo Islands. Labuan Bajo is only a short flight from Denpasar on Bali, and can also be reached via multi-day boat trip from Lombok, during which you can visit the above-surface sights of the park.
During my dives at Komodo I saw multiples of sea turtles, mantis shrimp, reef sharks, giant trevallies, baracuda, cuttlefish, stingrays, and more. Check out the video above for some of the GoPro footage I shot at Batu Balong and Sabayar Kecil…