Diving in Komodo National Park

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“It would be good to get in there before the Mantas leave you know,” my dive guide Steve says.

I am desperately and furiously trying to wiggle myself into a thick, cold-water wetsuit that not even a Victoria’s Secret model could gracefully slide into. Though the water is about 28 degrees Celsius, I am still worried I will freeze after nearly 40 minutes or more of diving. But damn, this thing just is impossible to get the hell on.

I surrender to the thick wetty’s utter resistance to move past my knees. Steve is right – I want to get in the water with those mantas.

Fine! I let out, and I make the decision to ditch it and take my chances with a regular wetsuit. It is as if it is lathered in grease; I slip into this one with no problems at all.

Next comes the weight belt, then the underwater booties, my BCD and finally my tank. I grab my fins. Roberto is my dive buddy, and we do a run-through and check each other’s equipment before deeming each other safe and ready to go diving.

We walk over to the ladder of the Jaya leading down the water, and below it sits the dingey, or a small fisherman-like boat with an electric motor – that will take us out to our dive site. I learn that certain dive sites we will enter directly from the Jaya – a big step off the boat and into the water. Others, the Jaya anchors slight away from the site and we use the dingey to make our way there.

One by one we climb down the Jaya’s ladder and board the dingey, making sure to balance the weight and keep it from capsizing. I put on my fins and completely ready myself up for the underwater adventure ahead.

We are diving at a site called China Shop, known for its gentle currents and stunning reef, in the Northern end of Komodo National Marine Park. It is the first dive of our four-day trip with the Wicked Diving Komodo Liveaboard, and from the boat’s deck there were positive signs that it could be a bigger dive than any of us had expected.


The emotions coil up inside me like a snake. I am smiling, but it feels like my smile is so shaky it could crack. I feel anxious, like I can not wait a minute longer. My heart beats a little bit faster – not enough to feel like it is going to explode out of my chest but fast enough for me to talk to myself, tell myself to relax and calm down.

I spit into my mask and wash it out with the water that sprays up alongside the boat as we zip our way over to the dive site.

Steve tells us that we will do a back roll entry into the water on the count of three, and we all shake our heads in agreement. One hand on our weight belt and the other pressed against our regulator, our fingers pressed against our masks like spiders legs. Steve counts off.

I fall back into the water and immediately float up to the surface. I take out my regulator and take off my mask, spitting in it and washing it out once more.

“Is everyone ready?” Steve asks, flashing an A-OK symbol at us. Our dives out here in Komodo have a much faster start to them. There is no lolly-gagging about the surface of the water. I have a terrible and incredibly un-ladylike habit of spitting profusely before heading down for a dive, but there is no time for that here. The currents can change within a flash, and so we just do not waste any time to go down.

We all signal Steve back with him the okay back, and down into the depths of the deep blue sea we go.

I am doing as all divers do when descending: I take one breath in and then clamp my fingers around and blow out through my nose to equalize my ears. Luckily I am not having any issues – no one wants an ear problem when out on a dive.


My instructor is right in front of me, and within a minute or so of being underwater he points behind me. I turn around and scream, practically spiting out my regulator. I turn back around and swim wildly toward Steve, my face probably looking like a deer in headlights.There, just about a metre away from me, swimming through the waters is what looks like a swooping shadow gracefully gliding through the water. Everything just silenced as I watched on in awe.


To be honest, I had only added diving with mantas rays to my bucket list about a year ago. It was not something I have been dying to see or do, but once I learned about them, I was determined to see them. Seeing a Manta Ray is sort of like laying eyes on a classic Chevrolet Mustang in mint condition. They are just so beautiful and so sleek.

It glided off into the waters ahead, disappearing as it made its way away from us. This was day 1, dive one, and immediately I knew that I was in for some of the best days my travels would see.

That first dive was exploding with the most outrageous, lush and healthy coral I have ever seen and was an incredible indication of just how pristine and reserved these reefs in Komodo are. I felt like I was in the most well-manicured garden of some royal castle somewhere off in the hills of a fairy tale European city.





Along the way, through the beautiful coral blowing like trees and flowers in the wind, we saw something that even had my instructor jumping for joy once we surfaced at the end of our dive: Two devil rays at a cleaning station, or where they go to get cleaned of parasites by cleaner fish that eat the living organisms.




We rounded the adventure off in shallow waters surrounded by tornado-like schools of fish that looked like they were on steroids.

I love watching them fight against the currents – big or small – because I always imagine them trying to get to work on time and thinking to themselves something like, “I never learn. Every day I take this route, and every day the traffic is so backed up! I should have gone left around that table coral but no no, I went right and look what happened now! I am going to be late again!”

I am a bit strange, I know, but you you just have to see fish getting all swept about in currents and then you will understand.

I did not want the dive to end, but I could not take the regulator out of my mouth fast enough when it finally came time to surface.

Mother Nature most definitely put on her best dress for us that morning.

“That was amazing! Seriously, that was the best dive of my entire life! That was the best thing ever!”

Turns out every dive throughout the next couple of days was the best one of my entire life, which my dive guide Steve always had a good laugh about. “Well, Alexandra had another best dive of her life,” he would joke when we got up to the boat’s deck.

Not every diver is going to love every dive adventure. Some people go to see big stuff, some people go to see the macro-organisms, some are in it for the coral and some are in it for everything in between.

With more than 40 sites across the Komodo, the Komodo National Marine Park does not fail to disappoint. It offers some of the riches marine exploration in the world and is truly is an aquatic haven for all things diving no matter what makes your heart flutter with a smile.


Each dive was beyond surreal. There are some experiences in life that just put the world into perspective, and this was one of them. This was  a trip where I would think to myself, There is so much of this damn world to see. From climbing to the tip tops of mountains to swimming in the depths of the ocean, there is just never a dull minute to be had.

And these instructors get to do this all the time. One day I asked Pitt, the cute little Dutch instructor with the most subtle hints of an accented twist to her words, if she ever gets tired of what she does, if she ever get exhausted from it.

It was as if I asked a mother if she regretted having children.

“No, never,” she said. “I mean, this is what I love. I love doing this.”

It is easy to see why Steve, Pitt and Martin call the Jaya and the seas of Komodo National Park their home.

From our night dive at Wainilu, where we never really exceeded a depth of 13 or so meters, we still saw a world of sea creatures that come out to play in the dark waters that come with nightfall.

Our night dive was one of my favorite dives on the entire trip, and Wainilu is among the best sites in the park. Even Steve, who apparently hates night dives, loves going on a night dive to this site.

Wainilu showed me just how good the dive guides are at doing what they do, how happy their discoveries make them and how personal each discovery can be. On our night dive, Steve found and got lost in his gaze at an olive sea snake that he said he has never before seen and a pink coral nudie branch that he has spent his life looking for.

Among the most famous sites at Komodo, though, is Castle Rock, which marked the second dive on the trip for us and once again stole every diver’s heart and took every diver’s breath away. Seriously though – my oxygen tank was bar none when we surfaced from this dive due to pure excitement of swimming here, there and everywhere trying to see every nook and cranny of this site.

Castle Rock is an underwater pinnacle on the Northern tip of Komodo National Park that is notorious for having a very strong and dangerous current. Once again, the site had me brimming with happiness behind my mask.

From the white tip sharks that swam around us to the giant trevallies that were as big as the state of Texas, this was definitely a site where someone would come to see the biggest of the big.



The visibility is as clear as glass and as sharp as a knife, and we could see more than 20 meters ahead of us. The coral was strong, bright and mesmerising, and there was a roster filled with fish that are as big as football players.





Yet again another dive that we came up from with smiles stretched across our faces like rainbows stretching across waters. Nothing, absolutely nothing could top that.

That is until we spent one hour and 10 minutes swimming with manta rays at Mauan in North Komodo.

Category: Indonesia, scuba diving

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