Cruise Report: IA2017-24
Water temperature 27-28degrees celcius
Dive Day 1: 3rd December 2017. Gili Lawah Darat/The Linta Strait
07:45: Dive 1 - Gili Lawah Darat, Western Reef
10:45: Dive 2 - Tatawa Besar, Eastern Reef
14:45: Dive 3 - Batu Bolong
16:45: Gili Lawah Darat Hill Walk
18:45: Dive 4 - Mucky Basin
We departed Labuan Bajo the previous evening, 2nd December, with a few of our original guests missing due to the problems with the volcano in Bali, this however, did not deter the rest of the group as we motored over to the north-east coastline of Komodo Island to anchor for the night and await today’s activities.
Our check dive was completed over the reef on the west side of Gili Lawah Darat island with a slight swell coming in from the north-west and a strong rising current running through the GLD Strait.
After a successful check dive, where the group managed to spot a leaf-scorpionfish, we moved over to the north end of the Linta Strait to dive on the spectacular reef on the eastern side of Tatawa Besar, taking advantage of the rising tide. This proved to be a popular excursion with the added bonus of a number of feeding manta rays that put in a welcome appearance.
After lunch we dived at the spectacular Batu Bolong sea-mount and managed to get the dive site to ourselves, apart from the appearance of a manta ray, for a change after which we motored back to the Gili Lawah Darat anchorage for the well-known and strenuous hill trek and a night dive at the Mucky Basin dive site at the foot of the hill, a small mooring bay on the south side of the island.
Dive Day 2: 4th December 2017. Gili Lawah Laut/The Linta Strait
07:30: Dive 5 - Crystal Rock
10:45: Dive 6 - Lighthouse Reef
15:00: Dive 7 - Batu Bolong
18:45: Dive 8 - Crystal Cove
Today’s diving activities are going to be centred around the north side of the island of Gili Lawah Laut with a brief interlude back into the Linta Strait to dive Batu Bolong once again, due to popular demand.
Our first underwater excursion is at another of the Komodo National Park’s iconic sites, Crystal Rock. With better than expected visibility and tons a schooling fish and sharks it was a bit hit.
The next site is Lighthouse Reef, selected as a second dive due to the fact that we had a very strong rising tide, yet again another popular choice, and once again another manta ray put in an appearance before we pulled up the anchor to go back to Batu Bolong.
With a slightly different timing from the day before we managed to execute a different dive plan to explore parts of this magnificent site that we were not able to visit on the previous day’s dive, and once again the site lived up to its mighty status.
For the night dive we moved back to the Gili Lawah Laut anchorage as the sea conditions were nice and calm and as we pulled up a fabulous red sunset heralded the start of the evening underwater activities at Crystal Cove, a shallow easy night dive that produced a good number of critters tonight.
Dive Day 3: 5th December 2017. Gili Lawah Laut/Batu Moncho
07:30: Dive 9 - Castle Rock
10:45: Dive 10 - Ten Foot Reef
14:45: Dive 11 - Big Nose
18:45: Dive 12 - Ten Foot Night
Taking advantage of the changes between neap and spring tides today looks like the last chance to easily dive the big sea-mounts that Komodo is famous for, and this morning we are diving at Castle Rock. We managed to time the dive at the end of a falling tide so there were plenty of species of schooling fish with a particularly large dog-toothed tuna lurking around. Unfortunately, the visibility was not perfect, but having said that, it was not too bad either although there weren’t as many sharks on display this morning as we had hoped for.
As soon as we surfaced Captain Kasim had the Indo Aggressor in position close by to pick us up and we were on our way to north-west Komodo and Batu Moncho Bay.
Our first dive in Batu Moncho Bay was the glittering Ten Foot Reef where both groups managed to see a squadron of mobular rays at the end of the dive. After lunch we decided to dive the outer reef at Big Nose.
Before the night dive on the sandy areas of Ten Foot Reef the professional filming crew were out in the shallows of Ten Foot Reef to get some scenes of our free-diving guest Chelssy, who had bought along her mermaid costume.
Dive Day 4: 6th December 2017. Sangeang Volcano & Gili Banta
07:30: Dive 13 - Hot Rocks
10:15: Dive 14 - Deep Purple Critter Reef
14:45: Dive 15 - K2
18:45: Dive 16 - The Circus
Captain Kasim fired up the engines at 02:30 am to begin our 28-nautical-mile cruise north west to the magnificent volcano island of Sangeang, that last erupted in May 2014. As the sun came up it was still very evident that this huge mountain was still smoking, as it has been since the last explosion and as we neared the shore we were greeted by a huge pod of dolphins.
Our first dive is planned for the ever-popular Hot Rocks, and this fabulous site did not disappoint us today with improved visibility, just a slight outgoing current and many critters and corals on view, a very popular choice.
With a strongly rising tide the next dive was done drifting with the counter current along the black sand and coral flats away from the main Deep Purple dive site. As the prevailing current runs west to east over the reef a back eddy is produced that provides a nice slow drift in the opposite direction close to the shore.
After a nice lunchtime cruise over to Gili Banta the afternoon dive was done at K2, a beautiful sloping reef and wall dive with lots of colour and a few leaf scorpionfish too.
Tonight’s night dive came next at 18:30 at the ever popular Circus dive site. Plenty of critters were out tonight, including the elusive stargazer. A big hit with the night divers.
Dive Day 5: 7th December 2017. Langkoi
07:30: Dive 17 - Manta Alley (with no mantas)
10:45: Dive 18 - Manta Alley (again with no mantas but it didn’t matter)
14:45: Dive 19 - W Reef
16:30: South Padar Hill Climb
18:45: Dive 20 - Pasir Putih
We started to move down to Langkoi at 03:00 am and were held up by a fairly strong rising tide and at daybreak the sky had turned a little grey and the sea conditions were getting a little lumpy. However, by the time we arrived in Langkoi Bay and anchored the conditions had improved considerably. The in-water conditions were absolutely fabulous, very clear and warm water, which is a rarity at Langkoi, with huge amounts of schooling fish of every type, colour and size, the only thing missing were the manta rays for which the site is famous, but this did not deter from the sheer beauty of the dive, so much so that we decided to do it again after breakfast.
After the last dive at Manta-less Alley we quickly picked up the anchor and headed over to the wonderful island of Padar. There was a strongly falling tide in the afternoon but for some reason it did not affect the signature site, W Reef. This was virtually current free and the conditions underwater were some of the best seen at this site for years. All four of the magnificent underwater sea-mounts were visible as were the huge schools of fish that inhabit them. A spectacular dive.
The action did not stop after W Reef, a few hardy souls from the group then undertook the gruelling climb up to the top of the south part of Padar Island to take in the stunning scenery and after that it was off on a night dive at Pasir Putih.
The night dive at Pasir Putih proved to be very popular. Starting just off the sandy beach the dive guides, Obi and Yamin took our divers down onto the patch reef and made their way along to the new shipwreck a little further down the shoreline. With plenty of critters along the way the dive was finished off with the sighting of a giant frogfish.
Dive Day 6: 8th December 2017. The Linta Strait
07:30: Dive 21 - Shotgun
10:45: Dive 22 - Tatawa Kecil
14:45: Dive 23 - Wainilu
18:45: Dive 24 - Wainilu
The previous evening, we pulled up the anchor at 21:30 to take advantage of the rising tide that gave us a push through the channel that separates Padar Island from Rinca, this enabled us to arrive at the Gili Lawah Darat anchorage in a short time, ready and in position for today’s diving activities.
First dive is Shotgun, the now famous passage that separates Gili Lawah Darat from Gili Lawah Laut. As with yesterday the current gods were not playing by the rulebook and there was not much current flowing through the cut, this did not matter though, there was plenty to see in the bowl and over the reefs. Sharks and rays were out in force and the group was entertained by a number of mantas too.
After a quick re-location into the Linta Strait we managed to catch the dive site at Tatawa Kecil at pretty much slack. Things didn’t stay slack for long though and a strong rising tide pushed our divers onto the very pretty north end of this sea-mount dive while the current rushed around the sides.
The famous critter diving site of Wainilu, close to the Rinca Ranger Station is our next port of call and we decided to make our afternoon and night dives there. This prolific little area once again produced a whole array of wonderful critters, including estuarine seahorse, frogfish and plenty of other interesting animals.
Dive Day 7: 9th December 2017. Horseshoe Bay
07:45: Dive 25 - Cannibal Rock
11:00: Dive 26 - Pelican Head
14:45: Dive 27 - Yellow Wall
16:45: South Rinca Dragon Beach Tender Excursion
18:45: Dive 28 - Torpedo Alley
After leaving our anchorage at Wainilu we started out on the cruise down to Horseshoe Bay, on the south side of Rinca Island, some 22 nautical miles over a winding route. We arrived after some swell and chop in the famous Nusa Kode waterway at 07:15 in time for the 07:30 briefing for the iconic Cannibal Rock.
As a rule, Horseshoe Bay is slightly colder and slightly greener than the dive sites in the north, but at this time of year things improve considerably, and that is what we are experiencing this trip. The site was very nicely lit by the sun and the visibility was excellent for the area. Lots of animals and stunning corals were what greeted the group this morning and once again, Cannibal Rock proved to be a big hit.
The fairly rough sea conditions outside of Horseshoe Bay had subsided quite a lot by the time we did our second dive at Pelican Head, but the south-west swell and wind would not have affected the site anyway. Once again, we had great conditions not often seen down here in the south with blue warm water, and a pair of very large pygmy seahorses.
After lunch we continued our adventures with a dive at the ever-popular Yellow Wall. The sun was shining directly down over the site and the heavy rising current of the morning had subsided making this an easy choice. Once again, the current gods were in our favour and a splendid dive was competed on this great site.
Shortly after the Yellow Wall dive and a quick snack on board we took off for the famous Dragon Beach on Rinca Island to be greeted with Komodo’s most famous animal, the fearsome Komodo Dragon.
Tonight’s night dive has been planned for the prolific sand and coral strip of Torpedo Alley. The biggest hit of the night were a couple of coconut octopus and a white v octopus among a whole host of other critters.
Dive Day 8: 10th December 2017. Horseshoe Bay/Padar
07:15: Dive 29 - Cannibal Rock
10:15: Dive 30 - Boulders
13:30: Dive 31 - Rodeo Rock
18:45: Dive 32 - Pasir Putih
The overnight anchorage at our Nusa Kode/Horseshoe Bay anchorage was very peaceful apart from some heavy rain at some point during the night.
We awoke to partly cloudy skies and an early dive on Cannibal Rock. There was slightly more current this morning due to an outgoing tide but this did have the effect of drawing in lots of schooling fish around the current washed sides of the site. One nice sighting during the dive was a pair of nurse sharks asleep in a very small coral hole.
Next up is the site at Boulders, a rarely dived little gem and very good for critters, especially with the good conditions that we are experiencing at the moment.
After an early lunch it was decided to try a dive at Rodeo Rock, a fantastic rugged sea-mount just outside of the waterway at Horseshoe Bay. In the clear conditions that we have it was easy to see why this dive is such a draw, with huge schools of surgeonfish and snapper all around this impressive towering edifice.
As soon as we surfaced Captain Kasim had the Indo Aggressor close by so that we could make a quick get-away from Nusa Kode and motor up to Padar Island again to dive the very popular Pasir Putih and the new shipwreck that has landed on the reef. Once again this proved to be a winner with many of the critters from the last dive here a few days ago putting in another appearance, along with some of the massive football sized snails that the site is famous for.
Dive Day 9: 11th December 2017. Gili Lawah, Linta Strait & Wainilu
07:15: Dive 33 - GLD Passage
10:15: Dive 34 - Karang Makassar
14:45: Rinca Ranger Station Nature Walk
After the previous evenings night dive and dinner, we pulled up the anchor and motored up to Gili Lawah Darat to take advantage of a rising tide and to enable us to wake up already in position for the last morning of diving.
First dive is at the channel between Komodo and Gili Lawah Darat, the GLD Channel. This dive as a little disappointing due to the visibility closing down a little, very different from what it was at the start of the trip, but there were still lots of animals out and about, including a lone or lost manta ray.
For our swansong, we were scratching our heads and trying to work out the best site with some good visibility in the falling tide. After much thought and driving around in the tender we finally decided on Karang Makassar, one of Komodo’s famous manta ray dives. All the thought and driving that went into this choice proved to be worth it, the mantas were out in force this morning, and we had dozens of sightings of these magnificent beasts feeding and cleaning, sometimes with up to six different individuals sighted at any one time. A nice ending dive for the trip.
After lunch it was away to Wainilu to hike around the Rinca Ranger Station to have a last look at the Komodo Dragons before motoring back to the Indo Aggressor for a sails-up return to Labuan Bajo harbour and the end of the trip.
12th December 2017. Labuan Bajo
Departure at Labuan Bajo