We just heard from a fellow couple from our diving liveaboard and they sent us photos from our dive at Manta Point. They arrived back in Switzerland after their honeymoon and I’m so glad they remembered to send the photos! I had forgotten my camera and this was the dive not to forget it! We saw three huge mantas and they came so close to us, about 5 feet away. These things looked so unreal and had wingspans of at least 12 feet. Just out of this world. This dive had a really heavy current so you had to hold on to dead coral in order to avoid getting swept away. Our divemaster took us to a “cleaning station” where he knew mantas come and get cleaned by smaller fish. The current is the weakest at the very bottom of the ocean floor so you just hold on and get as close to the ground as possible and wait for mantas. Pretty soon, one swam over and hovered above us for a few minutes while it got cleaned by all the little cleaner fish. Sometimes there would be giant trevally hanging out underneath the manta for protection from the current. The photos don’t really do it justice, but here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like!
Every place we visit, I like to post photos that capture the everyday magic of a place. For Indonesia, I combined this post to encompass all of Indonesia versus each place since our time was more compressed. Enjoy!
After my food poisoning incident earlier in the week at Matahari Restaurant, we were careful to go to our hotel’s recommendations for dinner. Bayview Gardens was a great pick for lodging, fantastic views over the harbor though a bit on the pricey side.
Our last night on Labuanbajo, we ate at Pesona, which serves Indonesian food at a pretty cheap price. I got the grilled chicken and Mike got seafood steamed in a banana leaf. Both were delicious! The chicken had wonderfully crispy skin and great flavor. Perfectly cooked. I’m also obsessed with the fresh chili sauce they make here, sambal. Fresh tomatoes with a hint of smoky habanero. Probably one of the best meals we’ve had in Indonesia so far.
That wraps up our Komodo adventure! Next up: Bali. Here’s another favorite photo from the top of one of the small Komodo islands. We dove earlier in the day at the bay down below known as Crystal Bay and we would go in later that night for a night dive.
The Komodo Islands is known for some of the best diving in the world. Because of the currents that run through the islands, there’s a ton of diversity of fish who feed on the nutrients swept by the currents. It also has some pretty difficult diving, with strong currents. We decided to do a liveaboard for 3 days to get the most out of the dive sites with a total of 9 dives. We also got our PADI Advanced Open Water certifications which lets us go deeper and gain more experience with drift and night diving. I’m really glad we did the course because it meant we had a dedicated instructor/dive guide for the difficult dives. Highly recommend Divine Diving shop in Labuanbajo.
I rented an underwater camera for the 3 days—I wasn’t about to miss out on photos of the great dive sites! The Komodo dive sites really had so many fish I had never seen before. All the other dive sites you see a lot of the same type of reef fish. Here I was just stunned at the diversity of the fish and coral. So amazingly colorful. The one bummer is we forgot the camera on board for Manta Point—a drift dive site known for huge manta rays. We had really close encounters with 3 enormous mantas. It’s a drift dive so you have to hold on to some rocks so you don’t get swept away. While you hold on to the rocks, you stay still and low to the ground and this manta with a 10-12 ft wingspan came and hovered about 3 feet above us. It was surreal and they looked so alien and beautiful. Another couple told us they would email us their photos, so I will share when we get those! Here are some of the best shots of the 3 days of diving.
On the first evening of the liveaboard, we anchored off of Rinca and watched the flying foxes take off at sunset. At sunset, they fly out of the trees—there must have been thousands of them! It was a pretty incredible sight. The photos don’t do it justice, so I’ve uploaded a short video so you can see just how many of them there were. Amazing.
Using Labuanbajo as our base in Flores, we booked an overnight boat trip to go see the Komodo dragons on Komodo and Rinca islands. Rinca is relatively close (about 2 hour boat ride), but Komodo is at least 4 hours away which is why people do the overnight boat trip. The overnight trip was expensive though so I think if we were to do it again, we’d just break it up into two day trips and sleep comfortably on land. Unfortunately I got a really bad case of food poisoning (the worst of the trip) and the first day of the boat trip wasn’t too enjoyable throwing up over the side of the boat. Ugh. We booked through Perama, which is a relatively big tour operator in Indonesia and unfortunately our boat was nicknamed by Mike the “cockroach express.” Good times. =)
But, we got to see Komodo dragons! They are the largest species of lizard and also known as monitor lizards. They’re only found on these islands in Indonesia and only a few thousand are left. Many think that Komodo dragons could have been the inspiration for the appearances of mythical dragons and the Chinese dragon. We went to Rinca island on the first day and immediately came across 7 dragons lying near the ranger cottages—of course, near the kitchen. They have a really good sense of smell and can smell from up to 5 km away.
We saw a number of humongous water buffalo on our 2 hour trek—they were much larger than the domestic ones we’ve seen. The Komodo dragons will sneak up behind them and bite them on the leg. The poison from their bite slowly gets to the buffalo and the dragon will follow the injured buffalo until they die. Dragons can eat up to 40 kg at a time but they only feed once a month or so.
While we were watching a water buffalo, suddenly we heard a rustle and a Komodo dragon came on the trail and was heading towards us. Probably to check out the water buffalo. That thing was not afraid of us at all. Our guide (who was a teenage intern!) has a pronged stick just for these incidences. He jabs the stick at the Komodo dragon’s neck to shove it away. It barely deterred the dragon but enough for us to get out of the way. It was super tense and we were all on edge. They warned us not to run, since the dragons take sudden movement as aggressive behavior. Yikes!
After the dragon passed us, it looked at the water buffalo for a second. The water buffalo looked back at him as if saying “I see you” and they stared at each other. Then the dragon moved on. Whew! We thought we might witness an attack.
That night we anchored near Komodo Island and saw an incredible sunset on the boat. The boat wasn’t too comfortable to sleep on—the air is humid and salty so you just feel sticky the whole time. I couldn’t really eat dinner because of my stomach problems and threw up any rice that I had managed to get down. Not good.
The next morning, we did a 2 hour trek on Komodo. We didn’t see as many dragons, but we had a great guide who pointed out unique plants and birds to us. At the top of the hill, we saw flocks of yellow and white wild cockatoos flying around. It’s strange to see them wild when your whole life you’ve seen them as pets!
Our ranger pointed out some Komodo dragon droppings—they are white because of the bones they eat. We saw one that probably ate a wild deer because there was a lot of fur too!
We saw some wild boar and deer on the trek too. The boars are funny—they run really quickly and are pretty shy. Just like the warthogs we saw on safari in Africa.
There was one huge Komodo dragon lying near the end of our path near a ranger cottage. Here’s a close up of the hind paw—it’s much bigger than human hands of course! Check out those claws.
To end the boat trip, we went snorkeling at Kanawa Island. Some great snorkeling but we figured we were in for much better sights on our upcoming diving liveaboard trip!
We saw a crazy camouflaged fish called the crocodilefish, which is part of the scorpionfish family. It has both eyes on the top of its head.