Komodo Scuba Diving Trip1/8/2013

Scenic view of Komodo National Park The most epic scuba diving trip I've ever experienced ended yesterday. I went through so many emotions through the entire trip, some good, some bad. However, I am left with an awe-inspiring adventure that helps me appreciate the true beauty of underwater life. I booked the Komodo 6 day live aboard scuba diving trip through a company called Wicked Diving. I was pleased to find out that they have some extraordinary reviews and encourage eco-friendly living. Needless to say, this trip would be the end of my Indonesian experience and I wanted to go out with a bang! In addition, New Years covered part of my trip, making an especially special way to start 2013! The details of each day is vast. Instead of doing Day 1 I did this, Day 2 I did this...etc, I'm going to cover some of the highlights as well as some of the more challenging moments of my trip. Favorite Locations Below are my favorite memories from the scuba diving trip. Makassar (Manta Point) Manta Ray Swimming at Komodo National Park Manta Rays! Need I say more?? OK I will elaborate. I had never seen Manta Rays before, until now. The creatures are absolutely massive (4-6 meters) and look like small airplanes in the water. Makassar is teaming with manta's. On the 2nd dive here (yes I went on 2) I saw at least 30 Manta Ray's. As a fellow diver quoted,"There were so many I got bored with them!" In addition to Manta Ray's which in itself is enough to give it a 5 star dive, I saw my first Reef Octopus and Thornyback Sting Ray. Visiting this site was a dream come true. Wainilu Lobster in Coral Komodo National park My favorite night dive was at Wainilu. In addition, Wainilu was my first "Muck Dive". I loved it! Unlike other sites in Komodo National Park, corals here are few and far between. However, the ground is littered with fascinating creatures hiding amongst the sand and rocks. The site is a sanctuary for baby animals and small weird looking sea life. Baby cuddle fish, lion fish, frog fish, and the Wonderpus (a bizarre looking octopus), make their homes here. I loved shining my flashlight in the sand not knowing what creatures of the night I'd stumble upon. Castle Rock Group of Chevron Baracuda I felt like I was in the middle of an underwater tornado here. The current was so strong the divers all had to hold onto coral ledges during the entire dive. The coral was magnificent and the fish gathered in huge numbers feeding on the plankton and each other. I love big things in the water and my eyes were wide with joy on this dive. Giant Trevally, White-Tip Reef Sharks, Barracuda, and schools of Tuna all gathered at Castle Rock in vast numbers. It's a shame I had equipment issues on this dive. However I will never forget the 30 or so minutes observing the amazing sea life here. Happy New Year! Pirates on the Boat in Komodo National Park The countdown to 2013 was fantastic. On New Years Eve the Wicked Diving crew dressed up as pirates and proceeded to give us good laughs and wine. We spent the last of 2012 feasting and recalling favorite dive memories. ARRRRRR! 5 of us stayed awake to welcome in 2013. Below are 4 of those 5. (I am the one snapping the photo) Happy New Years on Wicked Diving The Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island Group Photo at Komodo National Park The reason why I booked the live aboard cruise was to see Manta Rays underwater and Komodo Dragons on the land. I fulfilled both wishes by visiting Rinca Island on the last day. I watched Discovery Channel documentaries and Youtube videos of the dragons before arriving. (After watching the Komodo Dragon take down a Water Buffalo, I knew I had to visit!) Seeing them in person is a surreal experience. The Komodo Dragons here reach about 3 meters in length. They are the apex predators on the island and can only be found here, Flores, and Komodo Island. Komodo Dragons relaxing Lazy Dragons. First off, the Komodo Dragons are quite lazy. I saw about 6 of them hanging out by the kitchen upon entering the park in Rinca. They lay around during the day, soaking up the sun and smells of Indonesian cooking, and hunt mostly at night. Goats, wild pig (which we saw), Water Buffalo, and baby Komodos (yes they will eat their young) are on the Komodo Dragon's menu. Secondly, as fearsome as a creature as they look, Komodo's (for the most part) tend to leave humans alone. I saw many dragons within a couple meters of small children. I'm sure Komodo Dragons could eat and swallow a child in minutes if it wanted to. Incidents at Komodo National Park List of incidents at Komodo National Park. What triggered the Komodo Dragon to attack here? The park was a fun experience and I enjoyed the hour hike through the forest looking at wild game and Komodo Dragons. while few in number (maybe 2,000 left on the island) the Komodo's population continues to increase with superb conservation efforts. The Dive trip could have been THE BEST EVER While the diving was incredible there were a few issues that happened that affected my diving experience. I missed two dives and had mechanical issues on at least one other (two depending on who you ask). Wicked Diving Group Photo of Wicked Diving Crew and Guests I love the crew here and believe they genuinely care about the safety of their passengers, but I believe the issues I experienced could have been avoided with a little bit better care from the dive masters. I had never used a dive computer before. On the 2nd dive of the trip I somehow managed to go past the decompression limit. Even though I stayed above the maximum depth of 30 meters (26 meters) I did a decompression dive with a 15 minute safety stop. We all thought there was problems with the watch and I felt truly unlucky to have to experience this. To compound the problem, I had to sit out 24 hours before I could dive again. I missed the two dive sites consistently rated as the top two on the trip, Manta Point and Batu Bolong. (I did manage to go to Manta Point twice later on in the trip but never did get to see Batu Bolong) These were the only two spots were Manta Ray's were spotted. Manta Rays at Manta Point I was very worried about missing these guys It's quite the devastating feeling when people are writing "Best Dive Ever" on their dive log books while I sit on the sidelines listening to the incredible experiences. I did not think I was going to see Manta Rays and I felt horrible! Problems with the equipment German wondering Achim has his own equipment. He's wondering why mine is having issues. Upon finishing my 24 hour sit down, I was excited to get back into the water, however my equipment had other ideas! On my very next dive, air was leaking from my regulator. We had to cut this dive short and I felt like nothing was going my way. After a quick replacement, I again experienced that sinking feeling. The current was extremely strong at Castle Rock and I somehow managed to burn almost twice as much air as everyone else (even though no issues were found). I left the water in 33 minutes with only 10 bar left in my tank (very dangerous)! At that point I had enough and lost my cool. Yelling at the instructor did not accomplish anything and I went into a state of depression. How could all these issues happen to me?! Finally a GOOD Dive! Spiderman diver Spiderman is happy and so am I! The dive instructor made the decision to let me use her equipment for one dive while she tested mine. I commend her for taking that extra step to ensure I have a positive experience for the rest of the trip. The rest of the dive trip was outstanding and my instructor insisted I use her equipment for the rest of the trip. Whatever bad JUJU I was experiencing was broken. Again, I want to reiterate the people at Wicked Diving are outstanding and it was truly unfortunate I had to go through some of the toughest times of my life. (Don't believe me check out the Wicked Diving Trip Advisor Reviews). However, issues like this should not happen on cruises. Hopefully lessons were learned here. Ending on a Good Note Turtle in Coral As mentioned above this was the best scuba dive trip I experienced. The diving, the people, the food, all top-notch. Here is a quick breakdown of each dive. 1. Bidadari Island - 58 minutes - 3 Stars - Good 1st dive. Most of sea life I've seen before including, bluespotted sting rays, Lion Fish, and Golden Trevally 2. Sabayar Ridge - 67 minutes - 4 Stars - Yikes my deco dive! Beautiful coral awazing life including the Pharaoh Cuttlefish and Giant Trevally. 3. Batu Bolong - DID NOT DIVE 4. Makassar (Manta Point) - DID NOT DIVE 5. Crystal Rock - 37 minutes - 3 Stars - Mechanical issues cut dive short. Did see baby White-Tip Reef Sharks and the elusive Pygmy Seahorse. Great find on the Seahorse! 6. Castle Rock - 33 minutes - 4 Stars - Again issues (or so I thought). Spectacular dive. I felt like I was in the middle of a feeding fenzy with White-Tip's, Giant Trevally, Tuna, and a super current. 7. Planet Rock (Don't remember name) - 48 minutes - 4 Stars - Broke the bad streak. From here on out no more problems! Great coral and saw the elusive Pygmy Squid. 8. Cauldern "Shotgun" - 53 minutes - 4 Stars - Woohoo, great morning dive. Strong current, cool waters, scenic reefs is a great way to start the day. Saw my first Leopard String Ray with, Barracuda, Giant Trevally, and White-tip Reef Sharks. 9. The Passage - 60 minutes - 4 Stars - Amazing drift dive. The current swept me along like a floating underwater piece of debris. Biggest school of Bat Fish I've ever seen. Must have been about 100. 10. Makassar (Manta Point) - 60 minutes - 5 Stars - Legendary site. This was my first dive with the Manta's. My best dive ever!. In addition to the Manta's saw my first Reef octopus and Thornyback Stingray. 11. Tatawa Besar - 23 minutes - 1 Star - OMG! Near death experiences are quite rare for me, but this is one of them. I felt like I was in panic mode trying to cling onto the coral. I give it 5 Stars on Adventure Scale. I hope to avoid experiences like this. (Note taken directly from logbook). 12. Makassar (Manta Point) - 60 Minutes - 5 Stars - Back to Manta Point and another 5 star dive. There must of been about 50 Manta rays in the water! Truly incredible to see these ray every 15 to 30 seconds. 13. Siaba Besar - 59 Minutes - 4 Stars - Ahh a relaxing fun dive. Green turtles, small boxfish and trumpet fish were mostly sen during this dive. 14. Wainilu - 54 Minutes - 5 Stars - Incredible night/muck dive. So many small, bizarre, interesting creatures lurking in the sand and rocks. Baby Cuttlefish, Lionfish, frog fish, leaf fish, and various species of box fish inhabit these waters. Love uncovering new animals with the shine of my flashlight. 15. Tengah - 46 Minutes - 4 Stars - Loved the wall of beautiful coral. The current was unpredicatble and we were chaning directions all over the place. Saw Giant Trevally, Sea Turtles, Coral lobster, and Moray Eels. 16. Wainilu - The last dive ends at one fo my favorite sights, Wainilu. This time we get to do muck diving during the day. Saw the awesome Wunderpus and many other small things. Wasn't as good as the night version but still really enjoyed! Final Thoughts So many epic dives, so much fun! I'm grateful to have experienced this trip through the ups and downs. The boat and rooms were terrific, food was superb, dives outstanding, and the people were the best. Even though I did have some personal issues with some of the things that went on I do highly recommend diving with Wicked Diving. They incorporate the locals by teaching them about diving and conservation as well as provide a tremendous Eco-Dive experience. I can only hope future live aboard can hold up to the same standards as Wicked Diving. Below is some additional pictures from the 6 day/5 night scuba diving trip. The Wicked Diving Boat Deck Picture of the Boat deck Vincent is the Man The man, the myth, the legend, Vincent. 86 years young living life to the fullest! Dive Briefing at Wicked Diving Boat Jo displays the sign for a strong current. Enjoying the boat and View Whoa it's windy but Achim is unfazed!