Last month, Fisheye Expeditions brought 16 divers to Indonesia for a ten night adventure on the Indo Siren through Komodo National Park. Both a World Heritage Site and UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, Komodo is home to over 1000 species of fish, 260 species of coral and is one of the most exciting and diverse places to dive in the world. And our adventure certainly did not disappoint…from manta rays to mimic octopus to dragons, we had it all!
Our cruise started off in Bima Bay, which was a short one hour flight from Bali. After boarding the Siren, we had lunch, were briefed by the crew and then got busy unpacking and setting up our cameras. The Siren is very well set up for divers and photographers. Not only does it have very spacious and well appointed cabins, but the salon has a lot of room for cameras and charging and every person is given two personal storage drawers inside and one outside at their individual dive station. After getting settled, everyone gathered for a sunset happy hour to celebrate Lindsey’s 40th birthday followed by dinner and a briefing for our first dives the next day…and we started getting very excited!
We steamed overnight and awoke to a beautiful clear day at the volcanic island of Sangeang, a truly breathtaking sight. The landscape is dominated by Sangeang Api, one of the most active volcanoes in the Lesser Sunda Islands, which put on quite a show for us throughout day puffing white smoke out of its crater. The rich volcanic black sand surrounding the island is very productive for macro life, which was the main focus of our dives, however there is a lot of stunning coral reef as well. One of the biggest highlights of the day was diving Hot Rocks (otherwise known as Bubble Reef), where you can see streams and streams of bubbles escape from the black sand (a truly magical sight) and warm your hands on the hot vents underwater. Amazing! The rest of our dives were all about critter hunting — we saw loads of cool subjects such as candy crabs, ghostpipefish, an awesome variety of shrimp and nudibranchs, snake eels and ribbon eels. But the grand finale of the day was our night dive in Bontoh Village, which delivered big time with loads and loads of frogfish, bobtail squid, pygmy cuttlefish, squid, coconut octopus and so many more nudis! What a fabulous day!
From Sangeang we moved the boat to Gili Banta in search of mantas…and boy did we get lucky! We dived Tanduk Rusa and had a number of mantas come in quite close to get cleaned, which mean they hung out for a quite a while…offering loads of great photo ops. This day, Taren and Heather celebrated hitting 200 and 300 dives respectively, and celebrated by getting photobombed by a manta —awesome! Aside from mantas, Banta has some beautiful reefs bursting with life and color. As we watched the sunset over the dramatic landscape of this island, which looks like a massive sleeping dragon, some drank wine and reminisced the day while others prepared for the night dive.
The next day we headed to Gili Lawalaut to dive some of Komodo’s most iconic sites, Crystal and Castle Rock. These two pinnacles are bursting with life and are full of action…from schooling fish to hunting trevaly to sharks, rays and turtles, these sites rarely disappoint. We also dived the popular site called Shotgun (for good reason), which can push you through its channel like, well, a shotgun! This site is also notorious for its manta action…and once again we got lucky! Topside we had the chance to “water the deer” at sunset. They are super sweet animals that don’t have enough fresh water source to survive on their own…so the boats take turns to bring them water and enjoy some close animal encounters.
Life onboard the Siren is pretty much eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, sleep, dive, chill, watch the sunset, dive, eat…and repeat. It is like being on autopilot doing all your favorite things! Throw in there prepping cameras, downloading images, editing, sharing photos with fellow divers, looking up that day’s hot finds in fish ID books, maybe squeezing in a massage, soaking in the awesome scenery and basically hanging out with a load of awesome people laughing until your sides hurt…and it is hard to conjure up a more perfect holiday! The Siren staff goes out of their way to make your stay special…from having your favorite drink ready after a dive to making sure you have enough of your favorite food…you get spoiled!
From there we headed south to Manta Alley and Nusa Kode for what was some of my favorite diving from the trip. The water may be a bit colder and murkier, but those nutrients certainly populate those waters! We saw plenty of mantas at Manta Alley (up to 5 in one pass) and enjoyed two dives there before cruising to Horseshoe Bay, one of the most beautiful bays I have every seen in my travels. And the dives sites in Nusa Code are simply legendary — Yellow Wall, Rhino Rocks, Cannibal Rock, Torpedo Alley — and for very good reason. These sites are full, full, full of life!! It would be so easy to spend 7 days in this bay alone. Cannibal Rock and Yellow Wall are so full of life and color you hardly don’t know where to look first. And there is macro everywhere…from amazing, chunky, colorful nudis to shrimp to pygmies to zebra crabs. It is very hard to choose whether you go wide or shoot macro, although the green murky water does present some challenges for wide angle. I took my chance to shoot wide at Cannibal Rock as the fish life and abundance of coral were the stuff that dreams are made of, especially for a wide angle addict like myself (and worth the time removing all the backscatter!). Rhino Rocks and Torpedo Alley are arguably some of the world’s best muck sites — 60, 70 , 80 minutes goes by in a blink of an eye as there is so much to see (ghost gobies, cowries, nudis of every shape and size, hairy shrimp, bobbit worms, skeleton shrimp, squid, pygmy cuttlefish, decorator crabs and so much more). Our minds were truly blown! And the topper was watching the monkeys and Komodo dragons roam the beach at Rinca. After leaving Nusa Kode, we headed back north and did a sunset hike up to the top of Padar — pheewwwwww what a view!! It was a long hard hike up to the top but worth every step up and down. Truly amazing!!
The next day we did a few dives at Padar and then took the chance to do an awesome land excursion to see the Komodo dragons at Rinca, which was a big highlight of the trip! It is the only place in the world you can see these prehistoric creatures, who are quite large and very lethal. We had a great tour with 4 guides carrying big sticks who told us all we needed to know about these incredible animals (what they eat, how fast they cam move, they are cannibals who eat their young and that they are very, very horny..lol). We also saw loads of other wildlife (such a buffalo) and had tons of exciting photo ops — it was a great group outing enjoyed by all.
The next day we were lucky enough to go back to Crystal and Castle Rock..and Shotgun. Yes, it was totally worth it…in fact it was even better the second time around! We had some truly spectacular dives including a true Blue Planet moment/dive that can best be described as an underwater opera. There were massive schools of fusiliers whooshing around us as if we weren’t even there….and loads of huge giant trevely hunting the schools…and a dozen white tip sharks in the hunt — jaws were dropping like crazy, shutters were clicking like mad and memory cards were filling fast! WOW that was a dive our guests will not soon forget! But the grand finale was at Shotgun. We weathered a pretty mad and stressful current for most of the dive which left many of us breathless, however the pay off was HUGE — we had a literal parade of mantas right in front of us that just would not quit. They were going up to the surface and diving down right past us playing in our bubbles…one after the other…over and over again. It was incredible…they were literally brushing our heads!! We stayed down until the very last drop of air...it was the kind of dive you never ever wanted to end!
Soon it was time to return to Bima as the cruise was nearly over…but not before two last action packed muck dives in Bima Bay. It was murky and the viz was challenging, but it was FULL of critters! These were the satay stick dives…our guides would just roam around spotting awesome stuff and placing a satay stick in the ground to mark the spot so we could go from stick to stick enjoying a critter scavenger hunt. We had pegasus sea moths, pipefish, harlequin shrimp, ghostpipefish, loads of seahorses, an amazing array of nudis, coleman shrimp, cowries, LOADS of frogfish…and the pièce de résistance, a mimic octopus!! That was certainly the cherry on top for this trip!
Once again…and I can ‘t believe how lucky and grateful I am for being able to say this yet again…that no matter how awesome the location and the diving might have been, what really made this trip super special were the truly awesome people that joined me. I can’t believe how much we laughed!! From pulling pranks, to endless jokes, to sunset games, to dance parties…we had SO MUCH FUN! It warms my heart to see folks return on trip after trip and choose to share their adventures with Fisheye. And I just love getting to know the people joining me for the first time and watching them fit right into this big, happy ever-growing Fisheye family. I often joke that I should rename the company “Fisheye Connections” as I witness so many lifelong friendships (and a couple of romantic ones) coming out of these adventures. I can’t wait to see what happens next:)
So I will sign off this time saying that I feel incredibly blessed and priveledged that so many amazing people choose to spend their hard earned vacation time with me. I promise to always do my best for you…and work hard to make each trip the absolute best it possibly can be.
I can’t wait to blow some more bubbles with you all again soon! And if you haven’t yet joined me….come on and dive right in…we’re ready to welcome you into the fold:)