As I said previously, Komodo is known for its amazing diving- so much sea life, big and small. But also for its crazy currents, which make diving there occasionally... cough cough... exciting?
|Me (blue legs) and Tim (naked knees), working on our buoyancy.|
|Tim and Willie, breathing buddies 4 life. No, really, for Tim's life.|
|Raise the roof? Not sure what hand gesture I am making here.|
Willie: the divemaster
Meg & Tim: your intrepid protagonists
Ben and Erin (sometimes referred to as Mr. Ben and Mr. Ben's wife): neighbors/friends/tour guides/recurring characters
Geoff and Sasha: fellow divers aboard the SS Mangguana
|The dive boat.|
|Komodo dive sites.|
Dives 1 & 2: Sebayor Kecil (the warm-up dives; one day, one night)
|Willie's Sebayur Kecil pre-dive briefing whiteboard.|
On the first dive we had problems with tanks falling out of straps that connect them to the BCD, and then a piece of Tim's BCD was broken, so the speed boat had to go back to the boat to get a replacement piece. In the meantime, we went down on the dive while Tim snorkeled around. When the speed boat returned and got Tim ready to go, they kept suggesting that he just venture out by himself, "look for the bubbles" from the other divers, and head underwater to find us. Not a good idea in general to be diving by yourself... Tim tried, but couldn't really see us, so he wisely decided it would be better to sit it out despite the boat driver's urging to "follow the bubbles."
|Big ole sea star.|
|It's like wicked dahk down here.|
Dive 3: Castle Rock (the crazy dive)
This dive may be the most memorable of the trip, but not really in a good way. The currents surrounding Castle Rock are a little bit insane. Here's our story: on our dive briefing, we learned that we were going to be making a negative entry (i.e. no air in your BCD, just drop out of the boat head straight down, no time to mess around with your mask or anything) in order to get to where we needed to go without getting caught in the wrong current.
|Willie giving us our pre-dive briefing on Castle Rock.|
Ultimately we didn't stay down for too long, as we were all out of air quickly from fighting the currents and our panicked brains. In total we were only down for about 22 minutes! The stress of the negative entry, the panicky feeling and the ridiculously strong currents had me shaking at the end of the dive. I didn't really want to go down for another dive, but I manned up and did, and wow, I am so glad, because it only got better and better after Castle Rock.
Dive 4: Crystal Rock (the dive that lowered our blood pressure after the crazy dive)
|Crystal Rock pre-dive briefing.|
|Sooooooo many fish!|
Here's what I know we saw: a white-tipped reef shark, hovering very close to the reef in order to guard the two babies she had hidden under a piece of reef (!), a turtle floating around, schools of yellow snapper, lion fish, napoleon wrasse, a blue spotted stingray, the bold clown trigger fish, schooling bannerfish and some box fish.
|All drains lead to the ocean?|
|Batu Bolong rock looks just like Willie's drawing, hole in the rock and all.|
Willie told us this was his favorite dive, and you really listen to a guy who has thousands of dives under his belt, all of them in the area where you're diving. Even Mr. Ben, who was suffering from a wicked bout of the stomach flu, sucked it up and came out for this dive between pukes. The dive was worth it- peaceful, beautiful, so many fish and such beautiful coral that it was like being in a fish tank.
We had a close encounter with a harlequin or banded snake-eel, which we thought was awesome until we got to the surface and Willie told us that it was highly poisonous if it bit you on your soft tissue... poisonous enough that you would not need to bother surfacing after being bit. You'd be dead.
|Moray eel, defending his spot.|
|Like fish passing in the day.|
|Like swimming in an aquarium.|
Dive 7: Manta Point/Makassar Reef (maaaantaaaaassss!!)
Definitely one of the coolest dives on the trip, this was a drift dive with low visibility, but lots of big stuff to see: Manta rays! These guys were amazing.
While we were desperately gripping rocks on the seafloor, trying not to float away in the current, they are these huge things (up to 25 feet across), facing the current head on, flying slowly and gracefully through the water with their mouths open to suck up the concentrated plankton that draws them to the area (this blog post has a good description of the crazy feeling of being in such a strong current).
|Resting, hoping the manta in the murk would come closer.|
|The seedy underbelly of Manta Point?|
|This is my hiding spot.|
Dive 8: Tatawa Besar (the rescue dive)
This dive happened immediately after a huge, windy thunderstorm. The trip out to the dive site on the speedboat was a little, um, jarring. As the boat (full of people and dive equipment that kept coming unhooked) dropped 5 feet down through thin air and slammed on the surface of the water, there was yet another wave looming over the boat. Over and over again. Scary!
Anywho, we made it to the dive site and dropped into the water and down to the reef unceremoniously and without injury. Because of the storm, the visibility was pretty poor down on the reef, but we were still able to see a ton of stuff: a sea turtle munching on some green stuff, a moray eel, some harlequin shrimp, box fish, lion fish, a blue dragon nudibranch, giant clams, a school of batfish. Plus, at the end of the dive there was a massive area full of this one type of pointy coral (the name escapes me), which was really beautiful:
|I love the color of these fish.|
Dive 9: Pulau Tenga (the attack turtle dive)
This was a beautiful dive. A very vertical, rainbow colored reef with lots of little nooks and crannies hiding cool stuff, plus massive schools of fish swirling all around us.
But the most memorable part of this dive was the attack turtle.... yes, attack turtle. Tim pointed out a sea turtle that was gnawing on some stuff on the coral wall, and once it noticed us in turn, it was really curious. It came right up to Ben (close enough that he had to jump back), messed around with him a bit, buddied up to Willie, and then floated over to Geoff and "kissed" him (i.e. nipped at his regulator). Ben got a kiss, too. This was one curious turtle.
|Oh, hai. Fancy meeting you here, Mr. Ben.|
|Can I get a closer look at this infamous "terror stick" of yours?|
|Happy New Year, Tim and Willie! High five?|
On this dive, we also saw a pipefish, a large boxfish, a bunch of iridescent reef squid floating near the surface (I thought they were plastic bags at first), surgeonfish, lots of sea fans, beautiful rainbow coral...
|Blue tuxedo sea urchin?|
|This coral is awesome... I wish I had some fabric in this print!|
|I had no idea what these amazing feathery things were until I looked it up just now... the ones with stalks are crinoids and the ones without stalks are referred to as feather starfish? Either way, they are beautiful- they sorta flow with the breeze and scrunch up when they get something in their grasp.|
|Amazing fire orange sea fans and matching fishies.|
Dive 10: Wai nilu (the muck dive)
|Wae Nilu dive briefing.|
|Lionfish in coral sleeping bag.|
|Nudibranch! My new favorite word. Ex: "Dude, zip your fly! Your nudibranch is hanging out."|
|Banded pipefish: I like their little red feathery tails.|
|Frogfish... the "Where's Waldo" of the ocean.|
|Cuttlefish! When he gets mad, he flashes a dark color.|
|Dancing coral shrimp fish (the little sticks in the front of the photo), plus Tim's crotch.|
|Nemo and father?|