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Diving Indonesia

NORTHEASTERN INDONESIA

Area Dive Name 2014/2016

North
Raja
Ampat
Gam SE October 1
Batu Lima October 1
Frewin Kecil October 1
Mioskon October 1
Wayag Trail October 15

 
Misool Whale Rock November 20
Kalig East November 21
Resort House Reef November 22

2015
Triton
Bay
Whale Sharks Feb & April
Batu Jatuh Mar 6, Apr 13
Sareneus West Mar 6, Apr 13
Stumpy Rock Mar 7, Apr 14
 Pinnacle March 7
Dramai Rock March 9
Christmas Rock March 9
Aquarium March 10
David's Rock March 10
Little Komodo Apr 11, 14 May 1
Bo's Rainbow April 11
Third Rock April 12
Andy's Point April 12
Pink Beach April 14
Batu Jeruk April 30
SW Aiduma April 30
GPS Point May 1

This page is divided into 2 halves.  The first half is northeastern Indonesia, which we cruised through in 2014‑15 and again in 2016‑17.  Below that you'll find dive sites for Southern Indonesia, mostly the Komodo‑Rinca area, which we cruised through in 2006, diving with our friends on Ventana, and again in 2015.

Our dives in eastern Indonesia were all in Raja Ampat and Triton Bay, areas that claim the highest marine biodiversity in the world.  These areas have very low populations, which means less pollution and less destruction of the reefs. Unfortunately, shark finning was very common until a decade ago and the sharks are just barely beginning to return. Beside the 1700 species of reef fish, and 75% of the world's species of coral, this area also hosts some big creatures, like whale sharks and manta rays.

We were so lucky to get to visit for 6 months!  We dove both independently and with dive companies.

There is a fairly comprehensive guide to diving in eastern Indonesia published in 2010, called "Diving Indonesia's Bird's Head Seascape" by Burt Jones & Maurine Shimlock, which covers both Raja Ampat and Triton Bay (and Cenderwasih Bay in the north which we didn't visit).

In Raja Ampat we did most of our diving with the wonderful Biodiversity Eco Resort.  They're on the east end of Gam Island, about 40nm NW of Sorong, and just a mile north of the Frewin anchorage.  The owners, Rey and Patricia (phone/SMS/WhatsApp +628‑124‑881‑3677) are very friendly.  Their resort customers obviously come first, but cruisers are welcome to snorkel the excellent house reef if they ask permission first.  If you give them a days advance notice, you can get an excellent meal at the resort or join them on dives (on a space‑available basis).  Their rates are the best we found in all of Raja Ampat.  Highly recommended.

Because Triton Bay is so newly "discovered" (first comprehensively dived by a team from the Papuan University and Conservation International in 2001) there are many sites not listed in the book that offer great potential.  We had a chance to dive more than 16 sites with Triton Bay Divers, and that's only about half of the ones they take customers to.  We even had the fun of joining them on a couple exploratory dives, which meant we had pot luck in terms of what we'd see, but we got some inexpensive underwater time!

But diving wasn't our only pastime.  We also spent many many hours in the clear clean water enjoying the reef fish accessible by snorkeling.  The Arborek Pier and the Biodiversity Eco Resort house reef in Raja Ampat, the House Reef at Misool Eco Resort in southern Raja Ampat and the House Reef at Triton Bay Divers in Triton Bay were especially bountiful in fish.  For incredible coral colors and amazing fish life, the snorkeling around the rocky islands of Kalig and Balbulol in southern Raja could not be surpassed. A favorite blue water mangrove site, with fish‑filled passes as well, was Yangello (aka Yangeffo) in Raja Ampat.

One of the best experiences, not to missed, is to swim with the whale sharks in Triton Bay.  These gentle behemoths visit the big trimaran fishing platforms called "bagans" early each morning to collect the small fish that are dropped.  Or, they hang around and feed for an hour or so on buckets of small fish that are fed to them by the fishermen when we crazy divers come to swim!


Snorkeling with an 18m whale shark. Triton Bay
Rachel snorkels with an 18m shark
Whale Sharks, Triton Bay
Type: Snorkel Position: 0342.93'S 13353.0'S
Depths: snorkel depth Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: Feb & Apr 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling: Yes
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel Features: Swim with whale sharks

Getting in the water with the world's largest sharks is a thrill not to be missed!  And in Triton Bay it's not yet such a big commercial draw that it costs a fortune.  In fact, an attempt (no guarantees, as these are wild animals!) with Triton Bay Divers it's included in the dive packages.  If you go with your own boat, you can still make it happen!  Here's how:

Anchor in protected Raf anchorage (0344.81'S, 13355.04'E) or on the NE corner of Namatote Island (see lat/lon above).  At first light, or just before, gear up for snorkeling and head out to the bagans in the bay. You can't miss them: they are 20m long trimarans with 2 stubby masts and endless ropes attached to the outriggers.  Huge nets are suspended beneath them.  They anchor in place for days at a time.

As you approach, call out a greeting "Selamat pagi!" (Good morning!) then enquire, "Ikan besar?"  You are asking if the "big fish" are there.  You will be answered with a shake of the head and maybe pointing to another bagan, or a happy nod and pointing into the water.  "Ada" means "They are!"  Don't give up if they aren't at the first bagan.  Once we had to visit 4 different bagans before we found the whale sharks!

The sharks come up from the depths of the channel and sweep round past the sterns of the bagans to collect fish.  If a whale is present, tie off the dinghy and jump in.  The whale sharks will basically ignore you, to the point that you might have to fend them off as they pass below or beside you.  Their focus is clear:  fish!

To keep this activity from becoming insanely expensive (like it already is in Cenderwasih Bay), offer the fishermen (after you swim with the whales) some packs of cigarettes, maybe some noodles, rice, coffee, sugar, and/or clothing.  One cruising family had old foul weather gear to donate.  Consider that these men are on these rafts for weeks at a time, and have less need of money than food and comfort clothing.  If you want to pay cash, here's the deal: 1 bucket of small fish brings in IDR 50,000, or about $4.50.  And they'll go through 1-2 buckets in an hour of swimming with the sharks.  They won't turn down the cash, but best to include it in a bag full of other goodies


Freckled goatfish uses orange barbels to dig
Freckled goatfish uses orange barbels to dig
Gam Southeast, Raja Ampat
Type: Protected shore dive Position: 0026.4'S, 13041.6'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy. Beach.
Date: 01 October 2014 Dive shop: Raja Ampat Dive Resort
Visibility: 60' Snorkeling: Yes, from small beach
Divers: Chris, Sue Features: Abundant fish life on small bommies

Chris and Sue did this as a refresher dive with Raja Ampat Dive Resort.  Because it had been so many years since they'd been diving they spent a few minutes before the dive with an instructor in shallow water checking skills and buoyancy.  The area was chosen for its accessibility from the beach and the lack of current.  The viz was good, and it was great to be diving again!  There were many plate corals sheltering reef fish and a sandy slope with gobies, goatfish and sand‑perch.  Here we saw our first sea pen, a sort of feather waving vertically from the sand, brightly colored violet and pink.  Like many marine critters, it looks like a plant but is an animal.  We went from small bommie to small bommie enjoying the bright damselfish, butterfly‑fish and wrasses.

Despite not having dived for years, both Sue and Chris took to it rapidly.  Sort of like riding a bicycle -- you don't forget!


Pick-handle Barracuda swirl above diver, Raja Ampat
Pick-handle barracuda swirl above us, Raja Ampat
Batu Lima, Raja Ampat
Type: Rocks & walls Position: 00 26.97'S, 130 41.9'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy.
Date: 01 October 2014 Dive Shop: Biodiversity Eco Resort
Visibility: 60 to 100' Snorkeling: Yes, around the rocks
Divers: Chris, Sue Features: Brilliant soft corals. Big fish

This dive site is located on the southeast coast of Gam Island along the pass into Kabui Bay.  Batu Lima (5 Rocks) is a favorite dive sight listed in the book Diving the Birds Head Seascape.  On one dive, due to the strong currents, we drifted on the eastern side, at about 60‑70', then retuned on the western channel where there was less current, working our way upwards.  A school of pick‑handle barracuda circled above us  and coral groupers fled to the safety of coral overhangs.  There was a nice array of sea fans and some black coral whips and bushes.  Beautiful triggerfish skirted by, and banded shrimp‑gobies stood guard in their sand burrows.  This area sometimes hosts feeding mantas, but they were not there on our visit.  On another dive here with Biodiversity Eco Resort we dove the slopes and ledges around the rocks, did the swim throughs (pretty shallow, and do-abe as a snorkel), then completed our dive heading west along the biodiversity Eco Resort Home reef which abounds in coral species, rabbitfish, triggerfish, damsels and batfish. On the 2016 dive we enjoyed watching a young hawksbill turtle forage in the coral then swim off into the blue.

Chris and Sue each took an underwater camera and had fun comparing results once back aboard Ocelot.


A Tasselled Wobbegone shark rests under a ledge, Raja Ampat
Tasselled Wobbegong shark. Head to left.
Frewin Kecil, Raja Ampat
Type: Wall and slope Position: 0028.5'S, 13041.96'E
Depths: 15‑65' (5‑19m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy.
Date: 01 October 2014 Dive Shop: Biodiversity Eco Resort
Visibility: 60 to 100' Snorkeling: Yes, along the walls
Divers: Chris, Sue Features: Soft corals & small critters

Another classic dive sight near the south coast of Gam Island, in Raja Ampat.  This area features a wall of bright corals and tunicates, especially the purple and gold polycarpa aurata or "Heart Ascidian" for which Indonesia is famous.  Offshore were many rock ledges, and under one we were lucky to find a snoozing Tasseled Wobbegong with its frilly chin tassels and long curving tail.  We certainly realized the limitations of our small underwater camera, as we could not illuminate the entire 4.5' (1.3m) of the shark, to include its wonderfully curly tail and tasselled chin fringe.

Our dive guide also pointed out a bright yellow Painted Frogfish, which looks like a science fiction character made of clay.  It was balancing carefully on the edge of the rocks, making its way slowly along, using its wide pectoral fins as feet.


Divers enjoy brilliant colors of a pink anemone
Divers enjoy brilliant colors of a pink anemone
Mioskon, Raja Ampat
Type: seamount, slope Position: 0029.75'S, 13043.49'E
Depths: 30‑66' (6‑20m) Access: Dive boat
Date: November 2016 Dive Shop: Biodiversity Eco Resort
Visibility: 60 to 100' Snorkeling: No
Divers: Jon, Sue Features: Soft corals & big fish

Mioskon is a classic central Raja Ampat dive site off a small forest-covered island in the Dampier Strait, just south of Biodiversity Eco Resort and the Frewin Islands.  Depending on the current (and it can be fierce) your guide will choose the best splash location.  We dropped into 30ft on the eastern side of the island, and with reef right, followed down to 66ft, slowly working our way up as we swam south and west.  At times we had some current, but it was very gentle, despite it being spring tides. Colorful bommies decorated the slopes, and schools of snapper surrounded us.  We found a tasselled wobbegong beneath a ledge, and a transparent anemone shrimp lurking in the tentacles of a fungus coral.  Nudibranchs hid on the coral bommies, and several peacock mantis shrimp scurried about.  For a surface interval we enjoyed the white sand beach on the island's northwest corner.


Amanda & Jon dive bright water, Wayag, Raja Ampat
Amanda & Jon dive bright water, Wayag, Raja Ampat
Wayag Trail, Raja Ampat
Type: Protected coral slope Position: 0010.03'N, 13001.12'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dinghy
Date: 15 October 2104 Dive Shop: None, but some live aboard dive boats
Visibility: 60' Snorkeling: Yes, around rock islands
Divers: Amanda, Jon Features: Coral fields & lots of reef fish

This was a refresher dive for Jon and Amanda, who dove with Jackie, a dive instructor/cruising friend from the boat Sloepmouche.  The goal was to find a place with minimal current and minimal swell.  Outside the protection of the rock islands of Wayag there are both strong currents and on this day, a lot of wind.  So they dove inside the protection of the islands, around a set of rock islets in the northern bay of Wayag.

Splashing in only 10' of water, over a mix of sand and stag‑horn corals, they quickly moved to deeper water and circled the rock islands.  The visibility improved greatly as they moved to deep water.  Sue, on the surface, snorkeling, was unable to see them at more than 20', but below the warm surface water the viz was over 60'.

This area abounds in schools of fusiliers, countless butterfly‑fish, trigger‑fish and other small reef fish.  This is a fun, mellow dive, good for when the wind and currents are too much, or for novice divers wanting a mellow place to see some active small marine life.


A palette of color on Whale Rock, Raja Ampat
A palette of color on Whale Rock, Raja Ampat
Whale Rock, Misool, Raja Ampat
Type: Rock island Position: 0213.16'S, 13033.56'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dinghy or dive boat
Date: 20 November 2014 Dive shop: Misool Eco Resort
Visibility: 50' and more Snorkeling: Yes, around the rock walls
Divers: Jon, Sue Features: Coral garden on sloping reef

Whale Rock derives its name from its distinctive whale shape when viewed from the south, a whale heading west!  We dinghied from Misool Eco Resort where we'd moored Ocelot, and joined cruisers from Nalukai who snorkeled above us as we dove.  The currents can be fierce here, and we didn't  want to leave the dinghy tied to the rocks.  We started by towing our dinghy, but soon Jeremy took the painter from us so that we were freer to move about.  It's not real comfortable holding a dinghy painter while scuba diving but we had learned from other cruisers that it can be done.  The trick is to not have wind and tide in opposition, as the dinghy has a fair amount of windage.  We had a calm day, but with a fair bit of current.

The viz was great and we enjoyed floating above a garden of hard and soft corals.  A hawksbill turtle nosed about in the coral for a meal.  Parrotfish did their noisy coral munching and colorful wrasses zoomed about using their pectoral fins as mini propellers.  The sea floor was carpeted in corals and anemones, while the rock walls of Whale Rock itself were adorned in bright tunicates, sea fans, and encrusting corals and sponges.

Given the warmth of the southern Raja Ampat water, we wore only 3mm shorty wet suites and closed‑foot snorkeling fins.


Heart ascidians, soft pink coral & leather coral, Raja Ampat
Heart ascidians, soft pink coral & leather coral
Kalig East, Misool, Raja Ampat
Type: Wall Position: 0213.04'S, 13032.8'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dinghy or dive boat
Date: 21 November 2014 Dive Shop: Misool Eco Resort
Visibility: 70' and more Snorkeling: Yes, top of the walls
Divers: Jon, Sue Features: Abundant soft corals, fish and turtles

It's hard to go wrong diving along the outer walls of the rock complex known as Kalig, in Misool.  There is a mooring ball inside a protected bay, with a big boat entrance to the east, and a shallow pass to the north.  We took the dinghy to the outer (northern) edge of the pass, and splashed, heading first east, then west along the wall.  At 70' (21m) we hit the sandy slope at the bottom of the wall, so we wove our way back and forth, ever shallower. 

The wall and its outcroppings were covered in bright tunicates and encrusting sponges and corals.  Sea fans and soft corals added color.  In the blue, to the north, we saw big Napolean wrasse, a couple sharks (maybe a white tip) and hawksbill turtles.  Unicorn‑fish and triggerfish passed by in schools.  A large thorny stingray slowly flapped its way into the blue, and red, green, blue and yellow starfish adorned the rocks.


Jon dives with a gazillion reef fish, Misool, Raja Ampat
Jon swims with a gazillion reef fish, Misool, Raja Ampat
Misool Eco Resort House Reef, Raja Ampat
Type: Gentle drift Position: 0214.89'S, 13032.74'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: From Misool Eco Resort
Date: 22 November 2014 Dive Shop: Misool Eco Resort
Visibility: 50' Snorkeling: Yes, but better on northern reef
Divers: Jon, Sue Features: Coral gardens, gentle slope

Apparently there is a manta cleaning station on the southwest corner of Batbitiem Island, on which the Misool Eco Resort is located.  With the current ripping along the west coast, we splashed on the south side of the island, hoping for a peek at the mantas.  No luck.  Our friends on Nalukai snorkeled along above us, towing our dinghy.  The corals here were not particularly bright, being mostly hard corals and leather corals, all of a similar color.  But there were the usual butterfly‑fish and damsels (a million of them!), scattered anemones with several species of anemone‑fish, and a school (more like a herd) of huge bump‑head parrotfish.  We did see some new (to us) reef fish, though, and basically racked up another hour underwater.

The best part of the House Reef for the Resort is the northern shore and the northeastern corner both of which can be snorkeled easily.


Leeza enters a plate coral canyon, Triton Bay
Leeza enters a plate coral canyon, Triton Bay
Batu Jatuh, Triton Bay
Type: Rocky shore Position: 0353.78'S, 13406.3'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat Triton Bay Divers
Date: 6 Mar & 13 Apr 2015 Dive Shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 40' Snorkeling: Yes, along the coast near boulders
Divers: Sue, Jon + Rachel in Apr Features: Schools of fish, plate coral canyon

We dove Batu Jatuh (Indonesian for Fallen Rocks) in March with another cruiser, Dana, from Villa G, and with Triton Bay Divers, using their dive boat and we dove again in April, 2015.  Both times, Triton Bay Divers owner, Leeza, was our guide.  Tucked into the southern end of Triton Bay (just north of Iris Strait), the viz was not great, but our goal was to stay out of the strong full moon currents.  We splashed next to a jumble of fallen boulders, descending to 40', then heading down slope to about 70'.  The boulders and the sand slopes were festooned in soft corals and bright tunicates, with waving sea fans and black coral bushes and whips.  We saw snappers, groupers and large sweet‑lips.  Leeza located some small shrimps inside anemones, and several nudibranchs as well.  After we rounded the fallen boulders we circled back to shallower water and swam through a massive canyon of plate corals all larger and higher than us!  Colors were a bit muted due to the high overcast.  Since we hadn't dived for 3 months, Sue carried the small, palm sized Canon D30 without an external light source instead of the more bulky Canon G12 in its housing.

We were comfortable in stinger suits and 3mm shorties.  We took a surface break at the Conservation International beach on the eastern shore of Iris Strait.


Nudibranch Chromodoris reticulata on rock wall in Triton Bay
Nudibranch Chromodoris reticulata on rock wall
Sareneus West, Triton Bay
Type: Gentle drift, sloping reef Position: 354.85'S, 13406.03'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 6 Mar & 13 Apr 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 60' Snorkeling: Yes, all around the island
Divers: Sue, Jon + Rachel in Apr Features: Awesome soft corals, nudibranchs

Second dive of the morning, and the light was better.  This sight is more exposed to the currents of Iris Strait, and it seemed like the viz was better here than at Batu Jatuh, or maybe it was just the brighter light.  We splashed in 15' over coral that we had snorkeled a few days before.  Then we followed the slope down from the island, with the reef on our left.  The sea floor fell away in sort of steps, with overhung edges into which we could peer to see soldier‑fish and many crevice lurkers.  We poked around the slope and boulders, swimming against a light current.  The first time we dove here, in March, we had hoped to do an easy drift dive down the west side of the island, but the negative current abated, and then we were in slack.  We found several new nudibranchs and schools of pink and lavender anthiases with their pointy snouts and streaming first dorsals.  We were visited by a lone bump‑head parrotfish, a big, old guy, and a lone pinnate spadefish, the first we'd ever seen.  There were many pairs of mature blue-ringed angelfish and six-banded angelfish, so unafraid of us divers!  Sue was feeling more confident so she took the Canon G12 in its housing, with an external video light.  This was a great boon to light up the bright soft corals and tunicates for which Triton Bay is so famous.

Our April dive with Rachel was a whole different experience!  Again, we splashed at the northern end and zigzagged around the boulder formations and the fields of bushy black coral, where a scorpion fish hid on the rock ledge and huge plate corals invited size comparison.  Some were over 2m wide!  At the NW corner the colors began emerging from the soft corals, and instead of the white and blue of the quiet reef, we were suddenly amidst the dazzling yellow, white, pink, red and dark green of the living reef, open to the nutrients in the swift current.  And then we stopped taking pictures and turned on the video, as the world swirled by.  Nothing to do but to go with it.  We hugged the ledge and kept the reef on our left so as not to get out where there could be a downdraft current.  A few minutes later Leeza tucked into the shelter of a protected cove between big boulders and we rested, caught our breath and poked around for the smaller things that inhabit these unmoving areas.  Rachel and Sue had their new pointer sticks and loved the ability to balance on the tip of a metal pointer while getting a close up photo.  No more having to madly kick to hold position, or having to put a fin or knuckle onto the reef for support.

The Canon G12 had suffered a mechanical failure just before Rachel arrived, so she had brought us a small point and shoot Nikon, the AW130, which is able to go to 30 meters and has a built in depth gauge with a warning when you're too deep for the camera.  Sue used that, while Rachel enjoyed the small Canon D30.

As a drift dive this is incomparable for color and density of reef life!  Amazing!  Just don't wander too far off the reef shelf, or you'll be snagged by unbelievable current and the possibility of a downdraft.  In fact, while we rested in our cove we watched fusiliers and parrotfish swim in place, in vertical position, heads up.  Guess what they were swimming against?  We hugged the reef more tightly, and then, at a sign from Leeza, let go and flowed southward to a fully protected big cove where there was no current and we could hang out and await the pickup boat.


So many soft corals and fish, Stumpy Rock, Triton Bay
So many soft corals and fish, Stumpy Rock, Triton Bay
Stumpy Rock, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Reef slope Position: 0355.2'S, 13359.6'E
Depths: 20‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 7 Mar & 14 Apr 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 80', less in April Snorkeling: No, too exposed and isolated
Divers: Sue, Jon + Rachel in Apr Features: Big fish, lots of fish, amazing soft corals

This and Pinnacle can be combined into one dive, but when we arrived at Stumpy in the morning the viz was so good, and the fish life so abundant we spent an hour perusing the slopes.  There were so many schools of banner‑fish, spadefish, trigger‑fish, unicorn‑fish and fusiliers that we almost forgot to look closely at the coral walls for nudibranchs and other macro photography subjects.  Huge groupers sped between coral valleys, or lazed about, half visible, under rock ledges.  Massive schools of surgeonfish glided by, and we were suspended in an aquarium of fish.

The water temperature was a pretty steady 28C, so very comfortable in a Lycra stinger suit under a 3mm shortie wetsuit.  This would not be a good snorkeling site, as most of it was quite deep, and there is really no shelter from the prevailing winds.  The sea was very rough, so it was a case of splashing quickly, diving, and then hopping quickly back into the dive boat.  The dive boat driver for Triton Bay Divers was excellent at getting us in position, then retrieving us quickly once we surfaced.

Our memories of such incredible visibility in March had us anxious to return to Stumpy and Pinnacle in April with Rachel.  The winds were less in April so that the ocean entries were less hectic, but the viz almost as good.  This time we dove both Stumpy and the Pinnacle in one circuitous dive, crossing the deep sand bridge between Stumpy and the Pinnacle, circling Pinnacle, then returning to the sheltered walls of Stumpy.  It wasn't quite as fishy as it had been in march, but we still had schools of unicorn fish and graceful longfin bannerfish.  We saw an adult barramundi, which was fun, and Rachel got shots of a pygmy seahorse on a sea fan, thanks to Leeza's torch and pointer stick helping us locate it.  Hats off for Leeza's great eyes in spotting a 3/4" (2cm) pink and white spotted creature entwined around pink and white sea fan arms.

This rates as one of the TOP DIVES for the Ocelot crew!


Jon behind a huge sea fan, Pinnacle Dive, Triton Bay
Jon tries to measure a huge sea fan
Pinnacle, Triton Bay
Type: Undersea pinnacle Position: 0355.2'S, 13359.6'E
Depths: 20‑90' (6‑28m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 7 March, 14 Apr 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 70' Snorkeling: No, too deep
Divers: Sue, Jon + Rachel in Apr Features: Walls, soft corals, amazing fish

This dive begins at the same splash point as Stumpy Rock (which is the only visible marker for the dive site).  The pinnacle bears about 150 magnetic from the rock, and is linked to the slopes of Stumpy with a shoulder at about 60‑70 feet depth.  The dive then continues around the pinnacle itself, ending on a shallower shoulder that links back to the slopes under Stumpy for a safety stop.

Like Stumpy Rock, the undersea landscape is one of brilliant gardens of soft corals and an amazing number of schooling fish.  When the current is running the corals open their polyps to feed and the landscape blooms into even brighter color.  The visibility was so good, and the fish so prolific that it was hard to know where to look.  But we did focus in close, occasionally, to find juvenile  bright yellow sea cucumbers that look like punk spiky nudibranchs, small commensal shrimps in anemones, and some bright nudibranchs camouflaged on the brightly colored boulders.

This rates as one of the TOP DIVES for the Ocelot crew!


Fusiliers & Surgeonfish fill the water column at Dramai Rock
Fusiliers & Surgeonfish fill the water column at Dramai Rock
Dramai Rock, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slope Position: 0402.5'S, 13414.2'E
Depths: 15‑70' (6‑21m) Access: Dive boat
Date: 9 March 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 60' Snorkeling: Probably too deep and rough
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Lots of fish, coral covered boulders

Situated at the southern end of Iris Strait, Dramai Island is a big landmark, but the dive site is a smaller rock, just offshore, within the strait.  We splashed on the eastern side of the rock to avoid the strong full moon current.  There are small rocks visible to the north and south of the splash zone, and these demarcate the best diving area.  At high tide there is a swim through from east to west, but we were unable to navigate it, as the water was low, and the waves were crashing.

This site has a wonderful array of boulders and interesting landscape to play around.  It's not a very big site, so we took it easy, staying out of the current, and winding our way back and forth around the boulders from about 70' (21m) deep up to our safety stop an hour later.  Jon located a nice big moray under a rock ledge and we came upon a young hawksbill turtle foraging at the base of a boulder.  The usual schools of surgeonfish and fusiliers accompanied us, and large sweet‑lips and snappers watched warily from behind coral bushes.  The rocks were adorned in an array of pastel soft corals, with schools of pink and violet anthiases.

This would not be a good snorkeling site, as most of it was quite deep, and there is really no shelter from the prevailing winds.  The sea was very rough, so it was a case of quick out, and then quick back into the dive boat.


A large Ribbon Sweetlips cruises by soft corals, Christmas Rock
Ribbon Sweetlips cruises by soft coral, Christmas Rock
Christmas Rock, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slope Position: 0400.8'S, 13412.2'E
Depths: 15‑60' (6‑18m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 9 March 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 50' Snorkeling: Yes, all around the island. Beware current
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: A bit of everything: fish, soft corals, contours

Christmas Rock lies on the southern end of Iris Strait, on the western side of the channel, before the open ocean.  Currents can be strong here, so prepare for a drift dive on at least one side of the rock.  Reasonable shelter can be found at the northern and southern sides.  We splashed on the north, and proceeded with reef on our left, to the south.  Just near the splash site at about 40' we hovered over a field of Spaghetti Garden Eels.  Hundreds of eels, some poking out of the sand more than 20" (0.5m), others barely visible.  Under a boulder ledge we saw a family of 6 lionfish, 5 adults and a dark black juvenile.  Around them swam a school of semi transparent cardinal‑fish.  The landscape alternated from soft coral covered boulders to rubble slopes, but always with plenty to see.  We approached quite close to a huge Thorny Stingray which had lost its tail, and now sported only a short stub.

Tall purple sea fans sported an array of colorful crinoids (feather stars) that clung to the fan branches to catch passing nutrients.  Sometimes we saw the crinoids walking on their stalk like "legs" along the fans.  Nearby, the billowing orange, yellow and pink soft corals made colorful backgrounds for the schools of small damsel and cardinal‑fish.

This is a good snorkeling site, as the boulders and corals are quite shallow close to the rock.  But snorkelers must beware of the fierce currents, perhaps towing a dinghy rather than tying up.


A Scorpionfish blends perfectly against the reef, Triton Bay
An adult Tasseled Scorpion-fish blends perfectly against the reef
Aquarium, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slope Position: 0354.9'S, 13406.2'E
Depths: 10'‑55' (3‑17m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 10 March 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 45' Snorkeling: Good all around Sareneus Is. Beware currents
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Lots soft coral on boulders & wall

Aquarium is a protected, relatively current-free bay on the south eastern side of Sareneus Island.  This island is locally known as Pulau Arus, which means "Current Island" due to its reputation for having swirling, changeable currents.  We splashed in about 20' and descended to about 70' then made our way up the slopes, zigzagging from boulder to boulder and over some rubble slopes.  At the southern end of the bay, with the reef on our right, we attempted to round the guardian rock, but the current was too strong against us, so it was not worth wasting air just to see another bay of pretty coral and fish, when it was quite beautiful where we were.  So we saved Little Komodo itself for another day, another dive.

This site has a wonderful array of boulders and walls to explore.  We found several large lobsters lurking under ledges.  We located 2 scorpion‑fish, who let us photograph them quite close, but the schools of fusiliers sometimes got in the way! Scorpion‑fish are so well camouflaged that it is one more reminder of why NOT to touch the reef!  Leeza, the dive guide, located 2 new (to us) nudibranchs, including the white circular egg casing of some nudibranch.  Too bad the parent wasn't hanging out nearby.

The boulders are covered in bright pink, yellow and white soft corals, and blue tubular and green spherical tunicates adorn the rocks.  There's just so much to see, so many details to take it, one could dive here over and over and barely begin to know it all.  We weren't there on a particularly fishy day, but we were able to approach quite close to several big Many Spotted Sweet‑lips.


Nudibranch Chromodoris Geometrica moves slowly down a wall
Nudibranch Chromodoris geometrica heading downhill
David's Rock, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slopes Position: 0354.4'S, 13406.6'E
Depths: 15-60' (6-18m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 10 March 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling: Possibly along the coastal wall.
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Interesting contours, colorful coral, swim through

This dive is in a fairly protected coastal area, and the tide was falling, so viz was not great.  We concentrated on seeking out the nudibranchs, shrimps and lurking creatures.  Previously named Kathy's Rock, it was redubbed David's Rock after world renowned underwater photographer David Doubilet lost his camera here.  We had no luck finding it!

We splashed near the coast, and dropped to 60' (18m) where the big boulders met a rubble slope dotted with leather corals, huge barrel sponges, and small bommies of hard corals.  Swimming amongst the waving branches of the soft corals and the stiff arms of hard corals were hundreds of bright pink, violet and orange anthiases, together with colorful damsels, chromis and dascyllus.  A real-time aquarium!  Our dive guide, Leeza, found several nudibranchs feeding on tunicates and sponges.  The bright Chromodoris geometrica raises and lowers its white forebody as it moves, looking more like a tail waving, than a head going up and down.  Unfortunately, it was hard to capture this motion!  Leeza also pointed out small fish that live on the whip corals and sea fans, but many of these were too small for us to see clearly!  We probably need a magnifying glass!

We had the usual surgeonfish and triggerfish around us, but also several lionfish, including a smaller species than the Common, called the Spotfin Lionfish.  The current picked up a bit as we moved towards the point of land, so we circled up and around as much as possible, ending up near a big swim-through at the head of the peninsula.  Leeza pointed to it, just for information, but Jon went on through.  When he got to the far side and saw no one behind him, he swam back through, and finally surfaced to see us at the boat.

In conditions with higher visibility (rising tide, maybe) this could be a good snorkeling site, as the boulders and corals are quite shallow close to the rocky shore.  But snorkelers would do best to tow a dinghy.


Rachel shoots soft coral bommie pictures, Little Komodo, Triton Bay
Rachel & soft coral bommie, Little Komodo
Little Komodo, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slopes Position: 0354.99'S 13406.18'E
Depths: 10-60' (3-18m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 11, 14 April & 1 May 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 70' in Apr, 40' May Snorkeling: Yes, but be wary of the current offshore
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel, Peter Features: Interesting contours, colorful soft coral

Little Komodo is a small dive site packed with beautiful coral and loads of fish and critters.  Named for the bountiful dive sites in the Komodo National Park in southern Indonesia, this site does not disappoint.  Due to its protected location at the southern end of Sareneus Island, it is a preferred dive site when the currents are running too strongly on the eastern and western sides of the island.  Visibility ranges from a low 9m to a more typical 15m.  On our first dive we had many fish and great viz, but a few days later, in mid-April the viz was down and we concentrated on the critters, hunting for the tiny, secretive Potohoni seahorse, which we found, but had trouble photographing with our small camera.  The May 1 dive had considerably worse viz as the winds had started to turn to the SE bringing disturbed water and nutrient clouds.

On April 11 we began diving with our wonderful "other daughter" Rachel, from Australia.  Unfortunately her own BCD had a broken tank strap which we could not jury rig in time, so while we dove, she snorkeled above us.  We splashed near the island and quickly dropped to about 60' (18m) where the big boulders met a rubble slope dotted with black coral bushes, huge barrel sponges, and bright sea‑fans (home to the pygmy seahorses!)  Peter, from the boat Per Ardua, was diving with us, and today was his birthday, so Leeza arranged to present him with a can of beer and a Happy Birthday sign on her white board during the dive.  Fun!

Rachel got to dive the site a few days later and we were rewarded with a young hawksbill turtle and more nudibranchs.  We were often in company with schools of sweetlips and emperors.

This is a great snorkeling site, as the boulders covered in brilliant soft corals rise to within a meter or so of the surface, right up against the island's walls inside the protected cove.


Floral wrasse hides in the folds of leather coral. Triton Bay
Floral wrasse hides in the folds of leather coral
Bo's Rainbow, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Rubble slopes Position: 0354.784'S 13407.33'E
Depths: 15-50' (6-15m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 11 April 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling: Possibly along the coastal wall.
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel, Peter Features: Colorful coral, nice swim through

This dive is located on the eastern side of Iris Strait and is well named, for we found a true rainbow of colors of soft corals and bright fish.  We were accompanied by a small school of very friendly long‑fin spadefish (aka batfish) as we poked around the coral formations on a sandy slope.  We saw a floral wrasse hiding (not too effectively) inside soft leather coral, but quite unafraid.

This site also yielded several nudibranchs, and a huge porcupine‑fish.  At the end of the dive is a nice swim through, one of those not very challenging, but still fun underwater adventures.  Rachel and Sue had been trying to learn to identify many species of crinoid (feather stars) and were excited to see some of the less common species here.

Bo's Rainbow is on one of the small rocky islets in the Iris Strait, and as such is subject to strong currents.  Snorkelers would be advised to tow a dinghy or to have a dive boat nearby.


Signal Goby with twin spots and dark fins. Triton Bay
Signal Goby with twin spots and dark fins
Third Rock, Triton Bay
Type: Macro lens, sand Position: 0354.24'S, 13406.75'E
Depths: 15-45' (6-14m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 12 April 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling: No
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel Features: Wall of coast and Sand slope

This dive site is tucked right up against the mainland, on the eastern side of Iris Strait, not far from the Conservation International post.  We chose it for its low current on this morning of super heavy currents.  Rachel had not been diving in a long time, so we wanted to ease into it for her.

We splashed right on the coast, and dropped to about 45' (14m) where we began poking around all the small formations on the sand.  Looking in the anemones we found graceful anemone shrimp and bubble shrimp in the bubble corals.  We were even lucky enough to get photos of them.  Leeza helped us find several nudibranchs such as a sky blue phyllidia (nicknamed a "warty" for the bumps on its dorsum) and a chromodoris species of nudibranch with bright blue and red orange colors.

The highlight of this dive was finding several pairs of signal, or walking gobies, on the sandy slope.  What beautiful little fish!

This dive was mellow, without current and a real eye opener to what can be found if you're patient enough to look.  It was also on this dive that Rachel and Sue decided that Leeza's pointer stick was a great idea, as she was able to use it as a crutch as well as a pointer.  We promptly bought 2 of them from Triton Bay Divers on our return.

Due to poor visibility (which may not change much over the course of the day) this would probably not be a good snorkeling site, as everything of interest lay on the sandy bottom, and would not be visible from the surface.


Pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, camouflaged in sea fan. Triton Bay
Pygmy seahorse in sea fan.  Camo!
Andy's Point, Triton Bay
Type: Wall & drift Position: 0354.55S, 13406.69'E
Depths: 10-60' (3-18m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 12 April 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling: Maybe in protected cove
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel Features: Coral covered sandy slope.

This dive was a challenge because the currents were ferocious along the coast of this tiny island, just west of the Conservation International post.  We began the dive in the NE corner of the island, nosing around the clumps of bushy black coral.  In some sea fans Leeza found a pygmy seahorse, hanging upside down just to make seeing it tougher for us!  We would have seen it, really!  Or not!  We flipped the photo just to make it easier for you!

We had several lionfish, doing their lovely lazy lionfish dance out of the current, amongst bushy black coral that is actually white.  When we rounded the corner to the east we were caught by the current and could do nothing but drift along with it, enjoying the ride.

In calm conditions with high visibility this could be an OK snorkeling site, as the boulders and corals are quite shallow close to the rocky shore.  But snorkelers would do best to tow a dinghy or have a dive boat nearby in case the currents pick up.


Hermaphroditic mating Nembrotha Sp nudibranchs. Photo by Rachel Mather
Hermaphroditic mating Nembrotha Sp nudibranchs
Pink Beach, Triton Bay
Type: Sand slope. Sunset Position: 0354.4'S, 13406.6'E
Depths: 10-45' (3-14m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 13 April 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 20' Snorkeling: Possibly along the coastal wall.
Divers: Sue, Jon, Rachel Features: Flasher wrasse, maybe.

This dive is just a mile north of Triton Bay Divers and makes for a great sunset dive.  We splashed at about 16:30 into 5 meters onto a sandy slope.  Weaving back and forth we descended to about 15m max, then worked our way back up.

As usual, Leeza was our guide, using her bright underwater torch to illuminate sea fans, anemones and bubble coral looking for lovely critters.  We found some great little shrimp and a few lined nembrotha nudibranchs, including a couple busy naughty nudis doing their hemaphroditic thing to make more nudis! 

We got to use the hand signal of a closed fist fairly often as we encountered several species of lionfish including the lovely (but dangerous) spotfin lionfish and the amazingly camouflaged tassled scorpionfish playing "you can't see me" on the coral covered rocks.

This might be a good beach entry snorkeling site in bright daylight, but it's hard to gauge what you might see or how the viz would be as we only saw it at sunset.


Leeza explores rock formations at 20m off Aiduma
Leeza explores rock formations at 20m off Aiduma
Southwest Aiduma, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders Position: Approx. 0401.9'S, 13412'E
Depths: 15-73' (5-24m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 01 May 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 30' Snorkeling:  
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Interesting contours

This was one of 3 Explore Dives we did with Triton Bay Divers in one day.  The goal was to search for potential new dive sites.  We would dive for about 8‑10 minutes, then surface if it wasn't interesting, or stay down for a maximum of 15 minutes, then surface, no matter what we found.  Then we'd move on to another site.  This one, on the southwest coast of Aiduma had lots to offer. There was an offshore bommie onto which we splashed.  Sue and Leeza buddied and meandered in and out of boulder gardens down to 24 meters.  There were lots of schooling fish, and soft corals.  Jon and Jimmy Thai (the other owner of Triton Bay Divers) ended up closer to the coast and were swept along with the current to the south, and saw very little of interest.  It will be interesting to see if this site is explored more and becomes one of the resort's named locales.

Sea fans and multi‑colored crinoids (feather stars) adorned the boulders, and we swam past huge puffer fish and coral‑munching parrotfish.  At 24 meters the boulders gave way to a sandy slope.  Leeza continually searched the fans and anemones for small critters, lighting up patches of coral with her strong torch, and pushing back the deep blue of the ocean.

One of the other 2 Explore dives was in the protected waters in the southeastern corner of Iris Strait, north of Dramai Island.  Although the surface water was a beautiful blue, the viz was mediocre due to silt and no current flushing action.  Here we found a profusion of sand critters, such as walking gobies, a bright colorful mantis shrimp lurking hesitantly just inside the burrow and small commensal shrimp on sea whips.  Someone with a good macro lens and lots of patience would love it.


Weirdly beautiful ornate wobbegong shark
Weirdly beautiful ornate wobbegong shark
Batu Jeruk, Triton Bay
Type: Boulders & Drift Position: 0401.61'S, 13412.66'E
Depths: 15-90' (5-27m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 01 May 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 50' Snorkeling: Possibly along the rock wall.
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Orange colored soft coral on rocks

This dive is among our top favorites for Triton Bay.  We splashed on the SE corner of Aiduma Island, in the Iris Strait, under a huge rocky cliff.  Dropping down to 17m (57') we swam round rock formations covered in bright orange soft corals which give the site its name "orange rock".  There was a mild current but enough for the polyps of the tubastrae species of soft corals to be open, creating bright yellow "flowers" outside the spongy orange bases.  Leeza and Sue peered into the dense coral growth on the rocky walls, and were lucky enough to find several species of nudibranchs.  Jon and Jimmy swam down to 27m (90') to check out schools of snappers and some large groupers.  Under a rocky ledge Leeza spotted a lazing wobbegong shark, with tassels on its head, beautiful mosaic markings on its back and a long tightly curled tail.  Minutes later Jon spotted another wobbegong, this one larger and possibly an ornate wobbegong, lying in a deep crevice.  This one allowed us to swim over the top of it and get a great view.

In the sea fans on the rocky substrate Leeza located both a Pontohi and a pygmy seahorse, each less than 1" (about 2cm)!  Sue, in her excitement to photograph them, forget a basic maneuver on the new camera, which was to slide the focal length to full wide angle before employing the macro function.  Result: out of focus seahorses. Dang! But at least we DO get to say that we've seen them now.

With low current this might be a snorkeling site, but surely a dive boat or a towed dinghy would be in order.  This was an awesome Grand Finale for our 2015 diving adventures in Triton Bay.


Diver hovers over yellow crinoid to shoot a crinoid shrimp
Connie, from Germany, moves in for a macro shot
GPS Point, Triton Bay
Type: Bommie offshore Position: not sure. Southern Triton Bay
Depths: 24-65' (7-20m) Access: Dive boat or dinghy
Date: 04 May 2015 Dive shop: Triton Bay Divers
Visibility: About 36' Snorkeling: No
Divers: Sue, Jon Features: Isolated bommie, Triton Bay

This was a new dive for Jimmy from Triton Bay Divers, one that had been found by Andy, their Indonesian dive guide.  This is a bommie that rises to within 24' (7m) of the surface, but is never exposed.  After maneuvering around for a few minutes over dark blue/green water, Andy announced our arrival.  We splashed onto the top of a shelf of sand and coral, then swam down keeping reef right to the base at about 20m. Viz wasn't great, but we didn't expect it to be, given how deeply we were tucked into Triton Bay.  We had sailed to the northeastern corner of the bay, and knew that the water viz dropped to zero with all the wash from 2 rivers.

On the walls of the bommie were huge white sea fans and soft white corals.  Big groupers prowled the edges and seemed unafraid of us.  We found nudibranchs on the rock shelf and commensal shrimp on some of the sea fans.  This was more of a macro photography site than a wide angle site, due to low viz and the lack of abundant color.  Not to say the occasional gardens of crinoids and soft corals weren't great!  We found a big spiny lobster peeking from his hole and huge adult blue ringed angelfish.

This dive has to be timed for minimal current, as there is no where to drift to, if you are carried off.  There would be nothing to see in the depths of the Bay.


SOUTHERN INDONESIA

Island/Atoll Dive Name Depths 2006

Komodo
National
Park
Sabolan Besar 20-70' (6-21m) August 23
Castle Rock 20-70' (6-21m) August 30
Crystal Rock 0-100' (0-30m) August 31
Japanese Garden 0-50' (0-15m) September 1
Pulau Banta 0-70' (0-21m) September 2

 
Gili Air Air Home Reef 0-60' (0-18m) September 16

Most of our dives in southern Indonesia in 2006 were done in the clear and relatively un-fished waters of Komodo National Park.  The park covers a handful of small islands between the larger islands of Flores to the east and Sumbawa to the west.  Although the park includes one small fishing village, the over-fishing we'd noticed throughout this region of Indonesia seems to have been curtailed.  This, combined with a good flow of water through the various channels between the islands, makes for excellent visibility and a wonderful variety of marine life.

We dove in Indonesia together with other cruising friends who had compressors on board.  As is customary we either paid for the fills at the going rate of about $5/tank, or we traded fills for gasoline for their compressors.  After our Sabolan Besar dive we moved the boats to Labuan Bajo and were able to get professional fills (again about $5/tank) from Bajo Dive Center.

Our track through Komodo National Park
Our track through Komodo National Park.  Click on a dive-flag to go to our description of that dive.

This is our first diving since Fiji, and our primary underwater photographer (Chris) has left, so now Amanda is learning to do most of the underwater photography.  She's also the only one who can read the camera underwater any more...


Sabolan Besar

Type:

Wall dive

Access:

Small sandy anchorage off the east end of the island

Position:

8 24.0'S, 119 48.8'E (note: charts are 1/4nm off)

Depths:

20-70' (6-21m)

Date:

23 August 2006

Visibility:

About 80' (24m)

Dive shop:

8 miles SSE in Labuan Bajo, Flores Island

Snorkeling:

Yes, on the reef nearby to the north

Features:

Nice and easy wall dive

(Jon)  This was our first dive in over a year, so we decided to start with a pretty easy dive.  We circumnavigated the island in Ocelot, looking for a decent anchorage but the only place was off the eastern point in a nice patch of sand, so we anchored there with fellow cruisers Vagabond Heart and our dive partners Rob and Dee off Ventana.

A bright orange sponge in Indonesia
One of many bright sponges seen in Indonesia

We dove north of the anchorage, but the entire island is surrounded by great looking coral and one could probably do several different dives here.  We anchored the dinghies in a small sandy patch and splashed into 15' (4m) on the edge of a drop-off.  Continued down the wall to about 60' (18m) and headed north along the wall into a slight current.  Saw lots of fans, sponges, and colorful soft corals.  Most of the deeper hard corals seemed old and dead but the soft corals and fans were stunning.  Saw several small fish, mostly old friends.  After about 20 minutes we ran into a strong current (just as I saw some big fish feeding in the distance) so we turned around.  Came up to about 40' (12m) for the trip back which made for better light, brighter colors, and more concentrated growth.  A good refresher dive after not diving for so long.

(Sue)  This was my first chance to use the new gear I brought back to Ocelot over a year ago, so I was happy to have it be a relaxing, virtually no-current dive along the wall of the island. We swam north at about 65' (20m) until there was current, then returned, moving up the slope for different sea life and less depth. There weren't many healthy hard corals, but the soft corals and anemones were bright and lively.

Sue making friends with a sea fan
Sue making friends with a sea fan

(Amanda)  This was a nice mellow dive to start off our several-week diving frenzy.  We got a list from one of the local boats of all the good dive spots - this meant we frequently had a dive boat come into our otherwise peaceful anchorage, but we also got to see the absolute best of Komodo National Park underwater.  And while the best was actually closer to Komodo Island, this site was nice too.

We could probably have dived anywhere around Sabolan Besar, but chose the SE corner because there was a small sand patch we could anchor on.  We dove north of the sand patch (on the east coast) because it looked like it dropped off faster, but the reef looked just as nice (from the surface) on the south coast.  Unfortunately, while the region is a national park, that designation doesn't really apply to the water - or it's just not enforced.  There were several fishing boats around the island when we arrived, all on the west side.  But once we got in it was obvious they'd been all around the island.  There weren't any large fish, though we saw some nice small ones.  But the reef was intact - colorful corals and crinoids, lots of small blue-veined red sponges that look like hearts, and several large (3'+, 1m) barrel sponges.

We swam north along the wall, then turned around when we hit a slight current to drift back with it.  We made our safety stop on the reef/sand line and ascended.  Mom and I snorkeled back to Ocelot, but the sand was devoid of life except for a few little shrimp gobies.


Castle Rock

Type:

Sea-mount dive

Access:

Dinghy - 2 Boat moorings in NW Gili Lawa Laut bay

Position:

8 25.934'S, 119 33.784'E (take your GPS)

Depths:

20-70' (6-21m) - deeper if you want

Date:

30 August 2006

Visibility:

100' (30m)

Dive shop:

No but dive boats come most days

Snorkeling:

No - top of sea-mount is 20' (6m) deep

Features:

Vast schools of fish, good corals, but watch the current
A large Jack swims by at 60 m
A large Jack swims by at 20 m (66 ft)

(Jon)  This was actually my favorite dive for this area.  In the NW corner of Gili Lawa Laut island (Komodo National Park) is a small bay with 2 good moorings, used by both dive-boats and yachts.  We tended to leave Ocelot on a mooring even though a little swell can make it into the anchorage.  An alternate and usually quieter anchorage is about a mile to the SSW, off the pass between the islands, but it's difficult to anchor without damaging the coral.  (Some dive-boats complained to the 8 yachts anchored there that they were breaking the coral - which was shamefully true - so it was suggested that the dive companies or park put in some more moorings so boats wouldn't have to anchor.)

Make sure you take a portable GPS with you as the sea-mount is unmarked except for a slightly lighter color in the water.  We splashed into 20' (6m) and set the dinghy anchor firmly in the bare rocks (NOT live coral) as the currents can run strongly here (we actually had to abort a later dive here because of current).  Dropped down the side of the sea-mount to about 60' (18m) and started circling the mount, heading into the current initially.

We've seen lots of lionfish in Indonesia
We've seen lots of lionfish in Indo

We were immediately struck by the vast array of fish swarming around us.  Many different schools could be seen, keeping together but intermingling as well.  I don't think I'd ever seen a whole school of Moorish Idols before.  When I'd try to get a picture of a particular fish, another would often get in the way, they were that thick around us.  The walls of the mount were also covered in both hard and soft corals, giving us lots to look at and appreciate.

After our initial circumnavigation of the mount we came up to about 40' (12m) and did another slow circumnavigation, seeing more and different scenery.  Even our safety stops at 30' and 15' (10m and 5m) had new and varied scenery.  Truly a world-class dive.

(Sue) This was my favorite dive so far in Indonesia with seemingly endless soft corals, gorgonians and lots of fish! We splashed into 20' (6m) onto the top of the sea-mount, then descended, clockwise to about 75 feet (23 m). The water was comfortably warm in just 3 mm shortie wetsuits, and the visibility was over 100' (30m). Meandering slowly along the slope of the mount we did 2 circumnavigations in 45 minutes, spiraling upwards. On the eastward side the currents (which were still very weak) converged and attracted many pelagics, especially tunas and trevally. Schools of snapper circled above us. Lionfish hovered above the corals, and schools of damsels and angelfish brightened the scene. The sheer range of new (to us) species of fish was a bit overwhelming, but wonderful. Fat groupers (3' or 1m) slid between the plate coral tables, and eyed us with caution. Fishing is prohibited on the sea mount, but the lure of the big fish must be irresistible -- a dive operator out of Labuanbajo, Flores Island almost had to ram a local fisherman off the site a few days before we got there. Komodo National Park is struggling, and needs more international support to maintain its underwater beauty.

(Amanda)  A beautiful dive!  The water was warm, the coral was bright and colorful, and the fish were abundant and new!  On the east side there must have been some sort of convergence because we had to swim through the massive schools of fish that congregated there.  We started deep on the dive (getting to 75') and spiraled our way up, but really there's just as much to see in the middling depths (50' was great).  Coral gave way to rock at about 20', and the current was more noticeable there, too.

One thing that sticks with me about this place is the variety of life.  Soft corals, hard corals, plate corals, crinoids, sponges, anemones... the list goes on and on, and then there's fish as well!  Big titan triggerfish, jacks and trevally, slender fusilier in schools as far as you can see, angelfish, clownfish, rabbitfish, squirrelfish, butterflyfish, and lionfish.  Read the last six types and you'd almost think they were anything but fish, but they were and they were everywhere and they were wonderful.


Brilliant reds oftunicates and nudibranch egg case
Brilliant pink nudibranch egg case

Crystal Rock

Type:

Pinnacle dive

Access:

Dinghy - 2 Boat moorings in NW Gili Lawa Laut bay

Position:

8 26.4'S, 119 34.0'E - top of rock is exposed

Depths:

0-100' (0-30m) - deeper if you want

Date:

31 August 2006

Visibility:

100' (30m)

Dive shop:

Not really but dive boats come most days

Snorkeling:

In the big-boat anchorage - look for manta rays

Features:

Fantastic - fish, hard and soft corals

(Jon)  Crystal Rock is apparently the classic beautiful dive for this area.  From the anchorage mentioned above you can see a small rock that just breaks the surface to the north.  It's best to do a live-boat or live-dinghy dive here, as anchoring on the coral is prohibited. Just watch the currents -- they can be strong.

A Map Puffer sits sedately at a cleaning station
A Map Puffer sits sedately at a cleaning station
Note the blue-striped Cleaner Wrasse by his tail

We splashed into about 12' (4m) and headed down the wall of the pinnacle to about 60' (18m).  Started our initial circumnavigation by swimming into what current we could feel (not much).  We didn't see the vast schools of fish here as we did at Castle Rock but there were certainly lots of fish and very impressive corals, both hard and soft, all vibrantly competing for the available nutrients.  After our initial deep circumnavigation of the pinnacle we came up to about 40' (12m) and made another circuit, reveling in the greater light, more vibrant colors, and different scenery.  Another world-class dive.

(Sue) Another primo dive in Indonesia! Thank goodness for Komodo National Park and their preservation activities. The tide was low when we did this dive, and that may have contributed to the sediment in the water (not as clear as Castle Rock, the day before). Or it could have been the wave action on the exposed rock. No matter. The sea life was again fantastic. Amanda took the camera and did a good job juggling dive computer, gauges, floatation and camera. I stuck close by her, as the photographer often lags behind (to take pictures!) or follows a "subject" down a few meters, and has to be coaxed back up to the correct depth. The dive was a feast of fish, corals, sea fans, and sponges.

A lovely & common tunicate in Indonesia
A lovely & common tunicate in Indonesia

(Amanda) Camera dive! After most of our pictures from Castle Rock came out black, due to Dad not being able to see the settings, the camera was handed off to me and my "young eyes." Unfortunately, this entire period of diving coincided with one of our infrequent battery shortages, so we weren't able to use the slave strobe - and while the visibility and light quality really were excellent, everything would have been better with the big flash. (As it was, I used the small built-in flash on the A-80 which seemed to be enough light in this very clear water, especially if I was taking close-ups. It's the fish far away that were hard to capture without the strobe.) Plus I haven't spent as long as Chris did fiddling with the camera and finding out all its quirks and settings. But I think I did okay for my first attempt. I'm afraid Mom did sort of have to keep chasing after me, as I have a habit of seeing the coolest fish only when they're 10 feet below me and swimming away.

At times I had to tell myself to turn the camera off for a while and just enjoy the dive. Otherwise, I would have lagged behind and not seen the big picture. And the big picture was gorgeous. This dive site is an excellent one.


Japanese Garden

Type:

Wall dive

Access:

Dinghy or Dive boat

Position:

8 26.20'S, 119 27.16'E (note: electronic charts are 1/4nm off)

Depths:

0-50' (0-15m)

Date:

1 September 2006

Visibility:

80' (24m)

Dive shop:

No

Snorkeling:

Yes, lots of nice shallow coral

Features:

Relaxing easy dive, lots of big sea-fans

A colorful giant clam surrounded by soft corals
A colorful clam surrounded by soft corals

(Jon)  After our last couple dives, this was a nice, easy, relaxing dive.  We anchored Ocelot in the southeast corner of Telok Batu Montjo bay (on the northwest corner of Komodo Island) and took the dinghies to a convenient sand patch off the northernmost beach on the eastern shore.  Splashed into standing depth, where the sand sloped off gradually.  Decided to work our way out to the point of the bay as the current seemed to be running gently into the bay.  Dropped down the slope to about 40' (12m) where the sand leveled off and headed north, turning around when we'd breathed half our air and coming up a bit for some different views as we returned to the dinghy.

The coral was laid out more in isolated clumps than the vast fields we'd seen lately, but they were very pretty.  In fact, the whole place seemed to have been put together by some ancient Japanese gardener with infinite time on his hands.  Each clump of coral had several varieties of both hard and soft corals placed just-so for maximum artistic effect, and each had a cloud of small fish around it.  Several different types of sea-fans were present, some almost 10' (3m) across.  We also saw several 2' (.6m) clams, the first we've seen since Australia.  Very picturesque.

The Japanese Garden was full of sea fans
The Japanese Garden was full of sea fans

(Sue)  "Japanese Garden" is our own name for this dive, because it seems to fit the beautiful layout of perfect coral bommies teeming with colorful fish, all gently interspersed with white sand. It would be a wonderful learning dive site as there was so much to see even in about 25' (8m).

(Amanda) If I hadn't already been certified, this spot would have been a great place to do it. Beautiful soft white sand in 15 feet, with little bommies of beautiful coral all around it. Of course, there was no dive shop there so I doubt anyone has ever had that pleasure.

The Japanese Garden wasn't as abundant in life as some other dives we've done, but it was a nice change. The small blobs of coral were close to each other but obviously separate. Here was a field of soft corals. There's a big rock with an anemone and a moray eel. That one's got a huge sea-fan. Over there is a giant clam, colorful spotty mantle protruding beautifully. It was a wonderfully-laid-out site.


Pulau Banta

Type:

Gently sloping field

Access:

Dinghy or Dive boat

Position:

8 24.40'S, 119 19.24'E

Depths:

0-70' (0-21m)

Date:

2 September 2006

Visibility:

80' (24m)

Dive shop:

No

Snorkeling:

Yes, lots of nice shallow coral

Features:

Relaxing easy dive, lots of soft corals
Staghorn Damsel in Starburst Anemone
Staghorn Damsel in Starburst Anemone

(Jon)  This was another fairly easy dive.  The bay offered a nice big sandy patch to anchor Ocelot in 15-20' (5-6m) and then we took the dinghy just a bit north, although we could have started right off Ocelot if we'd wanted to.  Splashed into about 10' (3m), reset the dinghy anchor to avoid the coral, and headed up current and down slope to about 50' (15m) where it started to level off.

A feathery soft coral off Pulau Banta
A feathery soft coral off Pulau Banta

The most remarkable thing to me about this dive was the profusion of soft corals.  There were certainly some hard corals - we saw brains, elk-horn, plates, and several new varieties in bright red and another in dark green - but the colorful soft corals were what really caught the eye.  Vast fields of them growing one on top of another, for as far as we could see, augmented by sponges and sea-anemones with some new varieties of anemone-fish.

As normal for us, we turned around (and came up a bit) when we got to half a tank of air (1,500 psi or 100 bar) but we were surprised to find that we returned to the dinghy so quickly.  We'd actually been swimming into a fairly stiff current and hadn't realized it.  Something to remember...

(Amanda)  Mom, Dee, and I took the dinghy out before the dive to check currents, since the site we'd chosen was pretty exposed to Selat Sape, the large pass between Komodo and Sumbawa Islands. As it was, the current on the wall was too strong, so we dove on the northwest side of the bay we were anchored in.

Detail of Ice Crystal coral. Looks cool, huh?
Detail of Ice Crystal coral. Looks cool, huh?

The bay was rather shallow (as diving goes, not judging by anchorage) and sloped off gently to about 70' (21m) where it turned to sand. But we weren't really planning to go deep, and a lot of the best stuff to see was between 10 and 30 feet, where there was light. As Dad said, there was a lot of soft coral, plus sea fans and an interesting orangey-red brain coral. I took the camera, but we were down to Indonesian-made batteries which didn't give us many shots, especially with the flash.

(Sue) Since we had returned to the dinghy with so much air left, I took the camera and dove right from Ocelot in about 10-15' (3-5m) just around the sand and bommies near the bow of Ocelot where there was no current, and very good visibility. No, one is not supposed to ever dive alone, but given the high viz, the lack of current and dangerous fish, and the fact that I was within spitting distance of the boat and in very easy snorkeling depth, I felt very comfortable. This kind of time alone is very relaxing for me as I can sit on the sand and study the fish, or float just off the bottom, motionless, next to a bommie of busy fish. To me, this is one time the camera is a great friend. It's nice not to feel pulled along by the other divers who have an agenda, or route to follow.


Kyle, Mandy, Sue & Jon post-dive
Kyle, Mandy, Sue & Jon post-dive

Air Home Reef

Type:

Drift wall and gently sloping field

Access:

Dive boat or beach entry, beach exit

Position:

8 21.5'S, 116 5.4'E

Depths:

0-60 (0-16m)

Date:

16 September 2006

Visibility:

80' (24m)

Dive shop:

Yes. Dream Divers, Gili Air

Snorkeling:

Yes, drift snorkel

Features:

Drift dive, then Clean-up Dive

(Amanda) We found out about this dive completely by chance.  Dream Divers, the dive shop on Gili Air (off Lombok) had a poster out proclaiming "Splash for Trash - International Coastal Cleanup."  It sounded like a great idea - a free dive in a new spot to clean up the ocean!  We spread the news, but Mom, Dad, and I, plus Kyle from Estrela, were the only people to show up in the morning for the dive - Mom dove in the afternoon as well, along with Doug from Estrela.  The people at Dream Divers were very happy and got us all set up with gear and plastic garbage bags and showed us the sort of trash we were looking for.  The four of us, plus the divemaster and three other local divers and a couple snorkelers, piled into the "spider boat" (a trimaran-outrigger with two big outboards) and we started up the east coast of Gili Air.

We cleaned 4 big bags of trash off the sea floor
We cleaned 4 big bags of trash off the sea floor

We splashed into about 30 feet (10m) and immediately started drifting south.  The current was really ripping!  I had the camera, and a plastic bag in my pocket, but for the first 5 minutes or so it was all I could do to keep track of my depth, my buddy (Mom) and the wall as it went shooting by.  When I finally got used to it, it was rather fun flying along.  I saw 2 turtles and a stingray, and there were lots of fish and coral where a corner of the island protrudes into the current.  There wasn't much trash on the wall, which is a good thing because if we'd seen any, we'd have been hard pressed to get back up-current to it.

The current abated in a sandy patch off the dive shop, and that was where we found the majority of the trash - big sheets of plastic, ropes, monofilament fishing line, cans, bottles, plastic wrappers, and big pieces of cloth.  I shot pictures of the few fish swimming above the sand in between picking up cans and bits of plastic, and Manik (the divemaster) pointed out something we haven't seen before - what we believe to be a Warty Frogfish.  The dive was fun, and we pulled up 3-4 large bags of junk.

A Warty Frogfish off Gili Air, Indonesia
A Warty Frogfish off Gili Air.  Yes, this really is
a fish!  You just have to use some imagination.

(Sue) This was one of the most satisfying and in some ways challenging dives I've done. After hearing my NAUI drill sergeant (actually a university professor!) still in my head after all these years saying, "Don't touch anything.  Don't stir up the sediment or sand" it was very strange to be grabbing hold of things (even if they were plastic bags or ropes) and pulling at them. Staying organized with the other clean-up divers was interesting...you'd be swimming along, looking for trash, then realize your buddy was behind you -- pulling on some monofilament line tangled around coral heads. Back you'd swim, lending a hand, gathering in the line as it was pulled free, all the while stirring up gobs of sediment so that visibility went from a nice 80' (24 m) to about 3' (1 m).  I was really glad I was not using my own BC or regulator set with all that sand in the water! The camera housing needed a thorough cleaning after the dives, though!

It helped me (psychologically) to know that we were in only about 15-20' (5-7m) the whole time so decompression times weren't an issue.  Holding onto a big black plastic bag was interesting too -- the bags all had their corners cut out so that the water could flow through, but that meant that the smaller bits of trash washed out as well. I ended up hugging my bag to try and keep everything enclosed until we got to the surface. Okay, so now add trying to take photos while doing all of this, and you begin to get the picture!

Viz dropped radically as we pulled up trash!
Viz dropped radically as we pulled up trash!

(Jon)  Chris and I had actually done a clean-up dive years earlier in Tonga, but this was very different.  In Tonga, there was no current and it had just rained buckets, so the ocean surface had a layer of sediment (muddy stream runoff) that was thick enough to obscure some light, and which slowly sank as the fresh and salt water mixed.  Also, Tonga had an incredible amount of junk on the bottom of Neiafu Bay - I think the 30 or so divers pulled up about a ton of junk.

The diving was also very different from Tonga.  The Gili Air water was clear and bright, but the current was amazingly strong.  Unfortunately, they didn't really impress on us beforehand just how strong the current would be, so it took several minutes for me to get used to the reef whizzing by on my right as I concentrated (hard!) on my depth, orientation, the other divers, and all the ganglia that divers have hanging off them.

Thankfully, Gili Air didn't have that much to clean up.  I got the impression that they participated in International Coastal Cleanup Day because all PADI dive-shops did, but they didn't really need to.  We picked up a fair amount, but most of it was fishing refuse (monofilament, ropes, netting, bags, etc) that had drifted in on the current and settled where the current eddied back towards the beach.

Having a dive-master with us was fun.  As he was picking up an old bag he noticed a Warty Frogfish that I certainly would never have recognized as a fish, or even any sort of animal!

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