skull Nice, Easy Dive skull Komodo skull



Aug 3

Packed and ready to go (and filled with breakfast noodles) we caught our 8:05 van to the dive boat. I was so excited! Boat size aside, I was busting at the seams in anticipation of this dive week. When doing research for Komodo Island diving we read its best done from a boat (live aboard), but boats can be crazy expensive and fill up years in advance so we booked this way back in February. It was the first thing we booked for our year off so and pretty much everything revolved around its dates. It had better be good! (said with a laugh!)

With help from wiki: Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands creating a total surface area (marine and land) of more than 1,800 km2. As well as being home to the Komodo Dragon, also known as the Komodo Monitor, or Ora (to Indonesians), the park provides refuge for many other notable terrestrial species. Moreover, the Park includes one of the richest marine environments. It consists of over 260 species of reef building coral, 70 different species of sponges, crustaceans, cartilaginous (incl. manta ray and sharks) and over a 1,000 different species of bony fishes (over 1,000 species), as well as marine reptiles (incl. sea turtles), and marine mammals (dolphins, whales, and dugongs).

I think Ikan Baru is Indonesian for "Close Quarters"

We did one dive then grabbed our stuff and headed to the dive shop the Ikan Biru is based out of. We had a few hours wait so treated ourselves to frozen margaritas and (can you guess) Mexican. It just happens that the dive shop (and hotel and dorm) has a Mexicain restaurant on site. While waiting for our food I planned my meal for the night we returned. Mid way through our second Margarita we got introduced to a couple of the other divers and Will, the guy in charge. Will is a pretty hard core diver, teaches tech diving and enjoys pushing himself to the limits by doing World Record diving stunts. He has also been doing Komodo for 6 years and is considered the best dive guide for the area. Budget boat or not, the diving was bound to be amazing.

The couple we were introduced to, the ones who had booked the only private room on the boat, and ourselves were taken to a metal dingy and ferried to the boat. We dropped our stuff in the “dorm” room and headed up stairs to the top deck. A huge open space, lined with floor pillows and a low table in the middle, that slid back to look into the middle deck kitchen, awaited us. We crawled into the pillows and immediately felt relaxed. Not bad……we had a chat with Kate & Austin until the other four joined. Then we all sat around talking excitedly about the upcoming diving. Will eventually joined us and gave us a brief outline of the week to come. Starting with an advance apology for the rough seas we’d be having throughout the night. No worries, I thought, James has his patch on. The boat got under way and it was indeed rough. Wait, not just rough, it was crazy - things falling and crashing about rough. We had a windy dinner on the top deck and, at Will’s advice, decided to sleep on the top deck. Like I’ve said before, I don’t get sea sick but smells get to me. The tiny dorm room reeked of gas, diesel and the on-suite. We re-arranged the big pillows, grabbed our blanket and pillows and settled in for a long, roller coaster of a ride. We didn’t get much sleep. The boat rocked both back and forth and side to side and not at all gentle. Every now and then a big wave would hit and we’d get a cool splash on our faces. The engine chugged and coughed and sputtered to a near deafening level. The wind whipped the blanket around our bodies if any piece came lose and my hair whipped my cheeks. I had to pee but didn’t dare, it was down three floors, three slippery floors and I didn’t want to be Will’s first real “man overboard”. It was Will’s last tour and he was a bit nervous that things all go well. I thought holding it might be best for both of us.

Waiting to cross traffic

Aug 4

The early wakeup call was almost a relief. After a little caffeine we geared up and jumped into the bouncing dingy. The dive was pretty amazing. The corals are so healthy, vibrant and colorful. Even if there were no fish, and there were plenty, I’d have no issues with just looking at all the corals.

We had a second breakfast after our dive, a little nap on the top deck and then we were squeezing back into our wet suits for another dive. Another great dive! Then lunch….a nap and another amazing dive. By snack time I had forgotten about the rough night we’d had and the rough night we were about to have. I (and the rest of the group) were all smiles as we talked about all the amazing new things we’d seen. Today’s diving was fairly easy and we weren’t quite into the Komodo Island area yet but it got me even more excited for what was to come.

After dinner we all chatted for a few hours as the boat rocked and rolled towards Komodo Island until we all gave up and went to bed. James and I recreated our top deck nest and crawled in. A few others slept up top too, and some started up and ended up down. It was hard to say which was worse...or better. Other than the being tossed around like a rag doll James was doing okay which was a huge relief. And as long as I didn’t spend too much time below in the fumes I was also fine. A week…no problem! Just keep the diving coming.

Our cramped dingy

Aug 5

Last night nearly got me. I didn’t sleep much. When the alarm went off I was tempted to crawl deeper into the pillows but figured at 25 metes under the sea I might have peace and quiet (the motor is painfully loud) and won’t be tossed about so much. So after a very strong coffee I pulled on my gear, got in the dingy and back rolled in. I was rewarded with my favorite dive, maybe ever. It was a wall dive and the wall was alive! Every single itty bitty inch of it. Oh and the fish! They were everywhere. Big, small, creepy, cute, colorful…I am very glad I got out of bed.

We had second breakfast again, a nap and another dive. Lunch, a nap, a snack and another dive. James and I snuck in a sunset dive in the quiet bay, then a hot shower and a hot meal. I could get use to this, if only I could get a little sleep.

We had made it to the Komodo Island area and were hiding in a little bay. Will promised us it would be a nice, calm night. I was hopeful. We all relaxed, looked through today’s pictures and read before going to bed early. I think it is safe to say we were all pretty tired.

Does that look nice and easy to you?

Aug 6

So that’s what it’s like to sleep. I had one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks. The boat had a gentle rock to it (just like I love), the engine thankfully was off, and there was a slight breeze – just enough to keep you cool. Ahhhhhhh. I woke with a huge smile. More diving! Well after a coffee.

Will promised us a nice easy dive, maybe a bit of current he said. I’d done a bit of research on Komodo and it said there could be strong currents. I wasn’t a big fan, I’ve always been a bit nervous about being sucked off to sea, but would have to suck it up and just do the dives. This one was a bit of a shock, even to Will I think. We did a negative entry (my second ever) and hit the current right away. We flew like space men through the water looking for something to grab hold of. James and I finally did, but a bit back of the group. Poor Kate, who seemed as unimpressed of current as me, got a hold right in the strong current and her mask kept filling and she was drinking a bit of water. Her and Austin let go and aborted the dive. James and I, never being in this situation, sat for a bit then also aborted. He wasn’t sure how I felt so thought we should go up. To be honest once settled and under control I was fine. I surprised myself actually. I really was fine. On the surface we talked about next time and how we could have done the dive. I was feeling pretty confident!

Taking advantage of a shelter in the current. Better than the IMAX, it is just missing popcorn.

The next dive was a bit better. Still some current, but manageable. I was very impressed with Kate, she didn’t skip a dive or anything after her not so great last dive. Guess I’d have no excuses. There was one diver on the boat who started to opt out of dives. The first day she said she was tired (jet lag) and then this morning said the same, too tired. When she did the second she was surfacing with us and freaked out over something. James was trying to watch but couldn’t figure it out. She said she bumped her back on her tank and cried for quite some time. She then skipped the next dive. I’d have to say my back would have to be broken to keep me out of the water. Almost everyone on the boat was feeling sea sick (Will said he’d never in 6 years had so many people sea sick) and taking pills that left you drowsy, or on the patch witch helped but not completely….and after the first dive everyone but James and I were banged up and bleeding (fern coral sucks) and no one skipped a dive. Hmmmmm. To each his own I guess, but I could think of so many people who would give there left arm to be on this adventure.

We had lunch, nap, snack….maybe not in that order, but then went for another “nice, easy dive” as Will describes them. Maybe not so nice and easy but amazing again.

The guilty parties

James and I managed to sneak in a sunset dive. We just circled around in the bay but loved it. We love slow moving, looking in every hole kind of dive. I scared the bejesus out of myself when I popped my head into a hole with not one but two giant moray eels that were looking back at me. James went back to take pictures while I hid behind a big piece of coral. They are so creepy looking!

After our dive we climbed into our nest and had a decent sleep, the wind had picked up a bit but we still got a bit of shut eye.

Dragon tasting us

Aug 7

This morning we got up bright and early to squeeze in a dive in so we could head to Komodo Island to finally see the dragons. It was mating season and I guess they were shy about stuff like that and often hid but we were hopeful we’d see one or two. Will also wanted to go around noon, the hottest part of the day, when they were least active. Sounds like a plan to me.

After another amazing dive the Ikan Biru chugged its way toward Komodo Island while we had a second breakfast. We moored in a quiet bay not far from the docks for visiting Komodo. One was huge, made for the large cruise ships that visit, and thankfully it was empty. I think we were the only tourists at the moment. The captain accompanied us to shore in the dingy and arranged a short walking tour.

A few minutes into our walk the guide shhhhhed everyone. He could see a dragon. I was excited and terrified at the same time. We’d been talking and telling stories about how all you need is a tiny scratch from one of them and the bacteria would kill you. A Komodo dragon’s hunting method is something like they scratch their prey around the ankles and then follow it for days until it falls over dead. From what I’d heard it takes about a week for an average deer to keel over…how long do you think I’d have? A female, which are much smaller than the males, was lying peacefully on the ground. Okay then, I doubt I need to see a bigger male. It really was quite listless, only turned its head a few times, likely smelling out who was tastiest. Interesting was the amount of deer walking around, all about 20 feet from us and their predators. Hmmmmmm….


The Komodo dragon is a member of the monitor lizard family and is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 m and sometimes weighing up to 70 kg. They can only be found on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami, but most people see them on Komodo during day trips. As a result of their size they dominate the ecosystems in which they live and hunt and ambush their prey which can be anything from birds to deer and buffalo to baby dragons to shoes. Yes, shoes. The guide told me they pretty much eat anything they want, except leaves. But, thankfully, they prefer deer. They mate between May and August, lay eggs in nests or holes in September, which incubate for seven to eight months, then hatch in April. The young tend to hide in trees so the adults don’t eat them. They live for up to 30 years. A very interesting animal that has me daydreaming of prehistoric times and dinosaurs.

Both ends of the food chain

After all the camera nerds had snapped their hundred or so shots we walked on. The young guides pointed out a few trees and plants as we went. The walk was short but it took us up a small hill so we could see the bay and surrounding islands. Very beautiful. We eventually came to the cafeteria area where a few dragons were hanging around. The guide said the smell of food attracted them. One guide told me that they don’t feed them and they eventually start staying away at which time they hang a dead pig in the clearing to attract them again. I’m not sure I believe this.

Our protector with his mighty dragon stick

There were three in this area which made it hard to keep my eye on all of them. The only protection we had were sticks the guides carried so I wanted to make sure if (and when) they made their move I was the first to react. James asked to touch one, but the guide said only if they were asleep – thank god they were not!

The walked ended at a small gathering of guys selling trinkets and while we took a little peek a female came strutting by. They look very mean!

Reluctantly we got back in the dingy to return to the Ikan Biru.

The boat headed to a small bay where we were to do another dive and spend the night. I wasn’t all that impressed, it wasn’t very protected and the boat was pretty rocky. The dive was great though. It was another with a bit of current but not too bad. The end of the dive as we got a bit shallower the current picked up and it was like an astronaut in outer space. I loved it. I did front and back rolls and at one time just flew upside down through the water. I also did a bit of a superman pose.

A couple of very short videos of my upside flying and a school we saw while snorkling (Click on picture for link to videos, appx. 2.5 and 5.5 MB)

James and I had our snack and a short surface interval and while the rest of the group headed to the beach for some steady land we did a sunset dive. Sunset dives are some of my favorite. I like a quiet, current free area with tons of coral and great reef life. As the sun sets the nocturnal fish and underwater critters come out to feed and you get to see stuff you would never see during the day.

Back on board we had a hot shower, hot meal and crawled into our nest. The night was as I expected, rough and windy. We got a bit sleep but not nearly enough. Good thing we could nap between dives.

Aug 8

You know that sound your car makes when the engine won’t quite turn over? That’s what we woke to this morning. The boat was broke. Will said the crew needed an hour or so to fix it so we’d do a quick dive then take off to the Air Strip dive site where everyone was excited about (and had been talking about all week) to see mantas at a popular cleaning station. When we got back from our dive we found out that in fact the boat couldn’t be fixed without a part which was a ninety minute dingy ride away, each way. Will decided we’d do all of our dives in the area and between the second and third while we had our surface interval the crew would run to get the part. It’s didn’t sound like we’d get to do the Air Strip, or move to a quieter bay.

Komodo critters

After another great dive we had a lunch and I think the crew added sleeping pills to it. The whole lot of us fell sound asleep on the top deck. The trip to get the part took much longer than anticipated and with the part the crew brought back disturbing news. A group of five divers, diving where we were supposed to be, had gone missing. There were bulletins out, and search parties and they figured that they had been caught in a current when surfacing and would be found safely floating a few miles away. It reminded me of the area we were in and its dangers. During our third dive I had a tiny moment of panic. It was a fairly easy dive but had a bit of current. At one point it caught me (gently) and I grabbed a rock. I decided to just stay put for a minute or two, get my bearings, let my heart calm down and wait for the practical side of my brain to catch up with the scary cat side. James was above me and signed out the “WTF are you doing?” sign (yes, he has that one for me and it’s very clear when he does it) and I tried to nonchalantly wave him off. Once I knew I wasn’t being carried out to sea I relaxed and enjoyed the dive.

More Komodo critters

After the dive we got news that the divers were found about 20 miles away by a passing ferry. All safe and sound. We all breathed a sigh of relief. I was hopeful it hadn’t reached the international news, we had no way of letting our news junkie parents that it wasn’t us and was worried they’d be worried. We had no way of passing that information on.

The boat wasn’t fixed in time to move, so we had another rough night. The bonus to not sleeping much was that I could stare at the sky. Without any light pollution it was brilliant and I lost track of the shooting stars. As I lay awake I was torn between wanting the nights on the boat to end but not the diving…but then if it of was an easy place to be/dive/stay it would be overrun with divers and not quite as special. A trade-off I was more than willing to make.

Typical skyline

Aug 9

We had an early start today. Will explained that we could go dive the Air Strip but with the strong currents and the incident with the divers the day before there were warning not to dive that area. I honestly questioned his argument (was it just that it was a good hour or so in the opposite direction from home or was what he said true?) but the group seemed willing to take his advice and dive in the area we were in. We did two quick dives before moving on. A third was planned; if the currents weren’t too strong.

After lunch we arrived at the third spot and Will decided that the currents were too strong. I was a bit disappointed. Because the boat had broken down it meant we dove a few of the same sites twice so out of the 35 plus sites in and around Komodo we dove only a handful. It was amazing diving, not what we usually prefer with the strong currents, quick diving and short bottom times, but I learned a lot and was feeling very comfortable in the water. One of my problems was that I’d been spoiled in our dive destinations and hadn’t experienced many different conditions. After this week I had for sure! Komodo always turns up on “The best diving….” lists and I can see why. The reefs were alive and full of colorful coral, there were so many fish you felt like you had to shoo them out of the way to see, and so many species of large and small everything that it would be hard not to impress even the most experienced of divers. I’d like to go back….in a few years with a bit more money in the budget for a bigger boat.

Too many to shoo away

One of the many dolphins

With no more diving we were headed home. A thirty hour or so boat ride….through the choppy waves with the wind whipping and the engine back to full power and full noise. Yeah! I spent the day showering all the salt water off (and out of my ears) and reading, napping and watching for dolphins. We were treated to a huge pod of dolphins late in the afternoon. They jumped and swam around our boat for a few minutes. I love dolphins.

Aug 10

I tried to sleep in today knowing it was going to be a long day on the boat. We wouldn’t be back to Gili Trawangan until 9 or 10 pm. UGH! It was a quiet day of reading, sunning, napping, eating and staring out to sea. The area is beautiful and if I had an endless amount of time I’d like to hire a private sail boat to do this area and stop at a few of the islands to climb the volcanic mountains and explore (guess I’d need endless amounts of money too!). I figured I’d have to come back; I’d managed to have my head stuck in a hole, looking for tiny critters, every time the group saw mantas and eagle rays, to the amusement of everyone else. Which reminds me of another funny dive. It was one of the last current dives and while everyone hung on to the dead coral/rocks I found a tiny spot behind a large price of coral that blocked it completely and had a huge rock that I sat my butt on and had a great view….of the fish, coral, reef and everyone else dangling in the current. Not sure what all the fuss was about, lol, and I came up with a lot of air left.

We were treated to two pods of dolphins today and around sunset a huge school of feeding (jumping) tuna. The week flew by and I don’t think I was ready for it to end.

Last sunset of the trip

About 10 pm the boat pulled up in front of Gili Trawagan and we did one last trip in the little dingy to get ashore. The Mexican restaurant was closed but I don’t think it mattered. We were shown to our dorm (which was actually a room with a set of single bunk beds and not bad at all) and I climbed up to the top bunk and lied down fully dressed and fell sound asleep. I haven’t done that in years! I slept without moving. Once or twice the calling of prayers from the mosque behind us almost woke me but then I was lulled back to sleep by it. I was exhausted.

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