Komodo: Dragons and Mantas
The dive options in the Republic of Indonesia are endless. The country consists of 17,500 islands, harbouring awe inspiring tropical beauty and endless biodiversity above and underwater. With such a wealth of dive options, I found myself overwhelmed with making a decision on where I should venture for my next dive vacation. Upon further research, I found one region that rose to the top of the dive charts in terms of wealth of marine life ( both big and macro ) and accessibility – Komodo National Park.
Komodo Island lies between the substantially larger neighbouring islands of Sumbawa to the west and Flores to the east. Komodo National Park was established in 1980 with the intention of providing protection for the infamous Komodo Dragons that ruled the islands. It is now a UNESCO World heritage site. Komodo National Park consists of three major islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar. All of the islands are of volcanic origin and the climate is one of the dries in the country.
In order to experience the best diving in Komodo, a liveaboard dive trip is your best option, though it is also possible to get a great Komodo dive experience through land based day excursions. Most of the dive schools in Komodo are located in Labuan Bajo.
Don’t be fooled, the glassy calm appearance on the surface of the sea can be deceiving in Komodo. The currents here are fast and vicious, but bring with them the rich waters that harbour some of the most colourful marine life around. It is not necessarily easy diving. Most times you will need to get in and descend as fast as possible in order to avoid getting swept away.
Komodo Dive Sites
Castle + Crystal Rock
Castle and Crystal rock are two underwater rock pinnacles located off the small island of Gili Lawa Laut on the northern side of Komodo. Dive briefings are often plagued by the words ‘ripping currents’ and reef hooks and negative entries are sometimes necessary. These currents bring in big schools of snappers, giant trevallies, fusiliers, as well as grey and white reef sharks. Visibility tends to be excellent making these two sites among divers favourite. During full moon, the tides make the currents on these two sites almost impossible to dive, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly!
Cannibal rock is rated as one of the best critter dives in the country. There is an astonishing amount of things to find and see here. Located in Horseshoe bay, on the southern part of Rinca island, the visibility here tends to have a greenish tint and the temperatures are fairly colder compared to the crystal clear warm waters of north Komodo. Don’t be put off though, this underwater seamount is a mecca for marine life. The sheer quantity of soft corals, nudibranchs, sea apples, all different types of camera loving shrimps and crabs, sea fans and all things macro puts this dive site in my top 10 best dives. Don’t forget to have a cheeky look into the greenish open waters surrounding the pinnacle now and then as there is often schools of mobula rays passing by.
A rock pinnacle that pierces the surface of the ocean, this site has one of the most vibrant and beautiful reefs in the region! It is a long sloping wall down to about 30 meters covered in soft corals, hard corals, sea fans and masses and masses of fish. Due to ferocious currents, it is only possible to dive the sheltered side of this rock pinnacle. Typically divers start down at around 25m and make a zig-zag pattern up towards the shallower depths. Be careful though, if you get too close to the rushing current rivers breaking off on both sides of the site, you might just be blown off the dive site!
If conditions are right, Manta Alley has to be one of the best Manta ray experiences in the world. A large cleaning station attracts these underwater flying birds from all of the surrounding islands. Three rock pinnacles break the surface on the southern side of Komodo island and Mantas are known to school here. Underwater, this dive site looks like a rock amphitheater. There have been stories of over 100+ mantas seen on one dive here.
Komodo Travel Tips
Due to the regions infamous currents, dive briefings by a knowledgable dive guide are crucial and every diver needs to be equipped with a proper surface marker buoy just in case one gets swept off the reef with the motion of the ocean and into the blue.
The temperature varies quite a lot between the northern dive sites and the southern dive sites. The north tends to be warmer with temps staying around 25-27 degrees celsius, whilst down south near Nusa Kode and Manta Alley, temperatures can get as cold as 20 degrees! Bring warm dive gear! If you only have room to pack one wetsuit, I highly recommend bringing a 5mm instead of a 3mm.
The best way to get there is to fly from Bali to the town of Bima in Sumbawa (where most liveaboards depart from) or if you are planning on doing dive day excursions, fly to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
Just to be informed in case of emergencies, there is no hyperbaric chamber in Komodo. The nearest chamber is located in Bali.
Check out our video showcasing the variety of marine life you can see when scuba diving Komodo:
‘Komodo: Dragons and Mantas’ was written by Etoile
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My name is Etoile Smulders and diving is my all consuming passion! I was born in Hong Kong and raised in mainland China and Thailand by a French mother and a Dutch father. My multicultural upbringing has provided me with a passion to explore, travel and ultimately understand and connect our world.
A self-professed ocean junkie, I learned to dive at age 10 and never stopped. I spent my entire childhood exploring the underwater world of South East Asia. Twelve years and around a thousand dives later, I am now a fully qualified PADI master scuba diver trainer, technical rebreather and full cave diver. I have been involved in various technical diving expeditions in South East Asia in efforts to explore new habitats and remote locations. Currently I dive professionally and for fun.
I have a passion for finding and telling ocean stories! I am an interdisciplinary journailst with a true lust for our underwater world. I use photography and videography as a conservation weapon to create awareness for the marine related issues I am passionate about. I am committed to linking science with storytelling to inspire change.
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
IANTD Normoxic Trimix Rebreather Diver
TDI Full Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Trimix Gas Blender
SSI Level II Freediver
Dream Dive Locations:
Darwin + Wolf Island, Galapagos
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Any new and unexplored cave
Check out Etoiles website here: Going Epic Places