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Bali - Komodo Liveaboard

INDONESIA | Monday, 5 July 2010 | Views [1532]

We landed in Bali at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening (26th June) and tried to secure accommodation on Kuta Beach at the airport, as the place we had emailed the night before had not responded to us. The Bali high season (July to September) was almost upon us and most cheap hotels were booked, but we managed to get a room at Simpang Inn in Legian at R 215,000 for a double room. This turned out to be a fantastic decision; halfway to Kuta it started pouring. Legian is literally three minutes away from Kuta, and I cannot stand Kuta, but since we had already told the dive company to pick us up from there, we did not really have the option to stay anywhere else. Simpang Inn turned out to be fine; the room was decent, there were no noisy neighbours or loud sounds from the street, and the pool is nice too. We spent the remainder of the night getting unintentionally blinding drunk at the bar next-door, where we had initially gone just to use the free Wi-Fi.

The next day dawned gloomy and overcast and I thought gleefully about all the suckers who were being rained out on their brief vacations from work. I still have not gotten over the fact that I am not going to go back to an office for a while. It is very liberating.

We were picked up around 2 pm along with another couple (Erma and Esa from Finland) and driven to the harbour where we were to board the dive boat. It was a damn sweet looking boat, a massive upgrade from the last Liveaboard I had been on. After the initial formalities, we were shown to our cabins. Emma and I played it cool when we saw our living space; we were all “Thanks a lot, it looks great. See you upstairs in a little while,” but as soon as we were alone, we looked at each other and said “Holy Shit!! Is this really our room?? It’s fantastic!! I can’t believe we have our own bathroom!! I just assumed we would be sharing!!” Then we proceeded to frantically take photos like dorks while the room still looked pristine.

We had no dives the first day; instead we had to sail thirteen hours non-stop to get to the first dive site. I made decent headway in my book (Bonfire of the Vanities), and then at night after a sumptuous dinner we watched Riding Giants, which was a splendid surfing movie. Yes, the dive boat also had a TV and DVD player. It just kept getting better.

Our first dive was delayed until noon because of the current, but the dive turned out to be a really relaxing check out dive. It was warm and we saw plenty of cool fish. I had not dived since Bali last September, and each time I go off on a diving holiday, I wonder why the hell I don’t dive more during the year. It just seems so stupid to not do so since I love it so much. We did three dives on the first day, one of which was a night dive since the schedule got pushed back. However, in between the second and third dives, we took the dinghy down to the beach at Satonda Island to check out the huge fresh water lake in the middle of the island.

We visited different islands over the next two or so days and the sights just kept getting better and better. Not only was there plenty of superb ocean life, but the dive sights themselves were gorgeous. One of the sites called Hot Rocks had black sand because it was volcanic. The sand was warm to the touch and you could see bubbles coming up from it as there was still lava under the sand.

There was an abundance of healthy hard and soft corals, big table corals and fan corals which housed tiny pygmy seahorses. We saw lots of colourful nudibranchs and sea slugs, scorpionfish, boxfish, pufferfish, squirrelfish with their large disproportionate eyes, schools of Moorish Idols, Moray eels, trumpetfish, octopus, and my favourite, sea turtles. The reefs were a kaleidoscope of hues, bright and picturesque.

The hours in between dives were long and languorous, spent mainly reading or sleeping. When I wasn’t reading or sleeping, I was eating; the food on the boat was delectable and there was always so much of it. We had bacon at breakfast every day, there was plenty of cold yogurt which made up for the deplorable lack of dairy on our trip so far, and at the end of every dive we were given yummy ice-cold drinks which inevitably gave me brain freeze each time because I drank them too fast. The only thing missing on the boat, (the one thing which would possibly have made it even better than it was already) was cheese. And by cheese I don’t mean Kraft Singles (they had Kraft Singles on board); I mean real cheese coated with wax. Mmmm…cheese. Oh, and Dunkin Donuts…Oh my god I am so desperately craving donuts right now.

We soon got to the cold waters of the Komodo islands, and my spirit started rapidly waning at the unappealing thought of firstly, having to kit up in a 5mm thick wetsuit and hoodie (it’s so utterly exhausting) and secondly, being confronted by the islands’ notoriously strong currents. I had not dived much in currents before so I wasn’t sure how I would deal with them. I also kept remembering Vlad’s (the dive master in Mabul) tale about his Komodo diving experience (he related the story with the utmost glee) – “There’s this one dive site where the current is like a whirlpool! You swim into the current and it whips you round and round and then spits you out somewhere else! It’s amazing! It’s like a rollercoaster!” He was in such high spirits when he was telling us the story, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was insane.

Fortunately, apart from the start of our first dive in Komodo where we briefly tried to swim against the current and failed dismally, we swam with the current for pretty much every single dive. We also didn’t face any horrific whirlpool currents, and for that I am most grateful. However, the strong currents meant tons of brilliant fish and marine life. On two separate dives, we saw an exhibitionist eagle ray and an exhibitionist white tip reef shark that showed off spectacularly for the paparazzi-divers (everyone except Emma and I had cameras). On a third dive, we saw a reef shark that had somehow managed to shove itself under some table corals and was just chilling. I saw the shark’s tail and was contented, but one of the dive masters motioned to me to come over to the other side of the table corals. I did so, looked through the corals, and saw the shark’s face and its eye a foot away from me. It was staggering.

We took a break from the morning dive on day 5, and went ashore for a walk in the Komodo National Park, hoping to see the infamous Komodo Dragons. We saw some birds, a couple of deer (the Komodo Dragons’ chief prey), and as luck would have it, towards the end of the walk we came across an adult dragon sunning itself. Not too far away from the adult dragon was a little baby dragon. The Komodo Dragon is a chilling amalgamation of everything that is odious about reptiles – it looks pre-historic like a crocodile, and resembles one when it is swimming; on land it is an overgrown lizard from a bad nightmare, and can move very fast in the manner of the geckos-that-permanently-reside-in-your-bathroom-and-take-sadistic-pleasure-in-racing-across-the-wall-or-the-floor-when-you-innocently-turn-the-light-on-at-night-thinking-that-it’s-your-house,-you-are-the-biggest-one-in-it,-and-you-can-do-what-you-like,-only-to-be-cruelly-reminded,-AGAIN-by-way-of-having-your-heart-being-shocked-up-into-your-gullet-and-almost-failing-that-one-day-you-will-die-but-no-toxin-produced-by-man-can-kill-those-damn-geckos-which-will-continue-to-haunt-you-and-will-follow-you-from-house-to-house-no-matter-how-many-times-you-move-or-where-you-move-to. It has scaly skin, a long serpent-tongue, it eats its young if it gets hungry (young Komodo Dragons climb trees to get away from adults), and its venom causes its prey to die a prolonged, agonising death.

At the next dive site, there were a few big and little Komodo Dragons wandering around on the shore. Of course, given that we were now so well-informed about this revolting reptile, it made complete logical sense to take the dinghy down to the shore and feed it pieces of fish. I got reasonable photos of the big dragon and stayed firmly in the boat, unlike Sami and Peter who got out of the boat and into the water in order to get really up close to the dragon…until it started to swim out to the dinghy. They scrambled back in; we went up shore to look at a baby dragon, realised that the big dragon was now following us up shore and that the baby was trying to get away from it, apologised to the baby, and sped back to the boat.  

Just when I thought “surely I have had the most amazing fortune on this diving trip to have seen so much”, we reached Manta Alley and did three dives there. The first dive was crazy; we saw a few Mantas but the current was so incredibly strong that unless you held on to a rock or a reef hook, you would get swept off. Swimming against it was impossible. We dove the same site again, but from a different spot and were rewarded with the sight of so many Manta rays that we soon lost count of how many we had seen. They just kept appearing from every direction, and some of them came really close. They were truly magnificent, and I was doubly glad that I wasn’t hungover this time, unlike my previous Manta dive in Bali last year. Our final two Komodo dives were at Sumbawa Island where we did some very shallow and hugely fun muck dives. On our last day on the boat we sailed back to Bali and dived two sites hoping to see some Mola Molas, but the water was too warm.        

My favourite diving memories from the Liveaboard (not including the amazing Mantas as that’s a given) are from two of our safety stops; during one of them, we were suddenly surrounded by a gargantuan school of blue-dash fusiliers. They were everywhere, swimming in unison. During another safety stop, a little sea turtle swam up near where we were, completely unperturbed by us. It then proceeded to start digging into the coral and eating it. I could have watched it for hours. My last favourite memory is of the tiny squat lobsters during the muck dive that you could barely see unless you pretty much buried your face into the sand. They were moving very fast, and again, I could have stayed there for ages just watching them. Other than the amazing diving, the scenery of the islands was beautiful. We saw some incredibly fiery sunsets, and I was reminded of how rarely I saw a sunset the last few years, since I never left the office while the sun was still up. Sorry to end on such a corny note, but I feel very lucky.     

Now the only thing left to do is to do this trip with my good friends; Hazel, Erlina, Achim – start saving up! And for the rest of you, can you please hurry up and get your diving certification already? What are you waiting for??

PS. One of the other movies we watched on this boat was an appalling, nonsensical one called The Triangle. One the speed boat to the Perhentians where we are right now, the sky was very dark and threatening with rain. Emma turned to me and said “Are you getting reminded of The Triangle?” to which I replied, slightly too loudly, “Yes, but it’s going to take forever to kill every single person on this boat. Luckily we can just jump overboard and get washed up on shore,” to which I received dirty looks from the people sitting next to us. “How NOT to Make Enemies and Alienate People” lesson #250 – Stop trying to find parallels between a movie (especially a terrible one) and your life. And if you do find one, resist the urge to voice it out loud because you think you’re really clever and funny. You’re not, and people WILL take it out of context. Sigh…      

Tags: bali, komodo dragons, liveaboards, movies, mv queen scuba, random food cravings, scuba diving

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